Distinguished ladies and gentlemen, I want to
begin by appreciating the Osigwe Anyiam-
Osigwe Foundation for its impact on the
development of ideas through its annual
lecture series. The fact that the themes of the
lecture series have focused on critical puzzles
bordering on human development lends
credence and justification for the sustenance
of the lecture series.
It is no doubt that an event like this demands
a lot of sacrifice financially and otherwise.
Apart from the contribution of the lecture
series to human development, it has also
unveiled the genius personality of Emmanuel
Onyechere Osigwe Anyiam-Osigwe, whose
philosophical insight is gradually finding place
in the psyche of academics globally,
particularly at a time when Africans are
determined to rewrite their own history.
The topic of discourse at this session, which is
corruption, significantly ties into my vision for
our great country, Nigeria, that we must kill
corruption before corruption will kill us. My
being here to deliver the keynote address at
today’s session is instructive on the resolve of
this government to interface with initiatives
that are fundamentally patriotic and assisting
in our path to socio-economic and political
In the last general elections, in the midst of a
number of issues upon which we campaigned
as a party, the one that gained higher
currency in the psyche of our people was that
Nigerians needed leadership that could be
relied upon to tackle the orgy of corruption in
the country.
While our programme of action identified
corruption as a very dangerous challenge that
must be curtailed if our country could ever
generate a future of hope, the issues of
collapsing educational system, diversification
of our economy, fostering a welfare based
agenda for the disadvantaged, infrastructural
development, among others, were also very
prominent in our campaign focus.
The primary attention that tackling corruption
earned in the course of our campaign and in
determining the final outcome of the election
underpins how seriously Nigerians see
corruption as a fundamental factor crippling
the progress and development of the country.
Nigerians are, indeed, convinced that except
we curtail corruption, the country will remain
in perennial regression.
It is upon this conviction of our people that
corruption poses great danger and should be
curtailed that we anchor our hope. It
underpins our assurance that the efforts of
this government in checking corruption will
yield significant successes in the final
In other words, we note that sheer heroism
cannot achieve the elimination of corruption
from our social space. What is most required
is the conviction of the populace that
corruption is an antithesis to social cohesion
and development, and must be eliminated. We
must get to a point where every Nigerian
begins to hate corruption with a passion, and
collectively determine to root it out of our
body polity.
Any effort to try to deal with corruption
without a convinced populace will end as
spasmodic, ephemeral exercise, lacking the
appropriate social impact. When we are
talking about corruption conventionally, it is a
manifestation of the human mindset. It is the
human beings that manifest corruption.
To win the war on corruption, therefore, begins
with the people accepting that there is an
error to be corrected in their lives, that there is
a need to refocus and re-orientate the values
that we cherish and hold dear. It requires
change of mindset, change of attitude, and
change of conduct.
The decision of the Osigwe Anyiam-Osigwe
Foundation to choose corruption as the topic
of discourse at this session is, therefore,
encouraging to this government, pursuant to
our vision that winning the war against
corruption requires our synergy, a
collectivisation of our resolve that corruption
must be eliminated in the social psyche of the
Nigerian nation.
Even in my earlier years in service to our
country, I had personally identified the
destructive impact of corruption. Taken from
the narrow perspective of the embezzlement of
public funds, its social consequence of gross
economic inequality alters the basis for social
peace and security.
When given the opportunity to play a leading
role in our national history in 1984, we
acknowledged that corruption is not just about
the embezzlement of public funds but that the
perversion of our consciousness and mindset
was the point at stake. This was the basis of
Indiscipline in any way and manner is a form
of corruption of the human essence. That was
why we waged campaigns against indiscipline,
and its many manifestations in the 1980’s
during my tenure as Head of State of our great
Sadly in this season, we find ourselves in a
Nigeria where indiscipline has been taken to
an unprecedented level. Th rule of law is
grossly perverted, and corruption has been
elevated to a way of life at all strata of the
society. In striving to reorder our country and
put it on the path of recovery, we have thus
identified the need to tackle corruption head-
on. In this regard, we have taken steps
towards recovering a reasonable amount of
the money that was looted or misappropriated
from public coffers. Investigations are ongoing
on public officers who served, or are still
serving, and those whose conduct are
questionable will be compelled to accept the
path of honour and surrender their loots.
As I stated recently, a good number of people
who abused their positions are voluntarily
returning the illicit funds. I have heard it said
that we should disclose the names of the
people, and the amount returned. Yes, in due
course, the Central Bank of Nigeria will make
information available to the public on the
surrendered funds, but I must remark that it is
yet early days, and any disclosure now may
jeopardize the possibility of bigger recoveries.
But we owe Nigerians adequate information,
and it shall come in due course. It is part of
the collective effort to change our land from
the bastion of corruption it currently is, to a
place of probity and transparency.
Quite frankly, the anti-corruption war is not
strictly about me as a person, it is about
building a country where our children, and the
forthcoming generations, can live in peace and
prosperity. When you see dilapidated
infrastructure round the country, it is often the
consequence of corruption. Poor healthcare,
collapsed education, lack of public utilities,
decayed social services, are all products of
corruption, as those entrusted with public
resources put them in their private pockets.
That must stop, if we want a new Nigeria. And
that was why I said at another forum that
people need not fear me, but they must fear
the consequences of their actions. Corrupt
acts will always be punished, and there will be
no friend, no foe. We will strive to do what is
fair and just at all times, but people who
refuse to embrace probity should have every
cause to fear.
