A pros­per­ous Nige­ria is pos­si­ble… but why un­make your coun­try? (2)

Business Day (Nigeria) - - COMMENT - STRAT­EGY & POL­ICY MA JOHN­SON

This colum­nist ap­pre­ci­ates all Nige­ri­ans who are hon­est cit­i­zens and wish their coun­try well. Let us be frank with our­selves, an­gels will not man­age Nige­ria. Nige­ri­ans will ad­min­is­ter Nige­ria. Cer­tainly, ev­ery­one in­clud­ing the political class and other top ex­ec­u­tives in pub­lic and pri­vate sec­tors will be judged in­di­vid­u­ally by the con­tent of their char­ac­ter while serv­ing ei­ther in elected or ap­pointed po­si­tions.

Will crit­ics be right or wrong to say that there is hardly any Nige­rian leader even at the high­est level of govern­ment who gets into of­fice and sees a vi­sion for Nige­ria? It de­pends on what in­di­vid­u­als un­der­stand as na­tional vi­sion.

Most Nige­ri­ans are wor­ried be­cause the level of cor­rup­tion in our coun­try is ex­tra­or­di­nary. We have heard on many oc­ca­sions that Nige­ria has enor­mous po­ten­tial. Fact! But some re­searchers and pub­lic af­fairs an­a­lysts have stated that cor­rup­tion is the sin­gle great­est ob­sta­cle pre­vent­ing Nige­ria from achiev­ing its enor­mous po­ten­tial af­ter al­most 60 years of in­de­pen­dence.

Power cor­rupts ab­so­lutely. Cor­rup­tion has weak­ened the coun­try’s econ­omy, as­phyx­i­ates growth, and de­creases the so­cial con­tract be­tween the govern­ment at all lev­els-lo­cal, state, and fed­eral- and mil­lions of its cit­i­zens. So, how do we de­feat cor­rup­tion when the hunter is hunted?

The act­ing chair­man of the Eco­nomic and Fi­nan­cial Crimes Com­mis­sion (EFCC), Ibrahim Magu has been sus­pended from of­fice by the Pres­i­dency. Ibrahim Magu is se­cretly fac­ing an in­ves­tiga­tive panel for al­le­ga­tions of cor­rup­tion and in­sub­or­di­na­tion. How do we ex­plain this? Pub­lic af­fairs an­a­lysts say that cor­rup­tion and par­ti­san­ship have fu­elled the un­cer­e­mo­ni­ous exit of the czar of the anti-cor­rup­tion agency. A pity!

But amid this cor­rup­tion pan­demic, some politi­cians are think­ing ahead. You can­not beat our brand of politi­cians. It is in the pub­lic do­main that the preda­tory be­hav­iour ex­hib­ited by some mem­bers of the political class is in prepa­ra­tion for gen­eral elec­tions in 2023. Apart from al­leged cor­rup­tion cases at the NDDC, there are al­le­ga­tions of fraud at the Nige­ria So­cial In­sur­ance Trust Fund (NSITF). The NSITF is one of the agen­cies un­der Sen­a­tor Chris Ngige, the Labour and Em­ploy­ment Min­is­ter.

Sen­a­tor Ngige is re­ported to have sus­pended the NSITF man­age­ment over the mis­ap­pro­pri­a­tion of N48 bil­lion. The min­is­ter al­leged that the man­age­ment with­drew the amount through fake con­tracts, pro­ceeds of which were re­cy­cled into fake pock­ets.

But the sacked NSITF man­age­ment team also ac­cused its min­is­ter of pad­ding the 2020 Bud­get with N1.2 bil­lion, 5 SUVS, and in­stalling an ex-lover as new ex­ec­u­tive di­rec­tor. When Ngige ap­peared at the probe panel in the House of Rep­re­sen­ta­tives he told Hon­ourable Faleke that: “I am your La­gos men­tor’s mate, you Mushin boy talk­ing to me, a VI boy, you yap me, I yap you.” It was a ses­sion of yap me; I yap you! What a laugh­able tragedy?

NDDC’S case is pa­thetic. The NDDC, set up by the FG to de­velop the Niger Delta re­gion is a cesspool of cor­rup­tion and malef­i­cence. In fact, it has been turned into a house of scan­dals. Joi Nu­nieh, former Act­ing Man­ag­ing Di­rec­tor of the NDDC ac­cused the min­is­ter of Niger Delta of sex­ual ha­rass­ment, and that the min­is­ter got slapped for ha­rass­ing her. It is un­be­liev­able! But Godwin Ak­pabio replied: “I love my wife and daugh­ters, and I have been a cham­pion of women and chil­dren.”

