Last week four Nigerian ministers were relieved of their services. Some of them had been pointedly accused of corruption. They are Stella Oduah (Aviation), Godsday Orubebe (Niger Delta Affairs), Caleb Olubolade (Police Affairs) and Yerima Ngama (Finance).
Interestingly, from the relieve, it seems the “national quota” and “ethics” of “federal” character commission are at work! Thus the question is: will it ever be possible for a Nigerian president to take the morally right decision as each corrupt case arises without “balancing” it with some ethnic consideration? Time will tell.
Corruption is a universal poor ethics. It is not peculiar to Nigeria or Africa, nor is it genetic or ethnic. However two things are Nigerian about corruption. They are failure of the Nigerian state to act decisively and prosecute corruption and the deliberate ethnic muddling of corruption cases by common folks in Nigeria and especially those in surprisingly “high” places.
The supposedly “well read” Nigerian would normally waive the ethnic flag when officials they think are from “our” ethnic group are accused of corruption! That was the case with some of the recently sacked ministers and those ministers President Jonathan continues to protect and shield for reasons of his own personal economic interests and political survival.
Here I am talking about Ms. Diezani Alison-Madueke the corrupt minister of petroleum who sits on the most reported corruption in Nigerian history in the so-called Nigerian oil industry. I am sure Stella Oduah must be chuckling cynically at Nigeria and her sack while the main source of corruption in the Nigerian presidency Diezani Alison-Madueke is jealously guarded by an equally corrupt president!
At the time President Jonathan was “sacking” some corrupt ministers without prosecuting them, here in the Diaspora something similar and morally instructive unfolded. The former Mayor of New Orleans in Louisiana State, Mr. Nagin was being convicted for corruption charges.
And far away in Europe, the 28-member country European Commission released a report, which indicted corrupt European countries. The Commission’s Home Affairs Commissioner, Cecelia Malmstrom, described the findings of the report on European corruption as breathtaking because under European graft and corruption €120bn are lost annually to corrupt practices and shady deals. Also, in the report we know that 60 per cent of Europeans say that corruption has increased in their countries as opposed to 47 per cent three years ago.
These continental cases show that corruption does not have any ethnic coloration, which Nigerians deliberately give it to muddle the issue and defend the corrupt. Take Mr. Nagin’s case in America for example. Remember hurricane Katrina where lives were lost? As the mayor during that sad period of hurricane Katrina, Mr. Nagin was the face of the call for help and succor that came to the survivors of the hurricane. It was the same sadness and grief which hurricane Katrina brought that Mr. Nagin allegedly turned into a source to milk the American public through abuse of his office.
The interesting thing is that Mayor Nagin is black like me. But there was not a single reference to his race or ethnicity in his prosecution and conviction. In his case there was no fallacy of division where it would have been awkwardly and dubiously said that Mr. Nagin was being prosecuted because of his race or ethnicity.
That Mr. Nagin is corrupt does not mean that we peoples of African descent are corrupt. No one referenced his blackness, race or ethnic origin in his prosecution and eventual conviction.
Legitimately, in Mr. Nagin’s conviction it was all about law and ethics. Shame and jail are the prices the corrupt individual pays for his/her corruption. So Mr. Nagin goes to jail like any other corrupt persons black or white or whatever. But this is not the case with respect to my country, Nigeria. Abuja, New Orleans, two cities, different ethics.
In Nigeria, it is duly documented for all eyes to see that Ms. Stella Oduah was one of the major funding sources of President Jonathan’s campaign in the last election. This is a fact that the most fervent defenders of President Jonathan cannot refute. The organization Neighbor 2 Neighbor owned by the sacked Stella Oduah and Godwin Orubebe was one of the illicit conduit pipes for the support for President Jonathan in the last election.
So it is silly that when the story of Mrs. Stella Oduah’s corruption broke religion and ethnicity were deployed in her defense. Like the case of Mr. Nagin, those who accused Stella Oduah took her on as an individual who allegedly abused her office to her own personal benefit, the companies she has interest in and to the benefit of her political sponsors in the Nigerian presidency and the companies like Coscharis Motors-they are invested in.
But unfortunately like most Nigerian politicians if not all of them, Stella Oduah and her handlers muddled the issue. Behind the scene, like the typical Nigerian politician, they deployed ethnicity. It was so bad and ridiculous that chiefs and ethnic organizations were lined up to show how she is innocent.
I do hope that these chiefs, persons ,ethnic organizations and Oduah handlers who openly said Stella Oduah was being prosecuted for ethnic reasons will have the good sense to rethink their bad faith and breadth- given how intensely corrupt Stella Oduah has proven to be.
But the problem goes beyond Stella Oduah. Diversity is a good ethics in multinational societies, which our country, Nigeria is. However, when officials/ministers/commissioners are appointed principally as representatives of ethnic groups and not for their moral merit, then it is no longer about the goodness of the pragmatism of the ethics of diversity but an un-ethical political appeasement. The dubious and immoral ethnic then trumps otherwise good pragmatic ethics. This is why corrupt ministers and their companies appeal to the ethnic when they are caught pants down.
Finally, here in America, companies which are cited sites of corruption that are used by pubic officials to perpetuate corruption are made to inherit the opprobrium of the same corrupt public officials who used them to loot. But this not the case in Nigeria. Companies like Coscharis Motors who are cited sites of corruption go scot-free even when public officials that collaborated with them are sacked for corruption!
But as corrupt public officials fall, companies they have used to steal must go down with them. The EFCC must beam its searching lights on companies that are cited sites of corruption like Coscharis Motors.
Like all immorality corruption is a teamwork, it is a network. To take out a few individuals while leaving the network will only re-grow corruption and strengthen it.
So, this is the time to ask Coscharis Motors and other companies, which are, cited sites of corruption to come clean and inform us about what they know in the looting and moral destruction of Nigeria.
Adeolu Ademoyo email@example.com is of Africana Studies and Research Center, Cornell University, Ithaca, NY.