Corruption As Retrogression – :::…The Tide News Online:::… – The Tide

Henry David Thoreau, an American naturalist, wrote, in his book: Walden, Or Life in the Woods (1854) that a man is a fool when he pays too much for what he wants, in terms of what it takes out of his very existence. Our own Dr Goodluck Jonathan would tell us that a man can be corrupt without taking a dime; neither should we consider any man a fool who would say that his personal ambition is not worth the blood of any human being. What we find is that human values and perceptions vary widely, and also represent levels of personal maturity or development.
It was noteworthy and instructive to see President Muhammadu Buhari exchanging pleasantries with former President Jonathan during the 59th Ordinary Session of Authority of Heads of State and Government of ECOWAS in Accra, recently; (ref. The Tide of Monday, August 9, 2021, Page 10). Obviously the concept of corruption has to do more with the state of the mind of an individual, manifesting visibly through personal integrity and empathy. Noble ideals show in the ways that an individual relates with others and also in deeds.
Vice President Yemi Osinbajo, a professor of law, was quoted long ago as wondering why Nigerians had not shown aggressive rage over the issue of corruption in the country, through protests. Nigerian masses know better than taking such pig-headed action because such protest would be dealt with in such vicious manner by the coercive agencies of state in a way to serve as a deterrent and warning. Thus, corruption as a retrogression works through the process of psychological conditioning with fear as a tool.
Origin of retrogressive movements in human history took a long process, with Scholasticism and Materialism standing out as recognisable pillars. During the Middle Ages, scholasticism was enthroned as a mass movement, whereby authority of the church fathers held sway, coupled with hollow intellectualism. The more loquacious and aggressive your disputation, the more your opinion stands as truth. The scriptures would be cited and quoted forward and backward as a weapon to silence rational personal conviction. Thus independent thinking and verification of issues became heresies.
Materialism as a worldview began as a global movement also in the Medieval era, spreading the philosophy that “only things that are apparent to the five senses are real, and that all actions, thoughts and beliefs can be explained by the movements and changes of matter”. Materialist philosophy was an effort to narcotise and hold human consciousness within the limits of quantifiable and provable issues. Thus began a regime of sharpening the faculty of perception to be “objective” in the scrutiny and analysis of issues. This system was also followed by the adoption of war of words to win arguments.
Unfortunately, the scholastic and materialist movements culminated in a rigidity and retrogression of human consciousness, wearing the cloak of an intellectual culture. Frankly, the intellectual culture gave rise to a process of large-scale and pervasive corruption whose domain of anchorage is beyond the physical or taking of bribes. Like former President Jonathan would say, a man can be corrupt without taking a dime. Corruption means retrogression or degeneration in awareness.
Stages of the process of retrogression or degeneration are many, quite slow and not easily recognisable. It begins with an increasing denseness, obtuseness and insensitiveness which manifest in a focus of attention on myopic personal interests. Then there is an absence of empathy with a diminution of the feeling of shame, which manifest in actions of ignoble nature, coupled with an aggressive efforts to defend or excuse such acts. Thus, there is an increasing culture of blustering and duplicity, leading to a widespread social anomie.
Then human perception and values become pressed into narrow and obscure limits such that there is a gross diminution of the reality of issues. With glib talks the smart fellow becomes the winner in arguments that involve deep ethical perception and evaluation. So long as issues are not brought or tabled within the framework of quantifiable and measurable indices, then a case can be dismissed as irrelevant and not deserving any further waste of time on. So the retrogressive process goes on and on.
Human institutions come handy as willing accomplices in the continual diminution of the range of human perception to purely material domain. Since there is no art to tell the mind’s construction on the face, rich garments can be worn to cover and conceal skeletons. Neither are there many people willing to take the pains and a free mind to explore and scrutinise issues or dig deeper than the surface to pick out what is real and true. Thus are we continuously deceived by ornaments, glib talks and threats.
