How do you maintain your integrity in what seems to be a system that is corrupt at its core? How do you become an agent of transformation and change in a society where anything seems to go? Is it sufficient that you do not participate in the debasement of values? Or is the solution praying to a deity (read: God) and hoping that he comes down from heaven to change a situation that you are not willing to change yourself?
Clearly if I had the answers to these questions, I would write a book and be on a world tour giving public speeches and making appearances for a cool sum of money. Although if you ask me a lot of self-help authors and the like give common sense advice and get paid for it. Like a certain former US president who came to Nigeria and said the problem of terrorism in Nigeria is tied to education. No shitting me Sherlock! I could give you that pearl of wisdom for free. I’m not hating, I’m just saying. If you know me, do not give me a self-help book as a gift ever in your life. It’s tantamount to dipping a demon in holy water (if you believe that kind of thing exists and the proffered dipping is the solution). That being said, I would probably smile, collect the gift, say thank you and walk. I will like not read the book, I will skim through it if you persist.
When it comes to corruption in Nigeria, I believe we are all aware of what it is and the crippling effect it has had on our society. You would hardly hear a group of Nigerians discussing politics and not mention the issue of corruption. It is in everybody’s top 5 reasons why Nigeria has failed to live up to expectation or depending on who you speak to why Nigeria has failed. Generally our leaders and government institutions get blamed for being bastions of corruption. To quote Monsieur Jesus in Matthew 7:13 “Why do you look at the speck of sawdust in your brother’s eye and pay no attention to the plank in your own eye?” I know not all Nigerians are corrupt but I believe many of even the honest ones are silent partners in the culture by committing what we would call in catechism, the sin of omission.
There is a prayer said at the beginning of the catholic mass that goes thus (dear God, does the fact I know and remember this and some bible stuff mean I m not all that evil even though I m a born sinner)
“I confess to almighty God, and to you, my brothers and sisters, that I have sinned through my own fault, in my thoughts and in my words, in what I have done and WHAT I HAVE FAILED TO DO; and I ask blessed Mary, ever virgin, all the angels and saints, and you, my brothers and sisters, to pray for me to the Lord our God.”
Notice the highlighted part, it is believed in le doctrine of the Papists that a failure to act in the presence of evil is in itself a sin. Are you beginning to see my point? When it comes to corruption many of the honest and good people in our country turn a blind eye to whatever shady dealings are going on around them, they refuse to outrightly report the wrongdoing. Sometimes it is because even the bosses are corrupt, other times it’s a fear of losing your job in a country that has become a Mecca of unemployment, other times still it is a moral/religious thing where the person is honest to go to heaven and is a practice in self control much in the same way as some people abstain from sex, he/she wants to partake in the looting but he/she has learnt control through religion. In a country, where a governor who loots the treasury but does some work is hailed as being at least cleaner than his counterparts it is little wonder that the man or woman that chooses not to participate in bribe taking, contract inflation and the other potpourri of corrupt practices is sort of a moral hero, an example of people to look up to.
On the other hand, the whistle blower and person who goes against the corruption is often seen as a trouble maker; a person who refuses to eat and wont let others eat (there must be an African proverb that captures this sentiment). In many cases such people do not end up wealthy, they end up chewed up and spit out by a system that seems rigged to punish crusaders against corruption. Their lives are slandered, people will make up rumours about them most likely the corrupt people in the first place. If their honesty elevates them, they might become targets for assassinations and many of the like. It is reasonable to say that the typical reward for standing up to corruption in Nigeria does not encourage people to stand up to corruption so we all sit down and play dumb to what is going on around us or make it known that we don’t participate in such (example – Ah! No involve that madam o, she go spoil our runs. I hear say she be deeper life. Them no dey collect bribe)
It is a trifle sad that I have to act all abstemious, sanctimonious, holier than thou before people can safely assume I will not participate in their feast of corruption. If you are a yuppie person who seems generally fun and street smart chances are people will try to co-opt you into their schemes, it is left for you to say no and ignore the actions or perhaps your job or life might be at stake. No kidding. Stories abound of an employee who refused to engage in the nation’s past time or refused to give kickbacks to the boss and was ignored for promotions, or even set up to be fired or worse still put in a dangerous place where an accident was quickly arranged to silence the person who would not participate.
The reason the average Nigerian will tell you straight up that we are not corrupt is that there is a silent majority who sit on the side lines watching the evil being done who would not engage in it themselves. As much as in some relativistic way of thinking, it is admirable that we have a large number of individuals who are honest. I think it is naïve to believe that we will be ever able to minimize corruption in our nation if this silent majority does not turn into a vocal majority challenging the perpetrators of corruption, refusing to let their subordinates engage in bribe taking. Perhaps when this happen, then we can talk about fixing Nigeria.
Readers, So how do you act when faced with corruption? In what ways can we as individuals fight corruption in our nation?