• Saturday, July 20, 2024
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When Professionals binge on the food of the gods

When Professionals binge on the food of the gods

Nigerians have long suspected the presence of a ‘Deep State’ controlling their affairs. Dictionary.com defines a ‘Deep State’ as “a body of people, typically influential members of government agencies or the military, believed to be involved in the secret manipulation or control of government policy.” Other definitions add that “it is a type of government made up of potentially secret and unauthorised networks of power operating independently of a state’s political leadership in pursuit of their agenda and goals.” In Nigeria, these hidden hands appear to push agendas and goals that involve sustaining themselves with Nigerians’ blood, sweat, tears, lives, livelihoods, and destinies. Some call them demonic powers, principalities in high places, or, to be kind, ‘gods’ spelt with a tiny ‘g’.

The system of corruption in Nigeria is thought to be a product of their activities, and those whom they co-opt or otherwise accept into their networks share in their orgies, extracting corrupt money while keeping each other exempt from any adverse repercussions. Within their coded ranks are, for example, ‘lawyers who know the judges’, ‘accountants who know them at the tax office’, and ‘architects, surveyors, and developers or builders who know them at the government secretariats’. So, we have a cadre of very prominent professionals who believe they do not need to do the right things and have become immensely wealthy by eating the food of these ‘gods.’

According to spotlightcorruption.org, in the $11 billion P&ID case, “the court found that P&ID not only made corrupt payments to a key Nigerian official who helped broker the gas deal, but also colluded to cash out the profits through an arbitration that was compromised by false evidence and conflicted lawyers.” $11 billion was around a third of Nigeria’s 2023 budget, or over seven times the 2023 health budget. Another example is the construction industry; however, buildings collapse too frequently, and the lives of Nigerians are lost, with little apparent consequence for the professionals involved. According to some Nigerian researchers like Ayodele et al. (2011), 5 percent–40 percent of the cost of projects is illegally expended in bribery and corruption by high and management officials in government offices during contract award, execution, and payments. The result also showed the effects of bribery and corruption, such as building collapse, abandonment of the project, upward review of a contract, extra cost, an extension of time, and a reduction in the life span of the building.”

The consequence of mortals stubbornly fraternising with the ‘gods’ is probably best depicted by the story of Tantalus from Greek mythology. Tantalus was a king who was invited to share the food of the gods on Mount Olympus, but he abused this privilege by stealing ambrosia (the food of the gods) and sharing it with mortals. He also killed his son, Pelops, and served him as food to the gods. As punishment, Tantalus was sent to the Underworld, where he was forced to stand in a pool of water with a fruit tree above him. Every time he tried to eat the fruit or drink the water, it would recede, leaving him eternally hungry and thirsty.

The term “tantalise” comes from Tantalus’ story, meaning to tease or torment someone with something they cannot have, much like the receding food and water teased Tantalus. Our professionals, and through them, the Nigerian state, seek local and international acknowledgement and respect. Without change, this will continue to be dangled before them, only to be withdrawn by anyone coming close enough to them because the stench of their deeds forces would-be collaborators to shrink from them. Our professionals are essential building blocks of our economy. Still, suppose they are seen to be unethical and corrupt, bingeing themselves on this ‘ambrosia’, which for the ‘gods’ of the ‘Deep State’ in Nigeria is corrupt enrichment. In that case, the country will continue to be ‘tantalised’ by growth and development prospects without achieving it.

While professional associations may not be held responsible for their members’ deeds, they are accountable for failing to institute proper consequence management procedures that recognise unprofessional conduct, respond appropriately to it, and incentivize members against non-compliance. It is time we faced these associations. They need to denounce the corruption in their ranks by better policing the professional activities of their members or themselves, which will be denounced by the public. They must strengthen the regulatory aspect of their work as self-regulatory bodies. In turn, the public will support a move to make membership in a professional body compulsory for independent practice by professionals in line with codes of ethics for the professional body with a clear consequence management framework.

Are you sick of quacks enriching themselves at the expense of lives in our private healthcare facilities? Are you sick of buildings collapsing, scores of workers perishing, and no one being held responsible? Are you tired of paying for electricity, buying diesel or petrol for your generator, or creating your backup solar system? It is time to disgorge our professionals of their corrupt enrichment: our professionals have binged long enough on the food of the ‘gods’. “Our mumu don do!” Why don’t you start an integrity movement today?

Soji APAMPA is an International Corporate & Political Governance Expert. He is a member of the Free Enterprise and Democracy Network of the Centre for International Private Enterprise (CIPE) USA, and in 2020 he was invited to be a member of the WEF Global Future Council on Transparency and Anti-Corruption.