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The Efficacy of African Values and Traditional Systems in The Fight Against Corruption – by Israel Sajini

The Efficacy of African Values and Traditional Systems in The Fight Against Corruption – by Israel Sajini

The Efficacy of African Values and Traditional Systems in The Fight Against Corruption

Corruption is a social disorder which gives its perpetrators dishonest privileges. It is always not in line with the moral principles of the society, and it is most likely to impede the Government’s ability to meet the needs of the populace. Corruption has led to stagnation and retardation in all sectors of the nation. Forms of corruption include bribery, extortion, cronyism, nepotism, parochialism, patronage, influence peddling, graft, and embezzlement.

Today, corruption has become the insignia of the average Nigerian politician. It is most times tomb embellished as “settlement.” The problem is not totally the people, but the loopholes in the bureaucratic systems created by the colonialists that were intended to keep us in perpetual servitude (Neo-colonialism). Most of the corrupt practices taking place in Nigeria, has Western companies, IMF and other western organizations as beneficiaries. They give out heavy loans with high interest to politicians which is then embezzled by the politicians. The accruing interest and outstanding loans will later be paid from the National purse, resources that would have been used to develop the country. Since independence, it is estimated that over $600billion have been misappropriated (All Africa 2019).

Prior to the arrival of colonialism, corruption was alien to the African traditional systems which was founded on strong spiritual and ethical values that ensured a strong judicial system based on equity and development. Most corrupt practices infiltrated the society with the drift from communal living to individualistic mentality that was sponsored by colonialism. Communal lifestyle places the society as priority and any action that was detrimental to cooperate existence was discouraged. While the individualistic mentality entailed putting your gratification first. This makes individuals perceive themselves as supreme, independent, and self-governing. The subsequent trend has caused many, especially urban dwellers, severe ties with their extended family. The severance with not enough strength to stand alone, and nobody to be accountable to has overseen increased greed, aggrandized crime rates, anarchy etc as opposed to pre-colonial times.

Those days, the consequence of deviance was a bad reputation which did limit your chances of thriving as the society was greatly interwoven. Traditional education placed more emphasis on Character.

This individualistic mentality is what has fuelled corruption. A lot of politicians divert public funds to gratify themselves without thinking of the society. Colonialism ushered in corruption and if we are to successfully combat it, we cannot use the same mentality that created the problem to solve it. This is more so in view of the fact that the fight against corruption in Nigeria for instance and most African nations tends the mimic styles and techniques of the western bureaucratic systems, and from all indications these techniques and systems has yielded little or no result as corruption has become more endemic in every facet of the society.  The argument for the need of a return to our cultures and values as a veritable tool to fight corruption is therefore necessary.

The moral decay, today, has seen the society place more value on wealth, not minding how it is gotten. Songs portraying these ugly themes like “If I no make money watin I gain”, ” life is all about the money”, “If you no get money hide your face” are now topping our billboards. Songs encouraging drugs like “codeine diet”, ” science student”, and the likes are embraced. This shows the level of depravity among our youths, as what we enjoy reflects who we are. This has eroded the culture of dignity of labour. And many youths are patiently waiting for their turn to loot the national treasury.

As stated earlier the Western bureaucratic systems have been used to fight corruption in times past and is still used today. But with many legs, how much movement have we made? The traditional system if revamped will tackle corruption from its roots – moral decadence and aversion of social responsibility. Not just cutting its branches like the western system does by building long systems and punishing perpetrators.

The need for a return to some form of customary laws that met the needs of each locality is hereby advocated. These laws had kept the societies in total order for thousands of years before colonialists ever appeared on our soils. A very functional aspect of our customary judicial systems that is neglected today is trial by ordeals, divination and oath taking.

The traditional oath has proven to be more efficacious because of the ease and terror with which it discharged justice. For instance: In 2005, when Oba market in Benin was engulfed in an inferno, scoundrels made use of the chaos the scenario created to make away with valuables. Double Tragedy.

