Much Ado About Corruption – Nneoma Igwegbe

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(NIGERIA MOMENT).

Nigerians are obsessed with the word corruption, and they believe that it is only when corruption is defeated that the
country will develop.

I believe them to an extent, because for me when I define corruption, I like to use the analogy of a computer. When a foreign virus enters a computer, it is said to be corrupt. The foreign virus makes the computer to malfunction, or perform very slowly. You have to completely format that computer to remove the virus, or it will continue to malfunction and frustrate the user.

That is exactly how corruption in Nigeria works. We love foreign products and pursue foreignness to the detriment of development in our country. The leader who siphons money merely used it to buy foreign furniture, cars and private jets. The girl who has ten boyfriends merely uses them to fund her Brazilian hair, and smart phones. The policeman who collects twenty naira on the street merely uses it to buy himself a foreign motorcycle or car, and everyone wants to be a big boy or big girl.

No one cares how this obsession with foreignness by all of us bleeds the country dry, yet we blame an elusive corruption for our problems. You search high and low for this corruption, yet you never find it. Some blame whomever just left Aso Rock as being corruption itself, but this has become something of a macabre dance that defies solutions.

The present government in Nigeria is obsessed with the word corruption to that it is looking like a masquerade dance, but many Nigerians are skeptical, and wonder how this corruption chorus will transform into economic solutions for Nigeria’s failing economy.

I once had an argument with an ardent PMB supporter who strongly believes that when PMB comes into power, and wipes out corruption, everything will magically become alright in Nigeria. Now, as a writer and researcher, while researching for my book titled Corruption’s burial which is at Okadabooks, I have studied the history of Nigeria from the 1940s to the 2000s, and I have on my fingertips exactly what each government did when they were in power.

The first government which comprised of Dr. Nnamdi Azikiwe as President, Abubakar Tafawa Balewa as Prime Minister, Nwafor Orizu as Senate President, Jaja Wachukwu as Speaker, and later Foreign Affairs Minister, Ambassador and Permanent Representative of Nigeria to the United Nations in New York, and Federal Minister for Economic Development, Muhammadu Ribadu as Minister for Defence, Inuwa Wada as Minister for Works and Survey, Shehu Shagari as Minister for Internal Affairs, Festus Okotie-Eboh as Minister of Finance, H.O.Davies as Minister for Industries, Kola Balogun as Information Minister. Ayo Rosiji as Health Minister,
Aja Nwachukwu as Minister for Education, Raymond Njoku as Minister for Commerce & Industry, and Transport. K. O. Mbadiwe as Minister for Trade and Communications, and Minister of Aviation.

Just like PMB who had been trying to be the President of Nigeria for 16 years, they had been at the forefront for development and self-rule in Nigeria for at least 15 years. Their struggles for Nigeria’s independence started in the 1930s, but became very strong and effective in the 1940s. Just like PMB, they had up to twenty years of struggle, to plan and know exactly what they wanted in governance.

Most of these freedom fighters were now in power, especially the Zikists which had members from all ethnic groups of Nigeria. But for these nationalists, their 15 years struggle was not merely a political struggle, but an economic one as well, because economic power is more important than political power. It is he who has the money that runs the economy. That is why you see that the Nigerian economy is still run by the whites. The whites are still running our country till date. It is the policies they seek to pass that will be passed whether it favours the masses or not, but that is a matter for another day.

Back to corruption and an efficient economy. These freedom fighters came into power in the 1960s, and they hit the seat running. People like Nwafor Orizu who was the Senate President, Jaja Wachukwu, who was the Speaker, Okotie Eboh who was the finance minister, and Ozumba Madiwe who was the minister for trade, commerce and industry.

They had the economy in their hands, and the economy thrived greatly because, before political power arrived, they had prepared the minds of Nigerians for economic warfare. They sensitized Nigerians on the need to patronize made in Nigeria products, and Nigerians were obliging. Now the implication of this is that when Nigerians patronize made in Nigeria products, there will be money trapped within the country which will be used for capital projects and infrastructure. 

Between 1960 and 1966 was when almost everything we boast of today as a country were built. The skyscrapers in marina, you show in every movie to show that Lagos is a mega city was built in the 1960s, although some were halted when the war started and were
completed in the 1970s. The kainji Dam was built then, when our population was just 16 million, and for some reasons successive governments have not improved on the legacies of the nationalists, and yet they expect uninterrupted power supply.

