Fri. Sep 25th, 2020

Prof Okaba Speaks Hard On Corruption In Nigeria – The Liberator

Being the text of the Lecture Presented by Prof. Benjamin Okaba
Dean, Faculty of Humanities and Social Sciences
Federal University Otuoke.
On the Occasion of the One-Day Sensitization Workshop Organized by the Presidential Advisory Committee Against Corruption in Collaboration with the National Orientation Agencies at the Yenagoa City Town Hall on the 15th of Jan. 2020.
I. Introduction
II. Manifestation and Cost of Corruption in Nigeria
III. Values (Idea), Core Values and Dominant Values in Nigeria
IV. Campaign for Attitudinal Change: The Realities and Gap
V. Value Re-orientation and the Fight Against Corruption: The Nexus
VI. Strategizing Beyond Sloganeering
VII. Summary and Conclusion


I. Introduction
With utmost gratitude to the Almighty God for His enduring mercies , I express my appreciation to the Presidential Advisory Committee against corruption (PACAC) for extending this rare privilege to me to share my humble thought as a Resource Person in today’s special convocation of distinguished stakeholders convened to address one of the world’s and Nigeria’s most worrisome calamities.
The urgency to reduce the menace of corruption globally and resuscitate the national old order of integrity, honesty, hard work and discipline have taken central state in public discourse because a corruption free society is considered the surest guarantee for peace, stability, security, equity, prosperity social justice and development in all human societies.
Recent studies have shown that, though corruption is an ever-present universal phenomenon, it seems to be more chronic in developed and developing economies, Nigeria inclusive.
Since 1966, every successive administration in Nigeria have responded to the devastating effect of corruption by introducing program institutions and legislation targeted at value rebirth. It has also been observed that one of the commonest political propaganda used by every intending/incoming regime, is the demonization and stigmatization of the government in power as badly corrupt or been grossly incompetent or lacking the political will to fight corruption in Nigeria.
As revealed in the report of the Corruption Perception Index (CPI), Transparency International and Geottingen University, Nigeria has since 1996 ranked amongst the most corrupt countries of the world. This invariably suggests that in spite of the fact that Nigeria’s socio-political history is saturated with campaign slogans and rhetorics of ‘Change for a Better Nigeria’ and multiplicity of anti-corruption agencies, committees and commissions, the incidence of corruption rather than diminish; seems to be on the increase and assuming more complex and destructive dimensions.
Many social commentators, political economists and politicians from both the ruling and opposing divides of the equation have lamented why the epidemic of corruption in Nigeria has defiled all known cures/solutions. but rather appears to have penetrated into all demographic, spatial, class, ethnic, institutional, political and religious section in the country.
Reacting to Tony Blair’s sarcastic comments on Nigeria been ‘fantastical corrupt’, a well-known Catholic Priest inferred that ‘the greater temptation facing Christendom and the general public in Nigerian is HOW NOT TO BE CORRUPT’. The recent allusion by Mr. President that ‘corruption is fighting back its fighters very seriously’, raises serious doubts as to whether the Anti-corruption War can be successfully executed in Nigeria.

II. Manifestation and Cost of Corruption in Nigeria
The World Bank (2001) defined corruption as ‘abuse of public office through the instrumentality of private agents who actively offer/accept bribe to circumvent public policies and processes of competitive advantage and profit’. New Colligate Dictionary (1914) define corruption as “an impairment of integrity, virtue or moral principles. No doubt, it is the misuse/abuse of office, privilege and compromise of one’s position and trust for personal gains. Yusuf and Saks have categorized corruption into (a) Institutional corruption (b) Political corruption (c) Economical/Financial corruption and (d) Moral corruption. The 20 items listed in the Corrupt Practices and Other Related offences Act (2000) as what constitutes corruption in Nigeria fall within the categories mentioned above.
It has been several remarked that Nigeria’s problems are self-inflicted (as God has blessed us with abundant natural resources) and emanate from the morbid, deviant and unfaithful inclination to unjustly engage in dubious activities to seek illegitimate personal gains mostly through bribery, extortion, forgery, exam malpractice, diversion of public funds, nepotism, graft and social vices that have in turn impacted negatively on the image and development of the country.
Leaders and the led, are guilty of corruption in Nigeria, as it appears that almost every single assignment in every sphere, be it political, business, education, health, and spiritual is influenced by unethical standards. Afflicted by the emergent culture of corruption, imagine how close relations and friends influence office holders are usually told: this is your time/turn to make it, shine your eyes and other insinuations that encourage these officers to steal, loot, defraud etc.
In terms of cost, corruption is a major obstacle to development in Nigeria. This country is blessed abundantly with all other facilitators of development, but weak/impoverished because of human imperfections which have generated distortions, waste, inefficiency, poor quality service delivery, decay and monumental inadequacies. Corruption shield foreign inventors, cause unemployment, destabilizes the economy and provide fertile ground for organized crimes to flourish.
Unfortunately, Security agents and the judiciary (the last hope of the common man’s quest for justice) in Nigeria have also come under severe public condemnation for their roles in promoting and institutionalizing corruption, by their display of double standards, perversion of justices, compromise, and serial extortions with impunity for pecuniary reasons.
The ranking of Nigeria as the international Headquarters of poverty in terms of very low investment Human Capital Development further strengthens the correlation between the high incidence of systematic corruption on the one hand and mass poverty and by extension insecurity and backwardness. This trend brings to fore the imperative to tackle head-on the rampaging scourge of corruption in Nigeria

