THE ROLE OF RELIGIOUS LEADERS IN TACKLING CORRUPTION
God did not create a corrupt universe. Genesis 1:31 says ”God saw all that he had made and it was good.” This clearly confirms that corruption is not from God. Exodus 23:8 added that ‘You must take no bribe, for a bribe blinds the official and subverts the cause of those who are in the right.’ There is no gainsaying that bribery and corruption have become the order of the modern day in Nigeria. It therefore follows that all must fight corruption. Corruption has many faces: the harassment caused by government official; delay in granting one’s legitimate dues; the diversion of public funds for personal gains; the exploitation of natural resources for individual profit; favoritism in selection, promotion and placements; suppression or distortions of the truth; using position for personal advantage; taking inordinate advantage of public facilities; inaction or delayed action in administering justice, etc.
This essay focuses on the issue of corruption as threat to National and human security in Nigeria. It not only examines the problems of corruption in Nigeria and the implications of this for national security, but also, discusses the role of the Church in tackling corruption and reinventing the human community. In Nigeria, corruption has played a key role in aggravating the political and economic crisis besetting the country. Depreciation of human dignity and collapse of infrastructures have ensured the systematic elite misappropriation of state power, the primitive accumulation of capital, ethno-cultural intolerance and political manipulation in the society.
INTRODUCTION AND PROBLEM
The issue of corruption and national security are a matter of urgent concern in Nigeria. The problem is to determine the extent to which the problem of corruption in Nigeria has weakened the country’s national security, construed as the concern for national survival, national self-defense, the preservation of a government’s sovereignty or even the broader focus on social justice and the realization of peace and progress for those in society. We argue for the common good of an ethical community, as we stress the need for a balance between human personal responsibilities and the broader political concern for others as the basis for social existence in Nigeria. In statistical terms, reports indicate that as far back as the year 2000, not less than the sum of $198.8 billion dollars had been illegally stolen and hidden away in foreign banks by various Nigerian rulers, their families and acolytes (Aluko,2000:13). Decades after that period the corrupt practices have only intensified reaching a peak in the current dispensation. The vitiation of national security in Nigeria has been linked to the dismal lack of vision, poor management ability, and the lack of moral integrity of erstwhile regimes in Nigeria. If perhaps the estimated $198.8 billion dollars fraudulently appropriated by some Nigerians, had been diverted to the task of national infrastructure and educational development, then most of the vital social architecture necessary for the establishment and sustenance of national and human security in Nigeria, would have been in place such as efficient education, Military, Transport and Industrial systems. It becomes clear, how the national and human security of a country can be threatened by an economic crisis triggered by corruption among public officials, leading to government’s poor resource management ability. The fundamental problems confronting Nigeria have not altered significantly in the past decades. The basic problems have centered on corruption and disorder as threat to unity, security and social justice. There is a national and human security problem in Nigeria, easily seen in the inability of the Nigerian Government and the country at large, to ensure protection of its core values; its territories, infrastructure, officials, citizens, laws and institutions. This has ensured that the various governments and the state agencies have been unable to consistently and institutionally guarantee the adequate protection, peace and well being of the generality of the citizens.
TYPOLOGIES OF CORRUPTION
What is corruption? Corruption is ”the illegal, unethical and unauthorized exploitation of one’s political or official position for personal gain or advantage” (Gyekye, 1997:193). Goldstein, (1999:418) notes that corruption is a means of influence. It includes payoffs, kickbacks, gifts, bribery. Other activities classified under corruption are graft, nepotism, misappropriation of public funds, etc. These things do not all mean the same thing and their various meanings have implication for the quest for viable public ethics, and underscore the focus on the ethical regeneration of public officials. For instance, bribery means giving something to somebody in order to influence. Graft means taking wrong advantage of connections in politics. Nepotism involves some person in high places giving special favor to his or her relatives. Misappropriation means to take and use wrongly someone else’s money. Whatever the difference that exist among these corrupt practices, they have similar effects, that center around the vitiation and erosion of social, economic, moral and political life. Political corruption involving public official is the most serious problem confronting Nigeria today. The major effects of corruption include the ‘privatization of politics in so far as this concerns the distribution of benefits from economic transactions (Goldstein, 1999:574). It makes daily life and business transactions more cumbersome, delaying economic intercourse, boosting costs and diverting energies to the concealment of private gain (Hogendorn, 1996:64-65). It leads to the abuse of power (Paden, 1997:261) and ‘deteriorating fiscal and economic management, arbitrary policy change, deficit financing, and a chronic, unrecorded leakage of funds’ (Lewis, 1997:305 & 320). Corruption leads to a blurring of the line between private and state property, erodes public trust, invites incompetence and violates the very laws and rules that African states promulgate.
