UTHMAN Danfodio: A Legacy Of Anti-Corruption”

A Paper presented by MR. GBENGA OLAWEPO-HASHIM, a former Presidential Candidate, at the Arewa House (Center for Research and Historical Documentation, Ahmadu Bello University, Zaria, Kaduna State), on Wednesday, 23rd February 2022

“A kingdom can endure with unbelief but not with injustice” ……. “Victory is gained through justice and defeat comes through injustice” (Othman, Vol. III, 2013:182-195)
I am grateful to the Arewa House for giving me the opportunity to speak on this important topic concerning the legacy of a Scholar, Philosopher and extra ordinary reformer, Sheikh Uthman Danfodio especially as it affects the hydra headed virus ravaging Nigeria’s social political and economic fabric-Corruption.

Nothing of recent underscores the depth of the corruption quagmire in our country as the sordid details of the alleged drug deals of the soon to be extradited top police corp DCP Abba Kyari.
This particular case is interesting because it reveals how audacious the corrupt have become in the Nigerian system.
Since Abba was already indicted on cybercrime, one would have expected him to keep a low profile as men of the underworld do in other climes, when the radar is on them. But in Nigeria, the criminals now believe that there is no government and that they can literally get away with just anything. It is not just Abba Kyari and some public officers alone that are deep in corruption, some bank owners do same through foreign currency round tripping insider abuse of the credit system and stealing of customers money through illegal charges. The young kill for money making rituals with gusto, and in some parts of the country ritualist now conduct day-time open initiation in the public glare. Kidnapping is everywhere, the goal is to extort money. Corruption is so widespread and its cost to the country is colossal.

According to Price Water Cooper (PWC), a global consulting outfit. “If not arrested by 2030, corruption will be costing Nigeria 30% of her GDP, that is 200 billion USD, a whooping N100trillion (One Hundred Trillion Naira), about seven times our national budget.
The effect of this is rampant poverty every where, illiteracy, disease and insecurity.
In Northern Nigeria, the effects are spectacular and uneven compared to the rest of Nigeria.

The world Bank estimated in a 2020 report that 87% of those that live in poverty in Nigeria are from the three Geopolitical zones of Northern Nigeria (North East, North West and North Central). The situation is more severe in the North East and North West. Also, 66% of Nigeria’s 10 million out of school children are from Northern Nigeria. The North is top too on lack of access to primary health care services, clean water and other social amenities.

In the North, there is acute disparity in income distribution. Majority of farmers and other primary producers have very low income. Attempts to escape poverty through hard-work is limited by lack of adequate social support system, as well as insurgencies that limit access to farmlands. Only few legitimate businesses are doing well and the few who make money from legitimate means are under massive social pressure as they are a few oasis in the desert of poverty. Criminal gangs make money through kidnappings, illegal taxes on poor villages and other criminal acts. Majority of the population live in fear, panic and uncertainty.

It was under similar conditions in the early 19th century that the teachings of Sheikh Uthman Danfodio caught the imagination of the poor people of Northern Nigeria and a revolution was birthed, leading to the abolition of the corrupt Sarakuna’s and the establishment of a caliphate.

Of course as a Christian, I will not be competent to speak on the religious doctrines that underpin Sheikh Uthman Danfodio’s teachings, but as a scholar and devotee of history, I am allowed to examine the Sheikh’s social and philosophical doctrines relevant to the subject matter of corruption, a menace and scourge which must now be eliminated.

I am guided too that the Nigeria state as presently constituted is multi-religious, pluralistic and democratic, with a constitution that binds all officials, establishes and regulates the functions of organs of States rights and duties of citizens and institutions etc.
Our examination of the Sheikh’s work will be done within the context of our modern and contemporary realities.