With regards to the plundering and looting of Nigeria’s commonwealth by smart and clever persons, it becomes obvious that politics is also an accomplice in the regressive process. How else do we explain a situation where political parties in power provide protection and immunity to treasury looters as a bait to lure such exposed looters to switch camp! Such looters and destroyers of the economy, despite clever cover-ups, blusters and political protection, must reckon with Nemesis whose verdict can never be influenced by anyone.
Like cancerous growth, the ultimate purpose of corruption as a retrogressive process is the elimination of what is weak, derelict and not fit to serve as an instrument of a fresh up-building. The process is not a physically visible affair but strikes at the root of human consciousness and perception. The visible end-result, which is what we become quite obsessed about, is what cannot be eliminated or cured without addressing the root and origin. What we observe currently is the excrescence of a decayed human condition which takes various guises.
The looting or money-related aspect of corruption is not peculiar or exclusive to Nigeria alone because the phenomenon is a global one, manifesting in various countries according to their political economy. It is obvious that everybody is infected by the cancer whose root lies in human consciousness and perception, but not everybody in the same degree. The devouring plague would have its worst effect with those in the upper extreme. The virus manifests worst in policies which undermine the well-being of the masses. Thus you join the devouring system, as you cannot fight it.
Dr Amirize is a retired lecturer from the Rivers State University, Port Harcourt.
Why Kabul Goes Kaboom!
It was a sorry sight viewing on television several thousands of Afghans as they besieged Kabul International Airport, in their desperate attempts to get on board any available aircraft and flee the country after Taliban forces captured its capital city.
While there were those who struggled to climb in through some punctured jet bridges, several others clambered on aircraft bodies, reaching for whatever parts they could cling to, including the wings and undercarriages. They even held on as the aircraft taxied out of the tarmac. Of course, many fell off and sustained serious injuries. And that’s besides those clustered beneath the aircraft some of whom may have been crushed to death by the huge tyres. It was totally crazy, to say the least! Even the fall of Saigon at the end of the Vietnam War in 1975 can hardly compare to it.
About a week before this, a social media viral video had shown the now runaway Afghan President, Ashraf Ghani, in panic mode at a worship centre apparently located within the state house court, as strange explosions were heard from very close quarters. The first few blasts had forced him to rise from his squatting position. But when the kaboom! persisted, Mr. President began to pace around nervously while some of his security men hurried off to investigate.
At the end of its 10 years occupation of Afghanistan, the former Union of Soviet Socialist Republics (USSR) completed the withdrawal of its forces from the country in 1989, leaving a puppet regime dominated by Pashtun tribesmen to continue to defend itself against the US-backed mujahideen (Islamic guerrilla). Before long, the latter took over Kabul and established a government comprised mainly of Tajiks, Uzbeks, Hazaras and other ethnic minorities.
Some Islamic extremists who still wanted the majority Pashtuns to be in control of the Kabul government later emerged from the victorious mujahideen factions. They called themselves the Taliban (religious students) and, after a while, wrestled power from the minority tribesmen.
The Taliban were said to have ruled Afghanistan from 1996 to 2001, during which period they introduced stringent laws described as emanating more from ancient customs and traditions than pure Islamic doctrines as contained in the Quran. Prayers at mosques became a must for everyone with defaulters rounded up and flogged; women were forbidden to go to work outside their homes; girls schools were shut down; cinema halls, private television stations and event centres were closed; statues of living people were taken down; doctors could only examine their female patients except in the presence of another woman; and of course women must not be seen without the netted long hood called burka. The religious police were said to have enforced these rules with on-the-spot punishments, including amputations and stoning to death without the benefit of fair hearing. A lot of countries and international organisations never relented in condemning human-rights abuses in Afghanistan under the Taliban.
