Is Corruption Our Culture?
Anthony de Mello in one of his witty reflections on ‘Imprisonment’ once said: “you are so proud of your intelligence,’ said the Master to a disciple. ‘You are like the condemned man who is proud of the vastness of his prison cell.” Whenever I reflect on this saying, my mind these days go around the concept of corruption in Nigeria in general, the dogged efforts and determinations of the present Head of State in tackling the malaise.
An old French friend I met decades back in the Philippines would say ‘pourquoi pas?’- Why not? Why will we not be proud of our intelligence even at the brink of the grave? Why border about corruption where nothing is corrupt about us? After all William Shakespeare in drama, Hamlet, extolled the greatness of the human mind, the Greek philosopher- Protagoras declared man the measure of all things: Of things that are that they are and things that are not, that they are not. Pourquoi pas? After all, the Psalmist even said that God made man a little less than the gods and crowned him with glory and honour.
Why would we not live without corruption? Everybody decries corruption as replete with negative effects, and none has ever thought out fully why corruption still stands firm and livelier despite every effort to eliminate it from our society. The reason is short and simple, it has very many good and positive effects and they are the reason why it still stands firm and livelier. Anthony de Mello told of the incarcerated man who was still proud in his jail of his intelligence. And pourquoi pas? After all, Prof Wole Soyinka wrote his The Man Died in the prison. Being incarcerated is not a deterrent for survival and continuation of living; even dying is living to die not.
In the same vein, corruption still subsists in our State and country today because are we at home with it and have made it integral part of our modus Vivendi and modus operandi. In this way, the good effects of corruption before our judging minds like Protogoras, surpasses its alleged bad effects, which everyone decries and lacks tangible evidence to prosecute offenders than defend the accused and declare them free and innocent.
Corruption is good and its positive effects overwhelm our lives in Imo State and Nigeria such that we truly see no evil in it. Certain things that are bad for the stomach of Mr Jude may be a good delicacy for the stomach of Mr Samuel. The alleged bad effects of corruption in Imo State and Nigeria are on the contrary good and positive for us. Surely, as a contemporary Nigerian and Imolite, there is nothing bad at all about corruption. President Muhammadu Buhari is certainly fighting against our second nature and culture in the name of corruption, and will never succeed as the society is wont to sabotage his selfish efforts against the customary wellbeing of Nigerians.
Without corruption, can the Imo State Governors rule the State for years now without LGA election? Can our Governor do his best to conduct LGA election in Imo? There is no doubt that President Buhari hates corruption more than the dangerous snake, cobra but can he truly explain what s going on in his political family? Can our hospitals remain non-functional while paid-media tugs publicise their completion and functionality? Without corruption, can Imolite civil servants understand that Sen. Hope is not the only Governor owing some workers? Without corruption, how can we explain the budget recently passed by the house of Assembly?
I still remember what our catechism master taught us then when I was small as the meaning of virtue- Ike di anyi n’ime, I ji mara ihe oma ma mee ya: The internal power in us, to know what is good and do it. Corruption has taken this position in us and has become virtuous. I mean it. If you venture to fight corruption in Imo State today and in Nigeria, then you’ll be termed enemy of progress, a PDP diehard. Any of these like the biblical researchers that use quotations to deceive congregations today, would cite innumerable instances why your fight or criticism against corrupt practices are devilish and anti-commongood and government. Pourquoi pas?
And certainly, they are right. Though it has been argued that corruption has very adverse effects which constitutes bane of the national development of Nigeria, it also has surpassing positive effects, which make it subsists in the country despite all the efforts of our national leaders and the nation to eliminate this malaise and its ravages for decades now.
Despite the immoral aspect and pernicious effects of corruption, as a social critic, I satirically join some scholars who have argued that corruption can be beneficial to political development (Pye), that scandals associated with corruption sometimes have the effect of strengthening a value-system of a society as a whole (Max Gluckman), that a degree of low-level corruption can soften relations of officials and people (McMullan), and that corruption can humanise government and make it less awesome (Shils), etc. These observations are common occurrences in Nigeria where communities pay political visits to their Governors, Commissioners and top civil servants with cows, wines, cola nuts and money stuffed in ‘Ghana must go’ (bags) in other to get them attend to their local problems, get contracts, appointments and promotions, be ceded slots and retain their positions. Without corruption as way paving and contact creation, these would not be possible.
Corruption brings about change that we all swallow as good Imolites and Nigerians, and to revolt or criticise it is to go contra orthodoxy and the rightful way of living. Tell me, without the good effects of corruption, which includes keeping silent, swallowing it all, attacking critics that lampoon ill-governance, shouting Hosanna while suffering leprosy and sleeping in darkness, etc., how can we manage to live in Imo today or stay in Nigeria without revolting? Any fight against bad governance is corrupt. Any restraint against public misconduct and embezzlement of public and pensioners’ funds is a corrupt attempt. Corrupt has been redefined in our State and country today and must remain so, so that we can live harmoniously and worship our never erring and good-leading leaders from whose offices we falsely decry corruption.
What is corruption when you have got your own national cake or had opportunity to grab and make it quick, selling general employment opportunities to your relations? Without corruption, would those your relations filled in twenties in that office and ministry where you work now, have the opportunity to be there at all, at all? Corruption is like the Igbo golden rule- Egbe bere, Ugo bere or Onye Ube ruru, ya raachaa! Thus, let us be proud of our intelligence even decades in the gallows. It is good for us.
This is probably true in relation to Nigeria. The scandals associated with theAbacha era (looting of the treasury and human rights violations) have given the nation some food for thought. Nigeria is still perplexed and reoccupied with the issues of how to strengthen the nations essential governmental structures to avoid the reoccurrence of these kinds of looting and atrocities in future.
In addition, some writers have noted that corruption may help to ease the transition from traditional life to a modern political life. Some have argued that the vast gap between literate official and illiterate peasant, which is often characteristic of the countryside, may be bridged if the peasant approaches the official bearing traditional gifts or their (corrupt) money equivalent. In this respect, McMullan points out that "a degree of low-level corruption" can 'soften relations of officials and people' (July 1961). And Shils notes that corruption can 'humanize government and make it less awesome' (1962). These observations are common occurrences in Nigeria where communities pay political visits to their Governors, Commissioners and top civil servants with cows, wines, cola nutsand money stuffed in Ghana must go (bags) in other to get them attend to their local problems.
The apparent benefits of corruption notwithstanding, we are here mainly concerned with the evils of corruption. Any right thinking person in Nigeria where ubiquitous corruption has ravaged the society will find it impossible to agree that corruption is beneficial, no matter how plausible it may be. Corruption is evil!