LAST week, the Delta State Government organised a one-day anti corruption summit in Asaba, the state capital, where the Governor, Dr. Ifeanyi Okowa, made a strong case for the prosecution of the anti-corruption war devoid of religious and socio-political inclination. He also threw his weight behind the recent whistle-blower policy that the Federal Government initiated to elicit people’s interest in alerting the authorities about cases of embezzlement, for which they will be entitled to five per cent of the monetary sum, if the report is proven beyond doubt.
Governor Okowa’s observation of the negative impact of corruption was apt as he said, inter alia: “Corruption is one of the most recurring discourses in our national life because virtually every Nigerian agrees that it undermines the fabric of every aspect of society. Over the years, it has constituted a serious threat to good governance, rule of law, peace and security, including development programmes aimed at tackling poverty and economic backwardness”.
He added: “The fight against corruption is not an easy task, but it can be won through advocacy such as this one that aims at drastic reduction and, where possible, total elimination of the practices in every facet of our national life. Today, our anti-corruption agencies, namely, the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC), the Independent Corrupt Practices and Other Related Offences Commission (ICPC), the Code of Conduct Tribunal (CCT), are in the forefront of the fight against corruption.
“In the pursuit of our anti-corruption agenda, greater success will be recorded if our actions and practices are blind to all social, religious and political persuasions. Our actions must be civil and be such that engenders public confidence and participation if the battle must be won”, noted Okowa at the summit with the theme, Transparency and Accountability: Institutionalisation of Good Governance For Sustainable Development.
From whatever angle it might be examined, the summit was timely and clearly indicates the Okowa administration’s readiness to work with the relevant organs to drive reforms and regenerate the society for the benefit of all. That the initiative is a welcome development explains the volition of the ICPC’s collaboration with the Delta State Government.
The idea deserves the support of all Deltans so that we can tame corruption and reduce its grip on the political economy to the barest minimum. While this underscores the basis of the current anti-corruption war by the Buhari administration since it took power in May 2015, Governor Okowa, however, advocates for its insulation from political and religious differences that are largely perceived as extraneous, by critics. If the Federal Government can heed such advice, it is likely to garner a lot more solidarity from a broad spectrum of the society.
Unarguably, corruption remains the major hindrance to Nigeria’s progress. It explains the essence of the common banter in social circles that, while other nations suffer one form of natural disaster periodically, the Nigerian type is perennial and peculiarly induced by corruption, which, on the basis of causality, has arrested the level of development envisaged for it as an oil-rich country. An analysis of the human and development indices enunciated by the United Nations will certify this viewpoint.
Nigeria’s history is replete with tales of unabashed thievery mostly perpetrated by public officers. That is why almost 57 years down the road of nationhood, the disease continues to afflict the cream of the elite that cut across ethnic and religious divides. Thus, while the major ethnic groups and the two Abrahamic religions seek to assert their dominance, none has explicitly denied or absolved any of its members from economic crimes, for which they were arrested by either the EFCC or the ICPC.
However, the alarming increase of crimes underscores the nexus between the deterioration of social values and tendency for deviant conduct. For instance, while the stealing of public funds merely mushroomed in the First Republic, probably because politicians of that era were still conscious of African norms and values, the level of corruption in today’s Nigeria is evidently gargantuan.
Of course, the varying degree between then and now is corrosive. If the late revolutionary crusader, Major Chukwumah Kaduna Nzeogwu, was roused from his grave and asked of his opinion on the issue in discourse, he is likely to apologise to those pioneer politicians that he earlier described as “ten per centers” in his coup speech of January 15, 1966.
This present degeneracy demands societal reforms in ways that will encourage honest pursuit of wealth and deprecate the idea of seeking wealth from questionable sources. It requires a synergy between the various tiers of government and the civil society groups to drive home the message of making corruption less attractive.
Thus, we agree with Governor Okowa’s suggestion that “advocacy in partnership with civil society, public service, the organised private sector, opinion leaders and traditional institutions is a sure path to success; then the press must be seen and carried along as strategic partners in moulding the character of our people in a reformative manner, rather than being used as to blackmail or defame persons ahead of decisions by competent courts”.