It was a week of drama. Godwin Ak­pabio ac­cused NASS mem­bers of col­lect­ing 60 per­cent of con­tracts at the NDDC. Af­ter the Reps threat­ened le­gal ac­tion, Ak­pabio de­nied ac­cus­ing law­mak­ers of get­ting 60 per­cent of NDDC con­tracts. Later, the “un­com­mon” Sen­a­tor Ak­pabio re­leased a bomb­shell by sub­mit­ting a con­tro­ver­sial let­ter to the Green Cham­ber of the NASS. Ac­cord­ing to me­dia re­ports, those who ben­e­fit­ted from the NDDC con­tracts in­clude House of Reps mem­bers, army, po­lice of­fi­cers, APC chief­tains, ex-gov­er­nors, and oth­ers re­ferred to as “cau­cus law­mak­ers.”

The venue of the hear­ing was turned into a movie theatre where min­is­ters and law­mak­ers yapped and made jest of them­selves. The whole cor­rup­tion is­sue be­came a joke be­fore Nige­ri­ans. The in­ves­ti­ga­tion is still on, but the Sen­ate has de­manded for dis­so­lu­tion of the In­terim Man­age­ment Com­mit­tee (IMC) of the NDDC and that the agency should re­fund the sum of N4.9 bil­lion.

Weak in­sti­tu­tions: If we ex­am­ined most failed na­tions, they are un­suc­cess­ful largely due to weak in­sti­tu­tions. In fact, weak in­sti­tu­tions en­able cor­rup­tion. What we see to­day shows that our in­sti­tu­tions are weak. Did the NASS con­duct its over­sight func­tions over the NDDC and other govern­ment agen­cies ef­fec­tively? Not quite! If NASS over­sight func­tions were ef­fec­tive, the magnitude of cor­rup­tion at the NDDC and other agen­cies of govern­ment would not have been this high.

Why cre­ate an In­terim Man­age­ment Com­mit­tee in­stead of a board of direc­tors as ex­pressly stated in the NDDC Act? Those in the govern­ment should fol­low what is con­tained in the NDDC Act. If there is any­thing to be changed in the NDDC Act, the NASS should fol­low due process to chang­ing it.

Cor­rup­tion is a global phe­nom­e­non. Cor­rup­tion in what­ever size and shape is hos­tile to the de­vel­op­ment of any so­ci­ety. A few Nige­ri­ans view their coun­try as one of the world’s most cor­rupt. One may not ac­cept this view. If we look at most sec­tors of the econ­omy, one will be dis­ap­pointed about the level of cor­rup­tion that has taken roots in them.

How do we re­spond to ris­ing calls by Nige­ri­ans for full ac­count­abil­ity of the pri­vate sec­tor COVID-19 do­na­tions? Can we blame those ask­ing ques­tions when they ob­served that “Ghana’s N2.85 bil­lion COVID-19 hospi­tal dwarfs

Nige­ria’s N32 bil­lion iso­la­tion tents,” as re­ported in Busi­ness­day July 31, 2020 by Hope Ashike et al.

The sit­u­a­tion is so pa­thetic that Nige­ria peren­ni­ally ranks in the bot­tom quar­tile of Trans­parency In­ter­na­tional’s Cor­rup­tion Per­cep­tion In­dex. Can the na­tion make it a pol­icy to teach all se­nior sec­ondary stu­dents and those in ter­tiary in­sti­tu­tions about the im­pact of cor­rup­tion on eco­nomic growth? The ques­tion may sound com­i­cal, but to­day‘s youths will be lead­ers to­mor­row. The fu­ture gen­er­a­tion needs to be taught that cor­rup­tion de­stroys a na­tion.

A distin­guished el­der states­man has equally sug­gested that the an­ti­cor­rup­tion cru­sade must start from the top. The peo­ple and govern­ment of Nige­ria must have a de­sire and de­ter­mi­na­tion to erad­i­cate cor­rup­tion from the so­ci­ety. And the fight against cor­rup­tion must not be used as a political weapon to at­tack crit­ics of the govern­ment. Un­til there is a con­se­quence for any proven case of cor­rup­tion, the sleaze will con­tinue ad in­fini­tum.

All said, Nige­ria is a work in progress. Cor­rup­tion will not make democ­racy work. But where are the noble cit­i­zens of our coun­try? Men and women of in­tegrity who will re­spect cit­i­zens who elect them into of­fice. Men and women who in ev­ery sense of the word are lead­ers. We should not doubt what a small group of thought­ful and con­cerned cit­i­zens can bring to the ta­ble to change our coun­try pos­i­tively.

Noble cit­i­zens will in­spire the present gen­er­a­tion and thus, strive to leave a legacy for the up­com­ing gen­er­a­tions to build upon. We all have to be instrument­s of pos­i­tive change that we ea­gerly de­sire. For Africa’s most pop­u­lous na­tion to rise above a “gi­ant” on pa­per re­quires sound lead­er­ship. A lead­er­ship that be­lieves it is pos­si­ble to have a pros­per­ous Nige­ria. A be­lief based on eq­uity, fair­ness, and jus­tice.

It takes a gen­er­a­tion of com­mit­ted lead­ers to build a na­tion. Thank you!

(Con­cluded)

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