Tag Archives: Nigeria

African Migrant Women Face “Shocking Sexual Abuse” on Journey to Europe

Up to 80 per cent of Nigerian migrant women and girls arriving on Europe’s shores in Italy could potentially be sex trafficking victims, spotlighting the horrific levels of abuse and violence migrants face along their arduous journeys for a better future, according to a UN study.

In its report, “Human Trafficking through the Central Mediterranean Route” (in Italian*), the International Organization for Migration (IOM) highlights the plight of those who have been assisted by the UN agency and calls for urgent action against the “market” which are supplied these victims was well as what is called is a “growing demand” for paid sexual services.

Trafficking is a transnational crime that devastates the lives of thousands of people and is the cause of untold suffering,” Federico Soda, the Director of the IOM Coordinating Office for the Mediterranean, said announcing the findings.

“This is a theme we have been working on for years, committing to protect, prevent and collaborate with the authorities dealing with organized crime.”

According to the UN agency, over the past three years, its office in Italy has witnesses an almost 600 per cent increase in the number of potential sex trafficking victims arriving in Italy by sea. The upward trend has continued during the first six months of this year, with most victims arriving from Nigeria.

The data feeding the report was drawn from IOM operations in various parts of Italy, where staff met with potential victims of trafficking as soon as they reached the country, allowing the UN agency to develop a list of indicators that can help identify potential victims.

Described in the report, the indicators include gender (most sex trafficking victims are women); age (most victims age between 13-24 years); nationality (most are Nigerians); and psycho-physical wellness (victims are mostly silent and often “controlled” by other migrants who speak on their behalf or refuse to let them be interview by IOM).

When IOM staff identify a potential victim of trafficking, they explain to them that it is possible to access protection mechanisms and, with the victim’s consent, the staff inform the anti-trafficking helpline about the victim.

Also, if the person agrees, IOM staff provides assistance in communicating and filing a report to the investigating authorities.

“The report describes IOM’s activities in the face of this phenomenon: the difficulties in protecting victims and the main vulnerabilities identified among several cases of people who were assisted by [the agency],” said Carlotta Santarossa.

“We also wanted to tell some of the stories of people who have been assisted by IOM staff to highlight the true nature of this painful and hateful form of slavery.”

Source: Ips World Desk

Re-encountering Biafra in film archives

What personal and collective memory is evoked when we encounter films from a historical period? The discovery, in 2015, of a batch of films from Nigeria’s postcolonial and post-war history in the abandoned rooms of the old Colonial Film Unit in Lagos, led me to reflect about the possibilities and challenges that arise from it for public memorializing. Their seeming sudden presence triggered the question: What process of forgetting triggered this mass internment?

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Perhaps, the answer lies in two titles we kept encountering as we began the initial process of analyzing and documenting the cans: Shehu Umar, a film about a kidnapped boy who rose from slavery to become a sage. It is based on the title novella by Nigeria’s first Prime Minister, the late Sir Tafawa Balewa, who died in the coup staged in 1966 by radical young officers of the Nigerian army that led to the Biafran War. The second film was The Nigeria Civil War, footage shot by federal forces documenting the Biafra War.

In the 1950s and 1960s, the situation for film archiving was quite good, Nigeria was a fine example of how to organize state archives – until the Biafran War. Following the war, archival considerations quickly deteriorated. The abandonment of Nigeria’s film archives, therefore, originated in the experience of trauma: the Biafra-Nigeria war. Encountering this archive is, thus, a re-encounter with trauma, as well as an attempt to understand it, to reflect on and engage with the biography of the material, the gaps and political controversy that exists within its history. The initial response was how to present this history, the memory stored in these cans. To compensate for the lack of prior encounter with film archives, a series of films, among them Jonathan Oppenheimer’s “The Act of Killing” – about anti-communist, state-sanctioned violence in Indonesia – was screened to illustrate how remembering could be deployed, not only to excavate history and memory, but also how audiences can contribute to coming to terms with the past and negotiating personal and collective trauma.

