• Wednesday, July 24, 2024
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Corruption and killings in Nigeria: A message from the Pope

Corruption and killings in Nigeria: A message from the Pope

I like to listen to world leaders. Their speeches help us to understand their minds, thoughts and policies better.

This morning, I listened to Pope Francis give his Easter message. He is one of the most influential global leaders, and so, I listen to his speeches keenly, just as I pay attention to Emmanuel Macron, Muhammadu Buhari, Xi Jinping, Joe Biden, Sunak Rishi, Vladimir Putin and other men of power.

Their words give understanding to the myriads of problems we face, convey ideas on how the world function and the direction things may take in the immediate or distant future. As a routine, I look forward to four major speeches in a year: the Pope’s Easter message; US President’s address at the opening of the UN General Assembly in September; US President’s State of the Union Address in January (sometimes February) and Queen Elizabeth’s (now King Charles’) Christmas message. There is always something to learn from them.

On Easter Sunday, the pope focused on war-ravaged countries, conflict zones and troubled places around the world. Ukraine; Russia; Jerusalem; Middle East and Africa. He mentioned them by name, one by one. In Africa, he mentioned the DRC, South Sudan, Eritrea and a few others, but despite our huge problems, he did not mention Nigeria by name.

On Thursday, September 30, 2021, Pope Francis had condemned the spate of killings and kidnappings in Northern Nigeria, and specifically prayed for the country after 34 people were killed in villages in Kaduna. ‘’I pray for those who have died, for the injured and for the entire Nigerian population’, he had said at the Vatican.

Since then, thousands have perished in many parts of the country either through well-planned mass killings or random attacks. Early this week, over 30 people were massacred by invading marauders in Benue. Why did the Pope not mention us specifically this time?

The pontiff however prayed for countries experiencing violence and terrorism, especially in the Middle East and Africa, as well as nations suffering from natural disasters, poverty, corruption and places where Christians face difficulties in practicing their faith. Nigeria is well covered.

It is striking that corruption did not escape his focus this year. It is a major problem in Nigeria. Billions are stolen from state and federal governments every year. Corruption denies governments the resources they need to provide education, healthcare, roads and basic amenities to the citizens. According to the Independent Broad-based Anti-Corruption Commission (IBAC) based in Victoria, Australia, corruption erodes the trust we have in the public sector to act in our best interests.

It also wastes our resources that have been budgeted for important community projects. Development economists have long established a nexus between corruption, poverty and insecurity.

The more corrupt a country or state is, the poorer the people become and the higher the rate of crime and spate of violence. It is however saddening that corruption has been normalized as a way of life in the country, so much so that ordinary citizens are longer outraged when it is reported. People just move on as if nothing happened. In the 1970s, Nigerians were greatly horrified if a civil servant or any public official was caught stealing, and he would face instant punishment and shame.

The reason Gen. Murtala Mohammed launched a massive purge of the civil service in 1975 soon after he took over as the third military Head of State was to cleanse the system of filth and corruption. We have come a long way from those days.

Now, it is actually fashionable for people to boast of how much they were able to steal, and it is common to see convicted persons jostle for elective positions.

I was drawn to President Muhammadu Buhari’s pledge to fight corruption eight years ago. He has recorded some modest achievements in that area, but I’m disappointed that he could not do more. I am also disappointed that the governors have not been part of the fight.

Instead, some of them have become real enablers of the vice. There is no way Buhari alone would have killed corruption, but I must give him kudos for trying.

As the pope said, ‘’unfortunately, corruption runs in cycles. Someone comes along who cleans things up, but it starts again until someone else comes along to put to put an end to this degeneration’’. It is now up to President Tinubu to carry on the fight. But does he have the aptitude and inclination for it?