The US was pricked the more when the Taliban regime chose to provide sanctuary to Osama bin Laden, the al-Qaeda leader who was fingered as the brain behind the 1990s attacks on American interests in Africa and the Middle East; and even the Twin Towers in New York on September 11, 2001. Since the Taliban would not accede to its demand for Osama’s handover for trial, Washington had no choice than to deploy US aerial arsenal in support of the Northern Alliance – a group of Afghan militia forces already resisting the Taliban government. With these aerial bombardments which greatly weakened the government forces, the Alliance was able to march into Kabul in the same 2001. And so, the Taliban were defeated but surely not wiped out as they later regrouped in the remote areas of neighbouring Pakistan from where they launched the fight-back that eventually saw them retake Kabul penultimate Sunday, after 20 years.
With the ousting of the Taliban, the United Nations, at a meeting in Germany, negotiated an interim government among leaders of the triumphant Northern Alliance. Led by Hamid Karzai who was later elected the country’s president, the ad hoc regime supervised the drafting of a new constitution for the enthronement of a presidential democratic system in 2004. American troops had remained to oversee the process and also continue their hunt for Osama.
But with the killing of the al-Qaeda warlord on May 2, 2011, Washington began to consider scaling down its military presence in the war-ravaged Asian nation; coupled with the fact that the natives had begun to complain about rising civilian casualties resulting from US misdirected air assaults against Taliban positions.
According to reports, the erstwhile administration of President Donald Trump had begun to implement an agreed gradual withdrawal of US soldiers, military instructors and contractors from Afghanistan after 20 years of collaborations. Why President Joe Biden decided to rush the process was exactly what he was struggling to explain during a White House press briefing on Tuesday. He had insisted that US troops would no longer continue to fight Kabul’s war after two decades with Afghan soldiers showing reluctance to take charge.
Biden had earlier been reported as saying that the Afghan military had been sufficiently trained and possessed enough fighting men to repel any Taliban attacks in the event of a complete US pullout. But having watched the unfold situation in Kabul, many Americans across party lines now seem to know better than to believe their president on this account.
Surely, the Taliban are now in charge in Kabul with promise of a better reign, but the historical in-fighting by the country’s militia groups may mean that the Afghan capital will not enjoy any respite from the sound of explosives. In fact, kaboom! has since become a normal sound in Kabul, even at peace time.
Having said that, can we now seriously consider President Muhammadu Buhari’s fear that Africa may become the Taliban’s next attraction? No doubt, Boko Haram and ISWAP are very likely comrades for any Islamic fundamentalist group seeking expansion to Africa.
By: Ibelema Jumbo
Rapid growth and expansion of universities, both public and private ones, can rarely be described as real evidence of development. Rather, the phenomenon points towards competitiveness arising from availability of surplus funds calling for investment. Rapid growth of tertiary institutions which does not translate into a rapidly expanding economy can result in an overproduction of unemployable graduates. A historical event known as South Sea Bubble, involving scrambles to invest capital for quick gains, ended up in regrets and losses. We have scrambles in education.
Thanks to the Tertiary Education Trust Fund (TETFUND) as well as availability of money from oil and gas resources, Nigeria can afford to have a rapid growth of tertiary institutions. Apart from the federal government taking the lead, state governments and private organisations and individuals are investing rapidly in establishing universities. Despite stringent conditions required for establishing a private university, there are many applications for approvals to do so. Yearly, a large number of Nigerians apply for university admission.
With jobs hardly available after graduation, many Nigerian graduates go back to university for further studies. Consequently, the number of Nigerians with postgraduate degrees rises higher every year, including Ph.D holders, some of who now teach in public and private primary schools. The situation has become such that some of the women who sell “bole and fish” by the roadsides, may be holders of post-graduate degrees. Can we not say that there are lots of unemployable graduates in Nigeria currently?
A vital phenomenon or truth about academic learning is that knowledge which is not applied, refreshed and reinforced regularly, soon goes into a state of atrophy. Therefore, having a university certificate a few years ago is not same thing as having knowledge of current value and relevance, in spite of what the certificate testifies. Knowledge and skill can become stale, obsolete and irrelevant when not utilised, updated and challenged for validity.
