Corruption and the Human Conscience

The most effective weapon to fight corruption in Nigeria is the human conscience. The Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC), Independent Corrupt Practices and Other Related Crimes Commission (ICPC), Code of Conduct Bureau, and other ancillary agencies may be the regular coordinating units for the anti-graft war anywhere; but corruption is a much deeper societal cancer and a rabid disease in Nigeria that requires more than agency work. If the agencies can fix it, then after about a decade of their presence, the nation would not degenerate once again to abysmal levels in the international corruption index.

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The problem with Nigeria is not the dearth of knowledge of what constitutes a corrupt practice. It is not that we do not know the dynamics of corruption, its manifestations and consequences. It is not that we do not understand the implications of our actions for our integrity as individuals or groups or for our reputation as a nation. The problem is not that we do not know how to stop it. The problem is with our conscience. We do not have the conscience. Dr. David Oyedepo talks about different consciences of man in this end-time. The most apt for my discourse here are the ones he called weak, evil and dead consciences.

From the top to the bottom of the Nigerian social and political ladder, we do not have men and women with living conscience. Those without conscience, incidentally, do not have feelings or a sense of responsibility. They seem heartless and their attitude is justified by their menacing acts, so long as it meets their selfish objectives. They have no shame because their human conscience is either weak, or evil or dead! This was the point I tried to make at the Hubert H. Humphrey lecture hosted by the US Embassy and the Fellowship Alumni Association last Wednesday at the NIIA in Lagos. This event had people, including Ambassador Terrence McCully (US Ambassador to Nigeria), US FBI representative and criminal justice expert, Lagos State Attorney-General, Chief Judge and Mazi Sam Ohabuanya who had made stimulating submissions.

The problem with the human conscience is indeed the underlying factor for acts of impunity that now pervade the Nigerian social space. The policeman at his illegal roadblock wields his gun (and sometimes uses it) and harasses motorists to collect between 20 naira and 100 naira because his human conscience is evil or dead. He feels nothing. No shame. No sense of duty. No sense of integrity as a man in that respectable uniform on national assignment. The police leadership, no matter how many times it is changed, changes nothing. The situation remains a vicious cycle because they are the same thing. Men without conscience, or with a weak one.

The politician mounts the stage and takes the microphone to launch vitriolic attacks on corruption, pledging to combat it. Yet, he departs to the government house after paying lip service to anti-corruption only to steal and get caught in the process. He then either escapes the universal arm of the law disguising like a maid, or returns home gallantly as an ex-convict to regain political office or relevance. No conscience, no shame. The people or political parties that accept him do so not because they are forgiving. They do so because they are not different from him. If they were in those shoes, they could probably have done worse. Weak, evil or dead conscience.

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The Civil Service which should be in the position to work out the bureaucratic technicalities to complement the fight against corruption and fine-tune the details of the paperwork to the point of implementation, is also the same part of the public space in which corruption domiciles. Corruption manifests in favouritism, nepotism, and bribery. Transparency International recently published an exclusive on the corruption situation in 2010, mentioning a staggering figure of 450 billion naira that entered the pockets of the civil servants alone as bribes. These were probably kickbacks to inflate certain contract figures, to destroy some crucial documents, to obtain premature promotions and plum postings, and other related criminal acts. 450 billion is ample enough to constitute the national budget of some African nations. It is pathetic. It confirms that majority of the personnel in the civil service have evil or dead consciences. This implies that the Civil Service is dead, and if the Civil Service is dead, then the nation is dead because that section is the Soul of National Development.

The judiciary was recently indicted for corruption in the Justice Mohammed Uwais Panel Report. The report says judges were collecting just anything, including even underwears as bribes. These were supposed to be men of untainted integrity, because their profession is probably the most noble and delicate. But what can lack of conscience not do?

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Corruption has practically brought the nation to a standstill. The roads are bad, there is epileptic power supply, water does not run in the taps, the clinics do not have good services, the chemist shop has counterfeit drugs, arms litter the streets and crimes and insecurity pervade the society, et cetera. When scrutinized, these are more because of certain corrupt acts somewhere; not so much of negligence.

Exploring conceptual, theoretical, methodological and practical approaches to corruption in Nigeria is therefore not the main issue. It is good academic exercise though, but we should begin to pay more attention to ourselves. Search our conscience and let it prick us. A national moral awareness crusade is what we need to intensify. The anti-corruption agencies are themselves not clean enough to fight the problem. They are made up of men who can compromise too. The fight against corruption is therefore a moral fight. It begins from the top to the bottom, and it could be bottom-up.

Dr. Folarin teaches Politics at Covenant University, Ota, Nigeria arimidex for sale cheapAnastrozole generic cost

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