Smart has a fish farm which he started with the sum of N150, 000. A loan which he got from Mabel his friend with a solemn promise to pay back immediately the fingerlings grew, reproduce and …………
The business grew as anticipated. Some of the fishes had begun to develop eggs, but then as a new born entrepreneur, the temptations came knocking. A voice in his head, definitely not the voice of reason, told him to sell a few to raise money to meet some of his “needs”. First he sold a few and what did he do with the money? I don’t know, neither does he. Soon it was a routine; and the fishes depleted. My dear Smart even sold fishes with eggs without harvesting them because the offer considering their sizes was quite high. Has Mabel been paid? Not a dime. When she asked, the excuses were as voluminous as the report of the Senate House Committee on Power. Fishes were stolen, a lot fell sick and died before they could be sold, the demand for the survivours was low and as such could not mill out the projected revenue. Embezzlement, misappropriation, scam; call it what you may. It’s a simple case of corruption. Now, what is corruption? It simply is any act that gives you an undue advantage.
I must remind you that when we talk about corruption, it goes beyond bribery and politics. It starts from the home; it’s on the streets. Truth be told, everyone is trying to “negotiate a better deal”. Mabel and Smart’s story is a Nigerian script but a global reality. We have developed avarice and loathe hard work, the recipe for resource generation and sustenance. It is arguable that everyone is corrupt. This of course takes my mind to a quote by H. Jackson Brown Jr “our character is what we do when we think no one is watching” as well as the teachings of the famous Chinese philosopher Confucius when he said “the superior man thinks of virtue, the ordinary man thinks of comfort. The mind of the superior man is conversant with righteousness; the mind of the ordinary man is conversant with gain”. Invariably, there is a dearth of superior men the world over. This is highlighted by Transparency International’s Corruption Perception Index (CPI) for 2014; Nigeria ranks 136 out of 175 countries. The implication is that we are walking on the wide wild side of life. Most times, many view the rating as a problem for the Government or public office holders forgetting that it is an aggregation of our collective corrupt acts.
Corruption is a cause for concern the world over and that explains why the annual BusinessDay Research and Intelligence Unit (BRIU) Business Confidence Survey published as a main story on the 12th of January, 2015 by Obodo Ejiro showed corruption as one of the worries of business leaders for the year 2015. The result of the survey which was administered to 144 business owners and leaders revealed that 77% expressed concerns about the state of corruption in governance. So much has been said about corruption. I even risk saying it is an over flogged topic of social discourse, yet we must keep talking about it so we don’t wake up some day only to find ourselves branded as advocates of it.
I remember being introduced to the advantages of crime and how I laughed so hard at the possibility. When the discourse was over, I had a new awakening. In the same vein, I believe that there is value that can be milled out of our existence as a people despite corruption. I bet you agree that it requires a lot of skills, ingenuity, planning and determination to pull off most of these corrupt acts. As established earlier, corruption is not peculiar to Nigeria. I need not prove a notorious fact. Do I? To underscore this, there is a popular joke that I will like to share. A top Nigerian public official once visited Europe and was opportuned to be invited by a counterpart to his apartment for dinner. He was amazed by all he saw and eventually asked how his host came about his wealth. The answer was simple. I use 99% of the resources to do what I am expected to do for my country. This is the balance 1%. A couple of months later, the European visited his Nigerian friend and was blown away by what he saw. He also asked how the affluence on display came about. Ah! I used the 100% of that bridge. Which bridge? Over there! You mean that thick virgin forest over there? Yes, that is the bridge. On a more serious note, this as funny as it sounds really happens. Most acts of these Government/public officials can be qualified as criminal negligence considering the fact that they inadvertently abuse their duty of care to their people.
The total eradication of corruption is impossible but its prevalence can be reduced. Corruption itself is not totally the problem .The challenge is our lack of understanding and failure to create value. Corruption is a constant in the global equation but the variables are more evident in a free market. As long as capitalism exists, and profit making remains at the heart of our relationship, corruption will exist, although at varying degrees. In our everyday lives, we keep crossing the red lines in one way or the other but the alarm has not been sounded. Why? Probably because we have not strayed so far into the red- light district. A ready example is trust corporations and patent laws used to promote their interest. This is a prima facie evidence of corruption but we condone it because they claim to be promoting creativity and monopoly because of the high taxes that are beneficial to the society. We hear the beagle when we get lost in acts that are corrupt and do more harm than general good. You might not understand what exactly I am saying without sounding like I am encouraging corruption. Believe me; I am not because I am also a victim of its effects.
Nigeria is underdeveloped because of corruption as argued in many quarters. We have seen that workable processes and creation of values are the way forward. There are several countries reported by Transparency International in 2014 as corrupt. Most of countries we look up to for inspiration still have corruption although at varying degrees and still fare far better than Nigeria because they have successfully set up processes that demand, support and promote the creation of value. The principles of transparency, accountability and rule of law have been identified as the panacea for the reduction of corruption but then again I ask; how will they be entrenched without first of all setting up the processes for value creation? Corruption is a systematic issue and so the system must promote pre-emptive measures with economic gains thereby making it a market for the private sector. When this is encouraged, what we will find is situations where people will be identifying corrupt practices and strive to develop means of eradicating them not because they are patriots but because of their selfishness/greed which is the origin of corruption.
How do we establish the limit of acts that are seemingly corrupt to which the society can turn a blind eye since corruption is refusing to go extinct? The boundary is simple; it’s no rocket science. In every aspect of our existence, before “negotiating a better deal”, we must first calculate the ratio of our personal gain against the general good. The scale should always tilt in favour of the society. Whenever the reverse is the case, be aware that you have crossed the line in unacceptable proportions and liable to be officially labeled as corrupt. Like most African nations, weak institutions have been identified as the fuel of corruption. This was reiterated by the President of the United States of America, Barack Obama on the 11th of July, 2009 when he said: “Africa doesn’t need strongmen, it needs strong institutions”. Every institution in Nigeria need the principles of transparency and accountability incorporated into their processes. Mind you, I am not talking about the spirit of these values without their character. Processes must be ostensibly smooth with someone responsible for every component without need for propulsion via kickbacks, bribes, and budget inflation to mention a few. Whoever is genuinely found to be cancerous to the system must be ready for chemotherapy with blind Doctor Justitia. Adequate rewards need to be given for services that can be measured against relevance and productivity. We need to stop running towards yesterday because we are flowers slowly fading away; here today and gone tomorrow. If we are to overcome the challenges born by corruption and leave behind a legacy to be proud of, we must create value.