Corruption: An Albatross Around Our Necks

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A loaf of bread placed on a table in a room without preservation gets mouldy within 48 hours. Options available to us are to cut off the moldy portion and still leave it on the table or keep the bread in the fridge ab initio. The temperature in the fridge provides a conducive environment that is kept constant which preserves the whole bread. This process demands extra effort from the provision of a fridge to the constant power supply that creates that enabling environment/temperature that preserves the whole bread. It therefore follows that decay (and thus corruption) happens naturally, except definite/specific interventions are introduced to control it.

Although many experts still question whether such self-serving strategies won’t be damaging to the anti-corruption cause in the long run, the FGN whistle-blowing initiative appears to have panned out well as far as aiding recoveries of stolen funds. However, there remains the issue of ‘actual’ sums recovered, what was paid to whistle-blowers and the use to which such recovered funds have been put. How sustainable is this as a strategy? Is this not tantamount to ‘cutting the mold out the bread’ and hoping the whole will be preserved? Should we not be more concerned about putting in the right energies to preserve the whole? So, we recover sums from those denouncing ‘corrupt persons’ they are aware of in exchange for a share of the loot but, even if we don’t see this as socially reprehensible strategy, what does this do to prevent Nigeria’s army of young people watching the unfolding scenarios from thinking those being denounced are in a mess only because they didn’t ‘carry others along’? What difference would it make to corruption in the end?

A holistic approach to tackling the corruption menace would be to put in the energies required to prevent the bread from decaying in the first place whilst ‘correcting’ the situation in those in whom the decline has begun and if it is possible, push to have the decay reversed.  The issue is about how the youth, who constitute more than 120 million of Nigeria’s 180 million population feel about expending their energies to preventing corruption or agitate for the corrupt to be isolated to preserve the whole or educate their peers to reverse the rot. Civic responsibilities and consciousness must be drilled down to all, especially youths up to the age of 40 yrs. It becomes pertinent to also mention here that the expression ‘train up a child in the way she should go and when she grows up. she will not depart from it’ is relevant and squarely puts the first line of corruption prevention in the camp of the family, then the schools, churches/mosques and all who influence, inspire or sponsor their development. It becomes ‘right’ to appropriately compensate the ‘genuine’ whistle blower who tattled not out of self-serving motives like ‘spite’ but rather out of a ‘need to perform an important civic duty in the public interest.’ It then follows that government’s educational efforts should be enhanced via well targeted partnering with social organizations to re-engineer the behaviour of the younger generation away from the evils of corruption as well as enunciating acceptable standards of public behaviour.

In the Global Corruption Barometer and Corruption Perceptions Index published by Transparency International over the last 5 years, Nigeria has consistently performed poorly leading some to conclude that she is one of the most corrupt countries in the world. A perceived all-encompassing culture of corruption gives the impression that there is practically no room for anyone to operate outside the borders of corruption, and we know that. It is however true that engaging in corrupt acts is easily justified by many as ‘the only way to survive’ in Nigeria. However, this attitude as we have argued does not necessarily stem from a lack of morality or deep, intrinsic criminal intentions on the part of Nigerians, but perhaps from exasperation at the hopelessness of day-to-day life. This is reflected in the behaviour of individuals as well as in the way people do business.

We therefore need to understand the needs, wants and values of our youth and how these shape their beliefs and aspirations. We must describe the corruption problem in Nigeria from their point of view – the costs associated with doing the right thing, the barriers to overcome and hoops to jump through for those wanting to do right and a clear understanding of the incentives (not necessarily financial) needed to keep them focused on doing the right thing. After all, to self-regulate you need a clear idea of the standards to which your actual or anticipated behaviour will be held (making you face up to the constraints); clear set of outcomes you wish to achieve and those you wish to avoid (incentives) and the internally motivating force that keeps you focused on choosing the right path (the narratives).

To improve the fight against corruption, we must change the narrative for the youth; properly incentivize the right behaviours whilst addressing the real issues of concern to them for their growth and survival. This purposeful engagement will also help them develop a sense of ‘what-is-in-it-for-me’ if I shun corruption and encourage others to do the same? – it will help them develop a sense of connection with an abstract concept like ‘One Nigeria’ where the challenges to survival are incapacitating, daily.


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