How we contribute to corruption in Nigeria
AMONGST the many things that upset me about Nigeria, corruption is topmost. The issue is one that has seen considerable discourse and it is easy to understand why. After all, the issue is one that affects us all on most levels irrespective of social divides: the rich corrupt officer deprives the middle class; the deprived middle class takes from the poor and the smart poor devices means to shortchange the rich and middle class. Whichever way we look at it, corruption is a vicious cycle, and we as citizens must not sit by simply looking as funds, generated from the trade of the country’s resources and meant for national development, end up in secret bank accounts from where it finances some individuals’ luxurious lifestyle.
Corruption takes many forms. When we hear the word, we have been mostly conditioned to think to political corruption: the government granting undue favours to cronies in exchange for campaign contributions or other advantages. We are quick to label the government as the biggest corruption actors and blame them for its persistence. This mostly is correct as all over the world the perception of corruption in public places is very high because welfare funds are placed in the trust of government, and where this welfare is not delivered or is delivered inadequately, it is easy to point to one ultimate source from where this failure comes.
This menace ordinarily should be easy to solve; get checks and balances in place that ensure that national funds are only used to obtain resources that put beneficial assets on ground and ensure some form of national savings, start and sustain modestly successful anti corruption programmes like Nigeria’s Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC), establish agencies that ensure citizens are re-oriented and morals upheld like Nigeria’s National Orientation Agency (NOA), strengthen the judiciary and meet corrupt acts with straight forward penalties. Ideally, all these should be enough to permanently halt the spread of this scourge. Sadly, they cannot be sufficient if we do not examine ourselves, make the hard choices to shun practices that only serve to promote corruption.
Very rarely do we think to ourselves when we consider the topic. The little ways we encourage or contribute to its spread; the citizen who pays a bribe to a police officer to avoid showing his expired vehicle papers, the trader who inflates his prices just so he can get quick gains, the bar attendant who claims she has no change only so she can keep the money later, all these people contribute to corruption.
Until we have a critical mass of informed citizens who would lend their voices and might to challenging corrupt practices, people who will acknowledge that corruption threatens to rob us and the next generations of Nigerians of our livelihood, politicians, corrupt judicial officers, businesses, cabals and all those who benefit from corruption would get away with gestures and white elephant projects that look good on paper but ultimately lead to falsely enriching themselves with national resources at the expense of critical national infrastructure. We have to go through the business of building an informed citizenry; and this is the greatest weapon against the scourge.
Yes. Corruption mostly affects the poorest of us in both rich and poor nations, but we must also know that it affects even the richest of us all. Consider the effects of corruption on the stability or safety of investments or the fact that even the rich most often use the same infrastructure dilapidated by corruption. Ultimately, it undermines political development, democracy, economic development, the environment, people’s health and more. All these are issues that impact on the lives of every citizen.
For the rest of us who constitute Nigeria’s dwindling middle class and assume we are immune to the ills of corruption, remember that when a high rise building collapses, it mostly is result of a corrupt building safety inspection officer. A kidnapper only kidnaps close relatives of people who can afford to pay a ransom. When an airplane falls from the sky, it mostly is result of a corrupt safety inspection officer or aircraft engineer. When a hospital is ill equipped, it mostly is result of some corrupt procurement officer who tries to save cost by buying short. When roads have potholes capable of causing accidents, it usually is result of some government official or contractor’s corrupt practices.
We all need each other; rich, middle class or poor. We all must face this issue head on. Speak out and oppose corruption and corrupt practices. If the excuse of speaking out alone is stopping you from asking the right questions, remind yourself that people respond to progress: when people begin to see you speak out relentlessly, you encourage a crowd of otherwise silent people to find their voices and speak out. The 1992 saying of author and lecturer, Marianne Williamson: “as we let our light shine, we unconsciously give other people permission to do the same. As we are liberated from our own fear, our presence actually liberates others” rings true today as it did that many years ago.
Adejoh writes from Abuja and can be reached on 08169339550.
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