Current trends in education of value and relevance include activity-based experiential learning, skill competence, on-the-job training and orientation, coupled with some aptitude and proficiency tests. It is not difficult to identify serious, diligent and creative people looking for jobs or admission into some institutions. Little and insignificant things which people do or say in casual manners can reveal real character and capacity. But in a situation where patronage and sponsorship take the place of impartial and impersonal testing and selecting process, then corruption destroys what it takes to select best candidates.
The result of a faulty and corrupt system of screening and evaluation is usually the enthronement of fake certification and an unproductive economy. Advanced and productive countries apply the true principles and ideals of bureaucracy which demand impartiality and impersonality in selecting and staffing activities. It takes such reliable, transparent and just process to be able to install an efficient, effective and sustainable public bureaucracy. Thus, a vibrant and strong economy would not condone indolence, laxity or low productive capacity. Similarly, “sorting” in the school system would carry severe penalty.
Absence of diligence and seriousness at work often reflect in the value of a nation’s currency and monetary system. In serious economies, employees work diligently to be able to keep their jobs, such that vibrant workforce produces a vibrant economy. Industrial policies of downsizing and closures are not only intended to revamp and strengthen the economy, but also serve as means of capacity-building and waste-reduction. Organisations and nations where unproductive workers are protected, pampered and promoted run the risk of closing down.
Crisis in the Nigerian education sector is largely the crisis of sustainability. To say that All’s Well That Ends Well, is to say that the litmus test of any undertaking is the end-result, joyful or sad. It is not enough to have hundreds of universities and produce millions of graduates; neither is it ideal to become obsessed with high-sounding certificates as we are in Nigeria. There is a need for some shifts away from prevailing euphoria and trends towards enhanced productivity and creativity, whereby an educated individual must be a role model.
Crisis in Nigerian education sector is rooted in a copy-cat mentality, whereby personal conviction is not the driving force and steering element in what an individual does. Imitation, wanting to be like someone else, rather than who and what we are inherently, etc, manifest in various ways. To attempt to clone and fake everything cannot amount to intelligent use of ability. Nigerian students, from undergraduates to those on Ph.D programme, rarely produce anything original, but engage more in padding, cloning and compiling of bits, here and there.
Behind the condemnable activities of Boko Haram insurgents lies a philosophy of rebellion against the hollow rituals of intellectual learning and the culture of imitation. Western education and religion carry some elements of cultural imperialism from which we have not separated ourselves. To design an indigenous education system would obviously take a long time and focused leadership. Any curriculum of an indigenous nature would place emphasis on personal productive capacity and honesty.
Omereji, Ezeji, etc, as traditional names of honour give a testimony of a typical value orientation which we have estranged ourselves from. Industrial and agricultural revolutions in Europe brought about radical shifts in every sphere of life, including education. Currently, we are going through some inevital crises arising from some errors of the past, one of which is embracing Western education curriculum without modifications to suit our traditional values and ideals.
Hostility towards academic learning in some quarters arose from the failure of academic and learned giants in the society to be role models and examples to the masses. Talk about corruption, hypocrisy and sharp practices, they play leading roles; talk about conceit, arrogance, greed and avarice, the educated class are the pace setters. Then what are book learning and academic laurels for? Learning without character is hollow, neither must we glorify those who intimidate others with high-sounding academic qualifications. Does the Nigerian reward system place emphasis on productivity and creativity?
Dr Amirize is a retired lecturer from the Rivers State University, Port Harcourt.
Whether the recent ruling of the Federal High Court which stated that the state governments should collect Value Added Tax (VAT) and Personal Income Tax (PIT) will lead to a legal tussle between the states and the federal government is almost a given. Already, the Federal Inland Revenue Services (FIRS), speaking through its Director, Communications and Liaison Department, Dr Abdullahi Ismaila Ahmed, had made it clear that they would appeal the court’s decision and the Office of the Attorney General of the Federation and Minister of Justice, Abubakar Malami (SAN), may also do the same sooner or later.
