According to various authors, corruption ranges from acceptance of money or other rewards for awarding contracts, violations of procedures to advance personal interests, including kickbacks from development and aid programs or multinational corporations, pay-offs for legislative support; the diversion of public resources for private use, to overlooking illegal and unconstitutional activities, or intervening in the justice process, nepotism, common theft, overpricing, establishing non-existing projects, payroll padding, tax collection and assessment frauds, insider trading, name dropping, influence padding, and misappropriation.

The ramifications and extent of corruption in Nigeria are so vast that proper conceptualization becomes an issue.

The anti-corruption crusade needs to target the system, the business of governance, and the expectations of Nigerians. This means that there is an urgent need to focus on the root causes of corruption.

The problem within the Nigerian environment has been analyzed to be caused by inefficiency, the amount of pressure the corrupt can exert on consumers in their experience of inefficiency (of public services), and how narrow the gate is.

There is no gainsaying the fact that political corruption, being the arrowhead of business corruption, has hamstrung African development and freedom from the apron strings of the International Monetary Fund, the Paris Club, and the World Bank. Indeed, political corruption could be said to be the ‘head’ and other forms of corruption are the ‘body’.

It is thus only by focusing on a root cause of corruption such as inefficiency that democracy can ensure good governance; since, by and large, it ought to improve the lives of the people in terms of access to better-paid jobs, education, health, transportation, piped water and electricity.

So far, ample evidence within the society smacks of lack of importance attached to citizens’ well-being, including life, persons, high fatality from diseases, poverty, and misery in the society.

Indeed, public resources and funds that are directed at such ventures must begin to yield dividends for democracy to actually take root and for development to occur.

But in a short term, there is a need to see through reported cases of corruption which is the only way future incidents can be discouraged. Otherwise, it can be taken for granted that, after the initial noise about any particular case, nothing will happen.

This way, every new case merely provides instruction for people to be more careful and adopt smarter tactics. The process of investigation and persecution needs to be completed and proven cases sanctioned severely enough to deter future occurrence.

The National Orientation Agency (NOA) should be saddled with aggressive enlightenment and value re-orientation for Nigerians on the sanctions for corrupt acts as well as the costs and consequences of corruption for the nation.

Whatever measures are put in place in the long and or short term, it is clear that the country and its citizens deserve a real and sustained campaign to stem corruption beyond what may be considered occasional stunts such as the ones previously exhibited.

Such reaction is viewed merely as a way for the President to advertise himself to rich nations of the West as beholden to a reformist agenda or to seduce the Nigerian public into a false sense of confidence in the genuineness of his crusade against corruption.

From the above, it is clear that with corruption, democracy and development will be thwarted or will be very slow in coming.

Hence, a real war to fight the pandemic and its debilitating effects on the nation rather than a semblance of it is what is needed to carry the two heavy pillars of democracy and development.

This piece is an extract from Democracy and Development in Nigeria Vol. 3. Dr. Anthonia Okoosi-Simbine is of the Political Development Unit, Nigeria Institute of Social and Economic Research (NISER), Ibadan.

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