In Praise of Corruption By Chido Onumah

Chido Onumah
Columnist: 
Chido Onumah

One of the most frightening things about the Jonathan administration is the president’s palpable lack of appreciation of the problems that confront us and “the fierce urgency of Now”. This phenomenon rears its head at every opportunity the president has to reassure Nigerians that he has the capacity to lead the country out of its current morass.   

It is clichéd now to refer to the president’s response when asked last June why he was unwilling to declare his asset publicly as a mark of his commitment to fighting corruption. The president told a bewildered nation that he didn’t “give a damn” about Nigerians not knowing what he is worth. That comment reverberated and still reverberates around the country, particularly whenever the words fighting corruption and Jonathan administration are used in a sentence.

Those who thought that was one presidential gaffe too many were surely mistaken. The president upped the ante during the 2012 Christmas service in Abuja  when he said his government appeared to be slow because it did not want to make mistakes. “By human thinking our administration is slow; I won’t say we are slow,  but we need to think through things properly if we are to make lasting impact,” the president said in his homily. “If we rush, we will make mistakes and sometimes it is more difficult to correct those mistakes.”

Slow is an understatement. The president is simply telling us he doesn’t know what he is doing. The truth is that there is no governance going on in the country. We all know the president is not circumspect or afraid of taking decisions, particularly when such decisions will benefit his friends in the oil industry. We witnessed that a year ago when, to the chagrin of the mass of our people, the president increased the price of petrol even when negotiations were on-going with the Nigeria Labour Congress and civil society. Since then, the president has followed that insensate decision with numerous anti-people actions like spending N22.6bn of our collective wealth to offset bank loans owed by 84 rogue stock broking firms.

The major headline of the preceding week was not the hardship Nigerians had to endure during the holidays or the death and destruction that stalk the land. It was the pronouncement of President Jonathan in what appeared as an official endorsement of corruption during the funeral service of General Owoye Azazi in Yenagoa, Bayelsa State. Presidential aide, Reuben Abati, has admonished us not to take the president literally when he speaks. But this is one time we have no option but to pay close attention to the president for “out of the abundance of the heart the mouth speaketh”.

Bishop of Bomadi Catholic Diocese, Vicarage Hyacinth Egbebor, probably didn’t know he was stirring up a hornet’s nest when he blamed the December 15 helicopter crash at Okoroba in Nembe Local Government Area, Bayelsa State, that killed the former National Security Adviser, Andrew Azazi, former Kaduna State Governor, Patrick Yakowa, and four others, on corruption. “Corruption is the only underlying evil that is responsible for the air mishaps. If the military cannot guarantee the safety and security of their own, who else can they protect?” Vicarage Egbebor noted in his sermon. “If there is anywhere one looks for excellent performance, it is the military. Now we have compromised excellence for money. Money has taken over.”

An obviously peeved President Jonathan remarked in response to Vicarage Egbebor, “But most of these things we talk about corruption are not even corruption. It is true that most cases we talk about corruption as if corruption is the cause of most of our problems. No. Yes, we have corruption in this country, no doubt about that. The government is also fighting corruption.” The president reminded us that “Nigeria has more institutions that fight corruption than most other countries”. His solution: attitudinal change on the part of Nigerians and concerted effort by at least half of the population to follow in the footsteps of the late Gen. Azazi.

It’s a good thing that President Jonathan, while rejecting corruption as the problem, returned to the theme of attitude as the bane of Nigeria’s development. As a result, the president apparently demonstrated the logic of rational analysis in locating corruption in the wider cosmic of attitude. In that context he is right to call for a change of attitude. But Nigerians would expect the change of attitude he preaches to begin with him. The only way to do this is for him to lead by example; to practice what he preaches.

President Jonathan should not expect the man on the street to heed the call to imbibe new ways of doing things when he himself is not demonstrating it. Unfortunately, he has refused to drive the process by, amongst other things, arrogantly failing to publicly declare his assets, apportioning over a N1bn to the Presidency for feeding and expanding the presidential fleet while saner countries are reducing theirs.

