A Paper Presented By Uchenna Anyanwu Convener, Citizens Initiative for Responsible Leadership A.K.A The Shift Initiative on the 15th Wole Soyinka Annual Lecture, London, 14 July 2012.
Corruption is defined as (i) moral perversion (ii) perversion of integrity. Crusade: any vigorous, aggressive movement for the defense or advancement of an idea cause. So a crusader will be one who carries out the crusade. The above definitions to my mind cover every area of life be it public or private, government or non government the leaders and the followers. So much has been said about corruption in Nigeria and a lot of efforts have been invested towards the reduction or near eradication of this endemic cancer worm that has eaten deep into the fabric of our culture and has spread like wild fire all over our future making it an uphill task to approach.
If you properly articulate the level of corruption and its general acceptance or docile reactions in our dear country Nigeria, you will agree with me that the first ready attitude of the heart in any attempt to tackle it is to fail initially and then gradually rise to condemnation and finally ask that all should be left to God. That God wants us out of this self inflicted poisonous situation cannot be over emphasized, but we need to match our disdain for this menace with actions articulated to produce some long term change in the psyche of the coming generation. The general default nature of the average Nigerian is anti-law and to tackle this menace properly we must define corruption in its larger context of making it all inclusive to accommodate the leaders and larger society in all spheres and scope
Prof. Chinua Achebe once said that keeping an average Nigerian from being corrupt is like keeping a goat from eating yam. There is actually nothing new to say about corruption in Nigeria, the practice of which in the Nigerian context can produce without doubt a handbook on how to raise corrupt leaders and sustain corruption. We must begin as a people to do a practical appraisal of our resolve to collectively tackle this corruption malady by giving attention to the corrupt practices traceable in our immediate domains.
THE CRUSADE IN RETROSPECT
Nigeria has not been without anti-corruption crusaders in the likes of Prof. Wole Soyinka, Late Gani Fawehimi, Late Fela Anikulapokuti, Late Beko Ransome Kuti, Olisa Agbakoba SAN and a host of others most of whom belonged or still belong some Civil Society organizations and have to my mind done brilliantly in championing the awareness necessary for the advancement of the crusade against corruption in Nigeria and I must commend them for their efforts.
As the curtain begins to draw down on these anti-corruption crusaders, we must appraise their tactics and critically do some fact findings as to why all their efforts has not changed the corruption attitude in Nigeria but has seen corruption grow even more in the face of the fierce fights put up by these men and women recognized internationally for their selfless efforts at fighting corruption even at the risk of their lives.
THE NIGERIAN BURDEN
Corruption in Nigeria cannot be exclusively seen as a problem of leadership considering the nature and life style of the average Nigeria citizen who by way of silent contribution and partial or proper involvement has tacitly, overtly or covertly endorsed the act of corruption. Nigerians are good in raising points of moral decadence while sweeping under the carpet their major nature of inherent corruption. The societal wreck in Nigeria is a tragedy of sorts in that we love to break laws and expect others to keep them. Leaders do not fall from the sky they are a direct product of followership. Every leader was once follower. We are our own greatest enemies.
Former Governor of Lagos State in 1964 had this to say “one of the curses of this country (Nigeria) is bribery and until there exist, a national conscience which will condemn the practice and an individual one which will neither offer nor accept bribe, no real progress can be made”. The issues of ethnicity, religious bigotry etc has drowned the essential pursuit in character formation for our citizens, thereby negating the need for the development of a national conscience. Moral instruction as it were has gradually left our schools and ostentation has replaced the good old life of contentment.
We have as a people, gradually allowed the culture of corruption both in and outside public service to become an accepted style of living. The average Nigerian will pay touts for tickets, pay touts for vehicle particulars, pay money to be released from police custody rather than stand up for what is right. We are obviously in too much of a hurry to realize that every act of corruption that we engineer or allow to dictate to us destroys a mile stone in the future of our collective psyche.
