Corruption: Synonyms - Sleaze, dishonesty, exploitation, bribery, fraud, venality, vice.
Many of us think we know what corruption looks or is like – a state governor dipping his dirty fingers in the treasury and amassing ill-gotten wealth; an illicit deal carried out by politician; a government official or civil servant taking a cut in a deal; a policeman on the road harassing drivers, demanding and collecting bribes or a senator of the Federal Republic of Nigeria collecting bribes to push in a bill on the floor or during oversight functions. Corruption, however, is bigger and closer to home than this.
The painful truth is that corruption is everywhere. It is endemic to the country’s economy. It might be more accurate to describe it as pandemic because, like a disease, it is slowly but surely cutting off the blood supply to those who need it most – the Nigerian people, 160 million of them.
In Nigeria, every year, billions of money in Naira, Dollars, Euros and Pound Sterling goes missing through mismanagement, illicit business practices and poor governance. And the people, frustrated, helpless and totally deprived of knowledge, action, education, welfare, good healthcare, housing, food security, good roads and good governance, slump back into an abyss of hopelessness and continuing poverty. This, in a country virtually swimming in oil and many other natural resources!
There is no country or society where there is no corruption. Corruption has been with Man since the days of the Garden of Eden. It is part of us. But fortunately for Homo sapiens, corruption, just like many other situations affecting the life of Man, can be managed.
Some species of Homo sapiens have, over the centuries; devised ways of managing many areas of their lives on Planet Earth, and this include corruption. Some have not succeeded or even tried to manage corruption. Some glorify it; some worship it; some sustain it; some actually survive on corruption.
That is the bane of my people, my society. We think, eat, sleep, act, glorify, worship, tolerate, sustain, promote, and invigorate corruption. We think it is a way of life; a good and right way of life in order for us to survive.
And corruption, when you adopt it, and acquiesce to it, will always overwhelm you. Nigeria’s corruption is even following its citizens anywhere they go in the world. We cannot escape their stink which clings to us like a wet cloth or like a spider web. Ask the so-called Nigerians in Diaspora.
A corrupt society will constantly and consistently produce corrupt leaders or rulers. This is what has been happening in the depraved Nigerian society, and that is why we are, year-in year out producing corrupt leaders, administrators, civil servants, businessmen, academicians, doctors, teachers, referees, students, and even parents. Should we wait for any proof that some areas of endeavours are immune from the octopus-like tentacles of corruption or its infiltration of our lives?
The recent and ongoing farce playing itself out with the Boko Haram kidnapping of over 250 children, mainly girls where we have United States and other foreign countries’ soldiers/adviser on one hand and the Nigerian Army and our government officials on the other shows we are now at the final stage of corruption. Our corruption has finally caught up with us, exposed us terribly and horribly to the world. Where and how would they buy the guns when defence budget has found its way into private pocket, military leaders or civilian administrators? The hydra-headed outrage of corruption, satisfaction with, and ceaseless sanction and celebration of mediocrity, greed, selfishness - and the likes - that have bedevilled and still plaguing Nigeria will NEVER allow her to overcome or win any human tragedies like this Boko Haram thorn in the flesh, simply because of incompetence and mismanagement brought on by corruption.
This final stage is called the systemic stage; the stage at which corruption is now a biome, a fully-fledged, pervasive way of governance, way of life and structure of society itself. Everyone, the honest and the dishonest, is caught up in it and depends on it for their livelihood.
Today, regrettably, everyone in Nigeria has been dragged directly or indirectly into this corrupt environment. Our very existence and survival seem to depend on it. The economic structure of Nigerian society, seen in such things as the lack of financial regulation and accountability in the civil service that controls much of the day-to-day decision-making and governmental activity most Nigerians have to deal with, and the breakdown of the quality services like healthcare and education we once enjoyed --- means that the only way one can survive for more than a year in Nigeria is to become part of the corrupt system. In fact the saying in Nigeria is “If you can’t beat them, then join them” and “the Nigerian factor”.
Many genuinely honest Nigerians or foreigners working and living in Nigeria are being forced into the humiliating and disturbing position of having to co-exist with the thieves or have the thieves as their main clients if their businesses are to survive. Other Nigerians, who are not corrupt, work hard at their jobs and businesses without directly coming into contact with the thieving politicians and corrupt civil servant of the corrupt government, maintain their high ethical standards. But they too make a major compromise: they essentially take a vow of silence.
However, to keep quiet, to never speak out at all when one’s own country is being destroyed by flat-out mass looting of the national treasury, is in itself another form of taking part in the corruption or at least being guilty by association or guilty by some kind of inexcusable silence.
In both Christian and Islam tenets, the one who does nothing when a crime is being committed or who looks the other way in the face of major injustices is as guilty in God’s eyes as the one who actually and actively commits the crime.
The reality is that in Nigerian society, corruption is perpetrated by the few minority, but actively tolerated, and even encouraged and promoted by the majority, for one reason or the other such as political partisanship, ethnicity and religious affiliation. There is the problem in Africa and Nigeria. Ironically, even the perpetrators of corruption in our society are consumed by the corruption, but they are in oblivion and know not. They think they are smarter than the rest of us. The moment the majority, who are essentially the condemned victims, turn their backs on the minority, we will see a decline in corruption and this will transmute definitely to a better society for all.
Corruption has caught up with us at last, and has even overtaken and overwhelmed us. Corruption, as we know, is accompanied always by mismanagement, maladministration, injustice, incompetence, tyranny, deceit, underdevelopment, poverty, ignorance, selfishness, greed, cruelty, sadism, and even murder and genocide.
Look at the above words and tell me which is not present in our country and society today in massive doses. Massive, unrestrained doses, that is the phrase, as, like we all know, corruption exists in all societies, but at varying levels.
Solution? Simple! Those ruling us, administering for us, managing our resources and lives for us, working for us, at and in all levels of governance must change. Fear of God (if you get away from Man, you can’t get away from God), excellent work ethics, sincere desire, drive and commitment to serve selflessly; a love and compassion for our fellow man/woman; and for the followers, we must adopt a lack of compassion and zero tolerance for corruption. Expose the corrupt, don’t adulate them. Kill corruption, or else, corruption will kill you.
What do I know? What don’t we know? We all know what to do, but do we have the morality, the will-power and the brutality to exorcise this cancer from our society without any resort to ethnic, cultural and religious bigotry?
Tell the Truth always.