Unfortunately, the president failed to mention that the attitudinal change we need most is one that de-prioritises corruption as an ingrained culture of the Nigerian people. By so doing, he ignored the consensus among not just the dispossessed majority, but also in the circle of elites of which he is one, that corruption, contrary to what he believes, is the number one problem facing Nigeria today.

All the negative indices routinely ascribed to virtually every sector of Nigerian life are the consequence of widespread sleaze perpetrated by government officials and their collaborators outside government. As long as the status quo continues to endure in the midst of rapid degeneration in the quality of life and infrastructure, corruption will continue to get the pride of place as the major cause of Nigeria’s problem.

Though he never misses any opportunity to dish out rhetoric about his government’s anti-corruption credentials, the president’s mindset is one that places corruption at the lower rung of the socio-economic evils bedevilling the country. Thus, the will to confront it headlong does not exist. What exists is the impulse to nurture it in order to continue to sustain the plutocracy which he and the People’s Democratic Party (PDP) have dishonestly sold to the people as democracy.

Evidence of this intent is the recent appointment of Tony Anenih, alias “Mr. Fix It”, as the chairman of Nigeria Ports Authority, the cash cow which produces a large chunk of the money the ruling party uses to fund its political campaigns. The president disregarded the mountain of allegations of corruption sitting on Chief Anenih’s head to make the appointment. It is a mark of a president who is not only out of touch with the people, but one that doesn’t give a damn about corruption and its deleterious impact on our society.

In a sense, I agree with President Jonathan. It is time to disband our anti-corruption agencies and set up an agency for attitudinal change, that is, if we can’t revive the National Orientation Agency (NOA). The first task of the new agency -- the National Agency for Attitudinal and Behavioural Change -- will be to get President Jonathan to change his attitude toward corruption. And the reason is simple. Corruption, regardless of the president’s stance, is Nigeria’s number one problem and it manifests itself in different ways whether the president sees it or not.
Martin Luther King, Jr. clergyman, activist, and prominent leader in the African-American Civil Rights Movement, once reminded Americans about the “fierce urgency of Now”. In his “I Have a Dream” speech delivered almost fifty years ago on 28 August, 1963, at the Lincoln Memorial, Washington D.C., he noted: “This is no time to engage in the luxury of cooling off or to take the tranquilizing drug of gradualism. Now is the time to make real the promises of democracy”.

I think President Jonathan should read that speech if he hasn’t done so. Even though its focus was race relations, its unifying idea was a warning for every people to frontally confront their national “demon” and “make justice a reality for all of God's children”.

Corruption is Nigeria’s “demon” and unless the president wants us to believe he is granting a national amnesty to corruption, now is the time to end the platitudes and confront it head on.
 
conumah@hotmail.com

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spot on

Well written and spot on Chido. They can call you all manner of names for all I care! A housefly that has no good adviser usually follows the corpse to the grave. When it does, it never comes back. The time is ticking but do they know? No!

Omo Apaso,you got it right

I usually get so upset when I read admonitions to the president for him to fight corruption,because those making those calls are either dumb or simply being rhetorical.I agree in totality with Omo Apaso's characterisation of our president. It is simply stupid to expect a fight against corruption,from him. It will never happen. This president is our collective punishment from OUR LORD. When it pleases Him ,He will get rid of Jonathan for us.Nigerians should keep praying. In the build up towards the 2011 general elections,I provided my unsolicited advice urging Dr Jonathan not to contest,but instead address power supply and electoral reforms.I reminded him that the death of Yar'Adua was a test for him from his Lord.I knew his dangerous level of greed would hurt the country and himself if he mounted the saddle as an elected president.I stated clearly that he should not attempt to fight corruption for obvious reasons.Now we are in a big mess.

