I still want those who are discussing “us” now in Abuja to focus on few more items. They, as our representatives or better, delegates, should search for answers to our questions. We, the represented, or the non-delegates, have the privilege to give them terms of reference as they seek answers to the questions.
We shall be like the philosophers of old, who raise the questions and let them pretend to be scientists of the new generation who claim to have the answers to the questions. The terms of reference will not be long, but if they start getting unwieldy, I plead with you, favoured ones, to bear with me. After all, you all have the liberty to formulate and reformulate terms. In fact, you can even redefine terms. Less I weary you all, the terms are summed up in this statement: put the bits and pieces together and show us the shape, our shape. Locate SORROW and exterminate it!
Everybody in the country sings corruption. Ask the high and the low and they will pour out their disgust for it. Many have suggested measures that could be taken against corruption. Governments have created institutions to combat corruption, some of which include Shagari’s National Ethical Reorientation Agency, Buhari’s War Against Indiscipline, Babangida’s MAMSER (NOA), and Obasanjo’s Independent Corrupt Practices Commission (ICPC) as perhaps the biggest and most visible.
Very many intelligent and well placed citizens have also pontificated, and are still doing so in the direction of either plummeting or eliminating corruption. Unfortunately, corruption sits on top of all the labour put in so far. Could now be the time to get to the high place where it dwells and negotiate with it or destroy it or, is it not better to let it be so that other issues of equal interest could be discussed?
Whatever the case may be, corruption must be invited to the confab and appropriately interrogated. Looking at Nigeria, it is not easy to determine the conditions which provide fertile grounds for corruption. This is because they are hidden and, most of the times, overshadowed by the effects of corruption. We have largely misconstrued the efforts against corruption as we are unable to distinguish between its causes and effects.
The first condition for corruption is ignorance. Could it be a cause or an effect? Many of us continue to eat up one another, blame one another, hate one another, deride one another and disdain one another as we strive towards having a good grasp of the meaning of corruption. We know that corruption is related to standards, and varies from individual to individual, organization to organization, institution to institution and even country to country.
There is a bench mark in all human activities largely expressed in codes, norms, rules, regulations and laws governing all endeavours. A reduction, or fall in the standard application, implementation or execution of any, or all of these is in simple terms, “corruption.” I like the Christian scriptural characterization of the concept as “… short.” In the Epistle of Paul to the Romans, it is written that all have sinned and fallen short of the glory of God.”
Falling short of glory (the original) is equated to sin and that is corruption. Many of us are certainly not wise enough to realize this. Our inability to realize that is ignorance. If we knew, we would act better. The havoc that ignorance has wreaked on this country is certainly a topic of discussion for another day.
The next condition for corruption is poverty. It is easy not to associate poverty with corruption because everybody thinks of corruption as elitist. Those who are derided for this ugly practice are the people in high places; the aristocrats, the technocrats, the political class, the business tycoons, and their likes.
Much as I agree that they have fallen short of expectations, I also think that those who “expect” from them have equally devalued true expectations thereby bringing about a corrupt set of expectations. It becomes extremely difficult, therefore, to know who is are the major exponents and engineers of corruption.
Poverty can be seen from two perspectives: physical and spiritual. While physical is aggressive and does a lot of violence to our sense of aesthetics, the spiritual insults the humanity in us; they are jointly victims and catalysts of corruption. When a man in penury is placed in charge of resources, he believes that it is a God-given opportunity to escape from his debased physical position (thank God women are not included in this).
He is overwhelmed by the responsibility he is entrusted with and is likely to misappropriate the resources. Well this is pitiable and should I say, somehow understandable because we now know the role of IGNORANCE in the entire miasma. But when a man of means, in fact, distinguished by economic opulence and thus, privileged, misappropriates resources he is entrusted with, there is no doubt that he is under the spell of another agent of corruption known as GREED. All greedy individuals are poor, spiritually poor.
Greed thus takes its place as the third condition for corruption. It is insatiability in the human being. It is not really an obvious physical trend; rather it is more of a psychological propensity.
Those who have and go on to seek more are justified to do so, but when they take advantage of the poor, encroaching into the little available to them and appropriating it, then they are obviously fickle minded, and certainly unwell. It is so when it has become an all consuming impulse and, as such, eliminates decency in its victims. It is one sickness that makes a father starve his children because he wants more for himself. It makes one to even steal from oneself.
It makes one nonchalant about other people and other issues. Two principal components of greed are gluttony and self-indulgence. When one goes on accumulating (what one does not need) for the sake of amassing wealth (economic obesity), then one certainly needs help. In our country, greed is a principal evil.
Although I have ranked it third, it is actually integral to all other condition. It operates in the lives of the low and the high, dwells in the religious and secular, in the traditional and the modern and keeps strengthening day after day. Sometimes, it is so subtle that even its victims hardly comprehend they are under its pressure. The most awful facet is that it defies legislative or even other non-legislative sanctions.
This is one major reason the battle against corruption has been elusive. Simple examples of greed are apparent in commonly acceptable behaviours and activities in the society. Everybody is desirous of owning a home (house). Great idea! But as soon as s/he gets one in the city in which s/he dwells, s/he feels incomplete until s/he is able to erect another in her or his home of origin. Thereafter, s/he desires to become a “landlord,” even though s/he is not a real estate professional.
S/he is encouraged by professionals, institutions and organizations (including the religious) because it is sensible, by their standard, to INVEST. This insatiability or gluttony graduates to self indulgence as the victim continues to invest in it ad infinitum!
Well, it is not only in home ownership programme that this rears up, it is so in all other areas from marriage, through child-bearing, property acquisition, career building and every other “building trend,” both concrete and abstract. Once the basic needs are exceeded and other issues gain ascendancy over them, the propensity for greed (corruption) is established.
Finally, greed is intricately interwoven in all these: ignorance and poverty and the situation that emerges is simply pitiable. We have little option to an agreement with the English Romantic poet/philosopher, William Blake, who says: “Pity will be no more if we did not make someone poor.”
By Chimdi Maduagw