What is corruption?” one indulgee asked squarely while we sat at our square table thinking about Nigeria, as we seem to do more often now. But it is always true that sometimes questions beget questions, instead of answers; and on this occasion, it didn’t look like this was going to be different. Which leads one into thinking very Yoruba at this point by borrowing from the woman downstairs of this page, who helped me with the expression, “It is word that brings about another word.”
There is no suggestion that we are about to run away from it. A question must be answered, especially when it comes with a forced expectation of a response, such as “answers anyone?”, which, by the way, is a question on its own. “What is corruption” was the question, right? Indeed, it was. So here are a couple of attempts to provide some answers:
“Corruption is when you take what belongs to the people and convert it to your own,” replied an enthusiastic indulgee.
A very cheeky indulgee has a different take on this matter and defined it thus: “Corruption becomes even clearer when, after getting caught in oyibo (white) man’s land, you disguise yourself as a woman, putting oranges on your chest as though you had grown breasts overnight, and then escape back home to try to pant for breath, only to be further hammered by political foes trying to score cheap points.” Hmmm! Isn’t that a very graphic definition? You bet it is.
If you were in doubt about the nature of that cheap points scoring, then I am sure that you are no longer so inclined. At least, since last week we have come to know that that impeachment that took place, those asset seizures, that imprisonment, were all original Nigerian wayo! Otherwise, on what moral authority do a Council of State and a President stand to pardon someone who went to jail for stealing people’s money? This one is an eye opener! Our eyes should become open to the 3D reality that corruption has no chance of escape in this country. It is trapped, trust me!
But in all the condemnations that have trailed this decision to pardon someone who stole from the people lies something more grievous. It speaks to the character of two people. One is the group known as the Council of State. Who are the people that make up this council? Does it speak to the character of these people that nobody within this group is sufficiently angered by this decision as to offer a dissenting view on this matter? Does it speak to the kind of minds that congregate in the name of the Council of State? That such minds are not in tune with the general feelings of the Nigerian people and that, indeed, they see the notion of corruption differently? In fact, would it be out of place to suggest, given the history of this country, that the people who make up this council have affinity with the action of the pardoned individual, in terms of how they behaved when they were in office, hence the reason they do not think anything odd in this decision?
But even more worrying is just the odd thought that by forgiving this individual ex-convict the President is endorsing corruption, and that he could himself be corrupt, knowing that someone with his kind of mind would pardon him should he be caught and sentenced to prison in future. In other words, the President does not mind corruption, and may not be far from being corrupt himself, since he is confident that a corrupt Nigerian system would forgive him in future should a similar fate befall him. These are permutations arising from indulgees reflecting deeply about what is going on in their country. It is sad, but it is also dangerous to just think that there could be that kind of mindset floating about in the highest seat of government in this land!
It is what is forcing indulgees to be thinking seriously about saving this country today. And they have been egged on by this thing that the military-bequeathed so-called Council of State, rammed from all sides, very likely by ‘their President’, did recently with the dishing out of pardons to certain individuals some of whom, as the Americans would say, should stew up real good in jail. It makes one shudder. But the truth is that indulgees say they have an idea in the form of an experiment for which they want to start collecting signatures!
The subject of their signature-collecting exercise is to try to persuade everybody in the public sector, especially those who get involved in one form of corruption or the other, to declare a moratorium on corruption for one month, starting from Monday, April 1, 2013. Don’t make any mistake about it. April 1 might be “All Fools Day”, but it is particularly auspicious a choice. Can you imagine if all public officers who indulge in one form of corruption or the other (small or big) just decided to flow in the spirit of the “All Fools Day” moment and suspend any form of corruption across the country for the next 30 days? Can you ever imagine what would happen? By the way, such a decision would include not taking the corruption-fuelled decision to pardon convicted criminals for political expediency! Now, this decision will have to start from the President who, because he is very influential and has so many pressures piled on him, likely often dispenses one favour or another which can be corrupt in nature, even though they might not involve actual stealing of money (cash) – like waking up and giving Niger Delta oil blocs to people who are his friends or from whom he might later seek political campaign funds!
You might think that indulgees are having a laugh in making this suggestion, but let me assure you that they are dead serious! They want t o see this country get better; and they are tired of people pretending as if they are not corrupt. For instance, when the President, on Sunday when he is at church service, says he abhors corruption and will do everything to fight it, but then wakes up on a Tuesday and says pardon should be granted to those who steal from the people’s purse, then you must think that he attends two services – one on Sunday when he calls God, Jesus (as a publicly-acknowledged Christian), and something else that is not really white, because it seems darkish to want to free someone who stole from the people to possibly return to steal again! And so, if you are up for this idea about collecting signatures to have a moratorium of corruption for one full month, then sign up NOW!