The election period draws near.

The battle for the seat of power has started.

Many politicians have declared their intention to run for one office or the other.

And once again, the ritual of campaigns has started where citizens are promised utopia, change, a better economy etc.

We have heard everything they have to say for the umpteenth time. The innocent masses will again cast their votes in hopes of a better tomorrow, only for those hopes to be dashed.

This has been the cycle of democracy in Nigeria.

It turns out that democracy is just an excuse to perpetuate wickedness, loot the national treasury, appoint greedy accomplices to positions of power and share the national cake.

Our leaders don’t think in the long term. They don’t care about the basic needs of the masses; a thriving economy, national security, job opportunities, working infrastructures and functional systems.

Corruption has eaten deep into the fabrics of our dear nation to the extent that Nigeria is ranked 149th in the world’s corruption index. Data according to Wikipedia reveals that Nigeria has lost $400 billion to corruption from their independence year up to 2012. If the trend continues, corruption will cost Nigeria 37% of its GDP in 2030, which will amount to $2000 per person.

Before we start casting the stones on obvious culprits, let us consider the meaning of corruption to understand it better.

Wikipedia defines corruption as a form of dishonesty or a criminal offence undertaken by an organisation entrusted with a position of authority to acquire illicit benefits or abuse power for one’s gain. Corruption may involve many activities, which include bribery, lobbying, extortion, cronyism, nepotism, parochialism, patronage, influence peddling, graft, and embezzlement. Political corruption occurs when an office-holder or other governmental employee acts in an official capacity for personal gain. Corruption is a pervasive sociological problem that occurs with varying degrees and proportions in virtually all countries globally, and Nigeria is no exception.

The alarming rate of corruption, lack of transparency and accountability in governance is responsible for the woes of Nigeria. Once elected into positions of power, our leaders forget their many promises of ‘Eden life’ to the masses. The worst part is that they consciously neglect their duties to enact laws and policies and undertake reforms on mandates to solve key pressing issues in society.

Instead, we see a myriad of political schemes to retain power, suppress the masses, oppress advocates and activists who speak up, misappropriate public resources, and deepen their pockets. This trend is enabled by a lack of transparency and accountability on how public resources are used to address national challenges. Aside from the numerous effects, this trend impedes progress and the generation of national wealth.

Do you know the interesting thing?

These leaders and public officers were once normal citizens like you and me. They grew up in families and communities, and they passed through the educational system from basic to higher institutions. They may not share the same life experiences as you and me, but they sure went through the same process of life.

So, what happened to them to turn them into mean public administrators once they assumed office?

The truth is, nothing changed in them. Money and power do not change a person; but rather reveal their true identity. They have always been corrupt, and they grew up in the same system of corruption.

Nigeria runs on corruption.

It is a hard pill to swallow, but it is the truth.

What do you say about the petty oil trader who mixes her oil with another substance to make it bigger so she can make more profit?

What do you say about the SUG president who promises to represent the student body and fight for their right, but immediately he is elected into power, he goes to bed with the school administration and compromises the rights of those he is to represent?

What do you say about the pastor that conditions his sermons to extort money from his members and mentally engineers their minds to remain faithful followers of his creed?

What about parents who register their children in special centres and bribe examiners so their children can pass their examinations?

Should we talk about the police officers who run the business of collecting money from motorists on the streets of Nigeria?

Or do we talk about the poor masses who sell their votes for a few cups of rice, the thugs and agberos these politicians use to disrupt elections, or the electoral officers who accept bribes to manipulate election results?

Let’s face it.

We are all guilty.

The average Nigerian is corrupt, and organisations set up to punish these corrupt practices are even more corrupt.

Corruption is more than a problem; it has become a stronghold, a system, a culture. It will take more than apportioning blames to drive real change.

What can be done?

Let’s start by looking inwards.

Let’s start with asking ourselves, “Am I a corrupt citizen?”

We cannot demand from our government what we, the citizens, are not capable of giving.

Are we tired of corruption and its adverse socio-economic repercussions in our country? Then, let’s start by making sure we are not culprits.

Business people, traders and their associations must desist from creating artificial scarcity to increase the price of their goods.

Parents should encourage their wards to study to show themselves approved instead of paying for their grades.

The police, armed forces, and any force should commit to their responsibility of national security and protection of lives and properties and desist from intimidating citizens to extort money from them.

Even the poor masses must refuse to sear their conscience and sell their votes for immediate gratification, without much thought for the future.

Everyone privileged to be in a position of power and authority should not misuse it for personal gain but must be accountable and transparent in all dealings.

If a substantial percentage of Nigerians were corrupt-free, transparent and accountable, the burden of corruption wouldn’t be this heinous, and even the corrupt ones would be fished out and duly punished by the law.

Furthermore, we must devise mechanisms to hold our leaders accountable in all their dealings. We must allow them to run around like loose cannons. Complaining on social media will not do us any good. It is time to channel our complaints to the proper authorities and through the right channel. We must demand transparency and accountability from our leaders at all levels. We must keep track of their campaign promises and demand their fulfilment. We cannot sit on the sidelines anymore. We must raise our voices in advocacy and our hands in solidarity to stem corruption in our dear country.

Next, we must teach the future generation the integrity of leadership and inculcate the pride and dignity of selfless service and stewardship.

If we want a better Nigeria, then we must begin now to lay the foundation, create the right system, and instil the right mindset in our young ones with the expectation that when it is time for them to take the baton, they will be the Nigeria we’ve always dreamed of.

Does it mean that Nigeria is hopeless and helpless as it is?

No. Not at all.

Corruption is a grassroots problem. And if we must fight it, we must start from the grassroots level to break down its stronghold, uproot the system and plant a new one.

What we do at DO

At DO, we are steps ahead in the quest to reduce corruption, if not completely eradicate it in Nigeria.

First off, the School Prefect, a Campaigning and Electioneering exercise that enables students to elect their School prefects. The goal of the project is to provide students with a foundational understanding of leadership, government and electoral process, and citizens’ role in electing the right leaders and holding them accountable.

Next is the Voters’ Demand project, an open database where citizens can submit their demands frequently. This project will see that passionate individuals or groups who care about the survival of the people in their community will take action by pledging to report issues in their community that need the attention of their representatives and government. This database would be open to the government and the general public so that government can have collections of the citizens’ needs and demands. The data collected would be disaggregated into the 774 local government areas in Nigeria.

And the last one is the Promise Tracker, a citizen-monitoring platform designed to help communities track issues they care about and use that information to advocate for change with local government, institutions, or the press. Using a simple web application, community groups can design a mobile phone-based survey, collect data using the mobile app, visualise it in maps and graphs to spark dialogue about collaborative solutions. Promise trackers leverage tech to enunciate political promises (often made during the campaign period) and then audit how the politician or party has or hasn’t fulfilled these promises while governing. The tracker scours ruling party manifestos, political party websites, and transcripts of major speeches delivered during election campaigns.

Join us in this fight against corruption by becoming a Grassroots Development Champion (GDC) and carry out any of these projects in your community.

Collaborate with us through partnerships and donations to sponsor our projects towards eradicating corruption in Nigeria.

Lastly, be the change you want to see in Nigeria. Be corrupt-free, and Nigeria might stand a chance to attain the corrupt-free status in due time.

In the spirit of the international day of conscience, let’s drop the culture of corruption and imbibe the “Culture of Peace with Love and Conscience.”

God bless Nigeria.