By Afolayan Adebiyi, Lagos, Nigeria
The truth today is that Nigeria is reeling under the heavyweight of corruption. The destructive cankerworm has eaten deep into the socio-political soul of the Nation and the rot is so much that it reeks of foul odour and stinks from afar.
It is a thing that is deeply rooted in the society we live in. It’s so widely spread in the country today and as a citizen, I am scared and afraid of TOMORROW.
To those who know, we have come thus far from that humble beginning where charity begins at home, probity is a statue and integrity is worn as a medal. Gone are the days when you are proud to be a Nigerian.
There have been inquiries upon inquiry, probe after a probe, military tribunals but where did all that get us to? From the mere mention of Coker Commission of Inquiry in the early sixties, a prelude to a political storm from which the Country never recovered from, to the Scania Bus scandal of mid-sixties, the odious stench of corruption has permeated all facets of the Country’s national life and it stinks to high heavens.
Let’s see how it all began.
The Coker Commission of Inquiry was set up by the Federal Government of Prime Minister, Alhaji Abubakar Tafawa Balewa and his Northern Peoples’ Congress NPC in conjunction with the rebel faction of late Chief Obafemi Awolowo’s Action Group AG, the NNDP led by his former Deputy Premier, late Chief S. L. A. Akintola, the Aare Ona Kakanfo of Yorubaland. The Commission was labelled malicious and a political vendetta aimed at getting at the former Premier, late Chief Obafemi Awolowo. It was doomed to fail. And it failed.
The Scania Bus scandal involving the late political mogul of Ibadanland, Chief A. M. A. Akinloye was also stirred in similar controversies. The allegations, the charges, and the probe, all failed to yield anything concrete.
But since the turn of the 70s, the music changed, the volume turned on much higher. First came the sudden, and unprecedented oil boom. The inflows of income nearly blinded the Government of Gen. Yakubu Gowon rtd. He was at a point quoted to have said- “The problem of Nigeria is not money, but how to spend it”.
Gen. Murtala Muhammed, who dethroned Gen. Yakubu Gowon in a Palace Coup hinged his actions on growing corruption within Gen. Gowon’s regime. Then, corruption allegation remained in the realm of rumours and inferences because of the inherent shame it may bring.
This led the Kano-born Infantry General to move against the top echelon of the Civil Service. Several top Civil Servants were summarily dismissed or compulsorily retired with or without their benefits, depending on the severity of the corruption allegations against them.
But, by the turn of the second Republic, corruption has become a sing-song within the polity. Government Officials, their wives, aides and even political party leaders were swimming in a most deafening corruption allegation.
The odious noise became an editorial focus of many national dailies and formed the fulcrum of major debates among the intelligentsia. And by midnight of December 31, 1983, the Army struck once again, for the fifth time in the country’s political life. Major General Muhammadu Buhari and Brigadier Tunde Idiagbon replacing the democratically elected Alhaji Shehu Shagari and Dr Alex Ekwueme. Curtains were brought down on democracy, and the major reasons alluded to in the maiden speech was unbridled corruption among the political elites of the time.
The Military Junta set up Special Tribunals to try corrupt political office holders and their collaborators. This led to some ridiculous judicial pronouncements and sentences which also led to another corruption allegation that a section of the country was shielded from judicial punishments while some were severely punished.
The former Governors of old Oyo, Ogun, Ondo and Bendel were severely maltreated, and those of Imo and Anambra too were given ridiculous jail terms, while those of Niger, Sokoto, Kaduna and some other core Northern states were given unbelievable judicial reprieves. The entire World watched horror-struck as a former Transport Minister, late Alhaji Umaru Dikko was crated and ready to be transported back to Nigeria to face corruption charges but for the eagle-eyed British Immigration’s Officials. The critics of the government claimed ‘it lacked human face and milk of human kindness. This accusation, however, stuck firmly on the actions and inactions of the government.
But soon, all look different and new to Nigerians like they have never heard anything about corruption once the gap-toothed self-styled Military President, General Ibrahim Bademosi Babangida took over from the hapless duo of General Buhari and Brigadier Idiagbon.
Once President Babangida took over on August 28th (the Sallah Day) of 1985, the whole narratives changed. Cries of corruption in government dealings became louder and government officials and their associates became enmeshed more in corruption and corrupt practices. While the President could use promises to return the country to participatory democracy to quieten the rising noises of corruption, but the volume of corruption in that regime could not be easily ignored. Although, a lame attempt was made by the government to tell the World that it could fight the growing monster, mere jailing of its inaugural Petroleum Minister, Professor Tam David West over drinking a cup of coffee and collection of a gold-plated wristwatch at a negotiation meeting between the oil octopus, NNPC and a joint venture partners paled into insignificance while comparing this with various earth-shaking financial scams exposures involving the top echelon of the regime.
Scanning through between the IBB regime, through the rapacious Gen. Sanni Abacha regime, Gen. Abubarkar Abdul Salam, down to the 16 years of the Peoples’ Democratic Party PDP, the pictures look distressing. A BBC report claimed that over 6 trillion US Dollars have been stolen from the country’s treasury since 1960. This may sound hyperbolic, but might be closer to the truth. The oddity is that some past government officials and even sitting ones are much richer than some state governments. They have no other definable means of livelihood than being in government and yet are fabulously wealthy, while the country, the states wallow under excruciating debt burden which threat of misrule blindly plunged them.
The President Muhammadu Buhari government that came to power on May 29, 2015, has made fighting corruption a major plank of his programmes. So far heart-rendering figures are being pushed to the public from discovered lootings by the previous governments.
Various institutions have been set up since Independence to checkmate corrupt government officials and even those dealing with the government. There are enough extant laws and provisions to deal with official misappropriation and diversion of public funds, but still, the cankerworms persist.
FEFERITY Magazine decides to dig down to the emergence of this cankerworm in our national life. How did it all start? What and what led to its sporadic growth? Is it curable? We speak to some analysts. Please watch out for their views in our next edition.
Afolayan Adebiyi, writes from Lagos, Nigeria.
Feferity (c) 2019