Judging Nigeria’s checkered history one would think that by now a majority of its citizens would have become weary of corruption.  Instead, corruption remains the most pervasively overused and a highly misunderstood word in our national lexicon.  Everyone talks about corruption but most Nigerians are ambivalent about corruption, that is, most prefer to talk more about its evils than putting worth enough will to actually end it.  As annoying as corrupt acts are, when push turns into shove, the majority of Nigerians have a lackadaisical attitude toward corruption.

In daily conversations at social grassroots, it’s not uncommon to hear parents express their desire on how their children need success both in the school and in the work place and how they should bring that success home to uplift the entire household, but these same parents show little regard on how their children achieve success. It doesn’t really matter much that most of these parents have not laid the proper foundation or a forged better path for their children.  Showing off great wealth patronages and the collection or accumulation of material things are the typical benchmark for success in most Nigerian family units.  Not that anything is wrong with such capitalist tendencies, however a culture which shows more disregard for ethical values is the sole reason Nigeria grapples with corruption.

Corruption remains a formidable opponent largely responsible for the overwhelming abject poverty and the general underdevelopment of the country; and is currently fought by several government band aid measures masquerading via anti-corruption institutions with little success to show for the millions spent to combat it.  Perhaps, it’s not conjecture on my part to say that these anti-corruption institutions are usually inundated by formidable group of opportunists.  The culprits are especially the scrupulous elites with wherewithal, often known within Nigeria as sacred cows, and are easily beyond reproach.  Analogously, they can be described to ordinary Nigerians as evil citizens wearing veils of obscurity, mediocrity, and impunity; and they wield their enormous power, shrouded in secrecy, eager to bribe less privileged but corruptible folks with government powers to tacitly sanction corruption.

I have to believe that corruption is the main reason many Nigerians are domicile abroad; it’s why many graduates from universities across the nation roam the streets without jobs and some even have to survive by joining nefarious groups such as kidnappers, militants, terrorists and armed robbers; it’s why Nigerians never expect electricity power supply always, and have one of the highest infant mortality rates in the world, and so on and so forth.  Getting something for nothing, especially when that something is not freely given, is corruption, no matter how one looks at it, that is just the deliberate attempt to divert resources meant for many to the exclusive use of one or a few, “privileged.”  

Forget whatever you are told about the current campaign against corruption, it’s really going to be tough to bring corruption to a minimum in Nigeria because of the lure of quick bonanza and the chance to showcase a smugger collection of material things people consider means worthy of society’s accolades.  With this type of attitude, and as long as both state sponsored corruption and other corrupt acts are often condoned, subverted and subjected to frequent executive overrides, it will continue to be difficult to enact and enforce laws to reduce the evils of corruption.  Corruption, not Boko Haram, not kidnappers, not armed robbers, etc., has made Nigeria a failed state.  Oh, what an asylum!  News flash, but Inmates are actually running the asylum!

As part of this sick mentality, most Nigerians are reticent to their responsibility to fight corruption, and instead, will shift that responsibility to God by constantly invoking their religious beliefs on how God will one day deal with all corrupt individuals and save the country from corruption.  Corruption is an 800 pound gorilla no one really wants to battle head-on, but Nigerians don’t mind tickling it’s rear-end as they avoid being trampled by it.  To battle corruption means we must first embark upon a campaign aimed at each family unit to eschew corrupt mentality and embrace a merit system of achievements.  Not necessarily setting traps for small fishes while huge ones roam freely unperturbed.  Somehow, we must also deal with the two most thorniest and confusing things in our culture today, religion and Juju, two diametrically opposed forces, both of which arguably contribute immensely to the sustenance and entrenchment of corruption.  

With the numerous religions in Nigeria, God is constantly made the butt-end joke on corruption.  I guess because of the way some folks act after each petition to God to end evil.  It’s not unusual to discover that the citizen who, in numerous prayer sessions, invoke the name of God the loudest is the same person who can’t wait to easily abrogate and shift personal responsibility for his failures, including his duty to fight corruption to God, foreigners, and/or his fellow citizens. This same individual is more likely to commit corrupt acts or other vicious evils, and immediately can’t wait to confuse others more by praying publicly some more and calling on God some more to end evil.

Someone steals from the public, goes and makes a large donation into the church collection box and receives an abundance of praise from the Pastor with no questions asked, as to how he made his money. He gives large contributions to family and friends or supports important causes with ill-gotten wealth, no one questions the means of the wealth, instead he gets a national award with his social status elevated, especially if he, in addition, along the way invokes God’s name some more.  Mind you, this individual can be saved as long as each time after an evil deed he accepts Jesus as his personal savior.  Isn’t it a fair proclamation that Nigeria is getting exactly what it deserves?  Our attitude toward, or the actual understanding of God, doesn’t make much logical sense.  

We can certainly make the God experience much less confusing.  Also, at the other extreme, is the totally confusing practice of goat-chicken-blood, mud, feathers, kola nut, etc., fetishes, known as juju—supposedly will confer supreme confidence to an unenlightened and ignorant person to suddenly win a government contract in something he has zero technical ability in, but with buffoonery he can get ahead in any endeavor, including, in grand deception. With juju and religion on the margin come great fabrication of false hope, in place of careful and efficient planning and a decent follow through.

The good news is integrity is not a leper.  It’s an aspired attainment to always strive for outward transparency in one’s thoughts, words and actions.  It stands to reason that corruption has its roots, first, in family units, villages, tribes, schools, etc., before it ends up in national government, and should be controlled from that order.  Some will argue otherwise, but let me remind my critics that your elected leader was once somebody’s child.  Before he became the leader, he was supposed to have been civilized first by his parents, other family members, schools, etc.  Why is it so difficult for most Nigerians to accept personal responsibility for how things are turning out in our country?  Shouldn’t personal responsibility be to self-remind-self, first, to always tell yourself the truth; second, to accept your self-evident truth; and third, to always find appropriate ways not to tell yourself more lies?

In conclusion, my critics may ask, why do some of us Nigerians in Diaspora paint doom and gloom picture of Nigeria all the time?  I believe the reason can be summed up in these three statements below:  first, Nigerians in Diaspora love Nigeria equally much more and are eager to see things improve, even slightly, to mirror the basis of comparison they now have on how the structure of a country and its trend, mood, and current events are supposed to progress.  The doom and gloom is the attempt to call it the way one sees it.  Second, Nigeria primarily can only be developed by Nigerians still in Nigeria, but with occasional help from patriotic citizens domiciled abroad whose main focus are to influence, motivate, encourage and uplift the minds of the masses to demand to be governed well; and with them constantly speaking up for the voiceless among us, these citizens abroad hope to influence the government’s economic, social and political agenda.  Finally, Nigerians abroad remit huge amount of foreign exchange with trickle-down effect in the nation’s economy.  That also makes us stakeholders.

As a nation, the sooner we tone down our vicious competitive spirits and embrace more cooperation in all that we do, the more will we find lasting results in our efforts toward nation building and the less likely our national quest for happiness will remain elusive.

Talk back at: [email protected] or please follow me on twitter @christopherceke

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