What is corruption? How did it grow in Nigeria?
Rose Adkernan, defines corruption as “the misuse of public power for private gain.
The above definition has been contested as restrictive precluding the roles of in-formalized bloating of the state (Forrest: 1986, Joseph: 1991, Lewis: 1996, Abubakar: 2001). The latter broadening of the concept expands the definition of corruption to beyond activities through bureaucratic machinery of the State to capture variants operating in the social fabric of the society.
Corruption is a Global phenomenon but in recent year the discuss has largely focused on Africa and most of the developing world where existing institutions and structures seem too weak to contain its spread and rampaging effects.
Nevertheless, historic evidence exists that before contacts with Tran-Saharan and Trans-Atlantic Trade and Colonialism, the prevalence of corruption was minimal in Nigeria and Africa as a whole
The simple reason been that in ‘original ‘ African societies the main means of production was land held by the entire community not by a few. Communal ownership ensured that every one had access to the means of livelihood. These existed side by side with family based manufacturing. The competition to own the means of production to the exclusion of the majority did not exist. Income disparity was low .

Some of the values of intergrity associated with the simple original African Lifestyles survived to the modern era. When we were children, women selling farm products left there whares by the road side while absent and indicated the price of the products by the number of stones they laid by the road side .Potential buyers bought the products and dropped the correct sums at the road side. And no one made a way with the money. All the realities of the simple intergrity of simple people with communal live styles changed with the arrival of Arab Slave traders and European Colonialism.

In the early twentieth century, the British organized conquered British West Africa in an essentially corrupt manner. Ali Mazrui has shown that the diseased mind-set of seeing government property as a booty was developed during the colonial period as the colonized rightly viewed their colonizers as foreign. It became almost a patriotic duty to steal government property to the extent thatsuch an act was considered by the colonized as an act of heroic restoration (Mazrui, 1982).

Following independence in 1960, most of the early political leaders had very austere lifestyles. Mostly transparent and disciplined political leaders such as Sir Ahmadu Bello, neither built grand mansions with public wealth, nor accumulated unexplainable wealth. That was also the standard lifestyles of Mallam Aminu Kano. A few corrupt people were in various bureaucracy of State, this was not pervasive.

The Army through a coup in January 1966 overthrew the independence government in Nigeria One of the excuses of the coup plotters for intervening in 1966 was “corruption”. From the benefit of hindsight, the first republic leaders were saints. Many decades after the murder of some of those great first Republic leaders in Nigeria no leader of comparative integrity have worked the land.
Military rule with its opaque accounting structure coupled with petro dollars worsened the corruption problem of Nigeria rather than addressing it. The corruption under military found swiss coded accounts and other foreign safe havens as convenient destinations to warehouse their loots.

Since military intervention in 1966, in politics, up to democratic restoration of the 4th republic, the second phase of oil boom induced corruption could be said to have taken place in Nigeria.

In the preceding period to the oil boom, corruption was largely agrarian in nature as agriculture continued to be the pillar of the Nigerian economy. Its contribution to the GDP was about 66% in 1950, 65.4% in 1960, and 87.6% in 1965. However, it declined to 53.2% in 1970 due to colossal diversion of funds meant for the sector and the emergent petroleum industry. With the inception of the so-called oil boom, mainly from 1973, oil revenue rose for the first time to 1.4 billion, 1.6 billion in 1974 and 4.2 billion in 1975.
The inception of democracy in Nigeria till date is the third phase of our study of the evolution of corruption in Nigeria.
Between 1966 and the now state actors in Nigeria have siphoned over $440 billion in loot from the treasury This is six times the Marshal Plan—the sum total needed to rebuild devastated Europe in the aftermath of the Second World War.

