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When corruption becomes new normal

“If we elect the same corrupt politicians every time, that’s a very clear message that we don’t want a change” – Sukant Ratnakar

The audacity of President Muhammadu Buhari and his ruling All Progressives Congress (APC) to go on preaching integrity in a smelly den of corruption is really the height of the hypocrisy of this government. Right under their watch corruption in Nigeria has become normal. It’s no longer an embarrassing thing to be corrupt, culprits walk tall because it’s now official not an offence. No stigma attached. How did we arrive at this junction in our socio-political life? This virus was actually established in this magnitude in Nigeria by the military authorities when they ventured into politics.

It was to be amplified by politicians who took over in 1999 with the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) at the forefront as the ruling party then. Not to forget also that abuse of power and corruption were among the issues that drew out the military from the barracks in 1966 just six years after independent. Since then it has become a bug that has infected all irrespective of religion, tribe, age, class or sex.

Those not yet involved have the same DNA as those already in it, it’s just opportunity they have not gotten. When Buhari and his group were screaming that they have corruption solution bag with them, that it was just a matter of time before it’s made history in our country, they were actually using it as a window to get power and they succeeded. Since 2015 when Buhari and his team got in, the phenomena has entered a new normal with a tremendous growth recorded. Stealing has always been part of human history but when those detailed to catch thieves indulge in it, strange is the word and that’s where we are now in our land.

Even with the good knowledge of Buhari’s antecedents as ill-equipped in economic and political management, Nigerians still went ahead naively although to elect him relying on the believe that he was strong in security and corruption issues and once these two were contained everything could be accomplished without much difficulty.

At that time Nigerians believed and correctly too that the two issues were the main vices bedevilling the land. There was also this believe then that a strong leader was needed away from a weak Goodluck Jonathan, Gen. Buhari was by far seen as better than the then President Jonathan. Buhari’s spin doctors literarily got everybody into believing that in Buhari, a no nonsense leader was on the way coming and both security and corruption challenges in our polity will be rested.

As a retired General it was difficult to doubt his prowess in security area and also as a man who lived modestly it was not hard agreeing with those marketing him that he was an anti-corruption model. Those close associates of the President who knew that all that glitters as regards his incorruptibility was not real gold still fell into the urge of the time and brought us to where we are at the moment bemoaning our disastrous choice. What is a new normal you may ask? It’s a COVID- 19 generated terminology aimed at showing that even as inconveniencing as the pandemic is, and even as the world desires to have it come to pass, indicators are that it’s not in a hurry to go.

Therefore, the best thing for the global community is to accept it as a new normal that must be tolerated not because it is desired by anybody but because nobody can successfully hurry it out of existence. According to the World Health Organization (WHO), “As long as the world has not found a cure or a vaccine for COVID-19, we may have to adjust to a “new normal”, meaning a new way of living and going about our lives, work and interact with other people.” This caveat to the global community regarding the dreaded and menacing COVID-19 pandemic is exactly what corruption practitioners and managers are telling Nigerians to brace up for the new normal in corruption.

Corruption cases are very peculiar in understanding because it’s very clear that while anti-corruption vaccines have not been found in black Africa, truth remains that there is really nobody in the laboratory searching for it. Rather what you get is too many laboratories releasing the corruption virus and bacteria to the Nigeria system.

It’s already a settled joke though painful one that in this country those waiting and praying for an opportunity to steal are far more than the number currently engaged in stealing. Why not when the society is eulogizing the corrupt in our midst and elevating them.

Nobody is really fighting corruption in this country, what you see happening is witch hunt all over. The two professional groups that should make anti-corruption fight meaningful in this country – the Judges and the anti-graft operatives – are about the most corrupt in the country today. A hitherto revered Judges and Justices have all become huge players in the corruption field and the antigraft operatives have turned themselves into express channels of corruption.

Security operatives including the military are busy amassing wealth and owning properties home and abroad. The lawmakers despite their huge envious salaries have since shamelessly turned their statutory oversight duties into contract chasing. The churches who should impact morals and instil fear of God in the leaders and the led, have themselves become so greedy and their inordinate desire for money over and above their spiritual callings very apparent. Imagine it that at this critical time of COVID- 19 when the world is brainstorming on how to survive this strange times and its accompanying consequences, our country is displaying their ingenuity in stealing public funds. Ibrahim Magu, the corruption chief hunter who has been portraying an image of holier than thou in the anti-corruption fight has just be unveiled bringing up his true colour.

Even those who unveiled him are also in it together but their disagreement led to the great exposition. Niger Delta region, the resource base of the country has been screaming of neglect, and as a result a commission was created for them called Niger Delta Development Commission (NDDC), but few individuals turned it into private resource base where they draw funds for personal needs by the same Niger Delta leaders.

What of the war ravaged North East Development Commission (NEDC), where few Northern leaders stayed in Abuja and shared monies meant for the rehabilitation and reconstruction of the region while leaving their people in internally displaced camps? Recall that it was in the same region that one of their leaders sitting then as Secretary to the Government of the Federation (SGF), allegedly diverted funds made for the cutting of grass at the IDP camps and had to be forced out of office. Yet these are people who flood churches and mosques seeking graces and mercies from God and expect to get it. Pope Francis has characters like this in mind when he urged the people to reject any form of corruption that diverts money meant for the poor.

The Minister of Humanitarian Affairs, Hajia Sadiya Umar Farouq, has been infamous for the more you look, the less you see, COVID-19 programmes of her ministry. As if that was not enough, she effortlessly offloaded 5,000 youths involved in the N30,000 a month N-Power programme, saying she cannot afford the sum required for their severance package and no plans to employ them permanently.

She says it inconsiderately while presiding over her dubious palliative package. Undoubtedly, the biggest victim of Nigeria corruption system are the Nigerian youths who themselves have become hopeless and unable to take their own destiny.

They all appeared to have willingly embraced the new normal and chosen to continuously be tools in the hands of politicians who use and dump them. The real fear now is whether we can survive living the new normal. Corruption kills nations unlike COVID-19 that could be cured after some pharmaceutical concoctions.

If we are to avert being killed by corruption as a nation, something need to be done and urgently. If the current systems are lying prostrate and unable to do anything to this terminal disease that is already taking our national body organs, something drastic need to be contemplated immediately.

When our neighbouring country friend Ghana found themselves in such a mess as we are now some years back, something happened, a Jerry Rawlings emerged from the blues and after he finished with Ghana, corruption sought exile from that country, China just executed two Mayors for graft. But Nigeria is not Ghana or China they will argue. So, how long will this new normal last with corruption eating deep into our soul as a nation? Great minds tell us that the worst disease in the country today is corruption, but it has a cure whose only drug is transparency which we don’t have. So, what do we do?

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