One of the chiefs summoned the chief priest of Ayelala. The Chief priest pronounced curses on miscreants and the next day, missing items resurfaced. If these measures are employed on a broader spectrum – Nigeria’s political scenarios, people would not be trading blames on National television on who benefited more from corruption during questioning. Will they have the audacity to try that before a shrine? Without mincing words, I can bet that Nigeria will recover more than it has gotten from the Anti-corruption fight in decades in just a single year.

Today, because of the powerlessness of Western and Arabic oaths in courts, people take it with impunity. Worse still, cases drag on for long until most victims die. Since many Nigerians are more scared of spiritual sanctions than being prosecuted for perjury, corruption cases should be tried in traditional palace courts.

The African culture is very rich. It balances Justice with love. Another aspect of our culture that can be exploited in the fight against corruption is the Ubuntu principle, which is defined in this words “I am because you are.” Though this principle or the word “Ubuntu” seems to have emanated from South Africa, it was the general principle practiced throughout Africa, just with minimal variations due to locations. The principle of human interdependence. That is why most Africans lived in communal settlements. Restorative justice is part of its teachings, which entails restoring and rehabilitating repentant criminals back to the society.

According to Martin Luther King Jr, “an eye for an eye leaves everyone blind.” Our traditional values emphasize re-humanizing hooligans than revenge. Most people like the young revolutionary majors of Jan 15, 1966 that tried to fight corruption by killings end up creating more chaotic scenarios. Just like the case of Nigeria, it resulted in tribal killings and subsequently a civil war that took the lives of close to three million people. If we are to fight corruption the African way, we should collect our stolen wealth from these politicians and not shed blood.

To curb god fatherism, a major proponent of corruption in Nigeria, we should adopt the measures our fathers used on unrepentant perpetrators of horrendous crimes – banishment. If not, crooked politicians will retire from active service and go to the control rooms where they will keep navigating the affairs of the country. If we are to end god fatherism, unrepentant looters are to be expelled from the land permanently.

When a tree is drying up, we trace it to the roots. Same goes for the society. When it starts failing, we trace the problem down to the first agent of socialization – the home. A lot of children of this generation know little or nothing about their culture and language. How many kids in urban areas can boast of moonlight tales? Those tales, songs and other fragments of our cultures carried our values and entombed them in our hearts. I can never forget the tales of the greedy tortoise and other morals teaching stories.

Today, children grow up picking disjointed ideologies from the social media and peers. Many become a mix of discordant theories. Little wonder depravity has eaten up the fabrics of our collective morality. If children are properly thought to always evaluate the impact of their actions on the community, they would grow up to be considerate adults who will lead the country with selflessness. Also, accountability should be thought to growing children. The reasons for the sanity in our ancient societies was accountability. Corruption thrives on zero accountability.

It is easier to mould a Child than mend a broken adult. Dear parents, aside work, spare time to bring up children in the African ways.

If the principles of humanity are thought and engraved into our consciousness, the politicians will not siphon things meant for the populace, because his survival is dependent on theirs. Mutually inclusive.

The public servant would not demand bribe from businessmen, who would be forced to evade taxes to keep their companies alive – short changing the revenue government makes that will in turn lead to hardship on civil servants. Life is an endless chain as our fathers recognized. Corruption cannot be tackled from the top; it starts from you and I.

The Success of the anti-corruption fight is centered on the moral transformation of the perpetrators. No matter the amount of systems and technology put in place to tackle corruption, morally depraved people will always find a way around those hitches to steal. After trying the western method for over half a century and it has failed, why don’t we go back to where we are coming from and imbibe empathy, relationality, communalism, disdain for oppression and other good values too numerous to mention. Only with this will we be free from neo-colonialism and be able to make progress.

Like Gandhi said, the power for social change is embedded in our moral and physiological will. Let us make up our minds to eschew corruption even in its most harmless form by embracing our culture of selflessness. We might never be able to return to full term communal living, but we can live with the spirit of brotherhood like our fathers lived.


This is the winning Essay of the JOJ Memorial Foundation 2nd Essay Competition Series

Submitted by SAJINI Israel

A Student of the Department of  Electrical and Computer Engineering Delta State University Abaraka Delta State, Nigeria. sajiniisrael@gmail.com