A “Fantastically Corrupt Country”- Fassy Yusuf

Fassy A. Yusuf, Ph.D.
E-mail: [email protected]

THERE are many definitions of corruption. One says ‘it is the dishonest or fraudulent conduct by those in power, typically involving bribery’. According to Wikipedia ‘it is a form of criminal offence undertaken by a person or organisation entrusted with a position of authority, to acquire illicit benefit or abuse power for one’s private gain’.

It is also said to be ‘dishonest and illegal behaviour by people in positions of authority or power’. It includes dishonesty, putrefaction, decay, bribery, moral perversion, depravity, absence of due process, inducement, gratification, etc.There are many causes of corruption including greed, lust for power, luxury or any other materialistic desires, low level of democracy, weak institutions, weak civil participation and low political transparency. And, examples of corruption are legion. They include but not limited to bribery, extortion, cronyism, nepotism, parochialism, undue patronage, influence peddling, graft, and embezzlement.

Corruption promotes insurgency, banditry, drug trafficking, money laundering, human trafficking, underdevelopment, nepotism, rigging of elections, population manipulation, badly skewed processes, examination malpractices, cybercrimes, vote buying, judicial indiscretion, underdevelopment, political agitation, etc. Nearly everything about Nigeria is based on corruption.


The country was founded on corruption as Lord Fredrick Luggard did the amalgamation unilaterally without involving the monarchs and community leaders of the various components in the Southern and Northern Protectorates. The British invaders plundered our resources to develop their country. They brought ‘divide and rule’ system that subsequent leaders embraced.

Thus, the British introduced corruption into Nigeria which our forefathers and departed leaders built upon.

This columnist went into history to painfully discover that hardly any of our nationalist was
spared of corruption allegations. Herbert Macaulay, Eni Njoku, Nwafor Orizu, Ahmadu Bello, Abubakar Tafawa Balewa, Joseph Sarwuan Tarka, Nnamdi Azikiwe, Michael Okpara, Festus Okotie-Eboh, Obafemi Awolowo, Samuel Akintola, Cadius Dosa Akran, etc. were not spared. In death, theystill have a seemingly inescapable moral burden hanging on their necks!

The political corruption that was exacerbated in the first republic was the major reason the rebelling Majors of the Nigerian Army adduced for the January 15, 1966 coup, albeit, corruption derailed the success of the coup as it was lopsided and ethnically implemented.

Corruption also prevented Johnson Thomas U. Aguiyi-Ironsi from performing effectively and efficiently. Indeed, ethnic corruption led him and his junta to promulgate the Unification Decree that has led us to where we are from 1966 to date. Not believing in issue management, a group of Northern officers executed a retaliatory coup (a coup d’etat) that also brought in corruption into governance as a sectional but a junior officer was brought in as Head of State over and above his superiors. This situation and many other factors led Ojukwu to declare secession, the ill-fated Republic of Biafra.

During the Civil War (May 1967 to January 1970) there were allegations of looting of branches of the Central Bank, emergence of‘emergency contractors and millionaires’, inflation of payrolls and the like. After the civil war, we had cement armada, which was a major scandal under Gowon administration. We had Scania buses’ scandal and many others!

The foregoing were part of the reasons Naven Garba gave for the toppling of Gowon’s administration. Murtala Muhammed who took over, confessed not to be clean. He returned some properties to the State. Sadly, inordinate ambition of some military officers led to his assassination. His
deputy who took over was accused of conducting a flawed election that brought in Shehu Aliyu Shagari. Shagari was accused of being a weakling and sleeping whilst ‘Rome was burning’.

Consequently, his administration was toppled and Muhammadu Buhari came on board for the first time. Notwithstanding his ‘Operation War Against Indiscipline (WAI)’, his administration was overthrown by his supposedly trusted lieutenants. Ibrahim Badamosi Babaginda’s administration would go done in the annals of Nigerian administration as the most controversial, ‘maradonic’, inept, economically disastrous, and insensitive. For eight years, the nation was on the precipice of cataclysm. Eventually, he stepped aside for an Interim Government that lacked legitimacy. No wonder the maximum ruler and despot, Sani Abacha capitalised on this and installed himself as the Head of State. Abacha’s near five years’ (November 1993 to June 1998) administration was characterised by corruption and assassinations. There were also allegations of corruption against Abdulsalam Abubakar’s administration.

Since the advent of the Third Republic (some say, Fourth Republic!), corruption in all facets has assumed a resurgence or spike with no end in sight!

Transparency International’s Corruption Index has been a shame to us. Most of the institutions to curb corruption have been enmeshed in the web of corruption. Some are now asking derisively if corruption should not be legalised since nearly the whole country is corrupt.

Yes, a former United Kingdom’s Prime Minister once described us as being ‘fantastically’ corrupt. But, must we continue to be corrupt in the face of its disastrous consequences? I don’t think so.

I therefore, align myself with Dimitri Vlassis’ three key steps to end corruption. These are: To focus oneducation; To create a culture of integrity; and, To demand accountability from all and sundry.

God bless Nigeria.

—Chief Fassy A. Yusuf, PHD

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