Trust Nigerians to make a joke out of anything. In the wake of the FBI announcement of the names of Nigerians who had been accused of being involved in internet fraud running into several millions of dollars, a social media ‘joke’ on FBI went viral. It was about the FBI not respecting our Federal Character. This was because the listed names were predominantly from a particular ethnic group. It would indeed, have been funny if it wasn’t a grim indicator of who we had become. Everything in Nigeria has to be patterned along ethnic lines it seems.
A similar joke went out when Saudi Arabia announced its own list of some Nigerian criminals who were going to be executed for bringing drugs into its country. This time it was another ethnic group that was predominant. We seem to have developed a somewhat perverted delight in scrutinising every list for its ethnic composition as if that explains anything. Maybe we believe, in our deluded minds, that it is the responsibility of whatever tribe the criminals belong, to curtail the criminality of its sons and daughters. It reminds me of a native proverb which says a bad child especially in a polygamous home, belongs to his mother. But that kind of father is either irresponsible or in denial because he can hardly absolve himself as the head of his home if different forms of rottenness exist in many of his children irrespective of motherhood. This is the case in our society.
The truth is that a child, irrespective of the tribe or even race, is more likely to aspire to higher education and responsibility if almost everybody in his immediate family is educated and responsible. The same way that a child, again irrespective of tribe or race, is more prone to criminality if those in his immediate environment operate on the fringes of the law. So what a child sees growing up is likely to have more effect on him than his tribe. So now he turns out is more of a peer issue and a societal issue than a tribal issue. Those who are trying to categorise criminality according to the tribe are therefore wasting their time. I have seen how a recent social media post ascribed different crimes to different ethnic groups. It is another sick joke.
If what happened to the Yahoo boys in America recently embarrassed us, then we should look into the mirror. We should examine the many ways our society has encouraged and nudged a crooked lifestyle. It seems such a long time ago when the people we looked up to in the society and regarded as demi-gods were the religious leaders, the professionals, the teachers and the government workers in our midst. The rich farmers and contractors queued up behind them. It was an orderly society where wealth was explained. The keyword was accountability. Nobody frowned at wealth but the family name mattered more. Every family emphasised the process rather than the end. And the process included good education and dignity of labour. The process included perseverance, grim hard work, falling and getting up again. The fruit of such a process can hardly be flamboyance or materialism; the wanton display of wealth and possessions which is so common in our society today.
The path of least resistance they say leads to a river becoming crooked. It also, unfortunately, leads to a man becoming crooked. And we are a nation that loves the path of least resistance in the things we do. We just love short cuts. Let us examine some of the many ways we opt for the path of least resistance. We have a child who is playful and detests the rigours of studying. Rather than make him drop a year as a lesson, we prefer to make friends with the school authorities so he can get promoted every year. And when it is time for JAMB, we lookout for those corrupt officials who will doctor his result and make him eligible for admission. It doesn’t stop there. This goes on throughout his university years. How many parents can honestly say they have not tried to subvert the system one way or another? How many in the educational system have not been willing tools in this subversion? Even the choice of NYSC is ‘arranged.’ It is presumptuous to expect this fellow who is a product of the path of least resistance, AKA fraud, to embrace uprightness in later years.
A man becomes rich by virtue of his birth. He is installed in choice government or political jobs that he ordinarily does not merit. That kind of person cannot value what he has. Neither can a person who is catapulted to the top by virtue of federal character because he has not worked for it. Instead, he devalues the job and devalues the system. It is no wonder that the civil service is riddled with corruption. Anybody who has to work with the civil service and wants to stick to the rule books is already defeated.
The major bane in our society is the worship of money. Money in Nigeria washes away a multitude of sins; be it a sin of certificate fraud, rape, drugs, yahoo, treasury looting or any form of moral depravity. The Senator who was caught on CCTV mauling another person’s wife is still in the Senate. The same Senate that houses paedophiles, drug barons and treasury looters. Ex Governors and high profile politicians who have cases with EFCC are now made Ministers without their names being cleared. In fact, the only sin that is frowned upon in Nigeria is poverty. It is a sin with all kinds of unsavoury consequences. We respect the man with a container at the wharf ahead of a professor.
Another bane is lack of accountability. That is why sharp guys like Invictus Obi can come to the scene without anybody asking questions. That is why drug barons and internet fraudsters can burst into the scene and nobody asks questions. That is why a retired government official can budget two billion Naira for a governorship election and nobody will ask questions. That is why a Wadume can suddenly surface in a small community with unexplained wealth and nobody asks questions. And rather than question their sources of wealth, we embrace them and welcome them to the haloed places in the society. We need a deep soul searching. We need to look at the mirror and see how many Invictus Obis, how many Wadumes, how many Yahoo stars are being incubated by our actions.
A fight against corruption without a setting up of values, of minimum societal norms, has not started. And the stain their actions will bring to the rest of us will only get deeper.