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III. Values, Ideal (Core) Values and Dominant Values in Nigeria.
The National Orientation Agency (NOA) in her publication titled: A Survey of Nigeria Core Values (2009) defined the word value as ‘the worth, importance, desirability and usefulness associated with an object, idea, behavior or phenomenon. With its root in the Psychology of Motivation and Emotions, values are the intrinsic motive-force that activates, attracts, and spurs, an individual or group of individuals towards the attainment of desired goals and targets.
The acceptance of or rejection of change or innovation or invention are basic characteristics of the society’s core values as perceived as positive/dominant and key determinants of their conducts. Values are the worth, merit or esteem accorded to something or somebody, and the bench-mark for evaluating the actions of others. Cultural values represent these collective conception, reasons, belief, action and convictions that are considered good, desirable and proper for their individual and collective existence and prosperity.
No doubt the current set of dominant /core values in Nigeria have over the years metamorphosed through various political, educational, economic, ideological, and social cultural evolution, experienced in the nation from the pre-colonial epoch.
However, in spite of the massive devaluation caused by westernization, it is still possible to identify the core values of various Nigeria indigenous societies. For the Idomas of the Middle belt, respect for elders and authority, dignity in labour, patriotism and chastity (for women) hospitality, courage, and self-reliance were their core values (Ella, 1992). In the study of the Cosmology of the Ijo People of the Western Delta, Okaba (2005) listed their core values to include truthfulness, trust, love, and respect for human dignity and nature, purity, kindness, courage, resilience, hard work, humility, honesty, self-sufficiency, self-protection, and self- defence/defence for kindred and community, the family name and tradition.
Former president Obasanjo’s Dialogue 26 (1993) also contains the majority of values highlighted above and includes high priority for honour and respect for parents, elders and people in positions of authority.
On the other hand, stealing, dishonesty, lying, laziness, idleness and many unproductive and immoral laxities were abhorred to the Nigerians of old. Human life was sacred and considered the greatest gift of God to the community: Dexterity, heroine and generosity were well rewarded with titles and privileges, while those who violated the core values were punished/treated with disdain and ignominy.
Section 23 of the 1993 constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria (as amended) clearly spell out our national ethics to be Discipline, Integrity, Dignity in Labour, Social Justice, Religious tolerance, Self-Reliance and Patriotism. These core values are replicated in Nigeria’s National Anthem, Philosophy of Education and the various ethical codes of professional originations in the country. These are expected to guide and drive the attainment of national goals of peace, unity and prosperity for all.
However, a combination of factors ranging from the crave for materialism, the mad rush for cheap fame or base honor, clannishness, get-rich quick syndrome, primitive accumulation and negative response to institutional failures to address poverty, the huge income disparity and insecurity of job, lives and properties has heavily corrupted our traditional and national core values. In fact, what we have in place as dominants cultural values, include the pursuit of wealth without work, pleasure without conscience, science without humanity, knowledge without character, religion without godliness and sacrifice, politics without ideology and principles.

