By Adejumo Adedolapo
Silent boring night it was in my empty comfort zone, hunger pangs and the stench of wet rug stinging my nostrils. Then sanity prevailed and I thought to revert to what used to bring a little solace, a stroll. It would serve two purposes I hoped, arrange my thoughts and also I could get some food, both of course futile incursions.
Ten minutes later, at the gates of the large residential hall that should have been my home I heard on a distant Public Address System “His topic is Nigeria is not corrupt”. My initial thought, we now do Standup comedy in the hall. Alas, it was the topic of an impromptu speech and let me spare you the gory details, the poor man did not do any justice to the topic.
So I sat on the circular beauties serenaded by flowers and the cold chilly ambience and I ruminated “is Nigeria Corrupt”. Is it not a disservice to the memories of the citizens that have been lost to the insurgency in the North East and the creeks of Niger Delta to make that assertion. An insult to the sacrifices of citizens who have lost the war against hunger, diseases and strife on a daily basis.
Was it not an audacious attempt to denigerate the toils of the upright, virtuous and unyielding civil servant who knows to add another zero enriches his generation but would rather not? Not a subtle criticism of the religious leaders that admonish people on the corridors of power to shun vice and be masses oriented?
Not a calculated attempt to turn the cries of the survivors of the war against hunger, personal hatred due to unfulfilled dreams or the unemployed graduate to mere cacophony. Is it not a mere disregard for the laws of nature to ask if Nigeria is corrupt?
But then, on the flip side. Nigeria is not corrupt. The government of the United States is Corrupt, the leadership of the Russian Federation is corrupt, the personal gratification the leaders of Israel and the blooming economies of the Middle Eastern countries seek is pathognomonic of corruption.
They are corrupt because they have over the years respected the rule of law but have also devised every machinery to find loop holes in these devices to gain crooked favors. They are corrupt because they do not offer any assistance without getting some form of repayment.
They are corrupt because they have established welfare schemes for teeming members of the populace and have also made sure large amounts accrue to them. They are corrupt because the fund the destabilization of constitutionally elected governments to get their Weapons of mass destruction selling friends business.
They are corrupt because they create jobs and pay minimum wages promptly but enjoy a lot of state enjoyed benefits making them spend less of what they really earn.
They are corrupt because social amenities are provided with resources that belong to every member of the society but they take personal gratitude for the feats. They are corrupt because even in the face of failure they do resign but keep enjoying all the benefits of office.
So I ask again, is Nigeria really corrupt? I think not. We would only be over burdening the intended meaning of the construct if we say Nigeria is.
Corruption is not enough to describe the inefficiencies and excesses of the insensate, morally bankrupt, naira gulping politicians who we have enlisted to drive us to doom. It is not enough to describe the incompetence of public office holders, civil servants, learned professionals and members of society whose first instinct is to sabotage the naturals only to satisfy his belly and that of his immediate family.
It is not enough to describe the audible silence of our religious leaders, who either have grown tired of repeating the same narratives or have had their morality bought over by large budgets. It does not sound like enough reason to have poor amenities in the face of abundant resources.
It does not account for the callous act of the secretary who asks for a tip from an unemployed tattered job seeker before submitting an application. You would find like me that the teachers of the beautiful language did not coin such a word to describe the rot in the essence of our society.
What then is to blame? Are we really that incapable of all-inclusive governance? Was government really designed to enrich an insignificant few at the expense of teeming poverty of a larger subset?
Are we really alienated from feeling the sufferings of fellow men? Is it the apathy of the average Nigerian to demand responsibility from leaders? Is it that God turned his face from Nigeria? Lord Lugard? Flora Shaw? Abacha? Jonathan? Buhari? Is it the price of crude oil? Is it…. Is it?
Be disappointed in me, I do not even have answers to all these questions but I observed without much cerebration that we indeed lack a culture of developing leaders in this country. How was your primary school Senior Prefect decided? And Secondary School? Probably appointed by the teachers like mine.
Well, we would both agree that could be as inconsequential as almost everything in the walls of secondary schools. In the tertiary institutions, the student leaders (who unfortunately keep going up the rungs of the ladder to be politicians) are “applected” (join appointed and elected) by the school authority and the ones with vigor and who would speak against all forms of tyranny are silenced and even removed from such institutions.
The “applected” leaders not only deny individuals who would have learnt leadership these golden opportunities but also sell out their colleagues who in turn get used to suffering in silence at formative periods of their lives. Political and leadership apathy ensues and we get deeper and deeper in the circumstance we are in.
Where are the leaders supposed to come from? From fathers whose children have observed inhumane approach to siphoning public funds? From godfathers who demand the most sardonic of requirements from their god sons who in return must pay further diminishing the resources available to serve the state?
From rightly frustrated but improperly motivated citizens who see the fat big bellied trolls with foul money elected ahead of them? Or from the heavens when you and I pray to God to heal our land.
We would all definitely have to raise the leaders in our families, the basic unit of the society. Fathers would train their children in what communal progress is, Mothers who would teach children that riches in the midst of poverty points only at failure not success. We would in the words of Martin Luther King show that “freedom is not freely giving by the oppressor; it is fought for by the oppressed”. We would however not fight with clubs and machetes but with education of our offspring, with good examples for them to emulate. We would challenge inappropriate standards by continuing to push them into the limelight. We would banish the principles of materialism and propagate egalitarianism. We would not be victims of People Deceiving People or privy to All Promises Cancelled. We would refuse to raise a new generation that would neglect profitable enterprise to make a living out of politics. We would chart a new course starting not from mosques, churches or shrines but from the hearts of our children. Corruption is not inherited, neither genetic, it simply is acquired.
Remember when I said both efforts were futile incursions, yes they were. I could not clear my head and I could not get the noodles and chicken I so craved because I found out quite indignantly that Recession was not merely a word. I have more questions than I do answers.