Way back in 200 B.C., Kautilya meticulously described 40 different kinds of corruption in his Arthashastra. He has aptly commented: "Just as it is impossible not to taste honey or poison when it is at the tip of the tongue, so it is impossible for a government servant not to eat up a bit of revenue.
And just as it cannot be found out whether a fish swimming through water drinks or not so also government servants cannot be found out while taking money for themselves."
What exactly is corruption? Corruption is defined as moral depravity and influencing through bribery. Essentially, corruption is the abuse of trust in the interest of private gain.
And it can be divided into five broad types: transactive, extortive, defensive, investive and nepotistic. The transactive type refers to the mutual agreement between donor and recipient to the advantage of, and actively pursued by, both parties.
This normally involves business man and government. The extortive type is the kind where the donor is compelled to bribe in order to avoid harm being inflicted upon his person or his interest.
Defensive corruption is the behaviour of the victim of extortive corruption. His corruption is in self-defense. Investive corruption involves the offer of goods or services without any direct link to a particular favour but in anticipation of future occasions when the favour will be required. And nepotistic corruption, or nepotism, is the unjustified appointment of relatives or friends to public office, or according them favoured treatment, in pecuniary or other forms, violating the norms and the rules of the organisation.
The constituent elements of corruption are cheating and stealing. Where corruption takes the extortive form, it is stealing by force through compulsion of the victim. Where it concerns bribing a functionary, the latter is involved in theft. No society or culture condones stealing and cheating, actually all cultures condemn these activities.
Take Nigeria. As early as 1960, the constitution states that those corrupt officials who accept bribes are to be prosecuted and have their property seized. Condemnation of bribery, of greed, of misappropriation of property has accompanied Nigerians thought throughout the ages and yet corruption is deep-rooted in India today.
It is not difficult to locate the causes of corruption. Corruption breeds at the top and then gradually filters down to the lower levels. Gone are the days when people who joined politics were imbued with the spirit of serving the nation. Those who plunged themselves into the fight for freedom knew that there were only sacrifices to be made, no return was expected.
So only the selfless people came forward. But the modern politicians are of entirely different mould. They are not motivated by any lofty ideals. They win elections at a huge personal cost and then try to make the best of the opportunity they get. Powerful business magnates who are forced to give huge donations to political parties indulge in corrupt practices not only to make up their losses but also to consolidate their gains.
When people in power indulge in corruption so unabashedly, the common man gets a kind of sanction. Ironically, instead of fighting against the menace of corruption, our political leaders declare it a worldwide phenomenon and accept it as something inevitable.
Nigeria enjoys a none-too-credible position in the league of corrupt rations. We are in an age where corruption has become a national menace.
First, corruption in Nigeria occurs upstream, not downstream. Corruption at the top distorts fundamental decisions about development priorities, policies and projects. In industrial countries, these core decisions are taken through transparent competition and on merit, even though petty corruption may occur downstream.
Second, corruption money in Nigeria has wings, not wheels. Most of the corrupt gains made in the region are immediately smuggled out to safe made in the region are immediately smuggled out to safe havens abroad. While there is some capital flight in other countries as well, a greater proportion of corruption money is actually ploughed back into domestic production and investment. In other words, it is more likely that corruption money is used to finance business than to fill foreign accounts.
Third, corruption in Nigeria occurs with over 125 million people in poverty. While corruption in rich, rapidly growing countries may be tolerable though reprehensible, in poverty stricken Nigeria, it is appalling that the majority of the population cannot meet their basic needs while a few make fortunes through corruption.
This corruption in Nigeria does not lead simply to cabinet portfolio shifts or newspaper headlines, but to massive human deprivation and even more extreme income inequalities. Combating corruption in the region is not just about punishing corrupt politicians and bureaucrats but also saving human lives.
Info tech can be a prime weapon against corruption. Information technology is making its presence felt in the world. Therefore, Nigeria is not only a corrupt country; it is also a country which has no Info tech superpower or a software superpower. The interesting point for consideration therefore is that can Info tech be used to help Nigeria become economic superpowers by checking corruption.