Reproduced below, is an unedited story culled from ‘The Pupil’ magazine of the late70’s
We brought this to the reading public to buttress the fact that the subject of corruption has not only widened its scope in our society but seems to have defied meaningful panacea despite constant shouts and write ups by patriotic citizens of this country and even beyond. We need a change for a better Nigeria.
This article is germane , now that the country , Nigeria is getting ready for another round of elections in 2015. We need to reframe our minds to play the game right and everybody should be involved in transforming this nation to a better one devoid of greed and avarice.
‘Corruption’ is a household word in Nigerian Society these days. Everyone talks about it in a detached and disinterested way. Everybody accuses others of corruption. Yet nobody owns it, or accepts responsibility for it.
What is corruption? A dictionary describes it as ‘’moral deterioration’’. In simpler terms it means the weakening of one’s power to distinguish between right or wrong. In a corrupt society, the majority of the people are no longer capable of distinguishing between right or wrong, and corrupt practices are accepted as a normal way of life. A Nigerian has recently produced a small book in which he analysed in detail the various forms of corruption now plaguing Nigeria in the book entitled ’’Anatomy of Corruption in Nigeria’’, the author divides corruption into three, namely: Corruption of the soul, Corruption of the body and Corruption of Office. There is very little distinction between the three forms. Therefore, for the purpose of this talk corruption will be taken as a whole.
The first thing a Nigerian who wants to check corruption in the society must realise is that it exists in every walk of life in the country. There have been allegations that police officers collect money from commercial motor drivers whether or not they find fault with the vehicles .It is common knowledge that some market women defraud their customers by manipulating their measures to their own advantage or selling rotten or mouldy but well polished foodstuffs to unwary buyers. It is common knowledge that that most jobs can only be got nowadays through what is termed ‘long legs’.
What about the Pastor who converts church funds to his personal use and then destroys the records? What about the hospital workers, starting from the gateman, to the nurses and dispensers and doctors who do not perform their official duties unless their palms are first greased? What about the headmasters and principals of schools who reveal examination questions to their favourite pupils? What about University lecturers and professors who would not pass female students unless the latter agree to be their girlfriends?
What about private school proprietors who build houses and buy several cars from high school fees collected from anxious parents, instead of employing qualified teachers and providing good food , accommodation and teaching equipment for the pupils? What about the politicians who in the days of politics bribed the electorate to vote for them , or manipulate election results to enter the House of Assembly or the House of Representatives as the case may be. Even University students who are often referred to as the leaders of the immediate future have their own share of corruption.
Perhaps , we should next examine the causes of corruption generally and particularly in Nigeria.
First of all, we can take consolation in the fact that corruption is the bane of developing countries and every developed country has passed through it at one time or another in its development. It was the bane of life in Great Britain , it was in Europe and the United States of America. It is now rampant in some Asian and Latin American countries. So it is not peculiar to Nigeria alone. It has been recognized as one of the peculiarities of transitional periods, that is, the period it takes a Nation to move from one stage to another. Corruption is usually found in a country where inadequate opportunities exist. When Nigeria had enough cultivable land for every farming family and enough pasture for every cowherd, there was no evidence of corruption in the country. Even in the early days of British rule in Nigeria when there were enough white collar jobs for the educated young men there was little or no evidence of corruption. The trouble started when there were no longer enough jobs to go round the many qualified men and women, or enough scholarships for brilliant people, or enough good and reputable schools and colleges for everybody.
Another reason is mass poverty and ignorance. It is the fear of poverty that drives the young job or scholarship seeker into the clutches of unscrupulous high officials. It is ignorance and mass poverty that makes an electorate vote for notorious politicians for a mere mess of pottage. It is poverty that drives able-bodied young men into accepting to be politicians’ thugs. It is ignorance of their rights that makes professional drivers constant prey for mean policemen. It is ignorance that makes the families of hospital patients bribe the hospital workers into taking good care of their patient. It is the fear of poverty that makes even the privilege people on top of the social ladder, many of whom have themselves emerged from mass poverty, to want to be rich at all costs so that after retiring from their jobs they and their families do not experience deprivation again.
Another cause of corruption is lack of self- respect or honour. It operates both in the leadership and followership of a society. It is lack of self-respect or sense of honour that makes a high public servant or a firm’s boss demand money or other things from a job seeker before he can employ him or recommend him or her for promotion. It is lack of self respect that renders a person unwilling to face up to his guilt and the attendant punishment and makes him prefer to bribe his way through.
Yet another cause of corruption is excessive love of money and the [power it bestows. A wealthy man or woman feels he or she can buy everything; it is true that , on the surface, he seems to get everything-housed, cars, ability to give his children best available education if they have the brains and secure jobs for them , even when they do not quite make the grade! He can acquire as many wives and girl friends as he likes. But this does not mean that he is happy, for happiness cannot be bought.
We can go on cataloguing these causes. But the last one that will be mentioned is the Nigerian’s aversion to report an evil doer or to give testimony against offenders, especially in the law courts. Perhaps, this is because of the time consumed in court cases. But generally, nobody wants to be instrumental to the downfall of somebody else and so, they connive at corruption practices.
What is the remedy for all these? Certainly both the Government and the Civilians have a role to play. The Government could plan a welfare state. This is a situation where equal opportunities are created for everybody. For example, every child would have access to education, his success or failure depending on his own potentials. There would be jobs for everybody. There would be adequate health services, and the other basic amenities would be evenly distributed throughout the country. While the citizens would be allowed to develop their individual talents and build up big businesses and industries, the Government can legislate against wasteful spending and ostentatious living. Afterall ,during the civil war, the
Military Government banned noisy merry making. Something similar could be done to check people’s excesses which could give rise to unhealthy rivalry. What part have the youths to play in all these?
- The Youth could start laying the foundation for a welfare state. Here are some of the suggestions on how to set about it:
- (School Children, students and apprentices should apply themselves diligently to their learning so that they will not be liabilities to society in future.
- The youth should develop a sense of honour and self-pride which would prevent them from engaging in any activities that would belittle them or cause others to jeer at them. For example, a self-respecting girl would prefer to walk short distances rather than thumb f or lifts from unknown car owners who may corrupt them. A self-respecting student will not embezzle union funds. A truly honourable student would make his grievances felt in a peaceful, rather than a violent, way.
- The Youth should be encouraged to live in other parts of their state and country in order to learn how to know and respect fellow Nigerians. This would check sectionalism and tribalism.
- The Youth should desist from unwarranted hero-worshipping. Real genius could be admired and certainly encouraged, but not worshipped excessively as the latter act could make the genius feel superior to his fellowmen.
By-Courtesy of Audio visual Section,
Ministry of Education, Ibadan.