On the monster called corruption
Like the proverbial sword of Damocles, the monster of corruption dangles over our nation’s soul, ready to slay and devour her. The uncovering of mind-boggling illegal cash sums of $43.4 million, £27,800 and N23.2 million in private residences in Ikoyi, Lagos was exceedingly surprising and to say the least, dumbfounding. It was corruption in its full regalia. This monster’s father is none other than that five-letter word, greed. Greed, the insatiable desire to accumulate wealth, the voracious appetite to pile up riches which gives birth to soaring crime rates, bank frauds, plundering of public funds, and proliferation of Ponzi schemes among others.
The other shades and forms of corruption are contained in the exploitative policing and judicial systems; questionable enforcement of business contracts; diversion of percentages of funds for critical projects into the pockets of senior government officials and their families, mostly done in an organised fashion; and unlawful payments by individuals and businessmen.
Today, we eye one another suspiciously, implying every other person is a crook; even where silence pervades, deep within us, trust barely exists. What we really do is to celebrate corruption with sheer sophistication. Meanwhile, the corrupt ones dwell in affluence; live in lavishness without any sense of guilt or shame while majority of the masses languish in dismal poverty, lack and hunger.
It is quite unfortunate that corruption has become a part and parcel of our system and it will take a monumental clean up to get rid of this monster preventing every citizen from reaping the good of the land. More so, it is unfortunate that those who are not directly involved in corruption see it, smell it and indirectly taste it. So sad! Is corruption ingrained in our bones? The answer of course is NO. Corruption was not entrenched in our great grandfathers.
What is petty theft? And what is huge theft? Does our law differentiate or discriminate between a woman who stole sweet from a supermarket and another, who stole a billion naira in her official capacity? Not too long ago, a pickpocket was caught stealing a handset in Lagos, and before you could say jack, he was burnt to ashes. Jungle justice was meted to him, because of a handset he might not resell for more than N5,000 or thereabout! On the other hand, we celebrate the big thieves. Not that one is better than the other though. Wait, how do we even differentiate between these monsters – bribery, gerrymandering, looting, money laundering, embezzlement, lopsided distribution of power and wealth etc.? Or is there any difference?
What is your definition of this demon called corruption? I can give a try. What do you call somebody who pilfers the corporate or government treasury? What do you call the money given to PHCN officials so as not to disconnect your electricity supply? What of the food and drinks you offer government officials who come to audit your company’s accounts?
The “envelope” you package for the government representatives sent to seal up your company is called what? Arranging special centres for your children and wards so that they can pass JAMB and WAEC examination is called what? Diverting church funds for personal gain is called what? Pastor, the money you receive from your congregation before healing them is known as…. Housewife, inflating the price of food stuffs for your husband is called what?
Director, what do we call the appointment you approved because that man is from your tribe? Student, the inflated price of handout and books you told your parents is ….? Editor, that envelope you requested before publication can be done is called what? What do we call your demands from patients who need urgent attention in hospital, dear doctor?
Corporal, the money you collected before granting bail is called……?
Hmm! In every stratum of our society, corruption is found. Who will liberate us? Truly, this demon is not peculiar to Nigeria, yet our country is ranked the most corrupt out of 80 countries. This is according to data from the 2017 best countries rankings. This is the second year in a row that Nigeria clinched first spot. In the same vein, Transparency International scored Nigeria 87 per cent from among 157 countries in 2016. The avarice, greed, selfishness, hatred, among government officials, regulatory agencies, and even the private sector cannot be adequately described in words. The general parlance prevails – “if you can’t beat them, join them”.
And what effect does this demon have on our economy? Sometime ago, I saw in a magazine, the BEELITZ, A MILITARY HOSPITAL, BERLIN which was built in 1898, as a tuberculosis sanatorium. This ultra-modern building can scarcely find its kind anywhere in our country, except in choice highbrow areas like government reserved areas, Victoria Island, Lekki and so on. And this is a sanatorium! Is civilisation ahead of us as a result of this dreaded monster? Why can’t we use our intelligence in a positive way? I sometimes query if we are inferior to the white race. Of course, the answer is NO. The simple reason for the backwardness is corruption which we have allowed to consume our morals and character. After all, scientists have revealed that the human brain is the same, whether you are black, white, or red.
How can we banish the demon and monster called corruption and purge ourselves for rebirth? Is it really possible for our society to be free from all these social vices? Yet, I dare to hope.
I look forward to the day, when bail will be truly free. I look forward to the day, when PHCN officials will not divert government properties for personal use. I look forward to the day, where full disclosures will be done for corrupt highly placed individuals. I hope to see a day where the words of former EFCC boss, Nuhu Ribadu, “When you fight corruption, it fights back,” will not be sacrosanct in our land. I look forward to a day, where honesty filters into our everyday life, where exceptionally strong institutions will deter perpetrators of corrupt practices. I look forward to a day when appointments will be based on fairness and not ethnicity or tribe. I look forward to the day when our legislation would curb the demon of corruption. I look forward to the day when all government parastatals, agencies, states, local governments would be against this demon. I look forward to the day when our government officials – police, customs, immigration, NPA, etc. would genuinely and courteously perform their duties without asking for bribes or kickbacks.
I look forward to the day, when there will be substantial improvement in our character and moral standards. And finally, I look up to the day when the words of Pratibha Patil will be held sacrosanct: Corruption is the enemy of development and good governance.
• Anjorin wrote from Lagos.
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