A worrying trend in Nigeria today is that people consider it right for public officials who belong to their tribe and religion to amass wealth through corrupt means. What this confirms is that as Nigerians, we are all united by corruption. However, corruption has no class, no colour, no ethnicity and no religion.
Despite the colossal damage caused by corruption, the narrative of ethnic sentiments aimed at protecting the corrupt political class remains ingrained in Nigerian public consciousness. This is what I call the ethnic-induced protectionist paradox. The question is why should we, as a people, continue to endorse democratisation of corruption? Why are we not standing up to our kinsmen who are corrupt?
The failure of the Nigerian electorate to hold their political office holders accountable, irrespective of ethnicity and political ideology, has allowed sentiments to rule our lives and dictate choices. Corrupt political entrepreneurs and praise singers in Nigeria, therefore, refer to ethnic affiliation and manipulate ethnic sentiments in an attempt to achieve political power.
It is true that some ethnic minorities are marginalised and often times schemed out of the equation in the scramble for the wealth of the nation. The marginalisation of minority groups in resource allocation, control or in appointments, has thus become a sore point around which the corrupt political elite mobilise their kinsmen by fanning ethnic sentiments. But ethnic polarisation should not prevent us from condemning the vultures that are plundering the nation’s wealth while forming a shield around themselves with their kinsmen’s support.
For Nigeria to be reborn, there has to be a shift away from the power of ethnicity over political choice. Belonging to one ethnic group or tribe should not automatically mean uniformity in the political choice or ideology of all the members of the community. It does not also mean that we should defend corrupt members of our clan. This challenge must be faced by all Nigerians. Corruption is corruption – no window dressing.
So, if you are interested in exposing and curbing corruption in Nigeria, the onus is on you to do that objectively, irrespective of the political affiliation, ethnicity or religion of whoever is involved. I, therefore, welcome the new comers in the fight against corruption in Nigeria with open arms. The rule of the game is simple: see it, say it.
In spite of its glaring negative effect on every sector of our national life, ethnicity intertwined with corruption has continued to shape and influence the perception of the citizenry in our country. It has gradually established its root in organised politics, and the opposing tribes become the most potent target in any important and trivial national political discourse.
Here is another challenge; even though elimination of the root cause of corruption in Nigeria should remain a priority, the first real step will be that of de-tribalisation of corrupt acts, and this challenge must be confronted head-on.
Nigerians should think collectively to resolve this challenge so that not only the rich but also the poverty-stricken citizens are given their rights. It is not enough to blame the administration in power that appears unfavorable to one’s ethnic group. We should raise our voices and condemn every act of corruption, irrespective of the suspect’s tribe or religious inclination.
It is so unfortunate that Nigeria is fractured by ethnicity. It is well acknowledged that even though ethnic diversity gives us energy and dynamism, it remains the greatest obstacle to our survival as a nation, even more than corruption.
In Nigeria, though tribes and tongues may differ, we are all united in corruption. However, when we come to accept this, while looking for a way out, then this is the first step to overcoming corruption, which is eating at the heart of the country.
If corruption is cancerous and ethnic politics deadly, then we can imagine what we have in Nigeria where we have both corruption and ethnic politics thriving.
We should, therefore, not give potency to the sentiment of ethnicity by keeping quiet when we have some members of our clan who are involved in corruption.
Even though President Muhammadu Buhari’s government is waging a serious war against corruption, we should not allow ethnic factor to weaken his resolve in the battle against this monster.
- Okonkwo can be reached via [email protected]