Against the background of the deepening crisis of the Nigerian academy, this paper undertakes a critical analysis of the intellectual dimensions of corruption in Nigeria. It argues that the incorporation of the academy, particularly its intellectual components, into the ‘corruption enterprise’ has impacted on corruption discourses and analyses – most notably the polarisation into two realms, the public and the private. This characterisation represents in itself a distinct dimension of intellectual corruption, apart from its other forms as analysed in the paper. This development has had negative implications for both state and society, particularly on their democratisation and developmental drives through the reversal and perversion of routinised academic culture of quality teaching, research and publication. Unless critical measures are taken to sanitise the Nigerian academy within a broader framework of a reformist state, the crisis of the academy being a reflection of the deepening crisis of the state, the paper submits that corruption analysis and their outcomes may not advance the anti-corruption crusade of government.
Corruption is unarguably one of the most topical issues in the discourses of the deepening crisis and contradictions of post-independence Nigeria. The level of attention devoted to it may not only be due to its rapid and unprecedented expansion to all facet of human endeavour and its menacing consequences, but also because of the seeming fecklessness of successive attempts at combating it. The problem has become so endemic that, as the present writer (Omotola 2006; 2004) has pointed out, one can begin to talk about the political culture of corruption in the country. To be sure, Transparency International, an international non-governmental organisation that is reputed for its exploits in its measurement of countries’ Corruption Perception Index, ranked Nigeria as the most corrupt among the 52 countries ranked in 1996 and 1997. This could be regarded as of little significance as the country was then under the firm authoritarian grip of the military. The hope that the advent of democracy in 1999 would mark an appreciable breakaway from the past, including the country’s perennial problem of corruption, largely remains in the pipeline. Nigeria, in what seems senseless squandering of hopes, ranked as the most corrupt in 2002, the second most corrupt in 2003, and the third most corrupt in 2004 (Omotola, 2006). These findings point to the fact that the anti-corruption war has hardly made a positive impact in the country perhaps due to the depth of the phenomenon.
Although the monumental upsurge in corruption has been accompanied by a corresponding emergence and growth of academic scholarship on the subject, it is however a development that presents us with a paradox. While scholars have undertaken to unravel the causes, consequences and possible solutions of corruption, discourses on its intellectual dimensions are still far from crystallising. The result is that analyses of corruption in Nigeria tend to be undertaken in two realms. These are the public (others) and private (we) realms, the former connoting the government and characterised by strong radicalism and the latter representing essentially the academic community but not limited to it and characterised by liberal tendencies in analyses. There are, however, some notable exemptions to this latter categorisation (for example, Social Science Academy of Nigeria, SSAN, 2002; 2004). In spite of its concern, the SSAN would appear to have been mostly interested in the general theme of the governance of higher education in Nigeria, with occasional inputs on ethical issues and corruption in the ivory tower. As it rightly noted in an editorial comment: ‘Nigeria’s educational system is presently in a deep, infectious and outrageous crisis that cries, loudly and painfully, for attention’ (SSAN, 2001: ii). Ever since and even before, the SSAN has continued to devote a substantial portion of its resources to the challenges posed by the crisis of the Nigerian academy.
Against the background of this renewed concerned about the deepening crisis of the Nigerian academy, this paper critically examines the phenomenon of corruption in the academy, with emphasis on its intellectual dimensions, which seem so far to have eluded serious attention. It is this obviously yawning gap and how to fill it that this study addresses. In it, we argue that the incorporation of the academy particularly its intellectual components into the corruption enterprise, has impacted on corruption discourses and analyses most notably in the polarisation into two realms that is, the public and the private. This characterisation represents in itself a distinct dimension of intellectual corruption. Taken together, these developments have had implications for both state and society particularly with respect to its democratisation and developmental drives. Unless critical measures are taken to sanitise the system within a broader framework of a reformist state, the deepening crisis of the academy, being a reflection of the deepening crisis of the state, corruption analyses and their outcomes may not advance the anti-corruption crusade of government. In the end, it is the democracy and development agenda (which ideally should be people-centred) that will suffer. The rest of the paper is divided into four sections. The next section conceptualises intellectual corruption. This is followed by a discussion of the various dimensions of intellectual corruption. We then critically analyse the basic undercurrents of intellectual corruption. The last substantive part discusses the implications of intellectual corruption for national development, before concluding.
Subscribe to access this work and thousands more