Nigeria: Divided By Tribe, United By Corruption By Churchill Okonkwo

A worrying trend in Nigeria today is that people consider it right for public officials of their ethnicity and religion to amass wealth through corrupt means. In the process, they are supportive of bribery in the society and encourage the crooked through their indifferent behavior. What they forgot is that as Nigerians (fortunately and/or unfortunately), we are all united by corruption. Corruption has no class, no color, no ethnicity and no religion.


People who think only about their own perk in Nigeria are the ones who are holding us down together as a society. They are the one who are quick to point out that he or she is not the only corrupt Nigerian. They are the ones that will put it to you that Dasuki is a victim of political vendetta. They are the one that wondered how much Jim Nwobodo stole. They are the surgeons that dissect everything Nigeria with a blunt ethnoreligious knife.


Despite the colossal damage caused by corruption, the narrative of ethnic sentiments aimed at protecting the corrupt political class remains ingrained in Nigerian public consciousness.  This is what I call the Ethnic-induced protectionist paradox. The question is why should we as a people continue to endorse democratization of corruption? Why are we not standing up to our kinsmen who are corrupt?


The failure of Nigerian electorate to hold their political office holders/seekers accountable in the same way irrespective of ethnicity and political ideology has allowed sentiments to rule our lives and dictate choices. Corrupt political entrepreneurs and praise singers in Nigeria therefore refer to ethnic affiliation and manipulate ethnic sentiments in an attempt to achieve political power.


It is true that some ethnic minorities are marginalized and often times schemed out of the equation in the scramble for the wealth of the nation. The marginalization of minority group in resource allocation/control, appointments has thus become a sore point around which the corrupt political elite mobilize their kinsmen by fanning ethnic sentiments. But ethnic polarization should not prevent us from condemning the vultures that are plundering the nation’s wealth on behalf of different ethnicities.


For Nigeria to be reborn there has to be a shift away from the power of ethnicity over political choice. Belonging to one ethnic group or tribe should not automatically mean uniformity in the political choice or ideology of all the members of the community. It does not also mean that we should defend corrupt members of our clan. This challenge must be faced by all Nigerians. Corruption is Corruption – no window dressing.


So, if you are interested in exposing and curbing corruption in Nigeria, the onus is on you to do that objectively irrespective of the political affiliation, ethnicity or religion of who is involved. I thus welcome the new comers in the fight against corruption in Nigeria with open arms. The rule of the game is simple: see it, say it.


Every mouth that shouted “crucify him, crucify him” when The Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) went after Murtala Nyako in 2014 should not cry foul when EFCC freezes Fasose’s account or invites  Abati for questioning.


We all clapped when Bola Tinubu was put in a “cage” by CCB over alleged corruption. We should therefore not murmur when Bukola Saraki is subjected to the same treatment by ICPC. Ever mouth that called for Jonathan’s head for liberalizing corruption in Nigeria should also call for the head of Buhari for pretending that his aides are not as dangerously corrupt as Jonathan’s aides.


In spite of its glaring negative effect on every sector of our national physique, ethnicity intertwined with corruption, has continued to shape and influence the perception of the citizenry in Nigeria since (even before) the anti-corruption crusade in this administration. It has become the stuff of organized politics and the opposing tribes becomes the most potent target in any important and trivial national political discourse.


Here is another challenge; even though elimination of the root cause of corruption in Nigeria should remain a priority, the first real step will require de-tribalization of corrupt acts. This challenge must be confronted head-on, together.  Nigerians should think collectively to resolve the issues so that not only the rich but also the poverty-stricken people are given their rights. It is not enough to blame the administration in power that appears unfavorable to your ethnic group. We should raise our voice and condemn every act of corruption irrespective of who is “in charge”.


You see, the Niger Area may have joined Nigeria, but it is fractured by ethnicity. It is well acknowledged that even though ethnic diversity gives us energy and dynamism, it remains the greatest obstacle to the survival of Nigerian nation more than corruption.


The realization that the continents are mobile and not fixed in position and the discovery of the process driving the mobility is one of the great scientific achievements of the 20th century. In Nigeria the realization that though tribe and tongue may differ, in corruption we stand is the first step towards liberation – liberation from the vicious circle of corruption that has continued to eat away the heart of the nation.


If corruption is cancerous and ethnic politics deadly, then corruption plus ethnic politics is synonymous with a morgue.


We should therefore not give potency to the sentiment of ethnicity by keeping quite when we face clear acts of corruption. Even though what Buhari’s administration is doing can hardly be characterized as a serious minded anti-corruption crusade, we should not allow ethnic factor to wreck their caricature of fighting corruption.


You can email Churchill at or follow him on Twitter @churchillnnobi.

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