By Peter Claver Oparah
The present anti-corruption war being waged by the President Muhammadu Buhari regime has exposed the weak moral undergirding on which the country rests. The battle to extirpate corruption and its well-known debilitating effects on the country’s moral fiber has exposed the fact that most Nigerians live on the grid of corruption and the seemingly palliative it offers them in dealing with their problems. The level of rot and decay afflicting the moral sinews of Nigeria were clearly underestimated before the present effort, which is the most far-reaching and comprehensive assault on corruption since our flag independence in 1960. To say the least, the present battle to fumigate our terribly-infected system has exposed most Nigerians in their full ugliness and hypocrisy. The war against corruption strains our moral nerve to its breaking point because the hard truth is that most Nigerians live off corruption and they are wont to see any battle against the epidemic as a war against them.
From the disappointing religious leader who has turned his pulpit to a theater of scurrilous assault on the war against corruption to politicians who have done virtually everything to belittle and sabotage the war against corruption. From the traditional ruler that sees the war against corruption as a war for annihilation to the businessman who has found out that he cannot survive without the patronage of corruption. From the youth that is being made to believe that corruption is the surest means of survival to the political opinionist who believes that he will never survive unless corruption is allowed to fester. From the journalist who had found out that he cannot practice his art outside corrupt patronage to minions that feel the pangs of not being fed from the crumbs of corruption, there is no hiding the fact that any meaningful war against corruption in Nigeria will look like a mass holocaust which is why no Nigerian leader had made any meaningful effort to stem the corruption pestilence before Buhari came.
Let’s face the fact. Corruption had been allowed such a long reign that some Nigerians are beginning to believe that any war against it is a war against the country. Corruption has been so ingrained in Nigerians that most Nigerians easily believe that any battle against it is a battle against them. Corruption has been so deep-rooted that Nigerians now accept it as normal. Corruption and corrupt acts have been so tolerated that many Nigerians genuinely feel that removing it from our body polity can spell doom for all Nigerians. This is the reason why so many hitherto-respected public figures brook no shame today moaning so noisily about how the country had been brought to her knees because we have a regime that is dedicated to the task to tame the allure of corruption. That is why some shameless religious leaders have so soiled their robes and callings by making open cases for the sustenance of corruption. That is why many journalists have interred their honor, integrity and objectivity in the putrid grave of corruption and are o unabashed doing everything to sabotage the war against corruption. That is why many respected voices have, in moments of desperation for illicit cash, submitted to be interred in the rubles of corruption. That is why politicians have resorted to very deadly measures to stymie the war against corruption and frustrate its protagonists.
But have we asked of the real benefits the country gained in its long years of patronizing corruption. Pray, what structures have we built as a nation since we submitted hook, line and sinker to the debilitating atrophy of corruption? What real value have we gotten for our long period of romancing high-level corruption? The answer is that we got nothing but rot, decay, defenestration, wreckage and total damage. The capital we made from our long tryst with corruption is the prostrate and hugely despised country Nigeria was in the international community before Buhari came with his winnowing fork. The dividends of corruption in Nigeria are the fatuous gang of rich thieves we had and an expansive swath of hopeless, directionless, malnourished masses that ogled while their narcissist trade of mass stealing lasted. The benefits we got from our long corrupt past are the dead infrastructures we ended up with, the twining security miasma, the mass unemployment, hunger and privation that all combined to reduce Nigeria to a state of nature where life is brutish, short and nasty!
Let us recall that before Buhari came with his war against corruption, almost every voice, both here in Nigeria and outside Nigeria believed that corruption constituted the greatest impediment to the growth of the country. Almost every voice believed that expunging the corruption parasite from the country’s system holds the key to Nigeria’s attainment of global enviable status. Let us recall that before Buhari came, religious leaders were running themselves giddy with the cry for someone that can lead the country from the corruption quagmire. Let us recall that opinionists were poignant in demanding Nigerian leaders to wage a frontal war against corruption. Perhaps it is certain that none of these knew the real depth corruption had reached or how seemingly impossible it is to eliminate without exerting so much skin-pain on the society. Perhaps most Nigerians never knew the extent corruption had a hold on them and their means of living.
Today, Buhari has offered himself as the sacrificial lamb that attempts the impossible task of severing the bond that holds Nigerians and corruption together and the uprising against that effort is being felt everywhere. Now knowing how the system is intertwined with corruption, most Nigerians have offered a volte-face and are indeed making curious and strange cases for corruption. We have seen how tempestuous the battle to stop corruption has been on the political scene with politicians going very desperate levels to compromise and indeed stop the battle against corruption. We have seen how our religious institutions have capitulated to the aroma of corruption by making very embarrassing cases against the present war against it. We have seen how journalists have almost thumbed down the war against corruption in very clear terms and shamelessly making cases for the corrupt and corrupt practices and reliving the good old days of ceaseless corrupt patronage from those that stole the country silly. We have seen how politicians contract desperate means, including mass killing, incitement, hate speech and very many odious means to stop the war against corruption and reap the illicit political capital from such obnoxious tendencies. We have seen how the masses have been made to erroneously capitulate to the antics of desperate politicians by several means. They are being made to bay hunger in such disgusting manner that shows that fighting corruption tantamount to mass hunger. All these speak of a collapsed societal and individual moral fiber that is responsible for the near collapse of the country in the first place. Simply put, this is a symptom of a society that had been built on the quicksand of corruption.
Yes, we know that corruption has so many disciples and is bound to mobilize tremendous soldiers to fight back against any effort to stop its ravenous spread. But the fact remains, as President Buhari has always said, we must either kill corruption or it will kill us. There are no half-ways about this. The decrepit nature of the Nigeria Buhari inherited is an apt testimony of the disastrous effects of corruption. The wrecked and vandalized form of the country that Buhari inherited while minions of corruption were growing fatter just advertises the fool-hardiness of corruption. The prostrate state of the infrastructures that were handed over to Buhari tells of the horrific aftermaths of corruption. The pallid state of the economy, the pervasive poverty, the overwhelming joblessness, the dead and prostrate economy that predated Buhari’s war against corruption, even with the rich earnings from a persistent oil boom shows that corruption still remains the deadly virus it had been and needs nothing but the kind of total battle Buhari is taking to it now.
The nation must do everything to rebuild its collapsed moral sinew. Nigerians need to tame their lust for illicit favour from the state, readjust to the reality of hard work and living within their means. They must accept the present war against corruption as a necessary battle we must wage to get our country on the right footing for greatness. We must live with the reality that nothing easy comes easy and accommodate these realities as the needed moral templates that will guide Nigerians towards building a new country not shackled by internecine corruption and greed.
Peter Claver Oparah is a Public Affairs Analyst.