Corruption in this third phase came to adopt some typical features due to modernization of originations made during the first and the second revolutions, and most importantly, application of Information and Communication Technology. As noted by Hiresh Patel: “The boom in technology over the last economic period has acted as a catalyst for the boom in fraud. Computerisation and globalisation have made fraud easier, quicker to carry out and easier to conceal. Organised criminals in particular have taken advantage of this”.
In 1999, when President Obasanjo was sworn in as the first civilian president in the Fourth republic, Nigeria was ranked 98th out of the 199 countries evaluated by the Transparency International. While in 2000, the country was ranked as the most corrupt country on the face of the earth. It became the second corrupt country in 2001, third in 2002 and again second in 2003. The country was later ranked as the third most corrupt nation in 2004 with 50% of the corruption-taking place in the presidency. Globally in 2006, Nigeria ranked as the 121st most corrupt country. In the 2009, global corruption perception index, Nigeria dropped from its 121st place in 2008 to 130th position, out of the 180 countries surveyed.

Furthermore, unlike the Sheikh Uthman Dan Fodio, who insisted on punishing any official caught embezzling public property, state pardon of corrupt officials as witnessed under military regimes continued in the Fourth Republic. For instance, the administration of Goodluck Jonathan granted pardon to former Governor of Bayelsa State, Diepreye Alamieyeseigha who was earlier convicted of diverting the sums of £1.7 million and $250,000. More so, disclosures in 2015 shows that fifty five (55) people stole ₦ 1.3 trillion from 2006 to 2013. The break down shows that fifteen (15) former Governors cornered the sum of 146.84 billion Naira; four (4) former ministers embezzled the sum of 7 billion Naira, former civil servants both at Federal and State levels took away 14 billion Naira, while people in the banking industry ‘helped themselves’ with 524 billion Naira. On their part, businessmen carted away 653 billion Naira. Analysts have argued that the total amount stolen represented more than a quarter of 2015 budget. Furthermore, using World Bank rates and costs, it was shown that, one third of the stolen fund could have provided 635.18 kilometres of road, 36 ultra-modern hospitals in each state, 183 standard schools, built 20,062 units of 2-bed rooms houses and educated 3,974 children from primary to tertiary level at 25.24 million per child, etc.

Foreign countries also provided safe havens for looted funds. This demonstrates a forward integration policy of Nigeria’s corruption Industry. For instance, it is estimated that the majority of Nigeria’s treasury looters are worth about $6 billion. This figure is almost 20 percent of the country’s foreign reserves as at February, 2016. According to Ojodu “corruption has become Nigeria’s major export apart from oil”.

In contemporary Nigeria the mass media which played a major role in the anti-colonial struggle and the struggle for democracy appeared to have been captured by forces of corruption. Many media Houses have presented questionable awards to many state chief executives who by all standard are midgets in record of performance compared to first Republic leaders whose record of performance are un paralleled and who never received any such awards in their life times.
Therefore, the anti-corruption legacy of Sheikh Uthman dan Fodio are quite relevant to the present day Nigeria if, and only if we desire to seek any possible and meaningful change.

Danfodio’s values in politics
Values have as their subject matter ‘the ideal life and how to come closer to it.’ They can be standards or principles by which human beings are influenced in their choice among the alternative courses of action which they perceive as being open to them. In other words, the moral and ethical standard of the life of a normal human being. The leader of the Sokoto Caliphate, Sheikh Uthman Danfodio, trailing the classical Islamic philosophers, used the highest book of authority in the religion, the Qur’an, and the Hadith to explain life, proposing ethical values. The Qur’an is closely supported by the Hadith [sayings, actions and approvals of the Prophet of the religion]. For the fact that the Sokoto Caliphate scholars, especially Uthman Dan Fodio, lived a practical life as religious and political leaders, some of their ethical values centred on leadership. They explain the foundation and qualities of leadership which entails virtue, good conduct, justice, righteousness, and obligation.
The political values held in high esteem by Sheikh Uthman Dan Fodio are in three categories. These are leadership values, process values and community values. His leadership values were first and foremost justice, kindness, modesty, integrity, honesty and service to mankind. His process values included consultation, advice, obedience and privacy. Then his community value are unity and consensus, privacy of public interest, and welfare. The whole of these values can be found in the Sheikh’s idea of corruption-free government which basically and perpetually focused and based itself on accountability, representation and law enforcement.
Justice in the sense of putting things where they properly belong and thereby ensuring the harmony of the world has more than any other subject occupied the Sheikh’s thinking. Any leadership which lacks this base is doomed to fall into corruption. Let us be reminded that Sheikh’s ideology resulted from the corrupt nature of Hausaland where he was raised up. The Hausa leaders of the period were having a sway in terms of corruption.

