Continued from last week
I believe with these and more ideas that may come from the public, we can begin to get the necessary buy-in of the public that is very essential to make a dent on corruption. You see, corruption in Nigeria has become written into the code of normal life. Our young musicians daily sing songs that emphasise money, women, alcohol and drugs. These are the rhetoric we raise our children on and so we have almost lost the coming generation to the scourge of corruption, immorality and crime.
What the government needs to spend time doing is to get into the brains and minds of our people in constructive ways not only by mouthing vain preachments. Indeed we need a massive ground-force of young people whose brief will be to take the message to the corners of the country. The message is that there is dignity in labour, and that we would be elevating our own humanity by stopping the idea of judging ourselves based on how much money we have acquired. We are no longer hunter-gatherers or earlymen. Even people in the most capitalist countries of the world are not in a mad quest for acquisitions the way we are in Nigeria. Government must be able to establish the fact that there is nothing wrong if our people live modest lives where the basics are covered. That is how the modern world has evolved. Yes, billionaires will exist – a few of them – but a situation where everyone is trying to be one because their juju man told them that is their destiny, not because they want to add any value, is not the way to grow a sustainable society. Part of what we are seeing is the clash of traditional beliefs and superstition (and almost every Nigerian is a slave to these phenomena), with modern economic principles. Abroad it is established in the main, that you reap what you sow, you earn the value of your work. But here, millions go around looking for opportunities to be billionaires with no work, or by scamming or playing smart.
Of course, this is already a long article – against my wish – but the problem of corruption which has now defined Nigeria, is not a brief subject to discuss or an easy one to solve. I have focused on the public sector here, though it is a human problem in Nigeria and some of the most corrupt people are private sector guys who put the smart ideas into the heads of our civil servants. A friend of mine told me that when he became manager at a branch of a bank in Lagos a decade ago, almost every transaction brought to him by customers or intending customers had a fraud element. It is true. When I started my banking career in 1992 a few ‘friends’ jokingly or seriously advised me to look for an opportunity to defraud the bank and run. I also got accosted by people on my way to the CBN clearing house in Tinubu, Lagos, who wanted me to swap cheques. No, we cannot blame public sector alone. Fraud has unfortunately become our culture in this country and it is beyond sad. Too many people wake up daily and their business is fraud.
So the struggle to roll back corruption must be strategic, must be pervasive, must be sustained, and must be driven by clear examples from the top. The power of repetition must be employed because we are talking of mass therapy and reprogramming here. Any government that does not get ready to do this, or tries to protect its own friends, is on the road to nowhere.
Meanwhile, our society as a whole is actually on its last legs. No society can survive for long where the commonwealth is not deployed for the development of its human capital in every way, and its people’s humanity is not elevated beyond the level of early men; primitive hunter-gatherers. Even those ones knew the limits. Nigerians are not corrupt; many of us are actively working on destroying the country, and many are just totally demented in this very quest. Yes, we cannot call what we are doing to this nation mere ‘corruption’ anymore. Those actively gutting this country on a daily basis must have some undiagnosed mental problem going on. Perhaps the real tragedy is that most of the money makes it out of the country – usually into properties that foreign governments soon seize – or into inactive real estate within the country. The financial lifeblood of a country on life support, ebbs and gushes away.