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Corruption, defined as one of the most heinous immoral behaviors in the whole world, is a well recognized common practice in Nigeria that trickles down right from the highest level of governance to the lowest cadre in the hierarchy of the national system.
Despite being one of the most religious countries in the whole world, with almost 100% of the population having one form of belief or the other, with more than 90% being either a Christian or a Muslim, most of the major local and international bodies rank Nigeria as one of the top ten most corrupt countries in the whole world. In fact, the Transparency International, an independent international corruption watch dog, as also re-published in English by the CNN, rated Nigeria as the second most corrupt nation in the whole world in its 2002 survey. It is acknowledgeable that this survey report has been criticized by the Nigeria government, but the fact still remains that results of many other independent surveys, including the World Bank's and World Factbook are not too different from rating Nigeria as one of the most corrupt nations in the world.
If we have forgotten every other scandal, the recent national identification mutimillion dollars scandal is too fresh in memory to forget as a true testimony how corrupt people we entrust our fate and future in are.
Even if we want to argue about the statistics because of our deep patriotism for Nigeria, or because we happen to be one of the implicated culprits in this act of corruption, the lethal effects of this heinous act against humanity on the defenseless and impoverished masses are too great for anyone with sanity to deny the existence of.
It does not take a PhD degree in economics for one to understand that corruption deprives a corrupt system the vital resources required for economic growth, industrialization, provision of quality education, provision of basic infrastructure including motorable roads, quality health care system, adequate food supply and so on. It instead burdens such economy with capital flight via embezzlement and siphoning of funds to international personal accounts to the detriment and total deprivation of the victim's economy and the well being of her citizenry. It is no surprise that Nigeria is rated by the World Bank as one of the leading severely indebted, with the lowest economy, in the whole world.
By doing critical analysis of figures and statistics, there is no reason under the sky, other than corruption and gross macro and micro economic mismanagement, for Nigeria and her citizens to be poor.
For the sake of intellectual analysis, we will compare two internationally renowned countries that we believe have some comparable characteristics in common, and yet each occupying the extreme end of the spectrum in economic and social development just because one decided to optimally utilize the available resources while the other decided to squander the available resources.
The first country is our motherland Nigeria, which is well known for corruption engendered backwardness and citizenry impoverishment, and the second one is Japan, which is well known as one of the economic prowess engendered richest country in the world. Though these two great countries may sound practically non-comparable because of the time difference in the years of their respective existence, they have important factors in common that are key to national development if optimally utilized. Both countries have about the same number of potential manpower, with a population of 127,214,499 (July 2003 est.) in Japan and 133,881,703 (July 2003 est.) in Nigeria, with the latter's land size about twice that of Japan. Surprisingly however, Nigeria has numerous advantages over Japan, including numerous natural resources, with Nigeria being the seventh largest oil exporter in the whole world, one of the most fertile agricultural land on the globe with 30.96% (compared to 12.13% in Japan) arable land, significant deposits of numerous tapped and untapped mineral resources including cement, iron ore, cobalt, coal, gold, uranium and many other discovered and undiscovered deposits, along with uncountable animal and plant agricultural products, as opposed to Japan that has little or no mineral resources to boast on, except "partially man-made" fish industry. In summary, the backbone of the economy of Japan is human resources that have been consistently left underutilized and unfunded because of corruption by the Nigeria administrators.
Despite the numerous Blessings endowed Nigeria by the Almighty God, compared to the little enjoyed by Japan, the analysis of the available statistics of the two nations is very worrisome. Nigeria that is blessed with so much has a gross national per capital income (GNI) of $290.00 as compared to Japan with a GNI of $33,550.00 using 2002 World Bank Atlas method. The population below poverty line was more than 60% in Nigeria as compared to negligible percent in Japan in 2000 estimate. Infant mortality rate was one of the world's worst rates in Nigeria at 71.35/1,000 live births as compared to one of the world's lowest rate of 3.3/1,000 live births in Japan in 2003 estimate. Maternal and perinatal mortality rates are even too gruesome to compare. Illiteracy rate was close to 35% in Nigeria, compared to less than 1% in Japan (2003 est.), unemployment rate was close to 60% in Nigeria as compared to about 5% in Japan. You can compare and contrast till eternity. You may also do your own comparison by using the World Fact Book or by visiting the World Bank's data base.
The current Nigeria external dept stands at about $30 billion dollars, with more than 30% of the national budget going into debt servicing. The destinations of these borrowed monies that led to the accumulation of this enormous debt by the past corrupt administrations that were, obviously never spent towards national industrialization or improvement of the socioeconomic well being of Nigeria and her people, but instead majority of these monies went straight into personal foreign accounts of the few at the detriment of the majority, and for our descendants to inherit the burden and debt of our unscrupulous and inept leaders.
This enormous debt, that was obviously accumulated because of corruption at the high level of governance, is persistently preventing, and will continue to prevent, Nigeria from developing.
