Everyone in the country today is talking about how unbridled corruption has ruined the nation. But what I think is actually taking place is a celebration of the same vice at every opportunity.
It sounds like an institutional hypocrisy whenever the government makes statements indicating an official disposition to confront the demon of corruption that is ravaging the moral fabrics of the Nigerian society. How do we explain, let alone, justify the phenomenon wherein someone who we all saw in the morning without a dime in his pocket suddenly returns home in the evening a multi-millionaire and the family, the community and the state will not ask him questions about the “miracle” affluence.
Last week, nearly all the mass media in the country reported that a top General was almost swindled the sum of N300m in the supposedly ‘cashless Lagos.’ Typically, they failed to disclose the name of the serving army officer who is so rich that he was almost defrauded of such a stupendous sum. The next question should have been: how did he come about such money?
Let’s assume that the General in question is the real “Oga at the top,” it would still be necessary to ask him of the source(s) of so much money. We all know that it is impossible for a serving military officer (be he a Field Marshal) to have amassed so much cash even if he has never spent a dime of his salaries and other legitimate emoluments since enlistment.
In sane societies, the law enforcement agencies would have since been asking how he came about such money. Of course, the taxman would have been knocking at his door seeking to know how much of the lot (loot?) was paid to the society by way of tax. Because this is a miracle economy where anything goes, nobody is going to ask any question in the face of such a glaring mismatch between possible legitimate income and the wealth-in-hand. That explains, for example, why nobody queried the heartless pension fund thieves as they carted away billions of other people’s naira: Not their banks, not their churches, not their families, not the taxman or the police.
People loot the nation and then go to their churches to give testimonies of “what God has done” and the congregation in apparent endorsement chorus: “Hallelujah!” Traditional rulers call them for chieftaincy conferment; equally, fraudulent awards-distributing agencies, both official and private, enthusiastically join in the fray to ‘recognise’ the new rich men in town while the government gives its own final seal to the whole aberration with national awards.
It is really questionable if the society, taking a cue from the churches and the government, is not actively promoting corruption and its associated criminalities by the way it acquiesces to sudden and unexplained affluence. There are many ways to earn good money. It could be from paid employment, business, inheritance, gift or a lottery haul. Of course, more money could also be made (not earned) by heist, robbery and fraud. While the first set of sources are generally legitimate and therefore encouraged and promoted by all decent societies, the other set of sources are strictly forbidden and punishable. Our economy is unduly distorted by corruption as legitimate incomes are made valueless by illegitimate ones: bad money drives away good money, they say.
Unfortunately, the universal code of good behaviour is ignored in Nigeria by all those whose duty it is to enforce same, including religious institutions and the community at large. It would seem as if the operative code of conduct is that which promotes the belief that the “end justifies the means.” This abominable state of affair is made possible by the massive corrosion of societal values by an unethical elite class that has subverted the socio-political process to gain power and, naturally, brought with them a behavioural trait that suited their otherwise low station in life and since it is natural for people to look up to their “elite”, it became the reality that misfits and ill-prepared individuals became the ruling class which then imposed their base culture on everyone below.
The beginning of this moral slide is generally traceable to the unfortunate intervention of the military in the politics of Nigeria which made it possible for erstwhile bodyguards to kill and replace their masters in office as the new helmsmen. Under the new order, anything was possible: powerless today, very powerful tomorrow; poor today, a rich big man tomorrow all with no questions asked. It was a revolution of sorts.
It was also the era in which prophets and pastors who were ex-communicated from the established churches for sundry sins broke away and dispersed to form their own churches, more like businesses than religion, decorated themselves with high ecumenical titles like archbishops, overseers and other bogus names.
Rather than preach about salvation, they opted to harp on prosperity and affluence to congregations already gripped with acute poverty and misery and, naturally, their message hit its target and the churches proliferated while sins blossomed. These were not the pastors that would preach against corruption because their own doctrines were also based largely on corruption and falsehood. Thieves and murderers rush to their ‘fellowships’ to give offerings and in exchange sought spiritual cover for their sins. Everything but righteousness became acceptable!
Whereas it was the expectation of Aristotle and other men of wisdom that only educated (not necessarily with degrees) and cultured people should lead society under his general pontification of the ‘Philosophy King,’ it however became the case that leadership recruitment in Nigeria for a very long time was restricted to coupists and their cronies. That was why before MKO Abiola of blessed memory won a presidential election in 1993, no previous Nigerian leader was formally educated beyond the ordinary level when Ghana already had an Nkrumah with a solid CV while Leopold Senghor, the philosopher, held sway in Senegal, etc.
It became impossible to tell the people that honesty pays when fraudsters, coupists and other felons constituted the ruling class. By whatever means possible, others also want to get to the top and join in the fray, more so, as they couldn’t beat them, and the easiest route, it turned out, is fraud and criminality and that is what has given character to the Nigeria of today where you dare not ask anyone the source of his wealth.