Look at the corruption problem in the country,
and tell me how you feel as a Nigerian. Our
commonwealth is entrusted to leaders at
different levels of governance, and instead of
using the God given resources to better the lot
of the citizens, they divert them to private use.
They then amass wealth in billions and
trillions of naira, and other major currencies of
the world, ill gotten wealth which they cannot
finish spending in several lifetimes over. This
is abuse of trust, pure and simple. When you
hold public office, you do it in trust for the
people. When you, therefore, use it to serve
self, you have betrayed the people who
entrusted that office to you.
Again, how do you feel year after year, when
Transparency International (TI) releases its
Corruption Perception Index, and Nigeria is
cast in the role of a superstar on corruption?
In 2011, out of 183 countries, Nigeria was 143
on the corruption ladder. In 2012, we were
139th out of 176. In 2013, we ranked 144 out
of 177, and in 2014, we stood at 136th out of
174. Hardly a record to inspire anyone. In fact,
it is sad, depressing and distressing. Our
country can be known for better things other
than corruption.
In the process of trying to recover stolen funds
now, we are seeking the cooperation of the
countries were these loots were taken. Time it
was, when such nations may have overlooked
our overtures for assistance to fight
corruption. However, we now live in an era
where corruption is anathema, looked upon as
something that should be tackled head-on
because the actions of the corrupt can have
global impact.
It is to be noted that resolving the problem of
corruption transcends merely arresting and
trying people that have held public office. This
is because, to curtail corruption, we have to
reorder the mindset of all. Empirical facts
have shown that even those who are critics
today are most times not better than those
they criticize. When they are availed the same
or similar opportunities, they act likewise. In
other words, those who didn’t have the
opportunity criticise and blow whistle but
when they get into office; they become victims
of the same thing they criticize. Nigeria must
grow beyond that point, and be populated by
people with conviction, a new breed without
greed, radically opposed to corruption.
This points to the fact that curtailing
corruption might require a more broadened
social engineering. It, indeed, requires
conforming every mindset in the social order
to the moral tenets in which propriety anchors
as a way of life.
That was why in the earlier dispensation, we
saw corruption beyond the embezzlement of
public funds. We knew that a morally upright
personality, a disciplined person, will not
embezzle people’s money or betray the
confidence reposed in him after being elected
or appointed to manage any office.
We knew that due to the perversion of our
mindsets, people would rather abandon
pedestrian bridges and flyovers and run
through the traffic in very busy highways. We
understood the economic and social worth of
every Nigerian and the need to preserve their
lives; we tried to enforce compliance with
commuters using the pedestrian bridges
provided for their safety. We even went as far
as enforcing the discipline of queuing to board
buses and not the chaos of scrambling with
its attendant dangers. The people saw where
we were headed, and cooperated with us.
That effort of the past was under a military
regime, a dictatorship as it is classified. Now
we are under a democracy. The democratic
system has its benefit in the rule of law and
the fact that a man cannot be assumed guilty
until it is so determined by the court of law.
With the rule of law and its advantages, the
same could however pose as serious
limitations to curtailing corruption when the
legal system is not adequately reinforced. The
onus, therefore, is on those who run our legal
process to ensure that the corrupt does not go
free through exploiting the weakness and
lacuna in the system.
I agree with Anyiam-Osigwe that corruption is
an attitude and it is about the wrong attitude.
The problem with tackling corruption is that
when people have become used to a particular
way of doing things, even if it is not the
proper way, they find it difficult to change.
We all know that to lie is not good. But we
have a sense of justification each time we tell
lies. This sense of justification encourages us
always to do the wrong thing. It is in this
context that the mindset becomes an issue.
There is the need to bring back our minds to
the pure state of the human identity.
While changing the mindset of the people is
integral to dealing with the manifestation of
corruption socially, it is also important to heal
the wounds inflicted by the corruptive
indulgence of specific people who have been
entrusted with public positions or funds.
Thus, it is the responsibility of government to
investigate reported cases of corruption. In the
process, suspected culprits could be arrested,
detained or questioned. All these efforts would
eventually end up with prosecuting the case in
court. A government that closes its eyes to
brazen corruption loses its essence, the very
reason of its existence. Such a government is
sheer flippancy, a waste of time, moral and
sociological absurdity.
In Nigeria, it needs be said that two problems
stare us in the face. First is that our laws
need to be strengthened if we must
realistically contend with the miasma of
corruption. The second is that we must correct
the gaps in our legal system that are
exploited to frustrate the process of justice. A
number of anti-corruption cases have been
rendered inconclusive due to legal limitations.
Dealing with corruption, requires the collective
will of every Nigerian. Without our collective
will to resist corrupt acts as a people, it will
be difficult to win the war. We in the
leadership will provide the right example. We
will not pay mere lip service to corruption. We
will eschew it in every aspect of our lives.
However, we are but few, in a country of more
than 170 million people. We need the mass
army of Nigerians to rise as one man, and
stand for probity in both public and private
lives. It is only then that we can be sure of
dealing a mortal blow on corruption, which
will engender a better country.
Nigeria has been brought almost to her knees
by decades of corruption and mismanagement
of the public treasury. We must come to a
point when we all collectively say Enough!
That is collective will, and that is what will
bring us to a new state and status. If this
country will realize her potentials, and take
her rightful place in the comity of nations, we
must collectively repudiate corruption, and
fight it to a standstill. It remains eternally
true: if we don’t kill corruption, corruption will
kill Nigeria.


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