Prof Shima Kaimon Gyoh
My mission to Geneva was a private, sad and painful one. Nigeria receives huge assistance in funding crucial aspects of our health services designed to be of maximum benefit to the poor, particularly in the major killers, malaria, HIV/AIDS. Nigeria’s notoriety in corruption is threatening this major source of relief for the poor.
Nigeria is not really a poor country: there is a lot of money around to steal for those in whom this type of crime is written in their genes and chromosomes. Nevertheless, our humanity should forbid any temptation to get our claws on taxpayer’s funds donated by the kind people of other countries for the betterment of the lives of the poor that we shamefully neglect in ours.
Not in Nigeria! The evidence that donated funds have also been embezzled has precipitated fury among the donors, some of who seriously considered abandoning all philanthropic work in the country. The tragedy is that such action will be of no consequence to the embezzlers, but would further deprive the poor of the relief that was coming their way.
I am full of shame as a Nigerian. The majority of Nigerians are wonderfully loving and caring people. The corrupt fraternity constitutes a tiny minority, but they are among the most influential group least expected to be unpatriotic thieves at the very top of Nigerian society: government and civil service. They have the country in a death grip, and no one hears about the good Nigerian who is in the majority. Our little mission was a private one to plead with donors to keep watch with us at this difficult hour.
We are lucky that, despite the justified anger, donors will not quite abandon Nigeria. While they effected some painful cut back in the scope of their work, the action was tempered by their appreciation of the determination and efforts of President Muhammadu Buhari in fighting corruption and they would like to rather encourage him. Meanwhile all assistance will be channelled only through international organisations as confidence in indigenous ones, guilty or not, has evaporated.
The Nigerian public must work hard to restore a measure of international confidence in our people, by fighting corruption. We know nearly all of them, and do not need court pronouncements before personal action: refuse to fraternise with them, do not accept their gifts or favours, boycott their lavish parties, ostracise the! Many Nigerians now confine their patriotism within the boundaries of their political, ethnic or religious allies. If you belong, nothing you do draws criticism, if you don’t, nothing you do is right. It is crucial that each one of us plays a role to improve this country without hurting the innocent. Nigerian public toleration of corruption is presently at an unacceptable level. We need to cut back on rhetoric and blaming others, and assume individual responsibility for improving the ethics of the nation.