Few days ago, Transparency International came out with a damning report to the effect that Nigeria is the 35th most corrupt country on earth. This was coming on the heels of a Gallup poll that placed Nigeria as the second most corrupt nation in the world. These damning verdicts are enough to humble any leadership of a nation so viscerally indicted and possibly lead to a reorientation both in the approach and conduct of government business. It is enough to imbue sobriety and soul searching. But not for Jonathan’s government and the PDP, which are at the centre and heart of that serious indictment. If we are to glean from their official reaction to this bad verdict, we recant the official response of the Jonathan government, as were articulated by both Dr. Reuben Abati, the Special Adviser on Media to the President and Doyin Okupe, the Senior Special Assistant to the same President. After taking time to excoriate TI for such lowly rating, the duo went lyrical about the many steps their principal and his government have gone to combat corruption. They blamed the media and Nigerians for such poor rating and lauded their government for its bold attempts to muzzle the decibel called corruption. Good talk, you might say but both earn their living spinning such yarn that convinces no one at the end of the day except their principal and those around him who are at the very centre of the corruption indictment. Not that they are interested in convincing anyone anyway.
The official PDP reaction was as bizzare as the party’s own approach to governance that sees corruption as the central pillar of governance. Through its National Publicity Secretary, Olisa Metuh, the party engaged in flattering hyperbole of how it had been battling corruption and how other parties and other Nigerians were behind acts of corruption and the worsening rating the country has been garnering from international anti-corruption agencies since they began their self-claimed messianic mission in 1999. There, you have it; blame others but myself and the corruption wildfire continues raging unabated. The beat continues as newer and fresher fonts of corruption continues to be invented as means of robbing an unfortunate citizenry silly and hobbling every other superstructure in Nigeria.
One acknowledges that we expect nothing more ennobling from the Jonathan government, his party and their spokesmen. One acknowledges that apart from Abati who must be facing a difficult task making the best of a mid-life vocation of selling ice to Eskimos, the other two; irreverent hustlers that have no compunction with untruth and selling falsehood, so long as such meets their age long quest for morsels. So expecting something more from those at the centre of the thriving Nigerian corruption complex is tantamount to expecting self immolation from a sybarite. However, despite the reservations of Nigerian officialdom to the damning ratings by these international anti corruption watchdogs, majority of Nigerians believe their government has transmuted into insatiable cannibals that deign no scruples stealing even the food reserved for their infants and leaving Nigeria a decrepit land of despair, tears, malnourishment, want, misery, insecurity and ennui where life hovers on the Hobbessian fringe. It is a generally shared sentiment that the range of governments we have had in recent times are strings of unrepentant sadists who have grown trenchantly deaf to the desperate cries of Nigerians who are ceaselessly whacked by the vicissitudes unleashed by these regimes. To most Nigerians, TI was particularly patronizing to Nigerian government by that rating for they doubt if any nation on earth has a worsening corrupt template as Nigeria.
But let us take a few excursions to some sordid events in recent history that could possibly have informed the worsening corruption plaudits Nigeria shamelessly garners in the comity of nations. The earth-shaking fuel subsidy scam where the government deliberately paid its cronies, business fronts, political allies and campaign funders nearly N3 trillion in one year and passed it off as subsidy on local fuel consumption. The same government was to nebulously pass this loot to famished, storm-tossed citizens through a callous increment of fuel tax. Again, consider the terrible state of security in the length and breadth of a country where about one trillion Naira is budgeted yearly as security appropriation. What can we say of the worsening dilapidation of public infrastructure in Nigeria; the unmendable roads, the intractable darkness-generating power sector, the increasingly moribund health sector, the decrepit educational sector that remains at the rear of even regional educational ratings? What can we talk of the wild inflationary spiral that makes its unperturbed rounds on hapless Nigerians as government sexes up the books to return flattering results for itself? What of the reports of stealing, misappropriation, looting of public funds that had become so rampant in every sector that Nigerians refuse to stir at the outbreak of news of fresher incidences, which has become a daily affair? It is not worth the while reciting incidences of mind-boggling corruption that ooze from Nigerian officialdom in recent times but it will suffice to posit that The Punch newspaper recently came out with a report that as much as N5 trillion had been stolen in the two years Jonathan has been in power. Imagine what that sum can do to the worsening lives of Nigerians!
But these figures are seen as very conservative when we know that the country grosses over N16 trillion yearly from selling its OPEC quota on crude. By the admission of the country’s revenue generating agency, Nigeria makes close to N5 trillion from taxes every year. These are exclusive of the many other fonts of revenue, which the government exploits with little or no account. Again, this is a government that has increasingly piled up Nigerian domestic and foreign debts in an unending debt binge that builds up liabilities for even unborn Nigerians. And this is a country whose annual budgets hover in the range of N4 trillion. What happens to the rest of annual accruals? They are lodged in a plethora of accounts where accounting is lax, from where they are shared out and looted at the whims and caprices of the president and his economic enablers.
This is the sordid and messy trap Nigeria finds itself today and which the Jonathan government and the PDP struggle to deny. But you don’t need to go far to see how corruption has wrecked Nigeria, especially in the past thirteen years of PDP’s egregious waste laying. The other day, I watched a CNN report on Angola’s metamorphosis in few years after a bitter civil war, which is fewer than the thirteen years the PDP has spent spreading poverty, want, hunger and insecurity in the sixth largest oil producing nation on earth. I feel the robust, rapid and fast-paced growth of Angola rubs odium contempt and shame on Nigeria, especially its moth-ridden leadership and typifies Nigeria as a quintessential case of Paradise Lost.
And can you bet that as I was concluding this report, a monumental scandal was rearing its head as President Jonathan rushed a demand to the National Assembly demanding a hefty sum of N161 billion to ‘subsidize’ fuel for Nigerians for the last two weeks of the year. It is as horrible as it came and it’s dubious intent reeks to millions of miles away from this theatre of the absurd. You can bet that Nigerians, so numbed by corruption would barely attempt a stir and another hefty tranche of the national patrimony shared between President Jonathan, his hirelings, stay spatters, party men and enablers as Christmas gift while the citizenry continue to pine in preventable penury. What a country!
•Clever Oparah wrote from Lagos.