anoda 419 writer in borrowed aso ebi dress of buhari ati tinubu

What is the meaning of this watery article if I may ask? Which law in 9ja says GEJ should declare his assets at the White House? Show us d law-Did Zik (ati) Balewa declare theirs b4 the Brits attempted to tag Zik with their allegation of corruption? Those who reside in glass houses should learn to be careful with the way they throw their regional stones 4 (Buhari 2015) How many air disasters have we had in 9ja since 1960? Is he saying that d air mishaps in the USA and Russia are because these nations are corrupt? It was not GEJ who introduced the Navy to flying choppers instead of the air-force-its a shame that d SS, which produced over 55 trillion Naira for 9ja from 1958 till date, cannot boast of an express road from PHC Int airport to Nembe in the Degema LGA--Azazi was buried in Yenagoa because of the fear of anoda air mishap in Pretorughene village, where Azazi hails from-2 split is d only answer to these rubbish! Animal

THANKS

Thanks a lot for this wonderful expose into the mindset of Nigeria's unfit President.

Nigerian "leaders" are wizards of lies and deception! (2)

To underscore Ebele's proclivity at meaningless speech, he goes ahead and appoints his man Friday, the non-Accountant, BON OTTI, to the most important position in the oil and gas sector as the new Group Executive Director (Accounts and Finance) of NNPC. Can Ebele tell the Nigerian public how this man is qualified for this position? Hunger and poverty led Ebele to politics and he has handed choice appointments to his proxies to help him in his aggrandizement. But the world is watching. My sources tell me that OTTI is currently under intense monitoring already by the US authorities. Quote me.

The fact is that Nigerian "leaders", from Ebele to the least LGA Councillor, are wizards of lies and deception. They lie to themselves, then lie to their family and always lie to the Nigerian public. They should be ashamed of themselves.

Nigerian "leaders" are wizards of lies and deception! (1)

This is the most well articulated commentary from Chido in the past two years. Thanks. I have stated repeatedly on SR that Ebele cannot define corruption and that is the crux of my reference to him as 'bolekaja' President.

Yes, Nigeria has more institutions than say Ghana to tackle corruption, but what is their productivity like? In how many cases a year are the suspects prosecuted and how many are incarcerated? The judiciary is gradually becoming the third string of armed (pen) robbers after the armed robbers themselves and the Police.

Yes, attitudinal change on the part of the citizens starts from the top, from him, the President. It does not start with the ordinary man on the street. He has to lead by example. Does a father not show the example to his children? Or are the children who show examplary behaviour to their father? Ebele's thinking always mirrors the mindset of that Lilliputhian thinker on SR who goes by the moniker, OC.

corruption is sadly the only

corruption is sadly the only unifying factor in nigeria.If you remove it the country is gone.Sad but true.

Nigerians are caught between

Nigerians are caught between two monsters, one on top (politicians and high govenment officials) who devours national resources that should be used for national development, and the other at the bottom (Customs, Police, Civil Servants, etc.)who illegaly tax the masses by extortion and bribe taking.

FIGHTING CORRUPTION-THE ENORMOUS TASK WHICH SCARED JONATHAN.

Yes,the ultimate authority lies on the office of the President but let's analyse what it really takes to combat corruption in Nigeria.
1. The President himself must have a clean past,he must be transparent in matters relating to his personal assets.
2. For the effort to be effective,it must be retrospective in nature,hence once a case existed it has to be addressed irrespective of when it happened.
3.In the case of Nigeria,all retired members of the former military Dictatorship must be called to give account of their stewardship to the nation,same for all retied civilian politicians with questions to answer.
4. An incorruptible and swift justice delivery system.
Jonathan took a good look and chose the easier way out,he chose to deny corruption as a major issue.

GEJ - Our Mistake

Good piece!

GEJ is the biggest mistake Nigerianms have ever made. He's simply a disaster.

A bigger disaster in my opinion is Reuben Abati! I could bet my life that if this guy were still in The Guardian, he'll have written incisive and inspiring articles to criticise the President because of his disgraceful statements and horrible performance.

But alas! To Reubaben Abati Mr. President has never said nor done anything wrong till now.

Abati does not just give a damn!

This country is doomed!

quote of the year

"Nigeria has more institutions that fight corruption than most other countries".

GEJ dixit

Prof-of-penkele-Guiness-etc.