But, there were misgivings. In a world where terrorists have staged executions, how do you watch murderers in elaborate costume enter character and stage acts of torture and killings they perpetrated? Especially, that terminal sequence when one of the murderers asked to be taken to the venue where the most heinous acts took place and, unable to endure his own memories, began to throw up. I have mixed feelings over this scene – should Oppenheimer have turned off the camera? Incidentally, the attempted coup and subsequent mass killings in Indonesia in the mid-1960s bear similarity with Nigeria’s and was separated by just a year. (Indonesia recently opened discussions on this dark past, one of the bloodiest events of the 20th century, with a public symposium.)

The question, 50 years after the start of the Biafran War, is: how could a national archive of films contribute to the practice of memory and coming to terms with the past 50 years, and events of 1967? Could this archival practice, as a site of public memory, be a beginning symbol of closure? Both my parents were survivors of the war, but they lost everything. My first experience of the act of forgetting was my father’s silence, his refusal to talk about the war.

Continue reading on Africa is a country

By Didi Cheeka

Credit picture: Daniel lam via Flickr

Nigeria’s Ticking Time Bomb

Maiduguri – In the dusty arid town of Dikwa, tens of thousands of Nigerians queue for hours in sweltering 40-degree heat for water. Fatuma is one of 100,000 people displaced in the Borno State town, the epicentre of Nigeria’s conflict. She sifts through remnants of food aid seeds, drying them out to prepare them to eat. Food is a scarcity here. Fatuma used to live on three meals a day. Today she is happy if aid agencies can provide her with a single meal.

Dikwa’s food crisis is mirrored throughout the conflict-stricken northeast, where the armed group Boko Haram has been brutally fighting to enforce strict Islamic Sharia law since 2009.

The Nigerian government launched a military operation in 2015 to flush the jihadist group out. An estimated 20,000people have been killed due to the violence. Close to 2 million people have fled their homes, including 200,000 who sought safety in neighbouring Cameroon, Chad and Niger.

The violence was the first thing Nigerians feared for their lives. Now they fear famine.

Northeast Nigeria is inching closer than ever to mass starvation. The food crisis is about to get alarmingly worse, with food security experts predicting its deterioration between now and the end of August.

Experts forecast a rise in the number of people facing crisis, emergency and famine conditions from 4.7 million to 5.2 million in northeast Nigeria. This includes 50,000 people likely to be affected by ‘famine-like’ conditions, according to the latest United Nations Global Early Warning report.

Declaring famine has serious implications for countries to step up and take action. It rings international alarm bells. But lack of access to some communities caught up in Nigeria’s conflict means the exact number of people dying of hunger is impossible to confirm. Regardless, the threat of famine draws nearer.

Armed conflict and violence are driving this food crisis. Insecurity is preventing people from farming in many areas, and restricting access to local markets. This is depleting grain stocks and pushing food prices beyond people’s reach. It’s having devastating consequences for affected families, including 450,000 acutely malnourished children.

The May to August lean season is well underway in Nigeria. This is a period when food production is traditionally low and families rely on what they have stockpiled from more plentiful times. With many farmers unable to cultivate their land for up to three years already, families have little reserves to draw from.

Inflation caused by currency depreciation is compounding the situation further. Conflict areas are experiencing prices about 150 per cent higher than in 2015, according to the United Nations.

My organization, the Norwegian Refugee Council, was forced to reduce the food basket we provide to families this month, to make up for the increased price of rice beans and millet. It’s a heart-breaking decision to make, but the alternative is to feed fewer people.

Despite the worsening food crisis, donor countries have only contributed 28 per cent of the money needed to provide the most basic humanitarian assistance this year. More visible crises like the war in Syria and Iraq garner so much international attention, there is less space for countries like Nigeria to get the same attention. As a result, donor dollars go elsewhere.

But while providing people with food saves lives, it’s only a short term solution. The crisis will only end when the conflict has been resolved, and communities can safely return to their land to rebuild their lives.

This is a man-made conflict that needs a man-made solution.

By Cheick Ba

Cheick Ba is the Norwegian Refugee Council Country Director in Nigeria, who has worked in the humanitarian sector for more than 20 years, including in Angola, Cote d’Ivoire, Guinea and the Democratic Republic of Congo.

This article was published on Ips Africa.

