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We cannot go on like this – Trouble!


corruption“To fight against those corrupt Party officials, I have prepared one hundred coffins. Ninety-nine for them, one for me.”

The person will come like a giant meteor from outer space, (he will not come from outer space o!) transforming everything on impact. He would be that rarest and most powerful force in history: the singularity, the wild card, what scientists call an exogenous variable, the unprecedented element that changes all theories and throws off all calculations and, with them, changes the world as it is known. He would look and find an economy that was going nowhere, a society that was sinking deeper and deeper into backwardness and sterilized barbarity and stagnation. He would be indignant and he would be passionate for change because he would declare to all and sundry:

We cannot go on like this! How can we go on like this? Maybe you do not think the description above fits Muhammadu Buhari. You could be one of those who have endorsed his fight against corruption, encouraging him to make corruption omelettes without breaking corruption eggs. Perhaps he is incapable of being indignant enough for your liking. He is too old to be angry adequately to insist that we cannot go on like this. Or maybe you think he is alone not wanting to go on like this. After all, quite a number of people around him could be quite comfortable going on like this. Se bi die sa ni? It is still only a little, why scream change?

The greatest endorsement that Buhari has received is in fact from corruption itself! Corruption is tired of corrupting in Nigeria. It is no longer fun because it has gone into extremes. It has become too much and it has become boring, not fun anymore. Corruption does not wish to take over the country, doesn’t want to have to run the affairs of the country, too much to do for what should be undermining a system. Why should corruption become the system? And what are we going to call the thing that undermines a corrupt system? Post corruption activism? So, corruption would rather continue being the thing that undermines good systems. But if Nigeria would not set up a good system for corruption to undermine, corruption is prepared to go somewhere else where there are tempting systems to undermine.

Remember when corruption wanted its name written beginning with a capital ‘c’ and applied for citizenship of Nigeria? And Mr. Trouble got some human rights lawyers to prevent both requests? Well, corruption did get something out of the whole exercise – corruption was given a stay of action pending the last elections. The minute corruption saw that things were not going to be easy it began to return money to the government. Take your money. I don’t need it. I don’t even know how much I have stolen but here is some millions, some billions, I hope you are satisfied now! And thinking of it, why steal money for my children and grandchildren? Let them do their own stealing when it is their turn. Trouble’s response was first alarm and then a smile. Corruption returning money that was taken corruptly? Just like that? Why not return the money through the process by which it was stolen? You know, contract inflation, contract percentage, budget padding, bribes distributed and so on? It is because the money is coming back as direct hand-over that it is easy to re-steal it again!

What about the interest on the stolen money? Well, how can money kept in the septic tank have interest? Or stored in the water tank? Or in the storeroom have interest? It is a clever thief who steals the pregnant! The capital will return but the interest shall stay. Can we go on like this? Going on like this means that our system cannot do the greatest good to the greatest number of our people. This is why we cannot go on like this. This fact has become obvious to corruption as well and that is why it’s endorsement the fight against itself!

One of the defences of those who have stolen public money and are returning some of what they had stolen, raises the question of the ownership of moral outrage? In the first place it is holy anger against other people’s behaviour, not one’s own personal misbehaviour! Violation of a moral principle calls forth-moral outrage, principles such as do not hurt others, do not fail to help someone in need, do not lie, do not steal. It is said that, “upon experiencing moral outrage, people become motivated to speak, to act out, and take action to correct injustice and defend the downtrodden.” But is moral outrage a disinterested emotion?

Two books have been the inspiration for this week’s presentation. The first is the documentation of how the Berlin Wall went down perhaps partly because Mr. Gorbashev kept telling his wife: We cannot go on like this! Michael Meyer’s 1989: The Year that changed the world: The untold story behind the fall of the Berlin Wall. The second book is Qiu Xiaolong’s A Case of Two Cities, a police procedure novel, better known as a detective novel. The author is new and a happy addition to endless list of detective fiction writers that one avidly reads. The author is Chinese, with a deep knowledge of not only Chinese literature but also with a master’s degree as well as a Ph.D. in Comparative Literature obtained from Washington University in the United States of America. A Case of two cities is about investigation of corruption among the highest elements of the Communist Party of China. These are powerful people, people who boast of their party loyalty blue blood but are not beyond using their connections for corruptions.

One of the comeback arguments of corruption against those fighting it would not be strange to Nigerians: “Corruption may have facilitated our (i.e. Chinese) economic development in a large way. It’s a paradox, isn’t it?” It would be if the corruption moneys were invested in Nigeria. In China a lot of corruption money was invested in China and so China no longer appears on the most corrupt countries list.

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