A lot has been written about corruption in Nigeria, yet, no serious attempt has been made to examine the concept itself as deeply as a Senior Advocate of Nigeria, Yusuf Ali, and 11 others have done in a new book, a collection of essays titled, Anatomy of Corruption in Nigeria: Issues, Challenges and Solutions.
In the 468-page book, Ali, who edited it and the other ‘wise men’ – interestingly drawn from the judiciary – are concerned with digging up the true meaning of corruption, at least in the Nigerian context; its symptoms, causes and effects.
The contributors are also mindful of the need to come up with an effective solution to the huge challenge posed by this persistent demon and how to prevent it from wreaking more havoc on the larger society.
The highpoint of this attempt to unravel the mystery of corruption in this part of the world, perhaps, is the discovery that it is deeply rooted in certain habits and traditions introduced via European colonialism in Africa and specifically, Nigeria.
While examining the historical background of corruption in the country, in his essay titled ‘The Fight Against Corruption in Nigeria – Myth or Reality’, Ali puts the blame for the social cankerworm squarely on the shoulders of Nigeria’s erstwhile colonial masters.
Describing corruption as one of the greatest legacies that the colonialists bequeathed to Nigeria at Independence, he writes, “It has been asserted, and rightly so, that most Nigerians are so unused to waiting in line to do or attain things by merit because colonialism taught them all about usurpation of advantage and opportunities, independent of personal merit, and that this was how the seed of corruption had germinated and taken root.”
Ali argues that the typical colonial officer, which the people respected so much, was illegitimately privileged, benefitted from “plenty undemanding labour” and could easily obtain administrative positions.
“It is this system of inequity and injustice, arising from domination, exploitation and unfair discrimination, which Nigerians inherited at Independence that baptised the issue corruption and/or official corruption in Nigeria.
“The elite’ after the departure of the colonial overlords, conceived themselves as inheritors, not only of the white man’s arbitrary powers but also of his relation to the state and the people.
“They, therefore, regarded the state as their personal estate to which they can dip hands at will to satisfy their whims and desires. Hence, the unbridled corruption rampant amongst public office holders in Nigeria and indeed, most of the other African countries,” he also writes.
Ali notes that although corruption is a global malaise, its incidence in Nigeria is pervasive and runs right through those managing the affairs of the government, all the departments of government and the country’s entire body politics.
Apart from that, he points out, corruption is a perpetual drain on Nigeria’s financial resources, which causes the country to lose billions of naira in revenue and inflicts untold suffering on millions of Nigerians.
The Senior Advocate of Nigeria also listed the types of corruption in the country as bribery, breach of trust, nepotism, misuse of public property and funds, theft of financial resources belonging to the government, influence peddling and patronage.
According to him, examples of corruption are endless and not limited to monetary gratification, as perceived by many Nigerians. But those who indulge in corrupt practices are mostly driven by personal motives, especially the desire for an unfair advantage over other people.
The book, Anatomy of Corruption in Nigeria, no doubt, coming at a very auspicious time in the country’s quest for a corruption-free society, is a precious gift that every sincere and honest Nigerian will cherish