Credit picture: UNHCR

Educating Children One Radio Wave at a Time

Nigeria’s conflict has displaced more than a million children, leaving them without access to education. However, an innovative radio program aims to transform this bleak scenario. Concerned by the ongoing insecurity and its impacts, the UN’s children agency (UNICEF) created a radio program to help educate displaced children in the Lake Chad region.

“Boko Haram has disrupted the lives of 1.3 million children with a radical insurgency that has burned villages, displaced people, and created a culture of fear,” said UNICEF’s Crisis Communications Specialist Patrick Rose.

Now entering its eight year, Boko Haram’s violent insurgency has intensified and spilled over in the Lake Chad region, displacing over 2 million people across four countries.

The group has particularly targeted education, destroying more than 900 schools and forcing at least 1,500 more to close.

According to Human Rights Watch, at least 611 teachers have been killed and another 19,000 forced to flee. Boko Haram has also attacked students to keep them out of school and forcibly recruited students into its ranks.

Such targeted attacks and destruction have created an education gap in crisis-affected areas, especially where displaced communities have fled to.

“Short of going through and building new schools in all of those communities when we don’t know how long this conflict is going to last, we tried to develop ways that we could reach these children and deliver some sort of educational routine that will keep them at least learning,” Rose told IPS.

Created with support from the European Union (EU) and in partnership with the governments of Cameroon and Niger, UNICEF’s radio education programs serve as an alternative platform for the 200,000 children in the two countries unable to access schools.

It includes 44 episodes of educational programming on literacy and numeracy for various ages and will be broadcast through state channels in both French and the local languages of Kanouri, Fulfulde, and Hausa.

The curriculum also includes a child protection component such as psychosocial support, guiding teachers to create a space for children to share their experiences and learn how to manage their fears.

“When you have children who have been deeply disturbed by displacement, many of whom have witnessed the murders of their own families, and you create a situation in which they are expected to spend eight hours a day in a classroom that isn’t engaging at all with the reality that they are encountering outside, you get a fundamental dissonance and ultimately low engagement,” Rose said.

As part of its Education in Emergencies initiatives, UNICEF works closely with communities to identify the risks they face as individuals and schools as a whole.

In one such workshop about fears, one girl wrote “kidnappy,” reflecting the deep distress and risk of kidnapping that young girls face.

Not only does the radio program have the potential to decrease the likelihood of kidnapping as children listen from home, but it also creates a “positive” space that addresses children’s realities.

Discussions are underway with the governments of Cameroon and Niger to make radio courses certified, allowing children to receive a certification and pass the school year.

Rose called the approach to the complex crisis “unique,” as it moves from a focus on individual countries to a multi-country response.

Continue reading on Ips Africa

By  Tharanga Yakupitiyage

Biafra as memoir

In 2005, a former diplomat from the Republic of Biafra, named Godwin Alaoma Onyegbula reflected in his memoir on what being Nigerian meant to him: “I was born in this country, over seventy years ago, and know no other country better than I know Nigeria.

I have lived through colonial Nigeria, independentNigeria, Biafran Nigeria, and present Nigeria.” Onyegbula continued, “We think we have lived through [this], [as] one country, but experience suggests otherwise. It is becoming more difficult to find an ‘authentic’ Nigerian; that is, someone whose ‘Nigerianess’ is obvious, and clearly distinguishable, to himself and others.”

In the last 50 years, hundreds of people like Onyegbula who supported Biafra or fought against it have written their memoirs, ranging from small hand-printed pamphlets to thick, heavily-footnoted volumes. In various ways, all address what it means to be Nigerian in the wake of the Nigerian Civil War. In the long period of military rule that followed the end of the war, closed archives and an officially enforced silence meant that few historians openly reckoned with Biafra’s legacy.

Fiction was one site where Nigeria worked through the meanings of the war, especially in the work of well-known novelists, such as Chinua Achebe, Buchi Emecheta, Ken Saro-Wiwa, and Cyprian Ekwensi. Today the younger fiction writers, Chinelo Okparanta, Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie and Sefi Atta are helping to bring debates about the war back into public discussion.

But by volume, the most significant body of writing on Biafra is neither history nor fiction, but memoir. A vast number of memoirs on Biafra circulate in Nigeria, and only a fraction of them are available outside of the country. The topics they address vary, from fiery political screeds on the causes and consequences of the war to intimate recollections of suffering and loss. Many, though not all, are written by people who supported the Biafran side. Some blend genres, mixing rumor with recollection, and a few take liberties with the war’s plot. As Onyegbula candidly warned in his own memoirs, “biography becomes boring when entirely true.”

