When anybody tells you Nigeria is the most corrupt country in the world, the first question you should  ask them is what is the frame of their comparison because it is a stretch or hyperbole to make a statement like that, if you do not know what happens in other countries and better still if you have never been to any of those countries.  As the Secretary to the Joint Economic Commissions of Nigeria with the rest of the world, and as Secretary to the Manpower Department  of Nigeria under the Federal Ministry of Establishments  and as the Nigerian delegate for 3 years to C.A.F.R.A.D (African Training and Research Center in Administration for Development) I traveled quite a bit around the world during my 25 years with the Federal Public Service of Nigeria which is far superior to the rag tag the country has today.

I did not steal a dime because I was just too consumed with my globe trotting and the opportunity to see the world beyond the four walls of Nigeria. I traveled extensively within Nigeria in the same capacity but nothing compares to the opportunity I had to visit the four ends of the world either alone or as a member of a delegation. I once flew the Concord from London to New York in less than 3 hours at twice the speed of sound because my delegation was trying to get to New York to attend an important meeting.  The estacode I received ran into thousands of dollars but  what mattered to me was not the dollars per se or the purchase power it made possible for me but the opportunity it gave me to really know the world and to stock my wardrobes with best dresses I could ever dream of as a dapper don in my prime.

I recall flying to Zaire at one point in my career in company of Chief Oluyemi Falae retired Secretary to Government under Ibrahim Babangida who became the first Nigerian Chairman of C.A.F.R.A.D  and my Permanent Secretary at the Manpower Department of Nigeria at that point in time. We were going to Zaire to persuade President  Mobutu Sese seko Kuku Ngbendu Waza Banga not to reject the appointment of one Professor Thomas Kanza of Zaire whom C.A.F.R.A.D has just appointed as the Director-General of C.A.F.R.A.D in succession to Dr. Kariuki of Kenya. Thomas Kanza, a  Harvard multi lingual Professor who spoke French with the eloquence of a Charles De Gaule and English with the dexterity of a Winston Churchill was the first graduate and indigenous  Minister in Congo Kinshasa under the late Patrice Lumumba of blessed memory. 

My humble self as the delegate of Nigeria and Chairman of the Recruitment Panel of C.A.F.R.A.D was the Plenipotentiary Chairman of the interview panel where Professor Thomas Kanza came first among the 9 candidates shortlisted from all the member countries of C.A.F.R.A.D. We had thought Mobutu was going to be happy about one of his own becoming the Head of C.A.F.R.A.D. We were wrong. Mobutu wanted his appointment torpedoed because he considered Professor Kanza a "persona non grata" in Zaire for opposing his regime. Chief Falae and myself were on a delegation to persuade Mobutu to change his mind.

Before flying to Zaire, we  had a brief stop-over in Abidjan, Ivory Coast on a courtesy visit to President Houphet Boigny and to inform him about Thomas Kanza’s appointment because Ivory Coast was a member country of C.A.F.R.A.D. The point I want to make in narrating this story is the point I made before that if you say Nigeria is the most corrupt in the world, you  have to tell me compared to which other country?

Chief Falae and I talked a little bit about the level of corruption in Nigeria as we made our way to those countries some 33,000 feet in the air at 600 miles per hour,  but we were both shocked when we found out that Nigeria compared to Ivory Coast and Zaire to mention a few was several shades better to tell you the truth. Many of the African countries don’t even have any system at all talk less about the level of corruption. It was animal farm per excellence.

We were both guests of President Mobutu at his awesome mansion at Gbadolite, his village in Zaire where the fence to his beautiful was gold-plated and the flooring was all marble. You get inside that Taj Mahal you marvel when you see and compare the poverty outside his gate.  Only Charles Dickens would have described the shocking  contrast. You could say the same thing of Ivory Coast under Houphet Boigny who together with his family owned everything and  the best buildings you could find any where in downtown Abidjan. The old man singlehandedly built a Basilica in Abidjan bigger than the one in Rome and he picked his home base, Yamoussoukro to become the new financial capital of Ivory Coast no questions asked. So when you say Nigeria is corrupt, you have got to be aware that the Nigerian situation was only a tip of the iceberg.

That said, there is no question at all that corruption is as old as Nigeria. I will be the first to admit that corruption has reached astronomical levels under the first the shoeless Ijaw minority President that was imposed on Nigeria by another hopelessly corrupt Yoruba General who could be compared to a Houphet Boigny or a Mobutu Sese Seko if you see what I see. Obasanjo had only 20,000 Naira in his Bank account when he was released from prison in 1999 to go head the PDP Government in Abuja. By the time he left office in 2007, Obasanjo was richer than the whole of the country just like his junior in the Military, Ibrahim Babangida who got Julius Berger to build for him free of charge, a fortress and Taj Mahal in Minna that is far superior to the Nigerian Presidential Palace at Aso Rock.

