By Churchill Okonkwo
The exposé of the massive acts of corruption, with impunity, in the Niger Delta Development Commission (NDDC) is not new to those that have been following that cancerous plague in Nigeria. From the misappropriation and embezzlement of billions by state governments to the rotten sink-hole in Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation (NNPC); from the Billions diverted by Dasuki and his gang in the procurement of arms for the fight against Boko Haram to the Billions misappropriated in the power sector reform, the rotten sweetness of democratized corruption in Nigeria has been so repugnant, yet so sweet that public office holders are literally ready to kill in order to inhale the toxic fume.
The rotten sweetness of democratized corruption oozing out from the NDDC is, therefore, not the first and will, unfortunately, not be the last. Let me remind those who have forgotten that the House of Representative Sub-committee once probed government spending in the power sector from 2000 to 2007. Godwin Elumelu, who led that investigation into the misappropriation of billions of Naira in the power sector under Obasanjo’s administration, at one point confessed that the “fight against corruption poses grave and unpredictable risks to those who dare to challenge this gargantuan monster.”
To say that corruption is a gargantuan monster in Nigeria is an understatement. Senator Godswill Akpabio, who is one of the chronically corrupt politicians in Nigeria, understands everything that goes on behind these breeding grounds of corrupt acts in Nigeria. As a former state governor, a former senator and now, a minister of the federal republic of Nigeria, Apkabio knows about the rotten sweetness of democratized corruption. As a politician that have jumped ship from Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) to All Progressive Congress (APC), Senator Akpabio is a living exhibit of a corrupt politician in Nigeria. He breathes and exhales corruption.
So, he knows pretty much everything about the gargantuan monster of corruption at NDDC and was armed with a silencer, in his mouth, when he appeared before the panel probing NDDC. The Chairman of the House committee that saved the face of his colleagues that benefited from the massive fraud in NDDC, also knows what’s up. That was why he tactically stopped Akpabio from spilling the beans. The acting Chairman of NDDC that performed the drama captioned “Faint to Distract Them” knows exactly what needs to happen to distract unsuspecting Nigerians.
Shortly after the panel probing the NDDC suspended its sitting, Nigerians, as usual, started making and sharing memes of what ordinarily would have warranted a nationwide protest calling for the immediate dissolution of NDDC board, if not outright scrapping of the agency. So, again, we fail to recognize that the gargantuan monster at NDDC is a mirror image of what is playing out in so many government agencies, the National and State House of Assemblies. It is unfortunate that millions of Nigerians, especially those of us active in social media have normalized the monstrous corruption in the system. We are thus, unknowingly enablers of corruption, directly and indirectly.
The other reason why corruption has thrived in Nigeria is that perpetrators at all levels have been clever enough to ensure that all relevant parties are “settled”. High and Supreme Court judges, law enforcers, legislators and prosecutors. Political whistleblowers are most times, silenced by receiving a cut from the loot or forced by unseen hands wielding more powers than the government to succumb to intimidation and blackmail.
As Godwin Elumelu who was himself embroiled in corrupt acts and finally disgraced, rightly said “the greater part of the Nigerian problem is the ruling elite; selfish, greedy, unpatriotic and often lawless. The greed of the members of the house panel probing NDDC was obvious. The selfishness of the leadership, the staff, and even the drivers in NDDC was revealing. The unpatriotic act and lawlessness from the presidency, the mister of Justice, and even the EFCC officials involved in the Magugate is an indication of the size of the gargantuan monster of corruption in Nigeria.
Many Nigerians are knowingly and unknowingly the pillars of corruption in Nigeria. The day I gave up on the good people of Niger Delta was after watching the video of a serving Nigerian Senator eulogizing the release of a dangerously corrupt former governor of Delta State, James Ibori, on his return to Nigeria after serving jail term in the United Kingdom. As he was eulogizing Ibori, that should be heading straight to Kirikiri, Ibori’s people and cronies were setting up banners, in Delta State, to welcome back their hero for democratizing corruption. That demonstration of crude acceptance of corruption was a signal to any keen observer that all hope is lost.
A while ago, the United Nations reported that over $400 billion dollars have been looted from Nigeria’s treasury since its independence from Britain in 1960. Successive corrupt governments in Nigeria have misused revenue from crude oil sales and abandoned crucial developmental projects which have kept the living standard low. The infrastructures are rusting away; NNPC is a bottomless sinkhole of corruption while the power sector is crippled by corruption. The multiplier effect of the energy crisis on small-scale industries and the cost of consumer goods is high with the near-collapse of the corruption-ridden power corporations.
Corruption in Nigeria is the biggest impediment to economic development and growth. It drains government coffers and scares away local and international investors. Meanwhile, everything done in the country is meant to be hinged on the anti-corruption posture of Buhari’s administration. Yet, the shaky foundation is built on corruption, malpractice, and forgery.
You may not have thought of it, but the near-anarchy and everyday violence in Nigeria is a mirror image of the destructive politics of greed and rush to amass wealth oblivious to the damning consequences. The bandits and kidnappers across Nigeria who cannot lay their dirty hands on the billions floating at NDDC and other government agencies are pounding on innocent Nigerians. They are robbing and killing with the same level of greed and display of immorality and lack of human conscience as the politicians. This is a sad situation in our present Nigeria.
The “big” question is how should we combat the rotten sweetness of democratized corruption in Nigeria? The desire to find answers to this ‘big’ question should be a starting point in the fight against corruption.
One clear answer is that there is an urgent need for a “surgical” operation on corruption in Nigerian institutions. It is a radical step needed to clean up the system. This surgical operation should start with the purging of all the corrupt elements in the presidency starting with the Attorney General and Minister for Justice, Abubakar Malami. The rotten sweetness of corruption in the Judiciary will not be cleansed if Malami remains in charge of who is prosecuted and who goes free. The campaign against corruption in Nigeria will never be taken seriously as long as the likes of Garba Shehu and Femi Adesina remain the mouthpiece of the Presidency.
Finally, if the present rotten sweetness of corruption in the kitchen cabinet of the Nigerian President is not cleaned up, e-v-e-r-y-t-h-i-n-g else is cosmetic and an act of deceit.
Churchill Okonkwo, Ph.D. is a Public Affairs Analyst.