I have pondered for a while about humanity itself and how important mathematics and calculations are. From the moment a person wakes up at dawn to when he/she returns to bed at night to all the things in between. Everything is calculated, everything has to do with distance, time/speed; everything is all numbers.
The picture in this article is a little equation I came up with a short while ago about some human activities that seem to stretch through our society, things that over the years have become shockingly ‘normal’. Of course, these are not old issues; they have always been a part of us. Stealing is as old as man and woman. In almost all cases, those of us who steal tend to introduce bribery into the situation to ensure sustainability and when the two go together, they corrupt everything and everywhere. Unsurprising, the equation sometimes brings with them other elements like banditry and drugs, a breeding ground for an organised crime like the Mafia – a perfect example of the result of a failed system and the ripple effect of certain vices in the society. We have heard the stories that date back to the early century when they took control of the lawmakers, the law enforcement agencies and the Judiciary. By implication, the faith institutions and the press started to compete with themselves in the game of if you can’t beat them, you join them. In the whole madness, we see the development of civil disobedience, lawlessness and eventually, anarchy. Nigeria is a perfect example of a society where this equation holds true.
We held an event to present an iconic book on The Benin Monarchy a few days ago at DIDI Museum and after the event, the vendor responsible for drinks returned the empty bottles of wines that we supplied them as well as the unopened bottles. I overheard a colleague saying that it was such a rare thing to see and that describes the Nigerian society. Cutting corners, stealing and bribery is our normal; good and respectable behaviour the anomaly and in some cases, it is even frowned upon, case in point is slowing down at a yellow traffic light when no security official is around but having people behind you honking in annoyance as your perceived slowness or as we say, ‘not sharp’ driving.
The interesting thing is that everyone talks about corruption though we are all involved in it yet we somehow always manage to absolve ourselves. It runs the gamut from mere gifts, to ‘appreciations’, settling officers to get out of traffic offences, to the massive looting that we have today. To begin with, I think it is pertinent to see how our affiliations have and continue to play key roles in how pervasive corruption has become. We must all begin to confront corruption by considering how our culture plays a role, how our involvement with the quest for leadership in Student Unionism, Trade Union movement, Professional Unions and other associations play a role. When you were affiliated with these unions, how did you conduct yourself and your affairs? A proper assessment will help you measure your corruption quotient.
Some social critics will tell us that corruption is responsible for poverty while others will say that poverty is responsible for corruption. Whatever the case may be, allow me to briefly describe what harm corruption causing poverty or poverty causing corruption has done to the nation. Over 60 to 70 % of Nigerians lack access to potable drinking water and when we consider those with access to good jobs, balanced meals, good health care and more, the percentage starts to drop. Corruption makes it impossible to have the kind of infrastructure we should have despite the available funds.
Over 50 years ago, Western Nigeria was the first part of the country that started a television network and the slogan adopted for the station was the ‘First in Africa”. This was a few decades before apartheid South Africa established a television station. Today, South African television networks are all over the continent employing millions like DSTV but others are probably no more.
Another first was NEC, which established Africa’s pioneer cable network and later became NITEL. Today, where’s NITEL? Fortunately, NITEL gave way for the emergence of the Global System for Mobile communication (GSM) and private telecommunication companies that have enabled millions of Nigeria to have access to portable and affordable communication devices and services. Another progress that has bitten the dust is Nigeria Airways. Our national carrier started with 28 planes and was the pride of Africa. Our pride is no more and Nigerians are now connecting the rest of the world through Kenyan airways or Ethiopian Airways, institutions that started decades after Nigeria Airways.
I can go on and on to talk about our collapsed refineries and the fact that we are now importing refined products from countries we export the raw materials to and not to forget the pathetic situation with our power supply knowing fully well that those countries enjoying uninterrupted power supply and generating between forty and fifty thousand megawatts did not invest one-tenth of what we did to still just be generating under seven thousand megawatts. This means that the majority of our power source comes from generators using petrol or diesel which is expensive and does not benefit manufacturing in the country nor the environment.
It must be known that there is no squeaky-clean country in the world. The corruption perceptions index (CPI) is used to rank countries and territories of the world based on how corrupt their public sector is perceived to be. In a points system that ranges from 0 (the most corrupt) to 100 (the cleanest), Denmark with 88 points is the least corrupt or cleanest country, and although Nigeria moved up 4 places in the index this year, we are still in the bottom 20%. This is definitely not a good thing, given that this index largely governs the response of the business world to our calls for foreign investment into our economy.
It goes without saying that the solution to this is Good governance. Good governance would ensure that the right people, who are capable, qualified, and experienced, are appointed into positions of authority. It would ensure that the right policies are put in place for the benefit of the country, and not to favour cronies. Good governance would ensure the rule of law exists in all aspects of our lives. It would ensure that the institutions that support democracy are established, adequately funded and strengthened to perform their oversight functions. All of the above serve as the basis for economies that thrive despite elements of stealing, bribery and corruption as truth be told, these things that are as old as man will remain till the end of man but they can be curtailed.
I have been nurturing this column for almost two years and in that time, I have written eighty- eight published works but I have not been able to access the impact the writings have made. My pen is drying but before it dries up completely, I want to challenge my readers to review and possibly critic. Some, if not all your contributions or your critics will determine the way forward to this column and provide the encouragement required to keep sharing my thoughts on my nation and my environment. Kindly send your comments, questions or suggestions to firstname.lastname@example.org.