NICE ARTICLE

Well said Dumbo should read between the line that nigerians are not fools and also not happy a day of judgement is around the corner for these corrupt leaders in nigeria may God almighty grant us the courage to fight these thieves that has damage our nation nigeria, God bless nigeria.

corruption is killing us..

The quesion is, Is this Idiot going to stay on as president for the next two years and contest again, by 2015. Unless the good people on the street rises up and chase Jonathan out of power, him and his evil pdp will continue to be an obstacle and impediments of progress in nigeria..

comment

I couldnt have agreed more with ur well articulated write up,thanks for calling a spade by its name,the attitudnal change been canvassed by the president should first be noticed in his day to day governamce of this country,i weep for my country

democracy should b cn in fithin

it should b in d heart of goodluck that in figthing corruption he should deliver accouding to a democracy president

chido onumah the gay man

God punish you chido, idiot. your gay agender will not succeed

Thanks Mr. Chido. GEJ is a

Thanks Mr. Chido.
GEJ is a daft. As old as he is, he has a brain of six years old. No matter what you write or say. This stupid man will never change. Only in Nigeria that this mumu can be the president. I wonder if his PHD is not from Oluwole. It is like talking to a goat. I am tired of this man. Curruption everywhere. Insecurity everywhere. Name it, He is a failure. period.

Mr Onuma, you are just

Mr Onuma, you are just wasting your energy and space. Name one public officer who is genuinely fighting corruption. As harmful as it is, corruption is now part of us as a nation. I believe that only one man can set the pace and he is Mr President. He can ignite the fire that will consume corruption in Nigeria but he must wear the tough skin to defend himself. He should be ready to even lay down his life serving Nigeria through transparent and purposeful leadership. If he does not, his place in history will be a sad.

madness

It is obvious from all indications that Jonathan has tired of making any effort to deceive Nigerians that he gives a dame a long time a go. In fact Nigeria is is like a rudderless ship in cruise control that man is not fit to lead kindergarten kids on a field trip. Giving him the job of leading Nigeria was a big enough mistake, keeping him there is madness

It is obvious from all

It is obvious from all indications that Jonathan has tired of making any effort to deceive Nigerians that he gives a dame a long time a go. In fact Nigeria is is like a rudderless ship in cruise control that man is not fit to lead kindergarten kids on a field trip. Giving him the job of leading Nigeria was a big enough mistake, keeping him there is madness

Calculated idiot he is!

Chido,
It will be easier for cattle to pass through the needle's eye than this man to do anything about corruption. He is corruption personified. He is a walking billboard for graft, corrupt, and indolence. Above all, he does not know the real meaning of using power to make public good. He's more interested in the spoils of the office rather than use his exalted position to make public good. Methinks he actually sees the luck on his lap to siphon as much as he can along with his south/south and igbo people to catch up with the rest of their fellow looters. All evidence points to this notion. The man is a total disgrace. He's actually smart and not a mumu as some people think. But he doesn't have the deep intelligence to build a nation, but a cunny one to siphon for his family, friends and cronies.

Nigeria will be okay without PDP in Abuja

Martin Luther King also said:

"Freedom is never voluntarily given by the oppressor..."

Anyone that thinks that, after wallowing in the sea of corruption for 13 years, PDP is willing to give up the goose that lays its Golden egg, needs to be sold several plots of land in the Sahara desert.

The only way to get rid of corruption is by setting up a system of checks and balances. The begining of this system is to remove PDP from Abuja in 2015.

Anything short of that is a colossal waste of time.

Fraud in Agric College

Mrs Eze Anyaogu have threatend to use her husband, senator Eze Anyaogu to transfer an Account staff in College of Agriculture Ishiagu Ebonyi out of the station for fraustrating the move to fraudulently tranfer and witdraw ₦195million college fund. She is strongly behind the suspended provost who have refused to proceed on suspension for investigation to be done for fear that the provost may expose her. Her mood in that college yesday 4th janauary 2013 said it all. I RECOMENT National Award WITH SCHOLARSHIP for the YOUNG AUDIT CLERK FOR HIS WISE BRAVERY DESPITE mrs Anyaogu's Threats.

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