Nigeria campaign to 'rap against corruption' fails to impress public

The country has launched a host of anti-corruption initiatives over the years, but the problem remains endemic

A social media campaign in Nigeria that urged the public to rap to raise awareness of corruption has failed to inspire the country's young people.

Critics said the initiative launched last month by the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission would have little effect on widespread graft in government.

The commission also asked people to perform a dance, drama, song or poem to raise awareness of corruption problems. It even supplied a half-decent backing track to download for a Rap Against Corruption Challenge.

Two videos, one lasting 45 seconds and the other running for one minute, were posted weeks later on Facebook and Twitter. The government banned Twitter in early June.

Musician Victor Collins submitted a 45-second clip in which he sang about corruption and injustice that has overwhelmed Africa’s largest nation.

The lyrics were influenced by the difficulties faced by Nigerians every day.

“It struck me to play the role of a Nigerian everyman or woman. For you to make your daily bread, you have to be on the move, hence me being in a car and showing the road,” Collins told The National.

“Being on the move daily comes with its own stress and struggle for survival, traffic congestion and the like. And at the end of the day, you earn nothing but crumbs, because the system is corrupt."

The commission was established in 2003 to prevent, investigate and prosecute economic and financial crimes, including money laundering and advance fee fraud.

The social media challenge has come at a time as Nigeria faces myriad corruption problems, from high-level government procurement fraud to petty bribery.

Abuse of office

Paul Mashote, a lawyer in the south-western city of Lagos, said the rap challenge was intended to help prevent corruption in the country.

But while the campaign was aimed at young people, some of those accused of crimes are in senior positions.

“The challenge is targeted to the youths, but the people this campaign should be talking to are the politicians and these politicians don't really listen to music,” he told The National.

“It is deliberately focused on the youths, some of whom engage in cyber crimes. I think the agency should develop a concept whereby the awareness is targeted at all and sundry.

“When it comes to financial and economic crimes, it should not be limited to a particular age."

But Mr Mashote said the situation would be “very bad" without the work of the commission.

“Convictions of some top Nigerian politicians have been achieved, with many who have been caught in the web of economic and financial crimes removed from power," he said.

“To be fair to the EFCC, we should give the credit to them.”

Wilson Uwujaren, commission spokesman, said it was exploring various ways to improve its public outreach.

“The rap challenge is just one effort and we are convinced it will be of interest to the youth, a critical demographic in the fight against corruption," he said.

“We also have an inter-faith programme for Christians and Muslims. Under the programme, a teaching and preaching manual has been developed and will be used by Christians and Muslim clerics in preparing their sermons.”

Integrity clubs

Other programmes include the introduction of integrity clubs in high schools across the country, to promote positive values and offer anti-corruption tutorials.

The commission also set up a Zero Tolerance for Corruption Club and an Anti-Corruption Community Development Club for university students.

“Members are all engaged to help in enlightening people in the place of their primary assignments against corruption. We have weekly enlightenment programmes on radio and television, educating the public on the ills of corruption,” Mr Uwujaren said.

“The commission equally engages civil society organisations in mobilising the people in the fight against corruption. So there is quite a lot going on in the area of enlightenment."

But it seems the call for people to rap or dance against corruption has been less successful.

The campaign has been ridiculed by some social media users, while others have accused the commission of being a tool for the ruling political party to use against opposition figures.

But social media critics have accused the commission of not being transparent in its anti-corruption fight.

Some of the criticism centres on former acting chairman Ibrahim Magu, who was suspended on July 7, 2020, after he was accused of fraud, including the diversion of recovered funds and seized assets.

Ikechukwu Cajetan, a freelance photographer, is sceptical about the commission’s anti-corruption initiative.

“When it was established, I used to have such a high opinion of the EFCC, because I believed that they stood for equity and justice,” he told The National.

“But in the last couple of years, their services haven’t proved worthwhile. They’ve been in operation for so long, yet all we see is a country wallowing and drowning in a sea of financial crimes, especially those committed by public office holders."

Updated: July 6th 2021, 12:42 PM