There has been a lot of noise and groundswell of anger about a nation with a population in excess of 100 million not winning a single medal in the Olympics. But Nigerians need not worry; if they want to scoop up practically all the gold medals in the next Olympics they should ask the Olympics committee to include corruption in the contest, for that is the one contest where Nigeria is guaranteed to defeat every other nation in the world.
There is no better display of Nigeria’s potential winning streak in the Olympics than the passing of the relay race baton of looting to the younger generation which was evident in the recent arraignment of the son of Alhaji Bamangur Tukur the current PDP chairman, Mahmud Tukur, the son of Ahmadu Ali the erstwhile PDP chairman Mamman Nasir Ali and other sons of prominent looters in the $6.8 billion dollars (1.3 trillion naira) oil subsidy scam. Having run their course in the relay race of looting, the elder looters have now passed the baton of looting to their sons and younger siblings ensuring the championship of misrule and looting continues into the next generation. The arraigned scammers knew the system works to protect criminals, thus with so much arrogance and contempt they practically smiled and laughed their way out of court having passed through the usual ritual of a bail after which like so many other cases, nothing will be heard of it again.
Those who remotely harboured thoughts of a better Nigeria in future should think again. It will definitely not happen without a fight. The future has already been mortgaged to the vampires of corruption as is evident with the passing of baton from one generation of looters to another. Anybody who watched the Lagos fuel subsidy debate http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=RLd8o8z-2CU would have noticed the revelations of mind boggling looting, how shipments of fuel are first logged in Lagos to ensure payment from the federal government then diverted to other African countries and resold. The sordid tales of massive theft that came out from the subsidy debate signals a nation whose cancer of corruption has reached terminal stage.
Corruption in Nigeria has a long history. From the first republic, the hues and cries of corruption was already in the air, but the first republic remained largely free of deliberate and organized looting of public funds. With the arrival of the military in the aftermath of the January 1966 coup, corruption commenced its slight but subtle accent. The second republic marked a significant departure from the hitherto modest levels of corruption. Under President Shehu Shagari, large scale corruption was birthed. The poster child and prominent fugitive of the second republic, Alhaji Umaru Dikko reportedly stole in excess of 2 billion naira, consequently birthing the era of the ‘billion naira loot’ which has since progressed to the era of the “trillion naira loot.”
The final act and nail in the coffin was the “Babangidization of Nigeria” which marked the period of General Ibrahim Babangida’s regime in whose era corruption became institutionalised. From 1985 when General Ibrahim Babangida seized power, he made it clear in no unmistakable terms that his government was all about ‘settlement.’ Thus all government contracts, appointments and institutions became a means of patronage and settlement. The monumental institutionalization of corruption during the infamous Babangida era carried on into the General Sanni Abacha and General Abdulsalami Abubakar Regimes. By the time the trio left power and the democratic experiment began in 1999, Nigeria had been nurtured and indoctrinated into a system of institutionalized corruption that touched every facet of life for an unbroken period of 14 years from 1985 to 1999.
The democratic experiment of the fourth republic which some hoped would herald a turning point has turned out an unmitigated disaster. After 13 years of democracy and the longest oil boom in the nation’s history, monumental corruption has continued unabated. Practically every stratum of government and society from the states to the federal government, the private sector to the judiciary and even religious organisations are steeped in massive theft. What has become obvious is that the fundamental problem of leadership and corruption has more to do with the character, values and quality of the leaders than with the system of government. Nigeria has had both military and democratic regimes all of which have been failures, whereas nations such as China, Qatar and others ruled by unelected dictators and monarchs have overseen the unprecedented development of their nations and provided some of the most accountable governance to their citizens.
With the daily reports of billions and trillions being looted without any consequence, it has become obvious that corruption has all but triumphed in Nigeria. It’s time to stop pretending and consider renaming Nigeria the “federal republic of corruption” so that she can officially take her ignoble seat as the most corruption nation in the world and go on to win every Olympic gold medal in corruption.
Lawrence Chinedu Nwobu