The nature of corruption in Hausaland
The sarakuna of the Sheikh’s period were known to have been tyrannically exploitative in squandering public resources. They also overtaxed the citizens to accumulate wealth for affluence. Corruption, oppression, poverty and social dislocation were widespread. Even the peasantry were much aware of the evil taxations, nepotic appointments and the possession of kings’ corrupt items of luxury like carpets, rugs, silks, and slave boys and girls. The corrupt practices couched in the name of gifts and tributes in the land. The humongous taxes imposed on the peasantry included, but not limited to land tax, animal tax, market space tax, the corn for kings horses, the corn for king’s slaves, and so on.

Apart from the political leaders, there were classified category of venal mallams who compromised Islam and ushered in corruption. In his treatise, Manhaj al-‘Abidin, the Shehu attempted to outline some of the key factors that lead to the corruption of the character of the lama and the solutions needed to effect a lasting change. Even in terms of social relations, Sheikh fought corruption. During wedding ceremonies he distanced the walima from all forms of corruption. The walima was supposed to be a time of celebration, joy, and relaxation. Not miscreant acts and fornication which were stopped at the instructions of the Sheikh. That particular act raised the institution of marriage to a more respected status.
His quest for corrupt free society was not restricted to calls of the ruling class only, but it extended to the individuals. The Sheikh in a highly pragmatic style warned the Muslims that jihad does not need the presence of an Imam, for it really begins with the individual struggle against corruption and evil. However, because of what is of more concern to us in the present day Nigeria, let us give attention to the Sheikh’s anti-corruption legacy in state resources management.

The Anti-Corruption Legacy in State Resources Management
On the management of public resources, Sheikh Dan Fodio considered the production and material aspects of the life of the community. His government laid down principles which guided the state activities in the regulation of basic resources such as land and the means of perfecting the exchange of goods and services and making it more beneficial. The assessment of revenue and its collection is a principal function of financial management. His conception of the public treasury, therefore, actually internalised this requirement. Immediately after consolidating power, he demonstrated the importance he attached to the public treasury by appointing the community’s treasurer in the person of Ummaru al-Kammu. In addition to several pieces of write-ups on the requirements for the institution of public treasury, he devoted the whole of chapter thirty six of Bayan Wujub al-Hijra ala al-Ibaad to the issue of state revenue resources. His position on the delineation of the state revenue base is enumerated thus:
The khums (one-fifth of a war booty), the fai’ (abandoned property in the homes of warring enemies), the tax, poll tax and the tithe, an unapportion inheritance share which is determined by law, and property whose owner is untraceable.

Even in 1810 when the caliphate was already firmly established, the Sheikh repeated this enumeration. However, if an emergency arises and there is nothing left in the treasury, members of the community are under obligation to help the government with their money. The amount of their contribution will depend on their financial status, and the contribution should not become an established tax. Sheikh Uthman also condemned, in strong terms, illegal taxes and irregular imports. His indictment of the former Sarakuna regime lists a number of such imposed taxes. They included ‘what the Superintendent of the market takes from all parties to a sale ……. The cotton and other things which they take, people’s beasts of burden which the officials seize without permission. Moreover, whoever dies in their country they seized his property and they call it inheritance. In addition, they impose taxes on merchants and travellers and confiscate a proportion of other people’s animals that strays and mix up with theirs.

