“There is no institution that is more abhorrent than a corrupt government. No entity kills more. No entity plunders the treasury more. No one entity violates more individual and human rights more often, with more impunity. And none spews more propaganda and lies. History proves this beyond a shadow of a doubt. Whether it is a democracy, monarchy, military, union of socialist republics, or a communist state, you can rest assured that a corrupt government will be the bane of progress and development every time. And a corrupt government will always be an oppressive one. It has always been this way. Corrupt governments are always dangerous and inimical to the health, well-being and progress of the people they rule”. (Anon)
Therefore such government must be checked. Politicians and civil servants who run the country must be resisted and called to order. They must be over-ruled. They must be gotten rid of.
However, we often presume that government corruption involves certain government employees (or elected officials) breaking the law, taking bribes, or wrongfully issuing special favours to select individuals or cliques to promote their own career or perpetuate themselves in power. To a great extent, this is government corruption, but such activity only scratches the surface. It represents a small fraction of the real corruption going on. The most egregious corruption originates right in plain view in the business sector, in public, in the communities. It happens routinely now; it's just that we don't recognize it, or refuse to recognise it.
As Max Siollun wrote (Nigeria Today Online, 18th May 2009) “However, it is a myth that corruption is perpetrated mostly by the government. The Nigerian leadership is a reflection of Nigerian society, not the other way round. Most Nigerians are accomplices and ‘agent provocateurs' of corruption. Corruption flows from the bottom up. The petroleum industry is perceived as the epicentre of government corruption. Is the government alone in its abuse of the oil industry? During fuel shortages, petrol stations have been accused of hoarding fuel in order to deliberately amplify shortages and drive prices even higher. They exploit the misery of the already hyper-extended fuel consumer. Black market fuel sellers have been known to dilute their petrol with other chemicals. Some private citizens also dangerously "tap" oil from pipelines, to sell on the black market. "Tapping" is a benign term for a practice that is really blatant theft of a national resource, with no remorse, or any thought of the explosive danger caused by damage to pipelines”. Everyone is in on the act.
A corrupt government is one that extends unlawful jurisdiction over the people it is supposed to protect. A corrupt government is one that legislates beyond its rightful power by erecting laws that do injury to liberty, justice, and individual rights. A corrupt government believes that might make right, and that its mission is to curtail freedom and information to the public and claiming it is acting in their best interest. A corrupt government denies access to its people of the wealth of the nation.
The Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria was appointed with the primary object being the defence of freedom, and of promoting good governance which will, on the longer term, be beneficial to all the people of Nigeria. In the Constitution, specific powers are delegated to three distinct branches of government: The legislative (Senate and the House of Representatives, both called the National Assembly), the administrative or executive (Presidency), and the judicial (Courts and Jurors). The National Assembly can only create laws in the pursuance of good governance -- in pursuance of the Constitution. And two conditions must be met: One, Jurisdiction must exist, and two, National Assembly act(s) must not violate the rights of any individual citizen(s). If both of the conditions are not met, any anti-constitutional decree the National Assembly might install is not valid. An example of a violation of a person's rights would be corrupt enrichment by officials entrusted with certain functions to provide instruments or infrastructure which will better the lives of the people he/she rules. Another example is the denial of people’s right to vote for a candidate of their choice at an election.
The Federal Government must uphold the immutable rights of the people of Nigeria to enjoy the dividends of democracy, freedom (all kinds), good governance, to access quality healthcare, quality education, good food, guaranteed liberty and justice, progress and development. The National Assembly and the executive branch are bound by the Constitution. Every citizen is guaranteed liberty and justice here. We people; we commoners give the government its just powers. It operates at our consent. Power is derived from the people.
Many people think that what makes a country progressive or modern is that it is a democracy. Well, Nigeria is not a democracy in that sense. But there is nothing inherently good about either form of government. There are bad republics. There are bad democracies. There are bad dictatorships and bad governments. What makes a democratic country unique is that it has a limited form of government, in the sense that when the government of the day is not performing its duties or functions, not only according to the Constitution, but to the people it governs, we can go to the polls and deny it a further mandate. There is a government whose power can't lawfully extend beyond that which has been expressly delegated to it.
If the Constitution doesn't expressly give jurisdiction to the federal government over a certain subject, it may not act on it. Nigeria has a Constitution with checks, balances, and limitations on all branches of government. It may seem a novel concept to many, but we citizens have powerful tools at our disposal that can stop corrupt governments dead (in some cases literally) in their tracks. The government will not tell you this. They in fact blatantly lie about it. It is important that they do not reveal anything that will jeopardise their hold on power to the people who brought them, rigging or not, into power.
Today, most of us are victims (and perpetrators) of a corrupt government (Federal) or corrupt governments (states and Local). Many are involved knee deep in it. But we are not powerless. We, in fact, should not allow the government to act wrongfully against us. Most Nigerians don't even realize how far off course our government has strayed, and this is where education of the masses comes in. We can talk of democracy and good governance again and again. And we can not do it at the polls alone, or via legislative actions. It won't be accomplished by way of executive order/decree. Politicians and bureaucrats do not deliver the dividends of democracy, as we like to call it, they take it! More Nigerians are beginning to understand this, but very slowly. It will probably take less than ten percent of us to stand tall, exercise, demand, and reaffirm our absolute right. When enough are educated of this power, the light of freedom and democracy will begin to shine bright again. It is the failure to exercise this fundamental right that has brought us into this quagmire that we are in today.
