Without a doubt, Nigeria is rife with corruption. The argument is around the extent of corruption and the number of countries that are more corrupt than Nigeria. Recently, Transparency International (TI), in its 2012 report, ranked Nigeria the 35th most corrupt country in the world. Nigeria scored 27 out of a maximum 100 marks to occupy the 139th place out of the 176 countries surveyed in the report.
Interestingly, TI’s rating came after President Goodluck Jonathan’s Independence Day claim that it rated Nigeria second, next to the United States in the fight against corruption. President Jonathan’s claim has since been denied by TI.
However, Nigeria’s ranking is not really the issue. The issue is what is responsible for our poverty given the wealth of Nigeria. Let us use the analogy of a tap filling a bucket. If you have water in a tank (symbolising our wealth) and you put a bucket (the Nigerian people) under a tap (distribution of wealth) and the bucket remains empty, then one of two things have happened:
1) the tank was emptied out through another outlet.
2) the tap has a problem or it was not put on.
(1) is brought about by corruption whereas (2) is brought about by…corruption!
The problem with Nigeria is we often see corruption as being limited to illegitimate extraction of funds and we channel our purported fight towards this direction. However, our efforts should also be channelled towards the non-distribution of wealth/wastage of funds.
Recently, the Abia State Government put out a newspaper advert on the giant strides of the Governor Theophilus Orji in which he included the construction of a Guest House, Ultra-modern market (nothing appears to be modern about it let alone ultra-modern!) and official quarters for political office holders. A visit to the Abia State website shows the landmark achievements as including the distribution of buses to churches.
A simple question comes to mind: is it really the best use of a State’s funds? Why is it better to go into construction than pay civil servants a decent minimum wage? Why does the government need a Guest House rather than have motivated teachers who are well paid. If Abia State did not embark on the foregoing construction activities, would the State really be worse off?
Abia State is not alone. In Lagos State, the government added an extra lane to an existing road and demanded that toll be paid for the extra lane for 30 years. This is despite the fact that the original plan was to create an alternative road by the sea.
Why would a government embark on a seemingly needless project given the shortage of funds? The answer believe it or not is corruption –the type that does not involve stealing directly from the till but the one which involves discreet kickbacks and rewards for political cronies. This is the corruption that is often overlooked.
Let us challenge our governments to tell us how they prioritise projects. The response or silence will surely provide us with an insight into the minds of those “making giant strides” on our behalf.