The Sheikh attitude to the administration of the public treasury appears to be governed by the conviction that wealth is Allah’s property and that is should be applied strictly to those purposes which He has decreed. More importantly, to ensure that those specifically mentioned as being entitled to the use of public resources did not, because of their positions, appropriate more than their reasonable requirements, the Sheikh adduced a further opinion. This drove home the point that contrary to any feeling which people in power may have to the effect that any person could be given from the state treasury any amount over and above what is sufficient for him, it should be noted that:
…no Muslim should draw from the state treasury more than what he needs when the state treasury contains no more than sufficient for those who are entitled to it, as in the case of the present day. If a man takes more than what he is in need of, he must keep it aside for those who deserve it and return it. …In the same way, anyone who has sufficient for his basic needs without help from the state treasury, should take nothing from the treasury.

The delineation of the principles and institutions in Sheikh Uthman Danfodio’s intellectual works have provided a reasonably clear idea of the types of revenues recognised as valid sources of wealth for the public treasury, the purpose for which it was legitimate to use the and the framework deemed appropriate for the proper management and application of those resources. The caliphate created the machinery for the collection and custody of the revenue. It also varied the revenue sources in order to cope with the changing situation and the realities of their circumstances. The narratives have also suggested the main purpose for which the caliphate leadership used the treasury purchase to buy weapons, and military gear, remunerations for officials and their supporting staff, and also aid to the needy and destitute.

It is recorded in history that at a time the Wazirin Sokoto promoted Qur’anic education and supported scholars and teachers to instruct their circles and students in the Qur’anic and Islamic sciences. He also looked after any stranger, orphan or destitute who appeal to the Amiyrul mu’miniyn. Gidado, another official was in the habit of going round to see if there is anyone who was hungry or in need of clothing, or whose house needed repairs so as to have things put right.

On regulation of commerce, the Sokoto caliphate through the legacy of Sheikh Uthman Dan Fodio identifies with the purposes of the state and the scope of government’s responsibilities for social affairs. It established and supervised markets, supported agriculture, created jobs, introduced new crafts and industries and generally ordered and regulated the economic life of the community. The underlying justification for all these, especially according to Muhammad Bello, one of the sons of the sheikh and also the first successor of the throne, was the conviction that this was one of the principal means of ensuring the harmony of the world, and therefore the well-being of the society. Sheikh shows concern for issues of commerce and trade as manifest in his Kitab al-Farq and Siraj al-Ikwan. His government strived and reform markets. He criticised the illegal transactions that used to take place in markets both for their injustice and negative effect on trade and commerce. He stressed the obligation of authorities to supervise and regulate scales and measures. Xxxxxx

Xxxxxxxxxx in addition to specifying the types of resources of revenue, there was a comprehensively detailed description of unacceptable oppressive exactions. These included property acquired illegally, payments made for the purpose of obtaining appointments to an office, gifts from the common people to the caliphate officers, properties collected from thieves (which must be deposited in the treasury), unspecified tolls and tithes.
In the Caliphate, the manner and purpose of spending public resources was prudent. Beginning with the zakatul fitri, (food items collected after the Ramadhan fasting) it is stipulated that:
It shall only go to the needy and poor. It should be shared out within the area of collection….provided that there is someone who is entitled to it; otherwise it should be taken to the nearest place where those entitled to it are found. The rest should be transferred to where it is needed most. Its custodian shall not be given anything out of it.
Regarding the property and land tax, it was the revenue used to pay judges, scholars and residents to the territory where the property was located. However, there is an exception in the case of those who needed it much more than the residents. It has been established that some portion will have to be transferred to them. In fact, where the need of those living outside the area of collection was more critical, the larger part was transferred to them.
The other important matters on which the leader was to spend a portion of the revenue obtained from property and land tax were defence, wages and social welfare. Therefore, the traditional manner of applying revenues obtained through land tax in the caliphate was;

Building a barrier in the form of fortress against the enemy, and then purchasing military equipment. The leader will then pay the allowances of scholars, the judges, the prayer callers and any person employed to take charge of anything in the interest of the community. After that he will pay the indigent their allowances … on the basis of the amount they need and nature of their want. If the money is more than enough, the surplus will be kept in the treasury for what may possibly occurring form of calamity; or for building mosques, or freeing captives, or settling debts, or assisting bachelors to get married, or helping the pilgrims, or for any other purpose which may possibly arise.