I have read many comments from fellow Nigerians, listened to arguments and opinions as to the problem of corruption in Nigeria, and unfortunately what I have gathered from my countrymen and women is the perception or pessimism that Nigeria will never change, that corruption will always be endemic and there is nothing we can do about it. People tell me that if even I enter the system I will be corrupted.
I beg to differ very strongly. One, if we all keep our hands behind our backs, stick our heads into the ground like ostriches and expect God to change Nigeria for us, Nigeria will never change and things will become worse for everybody. It is for us to fight corruption and corrupt governments; nobody will do it for us, I always opine. Secondly, I, as a person, as an individual do not need to be corrupt in order to implement or effect the desired change for my people or country. I don’t need all the money. I am not greedy. I am not impressed by acquisition or accumulation of wealth, because I am not carrying it with me to heaven when I die. I derive my joy; satisfaction and contention by ensuring people around me are not in want or suffering. And the only way I can achieve this, if I have the chance, the power and the money to do this, is to do what a true leader is supposed to do – govern well, lead well. And if this means not employing members of my family or friends into positions which will compromise my ideals and purpose, so be it. I am not indebted to anybody in this world, except to my God. The evil that men do lives after them; the good is oft interred with their bones. In this world, your worth as a person is determined by what you do for others while you are living; when you are dead, you are really of no use to anybody anymore, but your name lives on with esteem, respect and acknowledgement of the good you have done. This is eventually transferred to those you leave behind to enjoy. The reason or purpose why God and Man make some people leaders is to give them a chance to alleviate the problems of the weak; if a leader detracts from that purpose of Man and God, his/her life is truly worthless.
Thomas Jefferson often referred to the term good government. In his opinion, the Government ought to be judged by how well it meets its legitimate objectives. For him, good government was the one who most effectively secures the rights of the people and the rewards of their labor, which promotes their happiness, and also does their will. For instance, he said: "The care of human life and happiness and not their destruction is the only legitimate object of good government." --Thomas Jefferson to Maryland Republicans, 1809. ME 16:359.
According to the UN paper, What is Good Governance?, the term “governance” means “the process of decision-making and the process by which decisions are implemented (or not implemented)”. In other words, dealing with governance involves the analysis of the processes and systems by which a specific society, or organisation, operates. Though government is one of the main actors of governance, it is far from being the only one; depending on the specific entity under study, other actors can include “influential land lords, associations of peasant farmers, cooperatives, NGOs, research institutes, religious leaders, finance institutions, political parties, the military, [… as well as the] media, lobbyists, international donors, multi-national corporations, etc.” Moreover, governance applies to several contexts: corporate governance, international governance, and national, regional or local governance.
Good governance is a form of governance that embodies eight specific characteristics, and can be seen as an ideal of governance. The eight characteristics of good governance as defined by the United Nations embodies processes that are
2. consensus oriented,
6. effective and efficient,
7. equitable and inclusive,
8. and [which follow] the rule of law.
Moreover, good governance “assures that corruption is minimised, the views of minorities are taken into account, and that the voices of the most vulnerable in society are heard in decision-making. It is also responsive to the present and future needs of society”. Clearly, there is a close relation between good governance and respect for human rights.
From the above definitions, it should be clear that good governance is an ideal which is difficult to achieve in its totality. Very few countries and societies have come close to achieving good governance in its totality. However, to ensure sustainable human development, actions must be taken to work towards this ideal with the aim of making it a reality.
A basic practical example of good governance would be where a member of a committee, with a vested interest in a topic being discussed at committee, would absent themselves from the discussion and not attempt to exert influence. This certainly does not apply in our country. Another example is that of ensuring that there is no electoral fraud in the voting system and that the wishes and rights of the people to elect who they want into government or any position of power and leadership are sacrosanct. For decades, Nigerians have been denied this right, as was again demonstrated by the Ekiti State debacle most recently. Osun State is going that way too, as have several other states, including my own Oyo State.
And with a lot of corruption scandals being swept under the carpets through several decades, and the constant misinformation to the public, electoral and political fraud and corruption, Nigeria is far from being classified a “good governance” material. We all know it, despite any kind of propaganda or “re-branding” efforts being put out by the government. Even, we know that politicians and ex-leaders that have been indicted of corruption charges are still in power today, playing poker or Russian roulette with our lives.
If a law doesn't fit, you must acquit! If a government does not fit, we must get rid of it. If a system of governance is not apt to the needs of the people, the people must get rid of that system and look elsewhere. We do not need to wait for the "right" politicians to erect the "right" legislation to take back our immutable rights. We people are the ultimate check against despotic corrupt governments. Effective use of the ballot boxes, the Press, labour unions, is deadly to government bureaucrats, politicians, and their henchmen. It's a highly efficient and bloodless form of rebellion that must be employed.
Shall we take back our country now?
Akintokunbo Adejumo lives and works in London, UK.