The only Head of State or powerful public officials who have not abused their offices had to be Ahmadu Bello, Tafawa Balewa, Yakubu Gowon and arguably Shehu Shagari. Neither Ahmadu Bello or Tafawa Balewa or Yakubu Gowon or Shagari or Umaru Yar Adua had any mansion to their names for the periods they were all in office. If you compare that to what Obasanjo, IBB and Sani Abacha had done with their own time in office, you would have to start scratching your head. I recall some individuals getting together to build a house for Yakubu Gowon who ruled the country from July 1966 to 1975 without thinking of building a house talk less buying a private jet for himself.

The man who used to flaunt one of his names as “Azikiwe” certainly has not behaved like an Azikiwe at all. We all knew Azikiwe. Ogbuefi Nnamdi was a powerful journalist and an erudite politician. He was the beautiful bride and master compromiser who was ready to sign up to any compromise because his allegiance to Nigeria was total. Even though the man composed the Biafran national anthem, he probably did that to please his kith and kin, his heart was always with Nigeria. He seized the first opportunity he had to escape from Biafria and he headed right away to Dodan Barracks from the Lagos International Airport to be embraced and welcome back by Yakubu Gowon. Azikiwe and his first lady Flora Azikiwe that we all knew, would never ever do half of the things his name sake and first lady have gotten away with in Nigeria as we speak.

I blame Ebele Azikiwe Jonathan for much of the terrible escalation of corruption in Nigeria. Once Mr. Jonathan became the running mate to a terminally-sick Yar Adua, he should have known that he was only a heartbeat from becoming President. If he was the ideal candidate for that job he should have known sooner that Lamido Sanusi was a train wreck waiting to happen like he is now saying. Most Vice Presidents in other countries know they could be called upon to be President any day. They are therefore more prepared and ready than a Bayelsa Governor who got the opportunity of a life time but wasted it by being so weak and incompetent. He should have known sooner that  the Central Bank Governor was a demolition derby if he had any antennas at all. He should have long queried or openly reprimanded Lamido Sanusi after he took over from Umaru Yar Adua. 

He should have stopped Lamido in his track before he did more damage to the country’s finances as he is now claiming 5 years after the fact because the man was doing his job and embarrassing the weak and corrupt President in so doing. I used to think the southerners are the smart ones with chains of degrees and Ph.Ds and the northerners were a bunch of “Babu Turenchi Gajere Ba Yaro Ba.” Lamido had nothing to learn from a weak President like Dr. Jonathan Damages with apologies to Sahara Reporters in New York. That was the problem.

When I served under Alhaji Ahmed Joda as my Permanent Secretary in the Federal Ministry of Education in the 70s, if I had found he was a totally corrupt man, that should have been a signal to me to follow his lead when he later appointed me as the Secretary to the Ministry’s Tenders Board where I could easily have become a multi-millionaire without any question. The man, Alhaji Joda is still alive and well, and could testify to what I am saying.
I recall what the man did to his Deputy Permanent Secretary, another Yoruba man like me and the Chairman of the Tenders Board who had recommended to the Permanent Secretary to have me dismissed from the Service because I dared to stand up to him and call his bluff. Ahmed Joda, one of the incorruptible Permanent Secretaries I have ever been privileged to work under, called his Deputy and myself to his office, brought out the recommendation from his drawer and holding it high, he told his Deputy in my presence, he should go hang his head in shame. He should be the one to be fired and not this young man referring to me.

The fish rots from the head. When the head is rotten, there is nothing to fire the imagination of the follower ship to see the leader as a role model. Because Jonathan is corrupt everybody around him is hopelessly corrupt. Who for God’s sake would have believed that Reuben Abati, a fearless journalist I so much admired before, would be sitting there in the Jonathan Kitchen Cabinet defending the indefensible because he has eaten from the forbidden fruit of corruption under a President Azikiwe Jonathan.

I cannot wait to see the court open the can of worms that the Sanusi’s litigation is bound to unravel in Nigeria about the sordid state of affairs in the P.D.P Presidency of Azikiwe Jonathan. I made a prediction in one of my articles on Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala that I would be pleasantly surprised if Okonjo-Iweala’s reputation for  integrity at the World Bank was not rubbished after a year or two in the Nigerian Public Service as the Finance Minister and Economic Coordinating Minister. Those predictions have come true. I could not help but shake my head as I listened to the poor Ngozi defend her stewardship before a committee of the Nigerian House of Assembly and the Senate in Abuja. If Ngozi had said what she told a panel of the World Bank that she was not aware that the N.N.P.C had a secret account abroad, she would have been accused of dereliction of duty at the minimum and she could never have been promoted as the M.D. of the World Bank before her appointment as Finance Minister by Olusegun Obasanjo and her retention by Ebele Jonathan for the same position. The magic of Okonjo-Iweala had been reduced to Professor Peller’s abracadabra in Nigeria. When you function among a bunch of corrupt officials like we have in Nigeria, you either beat them or join them. Ngozi has clearly joined them.