Virtually every important military figure on both sides wrote accounts of their lives (some, like Olusegun Obasanjo, wrote more than one). A fair number of these were ghostwritten or “as told to” someone else; penning memoirs for prominent people has become a cottage industry for Nigerian historians and journalists. The recollections of well-known figures in the war – government officials, officers, scientists and intellectuals among them – are widely read and discussed in Nigeria today.

Some are hawked in bus stations and taxi ranks, alongside self-help books and prayer manuals. The contents of one unpublished autobiography by Emmanuel Ifeajuna, a 1966 coup-plotter turned Biafran officer, generates enormous speculation about the conspiracies leading up to the war.

But what is most remarkable about Biafra’s autobiographical literature is the number of ordinary people who wrote their memoirs. Most are privately published in tiny editions, intended for personal distribution rather than sale. They contain greater moral shading than most writings on the war – far more than the records of international humanitarian organizations and foreign governments, which are quickly becoming the go-to source for historians of Biafra.

Their authors include market women, rank-and-file soldiers, farmers, bureaucrats and teachers. Deserters and small-time war profiteers wrote them too, suggesting that there is more than self-aggrandizement to the war stories that ex-Biafrans tell. Their anger is often tempered with regret, and few are tales of unmitigated bravery or heroism. As a Biafran private named Thomas Enunwe recalled of his time in uniform, “going to fight in the battle field was like going to be tied up for the firing squad.”

Continue reading on Africa is a country

By Samuel Fury Childs Daly

Nigerian schools adopt sweet potato to boost nutrition

Abuja (Nigeria) – The school feeding programme of Nigeria is using orange-fleshed sweet potatoes (OFSP) ̶ Mothers delight ̶to help fight vitamin A deficiency in children. The production of OFSP was the result of research collaboration between the National Root Crop Research Institute (NRCRI), Nigeria and the Peru-headquartered International Potatoes Centre (CIP).

Vitamin A is critical but deficient in most diets in Sub-Saharan Africa. In Nigeria, one in three children suffer from vitamin A deficiency, which accounts for the increasing under-five mortality nationally, says Michael Okonkwo, a nutritionist with the Federal Ministry of Health, Nigeria.

Olubunmi Ayoola, programme officer of the Osun Elementary School Feeding and Health Programme, told SciDev.Net last month (17 May) during a meeting to showcase the importance of OFSP in school feeding programmes that about 41,216 students in Osun state are now fed weekly on the vitamin A-enriched potato.

Edward Carey, CIP regional sweet potato breeder based in Ghana, says scientists at NRCRI and CIP conducted on-farm and nationally coordinated research projects that were completed in 2012, leading to the national release of three proven genotypes – two Orange-Fleshed Potatoes (Mothers Delight and KingJ) and one white fleshed. He adds that the hybrid varieties were officially released for dissemination later in 2013 in Nigerian states such as Benue, Cross Rivers, Enugu and Osun.

In a statement by CGIAR last month (18 May), Erna Abidin, manager of CIP’s Jumpstarting OFSP project in West Africa, explains: “Results from research revealed that one small-to-medium boiled root of most OFSP varieties can supply the recommended daily amount of vitamin A for young children and non-breastfeeding women.”

OFSP roots, according to the researchers, have a nutritional advantage over white- or cream-fleshed sweet potato roots because they have beta-carotene, and therefore their vitamin A content is higher. Cultivating OFSP on just 500 square meters of land can supply the needs of a family.

Continue reading on SciDev.Net

By Alex Abutu

Cover picture: Orange-fleshed sweetpotato in school meals to improve nutrition.  Credit: V. Atakos (CIP-SSA)

Biafra, nostalgia as critique

It was past midnight in a sleepy suburb of Guangzhou in southern China, and the loudspeakers of a restaurant were blaring highlife, upbeat but mournful:
Ojukwu has died, people of Nigeria
Ojukwu has died, people of Biafra
Ikemba [Ojukwu] has died

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About one hundred young Nigerian men were celebrating the 2014 launch of an Igbo-language highlife music album, released by one of their own — one of the thousands of Nigerian businessmen making their livelihoods by connecting factories and markets in Asia to West African consumers.

