Of the myriad of problems Nigeria faces, corruption is the biggest. And corruption is the cause of our backwardness, insecurity and underdevelopment. The collapse of the 21-storey Ikoyi skyscraper was caused by corruption. Sadly, many of the solutions devised to move Nigeria forward are based on lamentation rather than sober reflection and normative analysis. And perhaps the solutions offered have not worked because the challenges themselves have been misdiagnosed.
However, we have existing data on responses given by Nigerians on these issues. Since 2017, the National Bureau of Statistics (NBS), in collaboration with the United Nations Office, has been conducting the Corruption in Nigeria Survey. So far, two editions of the survey have been released, the first in 2017 and the second in 2019. The surveys are based on responses of more than 33,000 Nigerians aged 18 and over across the 36 states and the Federal Capital Territory (FCT). The survey is about corruption as manifested by bribery; the data contain a section named: Perceptions of Corruption and other concerns. The section measures the perceptions of Nigerians on corruption relative to a myriad of other problems.
In both surveys, 13 of Nigeria’s problems were identified. Among them are ethnic conflict, crime and insecurity, drug abuse and drug trafficking and environmental degradation. Others include high cost of living, unemployment, housing deficit and lack of healthcare and infrastructure. In 2017, Nigerians regarded unemployment and high cost of living as the two pressing problems; corruption itself came third. Also in 2017, the crime of insecurity came sixth, with only a fifth of the respondents considering insecurity as the major problem of the country.
For the 2019 survey, few things changed. But unemployment retained its preeminent position as the biggest problem of the country. The second change was crime and insecurity which advanced from sixth to second in 2019. Consequently, corruption in Nigeria fell further from third to fifth in 2019. As we await the third survey by the end of this year, the Ikoyi building collapse has exposed flaws in the surveys. Engineer Sikiru Adebowale in a video clip claimed Muslim engineers were excluded from employment in the construction of the collapsed building.
Consequently, the founder of Muslim Rights Concern (MURIC), Professor Ishaq Akintola challenged the Afenifere and the Coalition of Independent Nigerian Groups, saying the video clip is an undeniable evidence of alienation, marginalisation and persecution of Yoruba Muslims by no other than their fellow Yoruba who happen to be Christians.
Similarly, a columnist, Professor Farook Kperogi also raised issue in a column entitled: Ikoyi Tragedy and Casual Bigotry Against Yoruba Muslims. Kperogi said: “The truth is that famed religious ecumenicalism and tolerance of the Yoruba people is often achieved at the expense of Yoruba Muslims.” Even the complainant, Sikiru Adebowale, felt compelled to say that 95 per cent of his friends are Christians and that he hadn’t closed off the possibility that he could convert to Christianity at some point in his life.
The silent persecution of Nigerians by some other religious or ethnic Nigerian groups is rampart according to reports gathered over decades. Some strong tribal or military groups, apart from making the Southerner fronts, thereby becoming millionaires, this makes groups vulnerable and compromising. Such contrived weaknesses can only become strong by developing the strength which he frittered away out of greed for filthy lucre.
In ancient times they used to say, men are slaves because of one man, an oppressor. Nowadays, this has been reversed. One man is an oppressor because there are many slaves. The truth is that the oppressor and the slave are cooperators in ignorance. While seemingly afflicting each other, they’re really afflicting themselves. The oppressed may only conquer his weaknesses by putting away selfishness, second fiddle mentality in accepting to be fronts. Power belongs neither to the oppressor who opposes power shift nor to the oppressed. Power belongs to God.
The underdog can only attain equality in Nigeria by lifting his thoughts above slavish, and greedy animal indulgence. For men whose thoughts are bestial could neither think clearly nor plan methodically to free themselves from political domination. There can be no progress nor achievement of any kind without sacrifice. The universe does not help the greedy and dishonest tribalist. He who would accomplish much, must sacrifice much; he who would attain highly must sacrifice greatly.
Thus, as opined earlier, the Nigerian problem is misdiagnosed. Nigerians might have become docile, greedy and lazy because of decades of easy money via oil wealth encouraged by greedy military and civilian leaders. Or perhaps we’re just not up to the task, that the Wole Soyinka victory 35 years ago was a mere fluke. We aren’t as smart as the Germans after World War 11 or South Korea after the Korean war. Let the Academic Staff Union of Universities (ASUU) diagnose Nigeria’s backwardness for us. The NBS and World Bank are not asking the appropriate questions.