In Praise Of Corruption

One of the most frightening things about the Jonathan
administration is the President’s palpable lack of
appreciation of the problems that confront us and “the
fierce urgency of Now”. This phenomenon rears its head at
every opportunity the President has to reassure Nigerians
that he has the capacity to lead the country out of its
current morass.
It is clichéd now to refer to the President’s response when
asked last June why he was unwilling to declare his assets
publicly as a mark of his commitment to fighting corruption.
The President told a bewildered nation that he didn’t “give a
damn” about Nigerians not knowing what he is worth. That
comment reverberated and still reverberates around the
country, particularly whenever the words fighting corruption
and the Jonathan administration are used in a sentence.
Those who thought that was one presidential gaffe too many
were surely mistaken. The President upped the ante during
the 2012 Christmas service in Abuja when he said his
government appeared to be slow because it did not want to
make mistakes. “By human thinking, our administration is
slow; I won’t say we are slow, but we need to think through
things properly if we are to make lasting impact,” the
President said in his homily. “If we rush, we will make
mistakes and sometimes it is more difficult to correct those
mistakes.”
Slow is an understatement. The President is simply telling us
he doesn’t know what he is doing. The truth is that there is no
governance going on in the country. We all know the President
is not circumspect or afraid of taking decisions, particularly
when such decisions will benefit his friends in the oil
industry. We witnessed that a year ago when, to the chagrin
of the mass of our people, the President increased the price
of petrol even when negotiations were ongoing with the
Nigeria Labour Congress and civil society. Since then, the
President has followed that insensate decision with numerous
anti-people actions like spending N22.6bn of our collective
wealth to offset bank loans owed by 84 rogue stock broking
firms.
The major headline of the preceding week was not the
hardship Nigerians had to endure during the Christmas and
New Year holidays or the death and destruction that stalk
the land. It was the pronouncement of President Jonathan in
what appeared as an official endorsement of corruption
during the funeral service of Gen. Owoye Azazi in Yenagoa,
Bayelsa State. Presidential aide, Reuben Abati, has
admonished us not to take the President literally when he
speaks. But this is one time we have no option but to pay close
attention to the President for “out of the abundance of the
heart, the mouth speaketh”.
Bishop of Bomadi Catholic Diocese, Vicarage Hyacinth
Egbebor, probably didn’t know he was stirring up a hornet’s
nest when he blamed the December 15 helicopter crash at
Okoroba in Nembe Local Government Area, Bayelsa State,
that killed the former National Security Adviser, Azazi,
former Kaduna State Governor, Patrick Yakowa, and four
others, on corruption. “Corruption is the only underlying evil
that is responsible for the air mishaps. If the military cannot
guarantee the safety and security of their own, who else can
they protect?” Egbebor noted in his sermon. “If there is
anywhere one looks for excellent performance, it is the
military. Now we have compromised excellence for money.
Money has taken over.”
An obviously peeved President Jonathan remarked in
response to Egbebor, “But most of these things we talk about
corruption are not even corruption. It is true that most cases
we talk about corruption as if corruption is the cause of most
of our problems. No. Yes, we have corruption in this country,
no doubt about that. The government is also fighting
corruption.” The President reminded us that “Nigeria has
more institutions that fight corruption than most other
countries”. His solution: Attitudinal change on the part of
Nigerians and concerted efforts by at least half of the
population to follow in the footsteps of the late Azazi.
It’s a good thing that President Jonathan, while rejecting
corruption as the problem, returned to the theme of attitude
as the bane of Nigeria’s development. As a result, the
President apparently demonstrated the logic of rational
analysis in locating corruption in the wider cosmic of
attitude. In that context, he is right to call for a change of
attitude. But Nigerians would expect the change of attitude
he preaches to begin with him. The only way to do this is for
him to lead by example; to practise what he preaches.
President Jonathan should not expect the man on the street
to heed the call to imbibe new ways of doing things when he
himself is not demonstrating it. Unfortunately, he has
refused to drive the process by, amongst other things,
arrogantly failing to publicly declare his assets, apportioning
over N1bn to the Presidency for feeding and expanding the
presidential fleet while saner countries are reducing theirs.
Unfortunately, the President failed to mention that the
attitudinal change we need most is one that de-prioritises
corruption as an ingrained culture of the Nigerian people. By
so doing, he ignored the consensus among not just the
dispossessed majority, but also in the circle of elite of which
he is one, that corruption, contrary to what he believes, is the
number one problem facing Nigeria today.
All the negative indices routinely ascribed to virtually every
sector of the Nigerian life are the consequence of
widespread sleaze perpetrated by government officials and
their collaborators outside government. As long as the status
quo continues to endure in the midst of rapid degeneration in
the quality of life and infrastructure, corruption will
continue to get the pride of place as the major cause of
Nigeria’s problem.
Though he never misses any opportunity to dish out rhetoric
about his government’s anti-corruption credentials, the
President’s mindset is one that places corruption at the lower
rung of the socio-economic evils bedevilling the country.
Thus, the will to confront it headlong does not exist. What
exists is the impulse to nurture it in order to continue to
sustain the plutocracy which he and the Peoples Democratic
Party have dishonestly sold to the people as democracy.
Evidence of this intent is the recent appointment of a
notable party chieftain, popularly known as “Mr. Fix It”, as
the chairman of Nigeria Ports Authority, the cash cow which
produces a large chunk of the money the ruling party uses to
fund its political campaigns. The President disregarded the
mountain of allegations of corruption sitting on the
appointee’s head to make the appointment. It is a mark of a
President who is not only out of touch with the people, but
one that doesn’t give a damn, indeed, about corruption and
its deleterious impact on our society.
In a sense, I agree with President Jonathan. It is time to
disband our anti-corruption agencies and set up an agency
for attitudinal change, that is, if we can’t revive the National
Orientation Agency. The first task of the new agency — the
National Agency for Attitudinal and Behavioural Change —
will be to get President Jonathan to change his attitude
toward corruption. And the reason is simple. Corruption,
regardless of the President’s stance, is Nigeria’s number one
problem, and it manifests itself in different ways whether
Jonathan sees it or not.
Martin Luther King, Jr., clergyman, activist, and prominent
leader in the African-American Civil Rights Movement, once
reminded Americans about the “fierce urgency of Now”. In
his “I Have a Dream” speech delivered almost 50 years ago on
August 28, 1963, at the Lincoln Memorial, Washington D.C.,
he noted: “This is no time to engage in the luxury of cooling
off or to take the tranquilising drug of gradualism. Now is
the time to make real the promises of democracy”.
I think President Jonathan should read that speech if he
hasn’t done so. Even though its focus was race relations, its
unifying idea was a warning for every people to frontally
confront their national “demon” and “make justice a reality
for all of God’s children”.
Corruption is Nigeria’s “demon” and unless the President
wants us to believe he is granting a national amnesty to
corruption, now is the time to end the platitudes and
confront it head on.

BY CHIDO ONUMAH (CONUMAH@HOTMAIL.COM)

Posted from WordPress for BlackBerry.

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