I have been moribund, as far as writing articles, for about three months. Honestly these days, I just don’t feel like writing, however, I comment on other peoples’ writings or on national issues on social media like Facebook and Twitter. And since I do not write for a living, in fact, I never get paid; I am never under any pressure or deadline. Maybe that will save my health from deteriorating further in despair, frustration, anger and desperation. Please I am not blaming it on anybody or on the country. It is self-afflicted. Nobody’s asking me to die for Nigeria. And I am not going to die for Nigeria. I will just do my little bit when I am called upon.
In Nigeria, corruption is something we all seem to have learned to live with, accepted as a way of life and look upon with tolerance, celebrate and regard even with some amusement and laxity. But wait! We need not be resigned to it or sceptical about it. Instead of breast-beating over the sorry state of affairs, let us explore the solutions (I have offered many in previous articles). Maybe there are no satisfactory answers to our questions. Let's ask them anyway.
Benjamin Franklin, statesman and a signatory of America’s Declaration of Independence, said: “Only a virtuous people are capable of freedom. As nations become corrupt and vicious, they have more need of masters.” John Adams, another signatory, echoed a similar statement: “Our Constitution was made only for a moral and religious people. It is wholly inadequate to the government of any other.”
Are our laws, regulations and Constitution made for a moral and religious people? From the way we flout, ignore, and bastardise our laws and politicians cast aside or deliberately misinterpret and twist the Constitution every day to satisfy their selfish interests, on a daily basis in this country, I daresay, No! Are today’s Nigerians virtuous and moral, or have we become corrupt and vicious? Let’s think it through with a few examples.
In the Nigerian Tribune of 2 July 2012, was a story “Traders recount gains after post-UTME in Lafia”. It was the story of how traders, (Nigerians o) ripped off their young people who had come to take the post-UTME screening examinations of the Federal University, Lafia, Nasarawa State, by selling to them examination materials like pencils, pens, biros etc at grossly inflated prices, thus taking advantage of the poor young people. That’s Nigerians’ inhumanity to Nigerian. And they were bold and happy to say this despicable act of theirs out. They never saw anything wrong in their cheating actions. Fair enough.
Assisting one's fellow man in need by reaching into one's own pockets is praiseworthy and laudable. Doing the same by reaching into another's pockets is despicable, dishonest and worthy of condemnation.
Our society, like any other society consists of psychopaths and criminal, the only difference is that with Nigerians, the criminals and psychopaths seem to have been having the upper hand since the inception of this country. And the inexplicably and ironically, it is the same people who are downtrodden, looted from, raped, abused and ignored by the rulers who invariably encourage, support and indeed, celebrate these criminals. It is hypocrisy of the highest order.
Ours is a corrupt, depraved society. According to one writer I came across, “a depraved corrupt society is one in which the people en masse have lost their moral sense. It is not one in which people sin. It is one in which people have lost their bias against sin. It is not one in which people commit adultery. It is one in which people condone and accept adultery. It is not one in which people commit corrupt acts. It is one in which people accept and condone corruption. It is a loss of moral values, moral knowledge, and moral sense. How do you know such a society when you see it? You listen to people's opinions on matters of morals. You note their likes and dislikes, their tastes, their preferences, how they entertain themselves. You note their humour, what they joke about, what they think is funny. You note their fads as a people. You note their references in entertainment”.
Corruption equals power, greed and money. For some, there simply is not enough to satisfy them. These people are usually found in the political parties, civil service, banking and private sector, so actually, virtually every section of the society. Everything is a fight for power. Having more power means you can then get more powerful, and therefore more corrupt and richer. You need to be rich to be more powerful, therefore you must be corrupt. And in the end? The rich get richer, the poor get poorer. When both die, they get buried six feet under without taking any of the riches and power with them. But we never seem to think of that inescapable fact of life (and death).
A corrupt society is a society ruled by immoral, wicked men (and women); criminals elected by the populace, supported by the populace, and shielded from punishment by their political allies.
Actions deliberately contrary to the laws of nations and to its universal principles and constitutions are crimes, as are the orders that command such actions. Blind obedience does not suffice to excuse those who carry them out.
Look at our newspapers and other news media on a daily basis and there is always one or two or even more fraudulent or corruption scandal being exposed every time. This should not be. If we had a morally upright, or at least conscious, truly God-fearing society, (and we seem to think we do because of the fact that we have churches and mosques in every street in this country) those scandals should not have been allowed to happen in the first place. But in our country, they do, and we seem to thrive on it.
Politicians are the same all over the world, that is, someone who is involved in influencing public policy and decision making. This includes people who hold decision-making positions in government, and people who seek those positions, whether by means of election, inheritance, coup d'état, appointment, electoral fraud, conquest, divine right, or other means. Politics is not limited to governance through public office.
The Nigerian politician, or political leader, or political office holder is not an alien. He/she is just a Nigerian that went into politics. The reason why they went into politics should ideally be for service and for truly patriotic reasons of seeking betterment for the people they represent in government. Alas, that is what differentiates the Nigerian politician from most of the rest of the world’s politicians. However, you don't change the Nigerian by changing the politicians; rather you change the politicians by changing the Nigerian.
When a good leader is surrounded with corrupt people, he becomes corrupt too. When good people live in a corrupt system, they become corrupted too. To change a corrupt system, the people, the society need to be empowered to install public servants who are not tainted with traditional politics. Then there should be a constitutional change; review of the laws governing government employment and salaries, benefits, tenure of office and budgets and make them commensurate with performance. Review the judicial system and come down very heavily on graft, bribery and corruption. Put in place people who are dedicated and are not self-serving. Only the people can do these.