I know some critics will argue that it is unfair to compare Japan with Nigeria. Of course, Japan is a leading world power in industrialization and technology and Nigeria is no where to be found. The question we need to ask ourselves is who and what is responsible for industrialization and technological development? Your answer is as good as mine - human being! The simple secret is that the technological or industrial development is nothing but a product of proper management and funding of human resources. As mentioned above, the major difference between the developed Japan and the backward Nigeria is prudent management of resources.
I remember vividly a common rumor that used to spread across the campus while I was a student at the University of Ife, the now Obefemi Awolowo University (OAU). Every student knew that a product of the university allegedly invented a yam pounding machine. It was alleged that the blue print of this innovation was submitted to the then Nigeria government for funding and eventual commercial production. The economically inept and myopic leaders however, allegedly refused to finance this project because they must have felt that there was no immediate self gain for them to derive from financing this innovative project. To put it more bluntly, this project was allegedly not funded because it was not assessed to be a good avenue for embezzlement by the short-sighted leaders. The blue print of this invention was allegedly exported and sold to Japan by the inventor. And guess what? It is being rumored again that the products of this invention are now being imported to Nigeria by Nigerians from Japan.
This narration simplifies how opportunity for technological or industrial development is easy to come by and easy to lose. Many great countries' leaders all over the world spent billions of dollars annually on technological spies to advance their countries and their economies, while Nigerian leaders were busy siphoning Nigerian public monies, and the monies these looting leaders "borrowed on behalf of Nigeria" from foreign creditors, to their foreign personal accounts, thereby bleeding Nigeria and her economy to death. It is simply the choice of the people that make policy decisions. The only thing ordinary masses can do, which Nigerians are doing every day all over the world, is to invent, it is the responsibility of the policy makers that control the national economy to creating conducive and encouraging environment for such invention. This is what Nigeria governments had persistently missed - leading to the perpetual backwardness of Nigeria in the areas of technology and industrialization - which is also responsible for the global backwardness of Nigeria as a nation.
Nigerian leaders take pride in announcing that they are traveling abroad for medical check-ups, using public funds, either officially or embezzled, while leaving the Nigeria medical schools and hospitals grossly not funded. These millions of dollars of the public funds spent on such wastefulness annually could have been used in properly funding the Nigeria health system for the benefits of themselves and the electorate they represent. They travel abroad almost everyday, but they never learnt from such trips. No American or Japanese public officers would spend public money so wastefully on useless health check-ups in another foreign land because they knew that they had funded their health system well enough to entrust their lives in its care. In the same vein, our leaders would use stolen public funds to send their children to study at Harvard, Yale and the likes while they kept Nigerian Universities closed down because the poor students yearned for adequate funding of their institutions.
When the Vice President of the United States needed a cardiac by-pass surgery, he could have spent the American tax payers' money to travel to Germany or Japan for the procedure, but because he believed that his government and its predecessors had invested enough in the USA health system and adequately enough for him to entrusting his life in the care of the system, he stayed right in the USA to eat a portion of the soup his government prepared for its electorate to consume. Nigeria leaders would not eat any portion of the soup they cooked for the common Nigerians that entrust their lives and futures in them, because they knew that what they were providing the people with was nothing but poison that they themselves would never risk tasting.
There were and are few exceptions though. The late General Tunde Idiagbon, may his soul rest in perfect peace, decided to be taken to a local hospital, that was a product of his administration, when he was critically ill after the alleged Abuja visit's diarrhea. He could have demanded that he should be flown to the Yale or Oxford or John Hopkins hospital, but because he trusted his handiwork, he entrusted his life in the health system he once funded. Though the result was negative, this result would have been the same in any of the so called world's leading five star hospitals if it was his time to cross beyond. This man was one of the rare Nigerian leaders who allegedly insisted that his children should study in the Nigeria educational system that his government provided for common Nigerians, when he could afford to send them to the most expensive schools in the world. This was a man that believed in feeding himself with what he cooked for others to eat.
Which ever way we look at it, corruption is a social and economic cancer that must be surgically removed from Nigeria before we can dream of enjoying any economic and sociopolitical stability.
If corruption is however stopped today, the remaining 70% of our national income, if used prudently and judiciously, is more than enough to rebuild what have been destroyed and to develop those that have been long abandoned. With average Nigeria crude oil export of about two million barrels per day, at the current price averaging $37 per barrel, (crude oil quoted price as at 1600 of March 18, 2004 was $37.75 per barrel), we are looking at a yearly income of 37x2x365 = 27,010 million dollars (or 27.01 billion dollars) as gross income from crude oil alone. Assuming that 70% of this money (about $18 billion dollars) is available for necessary expenditures per year, bearing in mind overhead costs and generated revenues from other sources, Nigeria should have enough to provide quality infrastructures to her citizens, with enough money to develop other sectors and the more important human resources, by providing quality and uninterrupted education. Using $37 per barrel as an all-year-round estimate may sound non-feasible because of the fluctuation of oil price. Even if the price is $20 per barrel, there will still be enough money to take care of basic things if the money is spent prudently. But the problem is that without exterminating corruption, this dream will always remain a mirage irrespective of how much our generated revenue is.
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