"Most Nigerians actually enjoy corruption but don't like the consequences of it."
- Aroms Aigbehi
here's the story of the ex-senator who was riding on a public bus from his home to Lagos. From his sit beside the driver, he heard some of the other passengers talking about him. "Can you imagine," one said, "all that time in Abuja and he can't even afford a car?" Another said that he'd shared a bus with him just the past week. Everyone decried his gullibility.
After enduring the abuse for a time, the former public official turned around to greet his castigators who shamefacedly tried to retract their statements. He told them, that like most Nigerians, they were thieves; complicit in the corruption that's crippled the country.
Indeed, the senator is right. We point accusatory fingers at others while camouflaging our active participation in a corrupt system. The same person who triumphs at obtaining an illegal supply of fuel cries foul when his neighbor nabs a contract by mobilizing the right parties.
Our 'corromance' sustains a society of predators where every person is on the lookout for ways to exploit those beholden to them.
The clerk won't pass on a file to his boss unless the petitioner greases his palm.
The bank won't give a loan until it's padded to allow for the settlement of bank officials.
The police include bribes as a major part of their salaries.
Doctors prescribe unnecessary surgery for patients who can afford to pay their exorbitant fees.
We all participate at varying levels:
The Uninformed: Foreigners or those who've been away too long to know when a bribe is demanded because even kids know police officers demand bribes from anyone who wishes to drive around.
The Reluctant: who rail at the unjustness of the system but bribe the clerk, so their paperwork may land on the director's table and front 'mobilization fees' alongside their business proposal to a minister. Frustrated that there's no recourse; they grudgingly participate in the corromance.
The Compliant: This comprises majority of Nigerians; the "na so e be" crowd. They are the passengers castigating the senator because he hadn't embezzled public funds while in office. They consider bribery, fraud, embezzlement, and other attendant vices as normal and do not see a Nigeria without such perversion. They readily exchange their vote for a bag of rice, slip the officer some notes to overlook an infraction, and pay to receive entitlements. They don't castigate embezzling politicians because "it is their time and our own time will come."
The Enthusiastic: Freely give and freely receive bribes, kickbacks, stolen funds, embezzle, call it what you will. They sell fake drugs, adulterated food and water, pirated movies and music, etc. They love Nigeria because they can do whatever they please without answering to anyone. As relatives, they expect handouts, positions, or contracts from their brother who got into office. Likewise, when elected, they award contracts to incompetent relatives, sit on a subordinate's promotion, and append several zeros to their discretionary funds.
The Investor: Cannot thrive if the system works. This is the politician whose six-month tenure in office bankrupted his state; the minister with an allocation of oil; or the contractor who lives off undelivered contracts. The investor is too steeped in prebendalism to entertain an alternative system. As such, the puny efforts of the EFCC is rather irritating.
Who's missing from the preceding list?
The Game-changer: Like the guy who refused to pay a hiked price for fuel who caused an uproar at the filling station, forced police intervention, and brought the station attendant to book. Also, like the late Dr. Dora Akunyili who single-handedly confronted nefarious fake drug lords and continued her crusade despite assassination attempts.
Time and again, such crusaders emerge at both the citizen and government levels who seek to change the system. Unfortunately, like most messiahs, they are killed or incapacitated one way or another. Thus, the game changer needs a different approach:
- Find a posse. Yes, you're a game-changer but if you go out alone to confront a rabid mob like the Investors, you'll die quickly. Instead, find like-minded people to back you. Deputize the uniformed and the reluctant so you'll have some backup.
- Educate the masses: arguably, people don't realize the tremendous impact of the corromance pandemic on Nigeria. We've sacrificed the fortunes of generations yet unborn to venality.
- Dance like a butterfly, sting like a bee: Like the champ, Muhammed Ali, know when to jab and when to retreat.
- Document the revolution: Use social media to fight a war of words.
- Innovate them out: one invention, the ipad changed the book industry and shut down brick and mortar bookstores that have been around hundreds of years. Let's innovate corruption out of Nigeria.
- Don't give in to fear: quake but don't cave. Aluta Continua, Victoria Acerta!
So, where do you stand?
Continued from Part 4
(Slavery begins at Home is a series on the roots of the current crisis of the enslavement of Nigerians in Libya. While an uproar over the enslavement of Nigerian immigrants in Libya, may jerk our emotional strings, it does not provide adequate understanding of the issue nor present solutions to stem the crisis. These series of articles hope to shed more light on the crisis AT HOME).