By Rasheed Olokode
The immediate response of our government, through Mr. Labaran Maku, the Minister of Information, to the latest ranking of the country as the 35th most corrupt nation in the world by Transparency International (TI) leaves much to desire.
His instantaneous advice that Nigerians should not blame Dr. Goodluck Jonathan for this global ridicule, while surreptitiously insinuating that the 2012 Corruption Perception Index placement is mistaken being, according to him, based on the comments of Nigerians who are always eager to tell the world how bad Nigeria is, ranks highest in the hierarchy of violence done to our already bruised souls. Rather than mourn with conscientious Nigerians, or, at least, feign some outward depression and remorse, those we have saddled with the responsibility of reshaping our destiny have swiftly absolved themselves of complicity on matters relating to our seemingly backward-flowing rivers.
Maku was also fast in giving an alternative rating to the TI’s, an on-the-spot self-assessment report that scored the Jonathan government high as espoused in Maku’s acclaimed various efforts already put in place by his principal to fight corruption, which, according to him, the latest TI report failed to take note of.
Maku is not alone; he has usual company in Dr. Doyin Okupe, the Senior Special Assistant to the President on Public Affairs, who minced no words in carpeting the critics of Dr. Jonathan on corruption issues, as he aimed a fatal shot at the TI report no sooner than it landed. In fact, the global comity of nations that have always placed a high premium on the annual score sheet from the TI received a likewise fatal blow from Okupe when he implicitly labeled the globally-revered anti-corruption organization, whose annual verdict is usually eagerly expected by officials of governments in saner countries, as a tool of mirroring their progress, from the angle of public perception.
For Okupe, the latest ranking has just exposed the Transparency International as a grossly ‘incompetent’ organization for awarding failure to the government of a president that has ‘indeed’ displayed a heart of stone to corruption by ‘…unearthing corruption and releasing figures as it was never done in the past’. However, the outburst of the Nigerian government on the issue at stake is, to me, a blessing rather than a curse. It is coming to solve a persistent puzzle that had, for long, beaten the brilliance of Nigerian and global analysts in their spirited sleepless search for the actual disease responsible for the stunted growth of a supposedly giant Nigeria that is presently a global dwarf.
What Maku and Okupe have just done was to open our eyes to the fact that perception problem is that ailment that afflicts Nigeria through its leadership. It is now obvious that Nigerian leaders have not been on the same page with Nigerians and the rest of the world in terms of how they perceive and evaluate issues and actions. Let no one attempt to trivialize issues relating to perception.
The varying perceptual ability of human beings determines everything about them: their worldview, sentiments, beliefs, personal idiosyncrasies, attitudes, behaviour, sense of judgment and all other personal traits that condition their performances in any context. In fact, the universal application of such ethical concepts as good and bad, right and wrong, in a manner that suggests communal pre-consensus or, at near-consensus, is the lifewire of value systems universally regarded as the single most important determinant of the success or otherwise of civil unions of rational beings.
Shared values are, thus, a derivative of communal perception – what the people perceive as good or bad, right or wrong, or simply, the societal sense of judgment that determines its norms and standard. It appears that, as a nation, we are yet to develop shared ideals and values, since we still lack necessary ‘sameness of mouth’ on what is good and what is bad for us.
Thus, I suspect that since Nigerians have never, for once, had a genuine opportunity of congregating to achieve ethical consensus amongst the various components as well as between the leadership and the led, mutual distrust between the constituents and dual character leadership which have always abided with us may continue to be our bane. Yes indeed! It is nothing but dual-character leadership that Maku and Okupe want the Transparency International to applaud through an undeserved high rating for the country.
This twosome is but a victim of the perception bug that pierces deep into the blood of the commonplace member of the Nigerian leadership class, a disease that makes our officials to see virtue in the act of saying something and doing something else. This is why the duo lambasted that globally respected anti-corruption body for failing to strictly take into account the official hype about the various reform programmes of the administration in different sectors; for failing to reckon with the cosmetic dramas of transparency that have characterized these reforms; for daring to take into account the views of the Nigerian people and their media as well as global perception to compose a list that is strictly a perception based assessment. Obviously, people in government see nothing wrong in the widespread rot which the whole world, including the Nigerian citizenry, resent.
The truth is that this administration has ever persisted in perversion, as evident in its all-round behaviour that is succinctly and aptly captured by that influential and respected British weekly, The Economist, in a recent article on Nigeria, on page 18 of its edition of May 28 – June 3, in its observation that ‘Nigerian leaders are so greedy that they have subverted the entire machinery of the state to serve their needs.
Every policy is a scam, every regulation a source of rent”. A few examples would vindicate this damning observation. The Halliburton scam.
The deliberate lethargy of the Nigerian government has ensured that while those Nigerians, indicted alongside some foreign nationals, including some top aides of our penultimate President, freely enjoy their loot, their foreign accomplices, individual and corporate, have not only been tried, they have been variously convicted and duly penalized by their home governments. Power Privatisation: The recent sale of the country’s major power Generating Companies and Distribution Companies to different companies tied to certain former military rulers and some serving political office holders is an official vindication of the local and global perception of the nation as a haven of institutionalized corruption. $12m Oil Windfall: Rather than ask our past leaders probing questions about their stupendous wealth, the present government not only celebrates, it also defends them in law court.
The role played by the Federal Attorney General in shielding former military President, General Ibrahim Babangida, just last November, in court over oil windfall allegedly squandered by his administration is awfully shocking. Non Altruistic Corruption War: Even the current trial of Wale Babalakin of Bi-Courtney over money laundering charges is suspect, due to its striking co-incidence with the revocation of his company’s Lagos-Ibadan road concession contract by the Federal Government. Not a few perceive it as a ploy to distract him from pursuing legal redress over the current concession palaver.
My final words, however, for our present leaders is that they should desist from struggling to fully explore their present mandate which they obviously see as their own time to feast on the national cake and so must be ever alert to manipulate global perception as to make colour black seem white, so that the looting tradition they inherited can continue unabated.
What they need to realize is that the level of Nigerian political awareness has reached an all-high that the age-long looting through the annual budget, hitherto unminded by the masses, now agitates the minds of even Nigerians who cannot read and write, let alone deliberately buy newspapers now awash with daily headlines of gigantic but frivolous budgetary allocation. Thus, I feel it’s better to conduct surgery on an ailing body before it crashes totally. Olokode writes from Lagos.