Apart from the centre, the provinces of the Sheikh’s caliphate did much better in terms of prudence and accountability. The conclusion one can derive, therefore, from the nature of the organization charged with administration of the public treasury are manifold. But a certain instance is that, it is clear that beginning as a simple structure made up of the treasurer and tax collectors under the Sheikh, the system was developed and reorganised by his successors. This shows the legacy left behind by the Sheikh yielded useful fruits.
The Sheikh is known to have shown concern for commerce and trade. He emphasised the need for government to strive to reform the market. For this reason, he criticized the illegal transactions that took place in them both for their injustice and for their negative effect on trade and commerce. He stressed the obligation of the authorities to supervise and regulate scales and measures so that cheating could be curtailed. The administrative actions to fight corruption subsumed constituting, regulating and perhaps physically improving markets, desisting from confiscation, seizures and illegal taxes and exactions as well as punishing officials who commit them. That is the extent to which Sheikh Uthman Danfodio established his anti-corruption legacy.

When Sheikh Uthman Dan Fodio started his crusade against corruption, he was not alone as a cleric in history to have done this.
Most passionate clerics who drew deep inspiration for social justice from the books of the two great religions; Christianity and Islam, have tended to end up in that direction.
The reformation movement ignited by a Catholic monk, Martin Luther who nailed his 95 Theses to the door of his local church. Started a continental movement that led to reformation in Europe.

Martin Luther criticized the Catholic Church which was in the 16th century the political and religious head in Europe. The Catholic Church was church and Government owning vast land and properties. Corruption was rife under her rule, religion was abused injustice was rife. Bishops and priests who enjoyed enormous wealth power and influence sold indulgences a process which lay men were deceived that they will obtain salvation. The movement kicked off by Martin Luther started on October 31, 1517 when Luther posted his Ninety-Five Theses on the door of the castle church winterberg, Germany. His Ninety-Five Theses were quickly published and circulated throughout Germany and later translated across Europe. This movement led to the rise of protestants Christians Church and later in its secular form the separation of the church from the State. Apart from advocating reforms in the church doctrines, the reformation movement propagated puritanical view of life that promoted hardwork as a basis of acquisition of wealth.

Stop state capture by corrupt interest:
The first step towards stopping corruption in Nigeria is to ensure the forces of corruption do not hijack the elections in the build up to 2023 elections.Through the following steps by all:

  1. a.) Politicians with prima-facie cases of corruption established against them should be shamed and prevented by the electorates from been nominated in the primaries of various parties and if they cannot be stopped in the primaries, voted massively against at the general elections.

b.) Every Nigerian must join in the call that appointed public officers aligned with private interests who have political ambitious must now resign their appointments to prevent the complete privatisation of the state by the novou riche.

  1. The decentralisation of Government processes to reduce corruption induced through overcentralization of power.
  2. Constitutional amendment should be done to ensure that elected public officers at the Federal and State publicly declare their assets upon election to office.Mere declaration at the Code of Conduct Bureau asset declaration forms will no longer suffice.
  3. A new policy of encouraging electronic registration of all assets such as land and house titles at state levels.
  4. A new Ethical reform campaign should be launched aimed at promoting simple lifestyle rather than ostentatious living as well as ensuring that public officers maintain simplicity in the type and numbers of cars they use, houses they live in, and ceremonies they stage.
  5. Embarking on civil service and public service reforms.
  6. Reforming Anti-corruption agencies and other law enforcement agencies.
  7. Ensuring compliance with existing financial regulations by all public officers through a quarterly audit system to be published on the website of the Auditor General of the Federation
  8. The implementation of a new wage structure that guarantees cost of living
  9. Reducing too much

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