Judex Okoro, Calabar
The war against corruption seems to be gaining currency as religious leaders and traditional institutions have taken the fight to the grassroots.
The partnership between the religious and traditional rulers is courtesy of the Interfaith Anti-corruption Network Nigeria, Aminu Kano Centre for Democratic Research and Training Mambayya House, Bayero University Kano and the MacArthur Foundation.
The partnership comprising mostly Muslim and Christian leaders is aimed at ensuring that the grassroots are educated on the menace of corruption with a view to mitigating its effects in the country.
Delivering a keynote address at a symposium in Calabar, a university lecturer, Prof. Uno Ijim Agbor, said corruption is an anti-social behavior that bestows unwarranted benefits to the perpetuators.
Prof. Ijim attributed the problem to personal moral failure, maintaining that people are no longer committed to the Nigerian project and called for concerted efforts by church leaders as well as leaders at the traditional level to help eradicate the menace.
“Our people are no longer committed to the Nigerian project which we should all be proud of and wish people to identify with. If you are not committed to the Nigerian project, you will destroy the system and the system will begin to retrogress as we have today.
“The churches should use their platform to address the effects of corruption on the society as well as the mosques because most of the corrupt elements in the society are members of these organizations,” the scholar said.
Also speaking at the event, Bishop Emmah Gospel Isong, National Publicity Secretary of the PFN and a co-convener of the conference, said the dialogue is imperative as advocacy is key instrument in fighting corruption.
Isong, one of the coordinators of Christian Leaders of Inter-Faith Anti-Corruption Network Nigeria and co-convener of the conference, described advocacy as one of the strongest instruments for interacting and addressing the challenges of corruption.
“So, interfacing with religious leaders has given us opportunity to fish out methods and we are able to do this across board to stop the cankerworm called corruption in Nigeria.
“The Federal Government has tried its best, successive governments have tried their best, now it’s time for the religious leaders through the instrumentality of their platforms of the churches and mosques to be able to remove this cankerworm called corruption in Nigeria.
“People will change through our messages, we are increasing the content of our messages to include anti-corruption, we are improving our curricula and anti-corruption should come into the curricula of schools, we are also recommending reward system for the non-corrupt because right now, what we are practicing is that we are punishing the corrupt and not having anything for the non-corrupt.
“So, awards should be instituted, organizations should plan motivational and encouraging awards. Imagine if you are the best or win an award as the best non-corrupt journalist of the year; it is a big motivation to promote a non-corrupt free society. So we can use the carrot and stick approach, you know government is using the stick and there is not much for those who are not corrupt. So this workshop will help us to promote some of those opinions.
“We have said here that the idea of using the Bible and the Koran to swear in political office holders was to make them have the fear of God. But it is not working and has not served as any deterrence to any public officer. The more Koran and Bible they use, the more our monies is disappearing.
“So we are suggesting that they should swear to the constitution and if at all, someone must use the bible or Koran, he must adhere to what the bible says. Bible and Koran are against corruption. So using the faith based organizations, we are able to pass our messages through the pulpit because we are people that have the minds and hearts of the people. It’s easier to influence their action through our messages,” he stated.
Iman Shefiu Abdulharem Majemu, co-coordinator, Interfaith Anti-Corruption Network in Nigeria, said the Network is out to mobilise its platforms across board to help government end the menace of corruption.
“The project we are working on is combating corruption through interfaith platforms in Nigeria. So, the essence of this is to mobilise our platforms to help government fight corruption and also look at the various activities that will help us achieve this. For instance, we look at the public sector where we have engaged about 50 public office holders in Nigeria on how to end impunity that leads to corruption within the public sphere.
“We have also engaged the formal sector like the media, and government agencies to see how we can work with them to track their activities not because we want to expose them but we want to actually manage resources. We also engage with the non-formal sector like the artisans, Okada riders because we know that corruption is not about those being up there alone, but we also look inward within our societies to check the menace. In addition, we look at the religious leaders themselves because we know we have a lot to do in this regard.
“We also look at how we can scale up our efforts in our weekly sermons and teachings to reflect the religious tenets of being accountable in the society. What we are trying to do is to create a synergy, a collaboration between the key stakeholders that is the Muslim, Christian and traditional leaders to see how we can form an opinion panel that will galvanize the process of looking into the spending of government, especially budget that goes out for implementation. How can we be part of this so as to represent our people well,” he said.
Speaking on behalf of traditional institution, paramount ruler of Calabar South and Muri Munene of Efuts, Prof. Itam Hogan Itam, called for a proper funding of security institutions as well as security so that the traditional institutions could effectively play their part.
“There is a lot traditional rulers can do but remember that in the past when traditional rulers were exercising power and governance of the communities it was easier because there were certain cultural practices which were then in vogue to curb corruption, one of which we call in our language “Akata” where people go to each house within the community and identify, name and shame those who stole. That served as a deterrence.
“On the other hand, people respected and listened to the traditional rulers because of the powers they had. The traditional rulers had powers to discipline anyone within the community who was found wanting. Impunity is one of the dangers of corruption where people misbehave and then they dare anybody, greed also. All these things cause corruption and the village head before now had the power to discipline but now he does not have such powers.
“By then too, they had something to maintain themselves and were not dependent on anybody unlike today that they have to be exercising pressure on their children who are in political offices, that is the politicians, to give them money. Poverty alone can tempt one to be corrupt. Because they cannot take care of themselves, there is a tendency to overlook those who are corrupt within their societies. Government should ensure that the traditional institution is well-funded so that they can take care of the villages.
“Curbing corruption at the local level is a risky business. Therefore, the village heads need to be funded and provided security by the security agencies. We tried to curb this with the cultism where some of these people will run to the villages after perpetuating their acts, and the village chief will identify them and contacted the police. But these criminals most times come back to attack the village heads, destroy their farmlands. It’s as bad as that.”
The Paramount Ruler of Odukpani, Etinyin Otu Asuquo Otu Mesembe VI, also called for a systematic approach to end corruption as it remains the best strategy to ensure that the menace is minimised.