It was the former President Goodluck Jonathan who once said that ‘stealing is not corruption.’ This simplistic definition plays out every now and again when public office holders plunder the country’s commonwealth and are hardly ever made to answer for their actions. Sadly too, despite the kinetic force of the anti-corruption drive, which propelled the first term of President Buhari‘s second coming as a civilian president, many of us are now beginning to ask for the difference between ‘APC’s six and PDP’s half a dozen.’
Day in day out, the media regals the public with news of corruption allegation cases that bother on the syphoning of public funds – the major ones including names like Dasuki, Maina, Fayose, Babachir Lawal, Metuh and of recent, ‘Akpabio and sons Ltd.’
While we do not deny the evidence of corruption in acts such as diversion of funds, looting and relooting, yet it would be rather too restrictive to assume that corruption is just about these alone. Corruption transcends the ‘deliberate’ distortion of a process motivated by pecuniary gain to include all acts of sabotage, perversion, misconduct and of course gross misappropriation. Nigeria’s corruption problem is systemic and it asserts itself in diverse forms.
It is sown in primary school children during the Common Entrance Examination where teachers reel out answers to pupils; it takes root and gravitates to higher forms of examination malpractices through impersonation or where students devise various ways to beat the system through able connivance from inept teachers and school authorities once the price is right. It then moves into the realm of falsification of resumption time in offices to deliberate absence from work without official leave, colluding with medical personnel to doctor medical reports needed to defend an alleged illness or to defend an official rascality.
Sadly, this is the reason many well-established organisations have dedicated health facilities employees are referred to in matters such as these. Corruption shows up in higher institutions just before the release of the merit list, where man and machine conspire to deny deserving candidates of admission.
The Nigerian system is the only system which allocates admission slots to children of the elites irrespective of whether they meet up with the cut-off mark(s). It is seen when randy lecturers score students low for refusing their sexual overtures. These lesser minions are even compelled to rewrite a course because of the ‘missing scripts syndrome.’
The mystery behind missing scripts has defied any logical explanation till date. It manifests through acts of intimidation when students’ voices are muffled and they cannot call for their scripts for fear of reprisals from other lecturers who sympathise with a fellow fallen ‘deity’.
It is equally evident when deviant academic deities aid shallow students rework old final year projects for marks which they can evidently not defend. Corruption exerts itself in public offices among civil servants, allowing for the creation of bottle-necks that stall adminstrative processes, the disapperance of (promotion) files for prolonged periods of time or where members of staff drag their feet in subtly demand for inducement before running errands for which they are being duly paid.
Corruption appears at the different Local Governments (and LCDAs) where various Traffic Task Force outfits comprising dirty-looking mean street urchins harass motorists, even on Federal roads! How about recruitment processes? Keyamo’s recent head-on collision with NASS is one of the many ways that goes to show that Nigerians will see the adverts but not the jobs. How about Custom officers, whose modus operandi involves lying in ambush for importers of goods at strategic locations outside the Ports inorder to ‘re-check’ custom papers and duties paid on imported items?
For goodness sakes, what business has the Customs beyond the Ports? The misguided zeal behind this venture is not patrotism but corruption. The same applies to their cousins – the Police, who stubbornly cling to check points as a lifeline while defying the I.G’s directives. Surely it is an act of corruption when money approved for a new generator is under- utilised because members of staff forge a receipt reflecting a full worth’s purchase when the actual supply is a fairly-used engine inside a new body cover. It is seen when contractors are forced to ‘settle’ government officers at different levels for projects like the supply of goods, provision of a service or even construction related issues.
This accounts for contract inflations and low quality of work done. So, when next you are tempted to compare the cost of building railways or fixing a kilometer of road in Ghana, Kenya or even Rwanda with Nigeria, do remember to factor in the cost of securing the contract.
Pray, should it not be an act of corruption when politicians renege on flamboyant promises made prior to elections? Shouldn’t their words be their bond? Despite the unlimited amount of money called security votes available to Governors, the States are still not secure under their watch.
Should we not be asking questions? Didn’t they promise to be accountable to us? Didnt they swear that they would uphold the rule of law? If that is the case, why is the Federal Government deliberately tearing down the rule of law it swore to protect through its selective obedience of Court judgements? How do we justify the continued detention of El Zakzaky among others after several Court injuctions? According to Wole Soyinka, the Executive’s continuous willful disobedience of court orders will only serve to embolden the populace to anarchy. The modern democracies we admire and aspire to become are what they are not because there are no incidents of corruption there but because no single individual is bigger than the institutions.
Let’s not even mention the NDDC, the NNPC or the National Assembly and the sham called constituency projects! These places have become the cesspools of grand corruption. But how does all these issues affect you as an individual or why should you even be bothered at all. Here is why – you might be caught up in the next building collapse because of watered-down building components by developers. Your relative might be caught in a fire outbreak where the fire extinguishers are fake. A brake failure from an underaged petrol-driven rickety tanker could take the live of a dear friend when Road Safety officials fail in their duties. Your intellectual child (songs or books) will most likely be abducted by Nigeria’s network of pirates who have strong political backings. Let’s bring this closer home.
Are you aware that some products and consumables in our open markets and supermarkets are actually either substandard, expired (and repackaged) or fake, including but not limited to car tyres, body creams, bathing soap, toothpaste, chocolates, beverage, milk, oil, perfumes and drugs from some pharmacies?
In some cases, the prices might even be cheaper just to lure the unsuspecting individual. How come there is a corresponding rise in the level of sicknesses and diseases that defy medical cure – including cancer, stroke and heart failure? Where are the agencies of control such as SON, NDLEA and NAFDAC? The list is long and growing still. Unfortunately, we are so hardened and driven by the desire to make money that we hardly see anything wrong with our actions anymore. Fellow Nigerians, like Judas, we have sold our consciences for thirty shekels of silver; while the proceeds of corruption may appear sweet in the interim, one thing is certain – it will surely leave us with a mouth full of gravel!
•Ajayi wrote in from Lagos