Everywhere I go, or rather every function that involves politicians and government officials are always chokingly full of flattery, insincerity and hypocrisy. The MCs and organisers outdo each other, piling praises upon their torturers and oppressors, never having the heart and the daring to tell them the truth that these officials are thieves; that we, the electorate, the public, the society, elected them to SERVE us, not for us to serve them.
Another philosophical analysis by another writer “Where does the personality trait of "being responsible" come from? What is it due to? Isn't it just a "sense of moral duty" (and doing what that sense dictates)? Doesn't a "sense of responsibility" arise directly out of a good healthy sense of right and wrong, a good healthy conscience? If so, what causes the personality trait of "irresponsibility"? Is it due to the lack of a sense of right and wrong, lack of a conscience? Or is it due to just refusing to live true to that sense (i.e. ignoring what is right, refusing to live up to it)? Isn't the personality trait of "responsibility" then very closely related to the trait of conscientiousness and the trait of irresponsibility very closely related to lack of conscientiousness?
Do we as a people, as a society, or as rulers and followers, have any sense of responsibility or morality or conscience to each other, to our country, to our fellow-man, to the poor, to our environment, to our young people, to our women, to our men, to the disabled in the society, to our born and unborn generation?
I look on every day as my people are always trying to cut corners on every thing; always trying to prove and demonstrate that they are smarter than the next man/woman; examples abound to prove my theory on this issue of the average Nigerian thinking he/she is smarter than the rest of the people.
The most common example is on the road, drivers, commercial or private cutting dangerously in front of you because they are the only ones in a hurry to get where they are going, and you are not smart enough to drive dangerously as themselves. Another example is jumping queues in banks, bus-stops, petrol stations, events or any other occasion where there needs to be order so that there will be a smooth attendance.
And what about examinations and admissions into colleges and tertiary institutions? Parents are colluding with lecturers and teachers to smuggle their children into schools. Teachers and students collude to cheat to pass examinations and thereby have undue advantage over others. That is what corruption is all about.
Take our market-places, and the market women and other traders will never give you the real price of a commodity at first instance. You have to haggle and barter. It is a cultural thing, you will hear my dear people say and if you are not savvy, you will end up paying five thousand Naira for a commodity that actually cost less than five hundred Naira, and the moment you turn your back on the trader, he/she will be murmuring to him/herself, “mugu” (fool). Is that a good culture or tradition?
And to cap it all, politicians and civil servants shut themselves in their little cubicles called offices, and all they plot and enter into their brains all day, is how much money they can pilfer, misappropriate, mismanage, defraud the government and the public, or demand and receive as bribes and kickback in highly inflated contracts.
And the contractors and banking officers are not left out. They too must play the game of being smarter than the civil servants and politicians from whom they are getting juicy contracts and deposits, and to whom they must pay bribes – examples are our fuel subsidy scammers – so that they can also perpetrate their fraud on the Nigerian public.
We even try to get one over our fellow man in sports, thinking we are smarter than our opponents by fielding overage athletes and footballers (and we rarely succeed even at that).
And these are people who eventually get national merit awards, Politician or Governor of the Decade, Best Senator of the Planet, Best Local Government Chairman in the World, Banker of the Universe, Industrialist of the Cosmos; Best Governor since Lord Lugard, etc. We celebrate and reward mediocrity, indiscipline, greed, corruption, hooliganism, thuggery, deception, deceit, adultery, selfishness and lawlessness and criminality. Because a thief and corrupt politician is from my family or ethnic group or same religious faith with me, I see nothing wrong in his crimes, and I fail to condemn him. There is absolutely no altruism in all areas of our existence and governance – executive, legislative, judiciary, police, military, industry, banking, insurance, education, etc.
And we, hypocrites and sycophants that we have become because of lucre, clap and kow-tow to them on the street. The rulers are untouchable, because we make them feel untouchable; we make them feel like they are mini-Gods to be cared for, wined and dined, praised and thanked for doing the work we employ them to do; worshiped and adored for electing them to do things that will make our lives better, and which they are definitely not doing.
That is why I ask, perhaps, that are we, as a people irredeemable, and are we beyond redemption because our culture and hang-ups and complexes cannot let us? We can’t seem to grow out of the confines of those bad portions of our culture that are holding us back from progress, development and betterment. We cannot escape the primeval and primordial in us. No matter how educated or seemingly sophisticated we think we are, we fall back into that mire of cultural and religious conservatism, forgetting that we, even as a people, are not an island in this planet, and we have to adapt and evolve. It is a sad reflection of our cultural consciousness.
The peoples who made up the country called Nigeria have consistently and expectedly shown that learning from other peoples is not something they can apply to solve their own particular difficulties and unique problems. Instead they exacerbate their own problems.
When corrupt people and officials are caught, their excuses are: “I am not the only one doing it, everybody else is doing it” or “If you can’t beat them, join them” or “If I don’t do it, other people will do it” or “If I don’t do it, how will I feed my family?”. Some even say, “There is a lot to steal by everybody, go and steal yours”.
That is our people’s way of thinking. We have become moral perverts. A moral pervert is a person who is a slave to patterns of thought and behaviour that are morally wrong (in violation of God's law) Examples: liar, cheat, fraudster, thief, profligate, etc. Aristotle said that people acquire a particular character, he says, through repeatedly performing an act. In the case of moral perversion this translates into, "people become perverts through repeatedly performing some wrong act". Liars become liars, for example, through repeated acts of lying. Embezzlers will continue to repeat embezzling. Thieves become thieves through repeated stealing, and find it difficult, nay, impossible, to stop.
Am I being too hard on my own people?
Akintokunbo A Adejumo