The necessity for attitudinal change and total behavioral transformation as the best approach to dealing with the myriads of social economic, political and development problems particularly corruption/criminality in Nigeria have never been in doubts. All governments see corruption as its greatest obstacle to fulfilling its mandate of building a united, strong, peaceful and prosperous nation. As earlier mentioned, they put in place various rebranding image transformation schemes and special committees, organize sensitization workshops, rallies and advocacies for better nation both in local and international media.
Major Kaduna Nzeogu’s coup de tat of 15th January 1966 was a turning point in Nigeria’s political history as it did not only derail the nation’s nascent democracy but was the first organized outburst against the problem of nepotism, corruption and favoritism in Nigeria. In his national broadcast he declared that
the aim of the Revolutionary council is to establish a strong and prosperous nation free of corruption and internal strife… our enemies are the political profiteers, swindlers, that seek bribe and demand 10% those that seek to keep the country divided permanently (to satisfy their personal desires).
General Yakubu Gowon (1966-1975) in response to the post-civil war challenges pursued an agenda of Reconstruction, Rehabilitation and Reconciliation.
Second republic President Shehu Shagari introduced the Ethical Revolution Project. It was a monumental failure because he could not stop his party (NPN) faithfuls from wrecking the buoyant economy he inherited from Obasanjo in 1979 within a space of four years through gluttonous consumption of foreign goods and services.
The military regime of General Buhari and President Ibrahim Babangida, launched the War Against indiscipline, Mass Mobilization for Self-Reliance and Social Justice and Economy Recovery to reinstitute discipline and recast the ailing Nigeria political economy. We also had the less popular ‘Not in Our Character’’ by the Abacha regime.
At the onset of OBJ’s second coming, he had the twin programs, ‘Heart of Africa and the Rebranding Nigeria project. The later which was driven by Prof Dora Akunyili’s Ministry of Information and Culture. Its slogan was Good People Great Nation.
President Goodluck Jonathan’s Transformation Agenda (2011-2015) sought to transform Nigeria as a catalyst for growth and national development. Under the project, government was to guide Nigerians to build a modern industrial base with the capacity to launch herself among the first 20 economies of the world by the year 2020.
The vicious circle of transformation campaigns continued with the Buhari’s Change Agenda premised on the conviction that corruption will kill Nigeria, if we do not kill it and slogan: Change begins with Me.
Social critics are of the view that all the above enunciated schemes failed to actualize their objectives. Empirical socio-political economic indicators, such as the widened gap between the rich and the poor, the display of double-standards and systemic distortions in the electoral processes have constrained many to conclude that in spite of series of arrests and confiscation of monies and properties looted, made by the PMB administration, the success attained by the anti-corruption crusade remains undesirable. A renounced chieftain of the APC Political Economist and governorship aspirant of the APC lamented how he was schemed out of the party primaries in broad daylight to the extent that he had no knowledge of the actual date/venue and composition of the electoral college for the said primaries until after a winner was announced. He then publicly declared that, from his rating of the economic, political and judicial performance of the present administration, the intensity and complexities of corruption seems to be higher now than when this administration took over in 2015. The scale of theft of public funds has moved from 10% kick back to outright diversion and conversion of entire contract sums. Nigerians are also not pleased with the manner retrieved looted funds are managed and the gap between the magnitude of budgetary allocations and the realities of their execution.
The abysmal failure of all ethical revolutionary crusades in Nigeria have been attributed to a combination of factors including:
(a) Too much emphasis on blame-shifting, sloganeering and popularization of schemes for political reasons with little emphasis on emotional appeal to the citizenry.
(b) The failure of political leadership to demonstrate sacrificial patriotism and sincere commitment to the schemes by been exemplary in action. How do you change a society by mere moralizing, with a dent of hypocrisy by the powers that be? It may suffice to note that all the successive crusaders of corruption except Murtala and Idiagbon have been indicted in the court of public opinion for the misuse of public offices for personal gain.
(c) The outright disregard for national core values including respect for the rule of law, and the brazen ostentation, and impunity by the political elite, are major obstacles to the success of the anti-corruption crusade which is seen from this perspective as targeted just at the powerless masses.
(d) Disregard of the reality that Nigeria’s problem is more of economic (poverty), political (structural in-balance) than ethical and the need to urgently address the political injustices and the devastating economic woes of the masses. Some commentators have argued that it is difficult for a people who are confronted daily with the challenges of meeting their needs such as food and security to properly conceive or be bordered with the issues of ethics.


