Corruption is the canker worm that has eaten deep into the fabric of development in Nigeria. Every day we hear reports of one government official or another involved in graft often to the tune of millions of dollars and sometimes billions. According to the United Kingdom’s Department for International Development (DFID), in a report released in 2007, Nigeria’s political leaders have stolen about $400 billion dollars between 1960 and 2007. Corruption is so endemic in Nigeria that in the year 2000, Transparency International rated Nigeria as the most corrupt country in the world. This is in spite of the fact that successive governments in Nigeria since 1983 have declared one form of war on corruption or another in order to stop this hydra headed monster that has stymied the growth and development of this nation.
The question is ‘How do we ensure that the current anti-graft war being waged by the Muhammadu Buhari-led administration does not go the way of others which ended in failure?
First and foremost, we should realize that ending corruption in Nigeria is a collective effort and we are all foot soldiers in the war. We cannot afford to leave it to only the EFCC or the government agencies alone. The current whistle blower policy is a plus to the current anti-graft war as it has emboldened many hitherto timid Nigerians to expose corrupt Nigerians wherever they abound. It is only reasonable for the executive to send it as a bill to the legislature so that it can become an Act of Parliament thereby making it legal and difficult for subsequent administrations to change. Also, we should avoid acts of corruption in our daily lives as citizens because it is the follower ship that produces the leadership and not vice-versa. Let us not forget that many of our political leaders that we accuse of corrupt acts today were private citizens some 20 years ago.
A situation whereby governors own private jets and have as much as a hundred cars in their fleet does not augur well for us or show good example to the citizens as many now think that public office is all about enjoyment and not service. We should borrow a leaf from the United States where the Secretary of Health and Human Services, Dr Thomas Price was recently forced to resign for using private jets for official travel instead of commercial airlines.
The judiciary should be strengthened through the creation of special courts to try corruption cases and the cases should be dispensed with within a time frame of six months. The National Orientation Agency should embark on a nationwide campaign to sensitize Nigerians on the nexus between corruption and poverty. The reason why majority of Nigerians still hero-worship corrupt individuals in the society is because of their inability to make the connection between the two. The NOA should partner with the media and also carry out their campaigns mostly in the rural areas were ignorance, illiteracy and poverty is rampant.
Finally, religious leaders should ensure that they preach the truth at all times and not focus on earthly and material achievements alone. They should emphasize spiritual values like love, honesty, integrity, faithfulness, etc. over and above the acquisition of earthly and material possessions. If we are to believe the words of the great German philosopher Karl Marx when he opined that ‘’Religion is the opium of the masses’’, then we can understand the great power of religious leaders over the masses of the Nigerian people. They should use their power constructively for national gain and not personal gain.