I was at one point recommending that she deserves to be appointed the President of Nigeria because I thought the lady could do no wrong. I thought she would resign and just leave the mess. Knowing what I know today, I would be the last person to think she is qualified to be President of Nigeria. She admitted to  the legislative panel in Abuja that she knew over 10 billion dollars was unaccounted for by the N.N.P.C. What difference does it make if the lost amount was only 10 Billion or 20 Billion Dollars? Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala has been deflated and she is forever tainted in my book and in the book of many Nigerians. A fish rots from the head down. That is precisely what has happened in Nigeria. To your tents O Israel!

The richest Nigerians today must include Alhaji Dangote who is called the richest black man in the world the last time I checked. Once upon a time M.K.O Abiola used to be one of the richest Nigerians. There is Mike Adenuga and Otedola and Kabiyesi Oba Aderuntan, the Olugbo of Ugbo Nla in Ilaje Ese-Odo in Ondo State who is already claiming to be richer than her Royal Majesty, Queen Elizabeth of England. He owns many top of the line cars like Rolls Royce, Bentley, 8 door Limo and what have you in Nigeria. He made all his money from the same oil from Niger Delta.

There is also Michael Elizade Ade-Ojo my own brother from Ilara Mokin who now has the monopoly of Toyota cars in Nigeria if not the whole of Africa. If we dig deep down to how many of these billionaires make their money, much of it has to be from contracts awarded by the Federal Government and many of the State Governments. I can vouch for Elizade one of the hardest working billionaires in Nigeria that I know very well. Many of the money bags like Elizade are spending their money wisely and making a big difference in Nigeria. Many of them are making sure their wealth outlives them which is good.

I hear Omo Iya Aje, Ahmed Tinubu is one of them and if I get my facts correct our outgoing Central Bank Governor, Lamido Sanusi may well be one of the Nigerian billionaires if it is true he once donated some millions to a Buhari Campaign. Of course the list has to include our Oil Minister, Deziani Madueke, our Aviation Minister, Stella Oduah who bought two bullet-proof BMW cars for 255 million which is 20 times the actual cost. There is our First lady Dame Patience Jonathan and the last and not the least our first Ph.D holder President of Nigeria who has more or less put himself in a box, so to speak. The other Nigerian I can vouch for is Chief Oluyemi Falae who was Secretary to Government and Finance Minister at one point in his career. The guy who lives in Akure and he is very close to me is not a rich man by Nigerian standards because he was far from corrupt.

Not too long ago a medical doctor in America who was convicted for fraud on Medicaid billings was trying to seek for clemency by donating 100,000.00 dollars to the Obama Campaign. As soon as the profile of the donor became known, the money had to be returned to sender because that was viewed as corruption in high places. If the donation was kept, that could possibly lead to the impeachment of President Obama.

Richard Nixon was impeached for the Watergate scandal. No less than 3 mayors and a few politicians have been forced to resign in New Jersey where the current Governor Chris Christie is being actively investigated and could end up losing that office, if the Bridgegate scandal was directly traced to him. The appearance of impropriety is enough to disqualify you for public office in America. Not so in Nigeria. The former Governor of Illinois was impeached and convicted. So was Jesse Jackson Junior. That is America. It is a different story in Nigeria where corruption is trivialized and celebrated and whistle blowers are the ones who are hunted, put in jail or assassinated.

Why do you think the reports of kidnappings has risen to astronomical levels in Nigeria under President Jonathan?  When you are kidnapped in Nigeria, the kidnappers do it to force your family to pay ransom in millions of dollars to rescue you. It is high level corruption which was not as common as it is now because the country has gone down to the dogs.

Corruption has always been in Nigeria for as long as any of us can remember. What we have not witnessed is how far it has risen under President Jonathan who came to office promising to fight it. What he is fighting today are whistle blowers for daring to expose the corrupt individuals in his Government. Nigerians can say all they want about Sahara Reporters, Nigeria must thank God we have Sahara Reporters to do the heavy listing on corruption in Nigeria. But for them, corruption would have been business as usual or completely swept under the carpet by those who benefit the most from it.

Need I say more?

I rest my case.


The views expressed in this article are the author’s own and do not necessarily reflect the editorial policy of SaharaReporters

You may also like

Read Next

Trending Now