GOOD CORRUPTION, BAD CORRUPTION
By Stanley Nwabia
First published on September 18, 2011 (Sunday Independent)
Discussing and analyzing Nigeria’s problems has got to be the worst topic in the world even for a political science graduate like myself. Arguing out Nigeria’s problem is almost like taking on religion, no matter how strong, valid or sensible your views on Nigeria are, it will never appeal totally to the next Nigerian. Every Nigerian has his own solution to Nigeria’s problems, no matter how absurd. The only area where there seems to be a sort of consensus is on the major source of Nigeria’s problems; most of us agree that it has to do with corruption. And how do we tackle corruption? One hundred and fifty million views and opinions are already at our disposal. Finding what works for us as Nigerians has always been a major challenge. Do we round up all bona fide corrupt Nigerians, tie them up on wooden sticks and give them the Jerry Rawlings therapy? Or, do we grant amnesty to all past and present corrupt officials with a view to negotiating the repatriation of stolen Nigerian funds? Several options are available on how to get things right in Nigeria but choosing either, more often than not will breed its own peculiar unpleasant consequences.
|Moscow city: Russia is said to have high corruption but retains Super-power status.|
For example, if a serious Nigerian government decides to ‘round up’ all corrupt public and private officials, one of the first things an average Nigerian would do is to identify the ethnic group of the affected culprits. If it so happens that members of a particular ethnic group constitute a majority of the accused individuals,’wahala’ starts. Several elders and youth associations of the affected ethnic group will rise up from countless emergency meetings accusing the federal government of victimization. Others will threaten civil disobedience and even secession should these prominent sons and daughters of theirs be harmed. Being an honest and sincere Nigerian president must be a living nightmare, I don’t envy uncle Jona in any way.
Corruption is an aberration, no doubt, but the fact remains that most great nations on earth were built on some form of major corrupt foundation. When it comes to nation building, there’s what I call positive corruption and negative corruption, but mind you, these two forms of corruption still end up leaving their victims scarred for life and sometimes for generations. Positive corruption can be defined as corrupt practises though very callous in nature, ends up being in the best interest of the country or institution practising it. Most of us look up to the west for inspiration on nation building forgetting the role that slave trade, exploitation and colonisation played in helping them become world powers. The British during the industrial age did not deplete their Queens’ treasury by purchasing raw materials for their industries; they had protectorates and colonies which supplied these raw materials almost free of charge. Cheap and free labour was also provided thanks to the freed and captive slaves respectively. These activities were not just corrupt but inhuman and despicable; however, after all said and done, it catapulted Western Europe into world power status. Of course we cannot forget the role played by conniving natives whose stupidity has not ceased to manifest itself about three hundred years later.
In our present world, positive corruption is very much alive and waxing stronger, communist China, Russia and India have mastered the art. China,inspite of all its human right abuses, limitation of civil liberties, mass exploitation of citizens and financial recklessness has been able to develop her economy to rival that of the United states. Apartheid South Africa, in spite of corruption, injustices, segregation and exploitation meted out to majority blacks and coloured people, was still able to build world class infrastructures which have now become a source of pride in this post apartheid era.
Negative corruption on the other hand seems to be the exclusive preserve of several other African nations. With negative corruption both the masses and the nation lose, the only person or persons who gain are the corrupt leaders themselves, their cronies, family members and the Swiss banks. Mobuto Sese Seko of Zaire being a classic example, amongst many others.
As for Nigeria, it does seem that our own brand of corruption defies all logical definition and explanation, its neither positive nor negative, it’s just plain ridiculous. What makes our own case quite scary is that in other nations corruption can most times be traced solely to the doorsteps of government but in Nigeria, corruption has eaten deep into the fabrics of our society starting from the government down to the parents who pay to acquire ‘expo’ for their children’s GCE or NECO examinations.
No nation on earth can claim to have won the battle against corruption completely, for so long as institutions are manned by human beings there will always be corruption. However, many countries have been able to reduce corruption to its barest minimum; others have been able to use corruption in their favour. If you ask me for suggestions on how corruption can be curtailed in Nigeria, I probably won’t say anything different from what other social commentators and political analysts have offered on various platforms. If I’m pushed further to at least drop my own little suggestion no matter how lame or cliché it may sound; I’ll most likely suggest that henceforth all newly elected and appointed public officers be made to place their right foot on a live tortoise while saying their oath of office in the presence of a potent ‘babalawo’. This move would reduce corruption by as much as 90 percent and also make us the laughing stock of the entire civilized world.
Another unfortunate option would be that; if we can’t have leaders who can jettison their personal interests for the sake of a national interest, let us at least have leaders who can merge their personal interests with the national interest. Thus, “if u enter gofment, we no say make u no chop, but as u dey chop make u also dey perform for the masses.” End of story.