Value-orientation can simply be defined as the structural and ideological re-aligning, re-ordering and re-arrangement of social values of a people from its present state and towards a more profitable and acceptable direction. It also implies the capacity and processes involved in resuscitating, re-inventing, re-enacting good values of old and inculcating these cherished values in individuals, groups and entire members of society.
Value orientation plays the key role of reminding us that there was once upon a time when Nigerian societies and communities even in their cultural diversities and disparities in development were bonded together by the love of strong character as exemplified in their display of honesty, hospitality, public spiritedness, truthfulness, respect for leaders, elders/parents, and sanctity of life, hard work patriotism, bravery and harmony and the general abhorrence of Social vices .
Value re-orientation has the potential of changing both the normative belief as well as the attitude, preference and appetite in civil society irrespective of political, demographic, spatial, ideological/religious, class and ethnic disparities
In relation to the fight against corruption, public discourse often conflates attitudinal and behavioural change and articulates a lineal relationship between value change and the consequent rejection and reduction in the engagement of social vices including corruption.
Suffice to state that values are principles of deep fundamental conviction and life stances which are general guides to behavior. In the fight against corruption, they will serve as bench-mark, standard reference point to sensitize and mobilize towards good character formation and display and in the specific and overall evaluation and acceptance/non-acceptance of individual behavior of action/inaction in society.
Unlike other forms of ethical transformation highlighted earlier, value-re-orientation involves conscious repatterning of human resources – the mindset through the ideological appeal and cooperate investment in ways that would ultimately transform the individuals to voluntarily develop passion for good and dislike for evil including corruption, violence and other forms of criminality.
Value orientation is the safest root to rebirth of national values, character, image and the belief in a nation’s capacity for self-reliance. The Asian Tigers particularly Singapore, Malaysia and the United Arab Republic have emerged as world economic powers today because they consciously re-discovered, re-invented, and re-enacted their old national values of self-respect and patriotism to a national cause. In addition to optimizing their creative ingenuity, they have zero tolerance for corruption.
Value orientation identities self-discipline as a necessary higher value. Self-discipline plays the role of restraining individuals from their unruly desires, goals and ambitions. Value orientation inculcates self-control which also implies doing the right thing for the right reason even without the fear of punishments.

1. The success of any value re-orientation program must begin with the perception that the scheme is not an ad-hoc damage control mechanism, but a PROCESS IN PERPETUITY aimed at making every Nigerian to always do the right thing at the right time for the right purpose.
2. The fight against corruption does not require an additional law/policy/agency. What we all need is a new Mind-set the recreation of the old good days of trust, sacrifice, contentment and godliness. We don’t need new institutions. Agencies such as NOA, PACAC, EFCC, the police etc, be strengthened and funded adequately.
3. No nation or person aspiring for greatness throws away her cherished values in the name of civilization or modernity. Rather they apply modern ways of Science and Technology to strengthen and entrench their fundamental national values and institutions. Israel as nation is bedeviled by several challenges including scarcity of natural resources but are able to turn things around for good by safe guiding their national values of integrity, patriotism and godliness.
4. Therefore the relevant agencies of government, cooperate enterprises individuals should encourage serious Research and Publications in our traditional core social values and social cultural heritage. Such publications should be distributed freely by the relevant agencies for use in our schools, institutions and organizations.
5. We must also return to the old good days were indigenous history, social cultural institutions and the study of nature and morals were taught as mandatory subjects right from our primary schools. This will strengthen the anti-corruption crusade at the grass root level.
6. We must bring back the old but sensitive and emotion-driven jingles to reawaken the consciousness of our people on the various aspects of our national core values, especially corruption. The late Boma Erekosima’s time na money oooo easily comes to mind in this regard.
7. The anti-corruption crusade, particularly the value re-orientation components should be deliberately taken to the door steps of key decision makers and other policy influencers at all levels where they could be told all they need to know about people’s perception of the ongoing efforts of government and the new strategies needed for Nigeria to truly actualize her dream of a corruption free society.
8. Finally as a national policy, more efforts should be focused to address the problem of poverty, deprivation, inequality, exploitation, and insecurity. The first natural principle of human existence is survival: MAN, MUST WAK. Workers need a living wage. Businesses need the enabling environment to flourish.
We have identified the nature, manifestations and cost of corruption in Nigeria, and the efforts put in place by successive administrations to address the menace of corruption.
All these have failed for reasons bordering on insincerity of purpose, hypocrisy, lack of political will to deal with the micro/macro level causes of pervasive corruption in Nigeria.
A value re-orientation programme has greater potentials of turning things around because of the deep rootedness in the very essence of the people’s existence. A change of MIND-SET is very key and must be seen as a programme in perpetuity.
God Bless Nigeria!

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