Nigeria is fast developing into two distinct ‘tribes’. One tribe consists of those in government while the other is made up of those Nigerians outside government. Talk about Nigeria being a multi-ethnic nation of numerous cohesive tribes is mere glib. Of sincerity, Nigeria is evidently made up of the haves and the have-nots; the ruling class and voting class; the policed government officials and the ordinary unprotected people; the well-fed leader and the hungry unemployed citizen.
One tribe divides the other to rule it. The other hardly complains because given opportunity to rule, it is not likely to do things different or better. So this tribe suffers and smiles while it waits patiently for its turn to be in a position to oppress citizens of his or her former tribe.
Historically, it is a known fact that Nigeria is made up of three major tribes of Hausa, Yoruba and Ibo, as well as over 200 ethnic minorities most of which today, are managing to play major roles in maintaining the political equilibrium of the country. But the two, new, emerging, superficial tribes find accommodation in both the major and minority tribes, even though “tribes and tongues may differ”. The common denominator is nothing but corruption, which is commonly fuelled by avarice and impunity.
In Nigeria government officials including civil servants, officials and members of the legislature, officials of the executive and the judicial arms of government have continually been involved in corrupt practices which prosper only their families, leaving their fellow countrymen impoverished and jobless.
Admittedly, corruption is not only found within the government circles. There have been instances where private sector officials have been found guilty of corruption too. Quite recently there have been cases of bank executives being involved in financial mal-practices bordering on misappropriation of depositor’s money for personal use. Private sector junior workers have also been found to be involved in corrupt practices such as bribery and in some cases, falsification and doctoring of documents. Even within the family, the churches or religious organisations and traditional institutions there are reported cases of greed of various degrees which hurt the micro-economies of the affected units and ultimately affect the macro economy of Nigeria.
The quest to get into government offices is encouraged by the fact that less than 20% of fraudulent practices are detected and just about the same percentage is punished or brought to book. Serving presidents and governors are untouchables who cannot be punished or prosecuted while in office as a result of an anti-people constitutional clause which gives them immunity from prosecution. While the debate for the removal of the said immunity rages, other government officials such as senators, ministers, permanent secretaries, director- generals and directors, special advisers, special assistants and local government chairmen carry on without fear as though they also have immunity to do wrong. Some senior officials of the judiciary, the military, police, customs and immigration are also part of this malady.
Members of this superior tribe often times embark on unnecessary overseas trips the nation can do without. They commit government to unnecessary ceremonies, conferences and seminars that waste public fund, which could have been utilized for common good. They privately engage in expensive and wasteful wedding, chieftaincy, burial and all kinds of award ceremonies, during which state fund is deployed. Officials of government, colleagues and subordinates of the celebrating officials attend these private ceremonies using government cars, government drivers, government petrol and claiming out-of-station allowances. The problem of high cost of government is hereby compounded by such senseless spending as the above. Nigerian parliamentarians who sit at the National Assembly do not help matters either. Their pay and allowances remain a mystery and a guess. No one knows what the nation spends on each member of federal or state parliament. The law-makers have turned themselves into deliberate law-breakers by not making public their salaries and allowances thereby fuelling the speculation that their pay must be huge. The governors spend state fund at will, without regard to any rule. They are hardly restricted by any guideline. Government money is governor’s money or so it seems in many states. Ninety nine percent of the governors operate like dictators; obeying only their own rules and listening only to their own voices or those of their family members. What we have in most of the states are totalitarian regimes in the model of Stalin’s Russia of old. The legislature and the judiciary are manipulated and rendered powerless by the state governors. You only see a semblance of democracy at centre or federal level of government. In other words, there seems to be more of the elements of democracy at the federal level than in the states where counterfeited demagogues are in full control.
The disadvantaged tribe wallows in poverty and disgruntlement; some having to steal and in the process kill to survive, both young and old. These days university graduates feel so frustrated they take the hard option of taking their own lives via suicide bombing; something unheard of until recently. The masses are oppressed by those who govern them. The people virtually have no right to anything. No right to employment. No right to housing. No right to medic-care. No right to food and no right to protection. People in government have all the rights and privileges. They are surrounded by security agents. They are quartered in the best houses. They are taken to foreign hospitals when they are ill. They occupy choice positions of authority which position them to steal the country blind. Political office holders as well as government office holders these days seem to have just one thing in mind: self-aggredisement. They carry on as if they are in competition for self-acquisition with each other or with their predecessors in office. Every regime’s officials aim at out-doing officials who served before. Former governors and senators look poorer than the serving ones. Ministers who served during president Obasanjo’s regime six years ago look poorer than those who served in President Yar’Adua’s regime. It is for this fear of tomorrow that office holders strive to illegally acquire as much as possible from the public till.
Another avenue the oppressive tribe of Nigeria wastes public fund or still from the public treasury is through phony medical tripsabroad. Many government officials raise fraudulent medical bills from hospitals abroad to claim medical entitlement when they or, their dependants are not actually ill or unwell. Members of this tribe move around in unnecessarily long convoys, wasting public fund through acquisition of vehicles, and payment of allowances to drivers and personal aides, those include the President, Vice President, Governors, Deputy-Governors, Senate President, Deputy Senate President, the Speakers and Deputy Speakers of the National and State Assemblies, Chief Executives of some government corporations.
The vexed issue of security votes for the president, governors, deputy governors and many others is another way of funding and fuelling corruption in public service. In some states it is said that governors set aside as much as twenty-five percent of the monthly income of the state as security vote which is not accounted for. Even at that, one of the greatest problems facing the nation today is nothing but insecurity. This leaves Nigerians to ponder the judicious use of the huge sums of money the State governors control in the name of security votes. Other public office holders who enjoy security votes include the Senate President, the Speaker of House of Representatives, the Speakers of the state houses of assemblies as well as chief executive officers of big public corporations and agencies. One tribe hunts security votes while the other is hunted by insecurity. What a tragedy!
Sam Nkire Is Author Of The Book The Nigerian Story.