Otigba, the Nigerian highlife singer based in China, dedicated his album to “all his people living abroad” and opened the party with a light, rippling number. The song narrated a cascade of shout-outs to fellow Nigerian businessmen and the markets they work in across Asia and Nigeria, encouraging them to jisieike, stay strong. Men “sprayed” bills into Otigba’s face or slapped thick stacks of bills one by one onto his head, where they stuck momentarily on his sweat before falling to the ground.

Closing the album was a song entitled “Ojukwu,” which combined a eulogy of Chukwuemeka Odumegwu Ojukwu, the military leader of the failed 1960s secessionist state of Biafra, with praise singing for the Nigerian community in China. One young man with an “I LOVE BIAFRA” t-shirt walked proudly around the party while table conversations escalated in excitement. Obinna, an Igbo Nigerian merchant in his thirties, smiled as he told me that the increasingly loud table next to us was debating about Biafra and how it will soon return.

Otigba’s album evoked two themes of contemporary Igbo political critiques of the Nigerian nation-state: diasporic hustling and Biafran secessionism. But how does rhetoric of a 1960’s failed secessionist state in Nigeria flow into a sleepy industrial city in southern China? And how does it take hold amongst young Nigerian merchants, none of whom lived through the war themselves?

Since the 1990s, markets across the Asia and the Middle East have seen an uptick of these young, Igbo Nigerian men who carve out livelihoods by sourcing goods and importing them to Africa. While Igbos in Nigeria are generally stereotyped as a business-minded minority, many Igbos themselves narrate their entrepreneurialism as a creative and necessary response to historic discrimination and systematic exclusion from access to oil and government sectors by the post-civil-war nation-state.

Refrains like Otigba’s song appear across the towns and markets of the Global South where young Igbo Nigerian merchants congregate; small Biafran flags hang alongside Nigerian flags in shops in southern China and Dubai, banter on slow market days in Lagos often turns to political debate. Photoshopped images and memes of Biafra circulate on social media, and illegal Radio Biafra (a pirate station based in London) broadcasts crackle over the radio waves on public transportation in eastern Nigeria. Some of the most vivid mass demonstrations in Nigeria have been through massive market closures by predominantly Igbo traders in commemoration of Ojukwu’s burial in 2012 and the 50th anniversary of Biafra’s secession earlier this week.

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By Vivian Chenxue Lu

Nigeria: After Buhari…?

Secrecy creates suspicion. In the cutthroat arena of Nigerian politics, it can also reveal ambition. The ongoing silence around of the health of Nigeria’s president has done just this. For several weeks, Muhammadu Buhari has barely been seen in public. And on 7 May, he sought medical treatment in London, where he previously spent nearly two months from mid-January to March for the same reasons.

Now as then, the lack of information about his diagnosis has led to great uncertainty and speculation back in Nigeria.

On leaving, Buhari handed over the reins to Vice-President Yemi Osinbajo. But unlike in previous instances when the vice-president stepped into the constitutionally-mandated role of Acting President, Osinbajo is now only “Coordinator of National Affairs”.

[Nigeria: While Buhari’s away…]

According to Sola Tayo, Associate Fellow at Chatham House, this reduced position may be indicative of the “reluctance of the president to totally relinquish power during his absence”.

However, this has only added to confusion and questions over where the power lies while Buhari is away. Osinbajo, whose previous stints standing in for his boss earned him wide praise, may be officially in charge. But the president’s inner circle – a group led often referred to as “The Cabal” – is the most influential power bloc in the presidency and may be eager to curtail the vice-president’s growing influence.

Either way, as the 2019 elections draw closer and Buhari’s health problems continue, ambitious figures within the ruling All Progressives Congress (APC) are sensing an opportunity to position themselves favourably. The president’s absence has kick-started another cycle of intrigue, relegating policymaking and much needed debates over the economy once again.

Who is in charge?

Buhari’s presidency since he came to power in 2015 can at best be described as lacklustre. Nigeria is witnessing its worst economic crisis in a generation, unemployment is high, and there has been renewed insecurity in the Niger Delta and the east.