The Eko Bridge was commissioned in 1965, although it was completed during the war. Most of the first generation universities were built and standardized at that time. The University of Lagos, the University of Ibadan, The University of Nigeria, and the UCH. The make-shift arrangements of these institutions were exchanged for quality structures that are still the pride of Nigeria today.
Lots of railways were built, lots of roads to interlink the whole country was built. The Nigerian Airways was established and it proudly flew Nigeria’s colours.

The biggest resource of a country is not crude oil or any other natural resource, the biggest resource of a country is its citizens. The citizens were what the early politicians capitalized on to build all the infrastructure we enjoy even till today.

Let me even talk about the hundred days in office issue. Do you know that the first skyscraper in Nigeria, which is the 32 story independence building was completed within 3 months. Princess Alexandria was present for the foundation laying on September 29, but it was ready for use by the end of the year. That shows someone who came into office with a plan.

How can you say that a hundred days is too short to know what you want to do for a country, for an office you have been campaigning for 15 years? The same amount of time that the nationalists campaigned for. That is sufficient time to shape all your policies, and bring about the change you claim that the country needs. Most of the solid structures we enjoy in Nigeria even till today were built in the
1960s by the government of the early nationalists, even though the ousted colonialists accused them of corruption, and set up a Nigeria corruption choir to discredit them.

Fast backward to 1983, Buhari comes into power, the economy is a total mess, and he thinks that corruption is the problem, and eradicating corruption is the solution. He starts an anti-corruption war, and a War Against Indiscipline task force, who whips people on the streets, and ensures orderly behavior of Nigerian citizens. Some people were locked in jail, some people were executed.

Back to my conversation with my friend, my question to him was this. “Yes, Buhari locked people up for corruption, and it made people happy. Citizens will look and say yes, he locked that man up, yes, very good. But what impact did Buhari’s corruption campaign have on the Nigerian economy?” What can you point out, and say this and that is what was built when Buhari was in power as an anti-corrupt president. How did his anti-corruption campaign translate to a better economy?

Now I have pointed out few of what the first administration achieved, even though it was not preoccupied with locking people in jail. And it is incomparable to what Buhari achieved by a lifelong regime of locking people in Jail. If Nigerians can listen and learn, I need them to understand that locking people in jail does not necessarily lead to a better economy. The only benefit, it will give to you is the temporary joy of seeing someone punished, but it will not improve the economy.

It is capital that runs an economy, and when I say capital, I do not mean 10 billion naira. I mean 100 billion dollars. Capital flight is the reason for our under development, not the peanuts they share in Abuja. The amount they share in Aso Rock which they also spend on foreign things as we the citizens do is peanuts compared to what 170 million of us ship out of this country everyday from something as inconsequential as soap. Ordinary soap alone can make you a billionaire. Multiply the price of the soap you use by Nigeria’s populations and begin to imagine the billions of dollars that leave this country every month, of which we have gladly helped to ship out. The reason there is no structures is because of capital flight. They pay you salary, you give everything to foreigners who own companies that make these things, they take it to their country, and build all those things there, and you visit and say wow, I want my country to be like this. Well it will never be like this until we start making these things and retaining the capital here.

That is the simple truth!

Capital is King.

Imagine if it’s a black person who owns such companies, that’s billions of dollars that we can use for the light, water, roads, and other infrastructure. But Nigerians starve themselves and live in poverty to give all their money to oyibo, so we Nigerians are wicked to ourselves. We enjoy shipping out Nigeria’s employment and cash flow.

It’s not just the corrupt leaders wickedness, but all the citizen’s wickedness collectively that accounts for the capital flight that makes our country and continent poor.

Our problems are not political, they are economic. Who you vote for everyday that you go to the market is more important than who you vote for at the ballot box. That’s why it’s called purchasing power. Your money is your power. Each time you get your salary or make some profits, understand that you can use that money to vote for or against development in your country.

We must accept our role and responsibilities in making our country undeveloped rather than shifting the blames to corrupt leaders. Because this blame the leaders’ game, we have played it for decades, and it’s never brought solutions, so we must find new solutions.

We need to start focusing on how we can be part of capital generators for our country, by manufacturing and consuming Made in Nigeria Goods in order to trap capital within the country, instead of siphoning our country’s wealth on imports, and looking for a scape-goat to blame.

This corruption game will not lead us anywhere. It is very entertaining, but it will lead to nowhere if we do not start making patriotic sacrifices for the growth of our economy. We need to focus on the real issues, and stop allowing this corruption dance distract us from obtaining the real campaign promises that can improve our very own lives, and our future.

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*** Nneoma Igwegbe is a Writer, Philosopher, Psychologist, Lawyer, Social Entrepreneur.

[email protected]

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