What is the way forward? The state and its official need to be effective for the reasons stated below: Edelman, (1975:14) rightly holds that the large numbers of people depend on government for protection from a wide spectrum of dangers such as foreign threat, criminal threat, fuel and food shortage. All the above features are illustrative of what the government seeks to achieve, and aspires towards as the common good. The idea of the ‘common good’ is ‘attached to objects and policies that are beneficial to the whole taken collectively’ (Schochet,19979:24). If government is to be seen as a rational device for satisfying people’s needs, then it must be capable of proper operation, using the rules of good governance. Leftwich (1993:610-611) holds that the underlying features of good governance include, the accountable administration of public funds, an independent public auditor, an efficient public service, among others. The requirements of good governance, which are embodied in the official acts of social responsibility raises issues that are the core of moral and political philosophy. It raises fundamental questions about our idea of citizenship, our interests, our duties and commitments. It examines the character of our behavior especially where our actions will have an impact upon the interests, needs and entitlements of others.
THE ROLES OF THE CHURCH
The role of the church cannot be overemphasized as it pertains to anti-corruption crusade. The church has continued to campaign against this endemic virus through papal encyclicals like: Rerum Novarum of Pope Leo XIII, 15, May, 1891, Populorum Progression of Pope Paul VI, March 26, 1967, Sollicitudo Rei socialis of Pope John Paul II, 30 Dec 1987, Veritatis Splendor of Pope John Paul II, 6 August, 1993 etc. Each and all of these encyclicals devoted attention to the global problem of corruption in all walks of life and continues to invite humankind to rethink the concept of the good neighbor in the light of the gospel of love.
The Catholic Bishops conference of Nigeria some decades ago foresaw the dark shadows of unbridled corruption in Nigeria and composed a Prayer against Bribery and Corruption in Nigeria (C.B.C.N., 1997). This was in response to the colossal damage brought about by the military era on Nigeria. It was indeed a ray of hope for all who looked forward to the liberation of Nigeria. The advent of the civilian rule in 1999 was thought to be the answer to our prayer against corruption in Nigeria but this was not to be as we continued to witnessed corruption at every turn in our national life. The church did not lose hope as she continued to pray for another sixteen years and then in 2015, with the election and swearing in of President Muhamadu Buhari, we all heaved a sigh of relieve believing that the war against corruption and insecurity would yield the desired fruit. Again, this was not to be. Today, corruption under the present dispensation has assumed an unprecedented proportion and has equally been justified. We all saw the climax of corruption in the 2019 general elections, where corruption was used as a vehicle to win elective positions. This was not only an embarrassment to the Church, but constituted a scandal to the many who supported the President in 2015. We are back to the woods. Our anti-corruption fight has become a comedy of errors. The principle of separation of powers as enunciated by Baron DE Montesquieu has no place in our version of democracy. What a sick specimen of democracy we have in Nigeria. Who injected this virus called corruption into our DNA?
- Pulpit for advocacy against corruption: critical in the effective fight against corruption is the shift in anti corruption advocacy from the regular traditional approach to the utilization of the pulpit not only for gospel preaching but also for the dissemination of anti-corruption messages. This implies that the gospel would include anti-corruption messages where corruption would be considered and categorized as Sin not just a socio-economic evil.
- Pastoral empowerment for the uncompromised prophetic advocacy: The other dimension is addressing the need within the pastoral leadership for effective and uncompromised prophetic message. This entails economically empowering the pastoral activities as a way of protecting the uncompromised prophetic message.
- In -house drilling on approaches for local and international engagements: one key aspect in improving and strengthening the church in its local and international engagement in anti-corruption advocacy is to have the in-house drilling, teaching, sensitizing and schooling of ministers in addressing governance issues including corruption. Thus, before ministers are engaged in any public role, they would be made aware of this shift in the approach.
- Promoting collaboration for effective governance: as a way of strengthening collaboration, there must be the involvement of all critical stakeholders within the church in all governance issues based on mutual relationship in the administration of anti-corruption crusade. (Makhoul, 2011:94). Areas that raise controversial issues include the conduct of elections and how new leadership, when they get into power, redeploy those who did not support them. Thus, the promotion of collaboration for effective governance is recommendable.
- Integrating gender for effective collaboration in anti-corruption: Integration of gender in anti-corruption crusade is another way of strengthening collaboration. Collaboration has the connotation of two or more people working together to achieve a specified agenda for the common good of all (Dillenbourg, 1999:1). Integration of gender means incorporating the aspects of gender equality in the delivery of anti-corruption messages with other stakeholders. The purpose of integrating the gender is to balance the application so that it produces balanced outcomes for the good of all. Thus, responding to the question of gender would add value to the crusade because women are less corrupt when given positions of leadership compared to men (Transparency International, 2000). Empowered women are likely not to take bribes or put personal gains at the expense of public good (Dollar, Fisman & Gatti, 1999:1).