By: Muhammed Abdullahi*
Easier said than done goes a popular aphorism. Perhaps, in no other milieu is this saying more apt than in Nigeria. Every day, on the pages of national dailies, the screens of TV, from the speakers of radio sets and in conferences, symposiums and conventions, our leaders play to the gallery, speaking tongue-in-cheek and chanting empty rhetoric: Nigeria must be rid of corruption.
They pay lip service to the endemic, ubiquitous and singular hydra-headed problem that has ravaged the most-populous African nation since her independence 51 years ago. They lament the sorry state of the nation which architect is widespread corruption and regret the ever widening chasm between the rich few who, like an overfed pig, suffer from regular constipation and the poverty-stricken majority who, in semblance to a church rat (you know dishes are not prepared in churches!), grudgingly embrace and feast with kwashiorkor and ulcer.
They discuss it holistically, analyze its mechanics, make lofty recommendations and challenge the youth to champion the reform. Just listen to them and you’ll deem them the most sincere advocates of good governance and public transparency!
If only they were not liars, Nigeria would have been another London! We have the human resources, the material wherewithal and ingenious brains which can guarantee us a place among the top, civilized and developed nations of the world, but those inputs are channeled towards furthering parochial interests and trivialities. I get pissed off whenever a Nigerian politician promise to help in eradicating corruption. The reason is simple: you don’t eradicate corruption when you live on it! In its undiluted Latin form, the logic is nemo dat quod non habet – you don’t give what you’ve not got.
Why would a President Jonathan refuse to pay a hardworking and arduously-toiling worker a modest N18,000 monthly take home when his own and his VP’s kitchen allowance in 2012 alone is a staggering N1 billion? For goodness’ sake, that’s a mouth-watering N2.8 million daily! Haba! Does Mr. President eat 10 cows every day? Or are his foods processed in and imported on foot from Pluto? This is so even though the National Bureau of Statistics recently declared that 112 million Nigerians (61%) live on less than a dollar a day. That’s a paltry N155 fa!
Why would a Senate President preach to Nigerians to accept the wanton removal of fuel subsidy, saying it was necessary to fleece the oil sector of corruption and then just some weeks after, when the adverse effects of the subsidy saga is still having its deadly toll on the pauperized masses, press for the purchase of a N16-million-plus Land Cruiser jeep for each of the 109 senators? Is this not a case of breaching what you preach?
They’re all too eager to remind us of the non-existence of subsidy in US but they’ll never allocate modest salaries and allowances to themselves like US leaders get. Please tell them to stop their empty talks and walk the walk.
The followers – yes! We, the led – are not any different from them. I’m sorry if this is pungent, but the truth has never tasted delicious! Corruption flows in the blood of virtually every Nigerian! I say virtually because there obviously are still incorruptible persons in this country, but they’re too few, and thus insignificant. Remember a wealthy man in the midst of impoverished fellows is one of them.
An average Nigerian would frankly confess to you that if he’s lucky to get to the corridors of power, he wouldn’t miss his chance to bite more of the National Cake than he deserves! He would rather hoard the Naira notes in reservoirs buried tens of meters below the soil surface than use it to advance the welfare of the hapless masses, one of which he currently is. And history tells us that such sincere confession of cruel intentions and dirty mind-sets aren’t empty. There’re numerous examples at hand.
Reuben Abati, the once-upon-a-time leading media anti-corruption voice has now become what Sam Omatseye succinctly described as ‘laundry man for President Jonathan’ – announcing dictatorial policies of his boss and defending same religiously. Many academics have been known to tongue-lash corruption and its ‘players’ only for them to turn better ‘players’ upon attaining more power and influence. They offer admission to undeserving applicants who are children of their friends, colleagues, godfathers or simply because money had exchanged hands! Ah, if gold rusts, what becomes of unpolished iron?
In Nigeria today, everything seems to have lost its potency to function; only corruption works! But every Nigerian has a role to play. We’ve got to unseat and eject corruption from the mansions he’s built in our minds. If each of us would be disciplined, contented with what’s legitimately his and God-fearing, then a burial ceremony can be staged for Mr. Corruption soon. Remember the whole of Nigeria can become clean in just 5 minutes, but only if every Nigerian sweeps his house and frontage in unison.