[Nigeria: Buhari’s southern dilemma heating up]

Buhari, a retired Major General who ruled Nigeria as a military dictator from 1983-5, has reverted to type. He has been open about his disdain for Abuja politics and has surrounded himself with a small group of family members and trusted allies from his days in the Congress for Progressive Change (CPC).

[Nigeria: The shattering of the Buhari mythology]

Influential figures such as Chief-of-Staff Abba Kyari, Director-General of the Department of State Services (DSS) Lawal Daura, and his nephew Mamman Daura, are said to be in full control of the state apparatus.

Because of this, many within the ruling APC feel short-changed. Several figures invested heavily in Buahri’s election victory, both politically and financially, expecting to have a significant role in government. But they have only seen their influence decline with the party in power.

The president’s medical leave, however, presents an opportunity for these individuals to strategise in the event that Buhari cannot continue. Several bigwigs appear to be watching developments with very keen interest.

Continue reading on The African arguments

By Lagun Akinloye

“Too Deep For Mere Outrage” – On Corruption in Nigeria

On May 27, 2015, on the eve of the inauguration of the current presidency of Muhammadu Buhari, Transparency International published a press statement meant to keep the incoming president engaged with the fight against corruption. Africa is a country publishes an edited version of emailed questions and answers between Akin Adesokan and Chuma Nwokolo, two Nigerian writers, reflecting on the pervasive nature of official corruption in Nigeria.

On May 27, 2015, on the eve of the inauguration of the current presidency of Muhammadu Buhari, Transparency International published a press statement meant to keep the incoming president engaged with the fight against corruption.

Of the several figures published in that statement, perhaps the most staggering was that “more than US $157 billion in the past decade left [Nigeria] illicitly.” Persons or companies allied to the former president Goodluck Jonathan or his wife are currently under investigation or on trial for corruption enrichment. Earlier in March, the acting chairman of the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission, EFCC, was denied confirmation by the Senate, whose president, Bukola Saraki, is on trial before the Code of Conduct Bureau for alleged false declaration of assets.

The following is an edited version of emailed questions and answers between Akin Adesokan and Chuma Nwokolo, two Nigerian writers, reflecting on the pervasive nature of official corruption in Nigeria. Author of several books, most recently How To Spell Naija in 100 Letters, and the forthcoming The Extinction of Menai, Nwokolo is the founder of the anti-corruption initiative, Bribecode. He lives in Asaba, Delta State, Nigeria, the same state to which the convicted former governor James Ibori recently returned after serving time in a British jail on charges of money laundering. Adesokan is the author of the novel Roots in the Sky, and teaches cinema and literature at Indiana University, Bloomington.

Akin Adesokan (AA): Even before I saw your Facebook post “A Cashew Dies” on Friday, February 10, 2017, I had had this feeling, of a cruel, debilitating irony, that James Iborishould return to Asaba, the city where you live. An irony because of the particular sense of the comic absurdity in your fiction as I know it. So, this convicted felon returns to your city, which is also his city, as if fate wants to try your poetic patience, or gift you with an irresistible but also confounding tale. And it should happen that youre connected to BribeCode, the anti-corruption activist initiative. Tell me that the short post has no connection in the way I’m thinking.

Chuma Nwokolo (CN): My ancestral town is Ahaba, renamed Asaba by colonists. I like to think that the real Ahaba is dead and the new city represents part of a strange alien country still coming into being. James Ibori is indeed back home to Delta State. Although the rapturous reception reported in the news took place in his own hometown in Oghara, I have no doubt that he has popular support in the Delta State capital, Asaba, as well.

AA: So, you werent thinking of this strange, alien turn of things when you wrote the blog post? Im trying hard not to put you on the spot, but Im more taken with the challenge that the news of rapturous return and celebration ought to pose to anyone who is concerned about the scale of corruption in Nigeria, and is dedicated to addressing it, as you are. In short, do you wish to comment on Bribecodesoutlook in relation to the confounding level of corruption? Not only Ibori, but others as well?