Of course, it is the right of any individual or group to challenge whatever court ruling they do not agree with up to the highest court in the land, the Supreme Court, just as it was the right of the Rivers State Government to seek the interpretation of the section of the constitution that wasn’t clear to them pertaining the collection of taxes.
During an interview on national television on Tuesday, Governor Nyesom Wike, stated unequivocally that the state needed a judicial pronouncement on the issue of VAT and PIT collection that had been a controversial issue for decades. He said, “We felt, as a state, that look, states have been encapsulated. States have been enslaved. States have been turned into beggars. Every state that is broke runs to the federal government when, in the real sense, you have areas where you should raise revenue to take care of your state. Such areas have to do with collection of taxes; part of it is the VAT.
“And there has been the contention that VAT should be or is within the purview of the Federal Government and we said, let us go to court and ask for the interpretation of who actually is responsible for the collection of these taxes. And it is not just for the interest of Rivers State. It is for the interest of the entire states”.
Not a few persons have asked where Nigeria got her own version of federalism which gives so much power to the federal government while the other two components – states and the local governments — must depend on the centre for their existence and sustenance, almost turning the country to a unitary state. Some analysts argued that though it is the constitutional responsibility of the states to collect VAT and PIT; VAT law was introduced in 1993 because only the federal government had the capacity to collect them. What that “lack of capacity” means even when states like Rivers have structures and qualified personnel who have competently been handling revenue and tax-related matters for ages, remains vague.
The truth is that there is no way our federalism can be strengthened if the three tiers of government are not allowed to carry out their responsibilities as empowered by the constitution. Not too long ago, Edo State Governor, Godwin Obaseki, raised alarm over the practice of states converging in Abuja at the end of every month to share revenue allocation, saying that such convention is no longer tenable and it will continue to hinder development in the states and country at large.
Our federation is such that monthly revenue accruing from oil, corporate taxes, VAT, customs, and other levies are shared across the three tiers of government- federal, states and the local governments after 13% of any revenue made from natural resources is paid to the origin states of those resources and other deduction associated with collecting revenues is made. In line with the sharing formula, the federal government takes 52.68%, the states share 26.72% while the local governments get 20.60%. Each state gets its own share of the revenue based on a “Horizontal Allocation Formula” with a few factors put into consideration.
With the assurance of the monthly income, many states hardly look inward for other sources of income. Reports have it that up to 14 states fund at least 90% of their budget with their FAAC allocations. Agriculture, manufacturing and other economic activities that sustained the states before the discovery of oil have been neglected and what some state chief executives virtually do is wait for the month end to go for the allocation, a chunky percentage of which will be embezzled.
The Port Harcourt Federal High Court’s ruling has, therefore, presented an opportunity for the governors to know that they can actually take charge of how VAT is generated in their states and use it to develop their states. It has opened the financial door for all the states in the country to increase business activities in their areas so as to generate more VAT.
Of course, that does not mean that state governments should start breathing down the necks of Small and Medium Enterprises (SMEs) with all manner of taxes. These businesses are already groaning because of multi taxes they are compelled to pay, originating from the state, local government and all that and adding to that may be counterproductive.
There is hardly any state in the federation that is not endowed with abundant untapped resources. It is time the state governors put their personal interests behind and think of how to utilize the human and material resources in their domains for the betterment of their states.
It is, therefore, hoped that other states will file behind River State, putting politics, ethnicity or other biases behind and fight for the restoration of their constitutional rights. They should seek out other provisions of the constitution that need interpretation and ensure that is done so as to deepen our democracy and federalism. The federal government, on the other hand, is expected not only to gloss over these constitutional matters but rather let the states evolve in the interest of all and sundry.
By: Calista Ezeaku
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