MY EXPERIENCE IN POLITICS
In 2010, having broken my capacity to watch from afar and complain, I decided to run for election to contribute my own quota of changing Nigeria, knowing that no one can sweep a dirty room from the outside. I prepared a manifesto, articulated my deliverables and raised a team of young men and women who professed to believe in my agenda.
Mid way into the campaigns, I realized that money was everything to the people despite their truck loads of complains and the obvious insensitivity of previous representatives to their plight, they were not ready to do the right thing without being paid for it. I could not understand why I should pay the people to serve them but when my coordinators who were eligible delegate voters abandoned me and voted for those who gave them money; I knew that Nigeria was in for a long ride.
In that election, I had about 12 voting delegates as my coordinators but I only scored 2 votes. Initially I was angry and almost developed hatred for the country but after some deep reflection, I realized that our problem was not just leadership but also that of followership and that something urgent needed to be done to ensure we walk into the right tomorrow.
The founding fathers of anticorruption crusade concentrated largely on exposing and criticizing corruption in high places especially government institutions and individuals without recourse to the contribution of the followership in the corruption menace. We must tackle the psyche of our people through the foundation of followership, we must carry the message of SHIFT as we have advocated through the CITIZENS INITIATIVE FOR RESPONSIBLE LEADERSHIP, to raise a new generation of leadership and followership. We must evolve a new strategy of anticorruption crusade that is geared towards raising a proper anticorruption consciousness in the minds of leaders and followers.
The new crusaders must gird their loins with the strength of battle ready to appear before equity with clean hands, ready to serve without compromise riding, against the status quo. Anticorruption crusade must wear a new look it must start from paying out taxes as at when due, our vehicle particulars must be up to date at all times we must be engaged in genuine law abiding trades. We must face the hard fact that the leaders we have today were once part of the followership and they have failed because they were not groomed to become the crusaders we want. Nothing will change until we change ourselves, we must learn to speak the language of Nigeria in patriotism. A shift from the old ways of doing things to the new and right way is absolutely possible. We must build a chain, a hand linked chain across divide of like minds, people ready to stand in and standout by saying no we love the nation we can’t compromise we want a better society, a future for our children.
We must raise men and women who will understand that this is a battle for our soul, the soul of our nation. It’s time to resist the common enemy and to do that, we must form our own clique, we must raise men and women in practical training of how to resist and overcome corruption and this will not come by criticism alone, there must be an in house new generation of anticorruption crusaders in government leading by example and exposing corruption for what it’s worth. These men must be groomed from the level of followership ready to obey the laws of the land and asking questions when corruption presents itself in form of noble gratification, men who will not only stand in but also standout in the process. The new crusaders must come from the followers, i.e. the law abiding ordinary citizens ready to say no to police extortion etc, they must come from the civil service questioning inappropriate approvals, resisting moving files with money, they must come from NATIONAL ASSEMBLY resisting committee allowances outside legally stipulated ones. We can raise the team to override the old we must work as one committed entity, by embracing the call for moral SHIFT before we are totally eroded by corruption. A new Nigeria re-orientated based on the principles of SHIFT is possible, we can do it and we must start now!
In closing, I quote one of my favorites from Winston Churchill “I say to you as I said to the Ministers who have joined this government, I have nothing to offer but blood, toil tears and sweat. We have before us an ordeal of the most grievous kind; we have before us many months of struggles and sufferings. You ask what our policy is. I say it is to wage war by land, by sea and air. War with all our might and with all the strength God has given us and to wage war against a monstrous tyranny never surpassed in the dark and lamentable catalogue of human crime that is our policy. You ask what is our aim, I can answer in one word, it is victory however long and hard the road may be for without victory there is no survival”.
Like Churchill, I say we are waging a war against corruption, nepotism, ethnicity, bribery, election rigging, citizens inaction and corruption etc these are the tyrannical leaders of our time this war is with all the strength God has given us by all means legal and our aim is victory, we must SHIFT to survive we have slumbered enough. We must go in and get involved or we will go down history as men who came saw and complained without raising a finger.
God bless Nigeria.