CN: I certainly do. In discussing corruption in Nigeria, we must appreciate that we have do not merely have endemic corruption, we have a pandemic on our hands. This is why a corruption conviction triggers no opprobrium from church pulpit to street corner. In tackling corruption, indignation serves us poorly. Like 17th century Euro-America embracing and defending the abomination of slavery, our public has embraced an anomaly which they perceive as essential to their survival.

The public has “normalized” corruption because government and the apparatus of state is still largely perceived as a colonial institution. We can process the legal fact of independence, but our heart ownership of state and country is still an emotional fiction. So state brigandage and the bilking of billions from a national budget does not hit the streets with the emotional punch of the theft of a loaf of bread from a trader. So we lynch the bread thief, and hail the budget brigand, “chief,” especially if he throws loaves at us as he cruises past in a stolen limousine.

This is to say that the most successful politicians operate a Robin Hood model with two defining characteristics: First, they never steal alone – they recruit a merry band to whom they bequeath power, such that, in or out of office, they control the treasury and operate a charismatic godfather network whose loyalty is cultic in intensity. In this way, the so-called developmental process of institutionalization is checkmated by the reactionary process of institution-capture. Second, they never “chop” alone, either – they are famously generous with loot and the sundry spoils of office, such that citizens who feel no sense of loss at the theft of a billion Naira from their public treasury feel doubly grateful at the “gift” of a thousand Naira.

Bribecode’s outlook is to take a systemic approach to this problem of a “post autocratic stress syndrome” that makes citizens to deify their politicians and public servants despite the constitutional sovereignty of the citizen state. Recognizing that our most egregious corruption offenders actually occupy statehouses across the land, the Bribecode introduces mechanisms that allow ruinous penalties to be enforced against them and their partners-in-crime. Without successfully instituting this mechanism, the anti-corruption campaigner is the would-be rescuer of a drowning man who is also drowned by the public he is trying to help.

AA: I get the analogy about saving a drowning man, but would you consider the proposition that the anti-corruption campaigner isnt necessarily helping the public, but is trying to fulfill his or her personal duty? One chooses not to be a thief or a robber because its not in ones nature. I wonder if this level of abstraction might be a counter to the extreme cynicism which fuels corruption in our country.

CN: Not really. In a society with endemic or pandemic corruption, an anti-corruption campaigner must act systemically or accept that his interventions are merely a lifestyle choice. An honest second class lower degree has little countervailing value in an employment marketplace awash with hundreds of first class degrees traded for sex. To stop sex for grades, you don’t merely offer your personal example of an honest degree, you act systemically in concert with others to change the system.

Another analogy is cannibalism: imagine that one were stranded on a desert island with no hope of rescue. If the only food available were human flesh, whether on day five or day fifty, most people will eventually become cannibals. Again, the solution is not the personal example of suicide before cannibalism. It is providing an alternative source of food.

Now, imagine a principled father with a daughter at death’s door, required to pay a bribe to secure a critical blood transfusion. It is the rare father that will stand on principle. Corruption is normalized at this existential crux when the request for a bribe crosses over into Extortion. Imagine further, that the principled anti-corruption crusader of your example works in what is essentially a den of civil service thieves and he refuses to take his share of the bribes that are regularly divided. Clearly he constitutes a security risk to his corrupt colleagues and has inadvertently put his life on the line. The quiet, honest path is not always the safest.

Corrupt politicians and senior civil servants do not rely on their official salaries to meet their living expenses. They therefore have no incentive to ensure that national wages are living wages. Lower down the employment ladder, millions are forced to rely on their wages, which are sometimes unpaid for 12 months at a stretch. They are thus compelled into a lifestyle of petty corruption, or “executive begging.” You might find millions of Nigerians in this category, people who are certainly not corrupt by nature, corrupted by an immoral system.

We therefore take the view that the anti-corruption crusader who is merely doing his duty in an epidemically corrupt society is doomed to failure, if his goal is to achieve any kind of change. He would be similar to “ethical” companies who pay no bribes, but are happy to hire customs clearing agents who build bribes into their professional fees. We must act systemically to change the climate that fosters corruption, or concede that we are part of the superstructure of corruption, the valve that sustains the system.

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Credit picture: Nigerian Senate President Bukola Saraki sits in the accused box during a hearing of corruption charges against him at Code of Conduct tribunal in Abuja, on September 22, 2015. Getty Images.