On Corruption, Stealing and The Anti-Corruption Crusade

Once there was a President who allegedly posited that Corruption and Stealing were not one and the same. In the ensuing brouhaha, he was brought down by his people in a wind of change. The changers had promised to kill corruption and insecurity as a matter of urgency.

On assumption of office, the new President and his team have gone about blocking the loopholes previously created or exploited by the previous government and their cronies. As with all wars, there have been civilian casualties. For whatever reasons, this war seems to be taking an awful lot of time and this time has become a period of revelation for many of the change proponents.

While the change proponents were busy shouting “Dem mama! We go change them!”, they failed to realize that their entire nation state may have failed long ago and all they could see were mere props powered by the very corruption they were seeking to remove. How?

Let’s take a few examples:

Baba Landlord worked honestly all his life, built a house with his savings and pensions. A part of the house was for him to live in and another part to rent out so he could earn money for feeding and reasonable comforts of life. His present tenant happens to work in the banking system that was hitherto propped up by mischievous deposits from the nation’s treasuries. Today, his tenant’s rent has been due for over 6 months and there is nothing he can do but hope for the best.

Mama Elite School Proprietress was not corrupt and did not steal but today half the parents in her school are behind on school fees because one way or another, their unreasonable income was connected to the leakages in the country’s resources and now it is hard for them to meet their obligations. Elite school is owing innocent Mr Teacher about 3 months salary. Mr Teacher is in turn owing Iya Basira for salt, tomatoes, garri, etc. Iya Basira who had nothing to do with corruption also has to owe Papa Jeleosimi School fees for her children’s evening school. She had earlier transferred to the evening school since the public school teachers stopped teaching anything.

Bobo Security has always earned a lousy salary of 10,000 naira a month which barely covers his transportation costs but he had the tips from Oga and Madam’s visitors with which he held his side well and even maintained a babe. He thought he had nothing to do with corruption or stealing but somehow, his bosses’ visitors have reduced in number and even the few that show up come in dark sunglasses to avoid eye contact and barely nod at him on their way out; tips are scarce these days.

Mister Crony used to get juicy contracts from his classmate the Governor, his cousin the Director-General, and his in-law the Minister. Contracts were typically awarded in Mister Crony’s company names for many times the true value; the goverment official got about half in kickbacks and Mister Crony left with the remaining half to execute the job. Mister Crony usually would keep three quarters of the remainder and look for Mister Jobman who is actually in the specific line of business to execute the job. Most times, the funds that get to Mister Jobman are barely enough to execute the job but to “keep body and soul together”, Mister Jobman finds some way (crooked or otherwise) to get the job passed.

Today, Mister Crony is in hiding, Mister Governor has moved on, and Mister Jobman who may not have been corrupt (depending on how you choose to look at it) is not getting any sub-contracts to keep body and soul together. Of course, he is behind on all his bills and the vicious cycle has hit anyone that previously depended on income from him.

Examples like these abound and many are lamenting that things have been “very dry” since they voted change into place. Some even go as far as to curse the very brooms that swept away the status quo. Why do we seem to be missing the absence of corruption and stealing so much, you may ask? The reasons are not so far-fetched.

1. Public utilities are rarely available so we have to pay in cash if we want to get anything. Waste disposal, Water supply, Personal Security, Communal Security, Education, Electricity, Healthcare, Housing, Communication, Pensions, etc.

2. Too many people were employed to do nothing. Their employers took them in either to fill some tribal/regional quota or as a favour to their kinsmen. Employers over the years have done nothing to utilize the available manpower or lay them off and empower them to contribute to the economy in other ways. Because of the huge wage bills, many establishments have no meaningful projects. Today, it is not uncommon to hear heads of establishments seeking bailout funds to pay their staff.

3. We seem to have lost our value systems completely. For many people, as long as we are spending money, we do not care how our benefactors came about it; and this has encouraged those at the head to further plunder the treasuries creating a false sense of wealth at many levels.

Regardless of whatever energy the government spends on going after wrongdoers of time past, if an equal (or greater) amount of energy is not urgently spent on fixing basic public services, the government would have failed in the eyes of the people. This is not the time to play to the gallery but rather a time to put functional public systems in place so that people do not have to depend on the “flow of resources” from questionable sources.

If citizens are assured that their basic needs will be met come what may, they will be more than willing to champion the fight against individuals or groups that show themselves to be enemies of their survival. If on the contrary, the fight against corruption turns out to be a fight against what the people see as their only hope of survival, they will kick against it.

Now more than ever, the people of this nation need to recognize the fact that no successful leader does it without guidance. You need to provide constructive feedback to the people you have elected to represent and/or govern you. Don’t wait until you are dying; now is the time to tell them what you need them to do.

They may not have promised you anything meaningful during their campaigns because it was easy for them to ride on your sentiments but by now you must have had time to think about what is truly important for you to flourish. Communicate those needs clearly now and weed out anyone that is not ready to work for your good.

Do not say you will wait till the next elections; Now is the time to highlight how useful or useless he/she is at the State House of Assembly, National Assembly, Ministries, etc. But wait, how will you know if you are not playing your part by participating?

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