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Democracy and Corruption in Nigeria

By Menyanga Abu

Democracy, especially the struggling and fragile democratic setting like ours is vulnerable to charges of corruption than other forms  of government. First because  freedom of speech, press and political challenges that come  with democratization allow opponents of a corrupt administration to make much of its corruption, and, secondly democracies most times have special problems of funding expensive political activities such campaigns and so many other commitments.[adrotate banner="11"]

Finances for the party activities are not funds gotten from tax revenues but from private individuals who as time goes by will want something from the candidates they support.

It is important to mention here that corruption is not a problem solely of democracies because some of the worst corruptions experienced in this country took place under undemocratic government and some of us are living witnesses  to this if i am correct.

Corruption can deeply undermine supports for democracy in a struggling or shallow-rooted democratic setting. Corruption in political system may occur both at high and low levels throughout the democratic and administrative procedures. This can create cynicism, suspension and distrust among the populace.

High level corruption is far more dangerous to democracy than low level corruption. If the people at the highest levels pf governance are honest, citizens are more likely to seek a change in administration to demand honesty at the low levels.

Systemic corruption as witnessed in Nigeria today is far more dangerous to democracy than occasional or sporadic type of corruption. Systemic corruption can change the entire outlook of a population by making trustworthy people to feel as if they have been foolish and cheated out over the years and they may encourage the young ones, the children and the adult to accept cheating and corruption as a way of life.  

Corruption, which I think doesn’t need any definition as stated in my article “malingerism and the fight against corruption” of March 18, 2019 edition of DAILY ASSET  Newspapers, is dishonest or fraudulent conduct by those in power, typically involving briberies and so on. It includes all processes by which a word or expression is changed from its original state to one regarded as erroneous or debased. This also includes inducement to wrong by improper or unlawful means, departure from the original or from what is correct.

Corruption harms the people, undermines democracy and human nature and also tends to create rift between human being and their ultimate purpose in life. Corruption according to Mr. President, Muhammadu Buhair, stands out above other problems in Nigeria as it is both a cause and aggravator of the rest of our numerous problems.

A corrupt democratic government is more likely to look like it is for the wealthy and well-connected individuals, not a government by and for the people.[adrotate banner="10"] This is true because it is the wealthy and the rich that most often fund political parties and their activities especially the campaigns. Our tragedy as a nation today is the general and universal physical fear so long sustained over the years that we can no longer believe and trust any administration or any leader in power because the system and attitudes of our political leaders have made us to believe that any Nigerian in position of power has corruptive inclination.

Corruption has eroded that trust we suppose to have in our leaders, and it is this trust that citizens have in their leaders that deepens democracy. We have so lost hope in our leaders to the extent that we no longer believe that something good can come out of the country Nigeria apart from corruption. Our leaders continue to tell us lies in the name of politics and democracy while at the same time fraudulently enriching themselves, their families and cronies.[adrotate banner="8"] Nigeria’s situation today is far more complex than our collective appraisal of it, from unemployment, corruption, kidnapping, armed robbery, Boko Haram, herdsmen killing to mistrust and tensions, all resulting from maladministration and mismanagement of our common wealth by the past administrations.

Corruption is social evil where the qualities of democratic dividends are lost for the unaccounted benefits. It is prevalent in most countries of the world only the degrees and extent of it varies. The forms of corruption vary and are based on the means used, the purpose, the level and its impacts on democratic institutions. When we talk about corruption what easily comes to mind is the financial aspect of it, forgetting other types of this social ill in our society.

Let us start from the mother of all corruption – political corruption. Political corruption is the worst case of moral corruption that political parties and individual politician engage in. These involved appeasing people or freebies or subsidies, buying votes or mandates. If political competition is about votes and mandate buying and not about ideas I don’t think there will be space for development and democratic growth. We should make concerted effort to put in place effective mechanism that will eliminate commercialization from our political arena for truth democracy to strife in Nigeria.

It is morally wrong to appease few people to the detriment of general populace that voted one into power. Everybody should be carried along and should benefit from the democratic dividends so as to win the support of the masses.

Any form of political corruption is a big loss to the nation. One other form of corruption that people hardly notice or talk about is corruption in businesses. This is widespread and business people engage in it to generate more incomes. In some cases the business people influence the government to enact laws that favour their business interests not minding the negative consequences on the masses. Another form of corruption that people seem to be aware of is judiciary corruption.

Corruption is judiciary is common because of the unlimited powers of the judges. Many people believe that judges are susceptible to this form of corruption because of their boundless powers in court proceedings. Judiciary corruption ranges from delayed justice, selective justice to voluntary harassment. Most times by the time the sentence comes in delayed justice, the crimes are often times forgotten. This delay could be due to deliberate shelving of cases by the judges. Haven’t you read or heard in this country when some cases that have reached the closing stage of judgments are postponed till after court holidays. All these could be corrupt delay tactics but to the judges it is a vacation. We should not forget the saying that “justice delayed is justice denied”. There is absolute need for the establishment of anti-corruption tribunal/court to quickly attend to and dispose gamut of corrupt cases in the courts across the country.

Another corrupt way of misuse of justice system is selective justice. With many pending cases the judges may instantly pick up some cases to give bails or other reliefs simply because the cases involve rich and famous people. There are some obscured instances where judicial personnel relive a person from punishment by taking bribes. One other type and area of corrupt practices which is a common phenomena is government and its agencies. This form of corruption is perpetuated through scams, awarding inflated contracts to their friends and relatives. Administrative corruption on the other hand is that situation where corrupt practices are spread from high level officers down to the low level of public servants. These public officers and their subordinates are involved in briery to perform their duty to the common people.

There are many factors promoting corruption in any given society which ranges from personal, cultural to institutional and organizational dimensions. Personal corruption result from personal greed that leads to unfettered desire for money or power with no regards to moral boundaries. The underlining cause of this type of corruption is the innate human impulse to own and amass property and wealth that in the real sense of life he or she might not necessarily use them in his or her life time. Personal corruption could be due to decline of personal sensitivity, either due to lack of education – not just western education – or negative learning experience developed by downplaying perverse conduct in the past.

Personal corruption could result from lack of sense of service in public and private institutions. This is most times noticeable in some, if not all of the public/civil servants and our politicians who use politics for their selfish interest instead of serving to better the life of the general populace. Personal corruption can also result from low awareness by individual or lack of courage to denounce corrupt behaviors and situations conducive to corruption. Cultural factors tend to promote corruption where cultural environment condone corrupt practices such as defending, hailing and admiring crooks. Society sometimes call these crooks smart guys and even give them chieftaincy tittles for being able to fraudulently enrich themselves. Other factors promoting corruption are institutional and organizational inefficient control mechanism, slow judicial processes and so on.

The forms, factors and negative impacts of corruption on democracy have to be defined in order to design policies and strategies aiming to control or reduce corruption in Nigeria. Corruption no doubt affects the cultural, political, social and economic structures of our country Nigeria and seems to be destroying the functioning of our democratic structures and organs. Corruption from all indications can affect the quality of governance and efficiency of public policies, distorts the allocation of resources, obstructs the development of the private sector and negatively affects the well-being of the poor masses.

Democracy cannot strive in the face of endemic and unjustifiable systemic corruption as such the earlier we kill corruption in this country, the better for democratic growth and general development.   

Menyanga Abu,is an Abuja based, Health System and Development Consultant. [].

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