As we kick off the campaign for the 2019 general elections, the question on my mind is; can the wheels of democracy in Nigeria ever turn without the grease of corruption? Governance under PDP’s 16 years of looting was sustained by the grease of corruption; President Buhari rode to power in 2015 under the shadow campaign that was greased by Tinubu and Saraki’s BILLIONs. Atiku’s campaign is currently being greased by “thick” grease of a looted fund. It is interesting that Omoyele Sowore presidential ambition is the only transparent campaign that is powered by a token from millions of Nigerians. Will Nigerians reject corruption and stand with Sowore and African Action Congress (AAC)? Why does corruption matter in Nigerian elections? 

Pope Francis once called corruption “the gangrene of a people.” That is, a “localized death and decomposition of body tissue, resulting from either obstructed circulation or bacterial infection.” 

Under PDP, corruption sand the wheels of development and left the body tissue of the critical organs of governance dead and decomposing. From the democratization of corruption by IBB to the 16 years of impunity under PDP and now the mockery of anti-corruption fight by Buhari, institutionalized corruption in Nigeria remained rotten and cancerous, yet attractive.

The endemic corruption in the country under PDP facilitated the election of President Buhari in 2015. I thank President Buhari for saving the country from the scavengers in the PDP. But now that his APC administration is looking more like the PDP that it replaced, I believe that Buhari’s work is done. The time for the dragon, Buhari, to exit in now. We need a lion to come in and do a radical clean sweep of the system in order to save the society from the indoctrination that corruption is acceptable in our society. That lion, the political non-conformist that will truly take this country to the next level is Omoyele Sowore. 

Here are why corruption matters. Corruption matters because corrupt people corrupt other people. Corrupt Bishops and pastors corrupt the congregation and the entire society. Corruption undermines the rule of law and the principle of fair competition and entrenches bad governance, hindering efforts to alleviate poverty. The links between corruption and poverty affect both individuals and businesses, and they run in both directions. Poverty, in return, invites corruption, while corruption deepens poverty. Ultimately, corruption damages society. Most damage that is done to a country is when corruption affects the society: Unfortunately, corruption has infiltrated upon the citizens of Nigeria, like the bacterial infection.

To paraphrase Pope Francis, corruption has obstructed circulation of growth and development in Nigeria. When it comes to the fight against corruption in Nigeria, Buhari has failed, but a return to Atiku and his gang of openly proud looters will be worse. Atiku is blaming Buhari’s administration, rightly though, for not having done enough. But he knows that he has no tangible plan himself for addressing corruption’s root cause - lack of integrity. Atiku knows that in the 16 years of PDP misrule, we witnessed government officials enjoying (and often flaunting) their impunity. That’s the era he is promising to bring back by telling Nigerians that corruption is part of our DNA. Iro!

As Nigerians that have been misgoverned, we must reject the poisonous idea that corruption is an integral part of our culture and an essential quality for leadership. But this rejection, while necessary, is not sufficient. Nigerians must also reject the appalling lack of courage, weakness of will, spinelessness, and indifference to the corruption that helps sustain it. That indifference is itself a cruel reality, a reality that many Nigerians especially youths have become so accustomed to the corruption that they now celebrate corrupt leaders. 

Attitudes towards the fight against corruption and the importance of understanding integrity need to be instilled from a young age. Unfortunately, many Nigerian youths appear to have accepted corruption as our way of life. Now they appear incapable of standing up to the looters that devoured the national wealth. We need a reawakening and reorientation of the mindset of Nigerians away from “lootocracy” to accountability. Therefore, Sowore’s message of restoring faith in governance should be embraced by Nigerians. 

Corruption matters because it breeds mistrust. And when citizens don’t trust their government, they stop being interested in it; they start selling their votes or stop voting altogether; they stop demanding that their government get better. And that makes government less efficient, less responsive and less effective for all of us. It matters from a practical point because it comes at the expense of our tax Naira. It means our government representatives are abusing their offices to give special privileges to themselves and their connected friends.

Corruption matters because it is a dehumanizing force that renders human beings less than fully human. Poor people and economically strapped businesses have few economic alternatives, and where serious corruption is the norm, they are even more vulnerable to exploitation. In that sense, there is no such thing as "petty" corruption. Police shakedowns roadblocks where motorist and okada must pay up to move around may yield seemingly trivial sums of money, but they help keep poor people poor. That’s the overarching reason corruption matters.

Corruption both causes and thrives upon weaknesses in key economic, political and social institutions. It is a form of self-serving influence benefiting the haves at the expense of the have-nots. It is because of corruption that the Nigerian governors, senators, and members of state and federal houses can afford to pay themselves millions and peanuts to workers. Corruption is the reason why Saraki could invest Billions to gain political power. Corruption is the reason why he is investing billions in Atiku’s presidential campaign. Corruption is the reason the like of Tinubu, Ganduje, Akpabio, Uduaghan, and co are investing illicit BILLIONs in Buhari’s campaign. Rescuing Nigerians from this endemic corruption is why we should stand with Sowore. 

Finally, corruption directly affects all of us in some way. We should care. At a higher level, extensive corruption threatens the basic notion of fairness and equity for all. Making accountability an integral part of public service ethos should be the end game. Atiku and the PDP clearly do not even understand the meaning of accountability. Buhari that we thought understood it has been tested and found wanting. In Sowore, however, we have a future that sees the rising threat of endemic corruption in our polity as paramount. Let’s stand with Sowore on February 16th, 2019. 

Together, we can. 

 

You can email Churchill at Churchill.okonkwo@gmail.com or follow on Twitter @churchillnnobi 

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