• Wednesday, May 22, 2024
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“Corruption” revisited


The “last word” on corruption in Nigeria may have been spoken, and there may be nothing new to add. But that won’t stop anyone. In any case, questions are still in order.

The pastors who denounce corruption in thunderous philippics from their pulpit every Sunday, especially those high priests of mega-churches seating thousands, aren’t they the same ones whose mansions, limousines and sometimes private jets are financed by hefty donations (“tithes”) by parishioners some of who are thieves and embezzlers wishing to salve their conscience and purchase heaven?

Old soldiers and retired bankers who would show us “the way forward,” how did they make their billions? They never were “captains of industry”—merchants, manufacturers, or commercial-scale farmers and food processors providing jobs and a decent living for thousands. Look at the wilderness they presided over. What significant developments were they the authors of? What order did they bring? What value have they added to the life of the nation? Even from the high income of their executive years, after taking care of family living expenses including their children’s education, could their monthly salaries yield such billions no matter how creatively invested?

Nigeria has no housing mortgage system capable of servicing the middle and lower classes who require 20-30 years to pay for a bungalow or duplex from their meager monthly earnings while at the same time paying school fees and putting food on the table. One bank alone cannot perform this monumental task. In its 55-years the Federal Mortgage Bank has only managed to finance a miniscule fraction of the millions of housing units needed. And at interest rates of 20-30%, commercial banks have been untouchable. How then have so many salaried employees managed to construct or purchase so many fine little bungalows, duplexes and even mansions by the time they retire from service?

For that matter, by what trick did the “senior service” ranks of the public service, with their similarly limited monthly salaries, come into possession of the colonial mansions and super-sized plots (prime government property) left by the departing British in Ikoyi and other GRAs all over Nigeria?

How many villages have ever asked to know how their sons and daughters made their money in the big bad city? How many villages have ever refused donations in cash or kind (paved road, borehole, town hall, clinic, classroom block, etc.) from known embezzlers, thieves and kick-backers?

Those sons and daughters who occupied a high post in government (director, perm sec, commissioner, minister, head of parastatal, etc.) even for three or four years and came home less than wealthy (a rare phenomenon), aren’t they everybody’s laughingstock? Aren’t they the new “village fools”?

Isn’t every politician a “new god,” celebrated and toasted all over the nation no matter his/her antecedents, character or performance? Doesn’t the conversation or prepared speech suddenly stop and the entire gathering rise to their feet and sheepishly clap their hands spontaneously or on command from the Master of Ceremonies when a politician makes his/her ostentatious entry two hours late? And doesn’t he/she need just a single term in NASS to come out a billionaire?

Regardless of measurable success or achievement in any endeavour or field of expertise, isn’t a Nigerian these days universally regarded as a failure and a fool if he failed to make money? Aren’t 95% of the Nigerians living abroad, both the extraordinary, top-flight professionals and the ordinary people working hard and bringing up their children and supporting their parents and relatives back home—aren’t such persons regarded as failures because they have no landed property yielding rent, nor even a house to settle in, nor money in the bank worth mentioning? Contrary to popular myth, dollars are extremely scarce; and when these exiles come home they find that naira is even more scarce. Isn’t their achievement now regarded as “old school”? Isn’t the new slogan: Success without money is failure!

How many journalists have ever refused a “brown envelope” when offered? How many “brown envelopes” will make a billion? Since a rich Nigerian journalist is such a rare thing, does it mean that this tribe of professionals are more honest—or more stupid—than the rest? Or is it that journalists are in the “wrong” place—that is, not close to any known pot of money which they can steal, nor in a position to help “launder” stolen money and make a fortune doing it? Did they study the wrong thing in school? The former campus ne’er-do-wells, the theatre arts students-of-last-resort, have redeemed themselves: they’ve seized the time, constructed Nollywood, and are earning big time honest money.

Aren’t journalists in fact an anomaly in a society that values nothing but money? In a society dominated by stolen money, journalists are the “universal enemy” and every village’s “idiot-in-chief”—because they seek to throw sand in everyone’s garri. Three quarters of their effort is to give voice and visual image to the people’s suffering, to expose misgovernance and crime, to urge the replacement of lawlessness and chaos with order and good government. No wonder journalists are universally despised and feared—or rather, they are feared in societies with a judiciary that will punish crime in high places, such as UK, USA and China. In Nigeria the judiciary is one of those “high places” . . . .  



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Jemie is the Editor-in-Chief of BusinessDay