Last night was wonderful, I had a really good rest only to wake up and it seemed like I was under a rock for a few centuries. Don’t be alarmed, we can share my shock. Between when I went to bed at 11.30 Pm and the time I woke up: 5. Am, so much had happened that I would have been oblivious of but thanks to the Calvary of media ( news and random public opinion) that charged at me with little room in my mental stomach to contain them all. As a man proudly hungry for information, I dug in and was amazed by all that had happened in the world within six hours and so I began to narrow the events and reports to timelines and only then did I appreciate how much we underutilize time. During my period of scavenging for information, something struck me that almost took away the whole energy I woke up with. It was a simple comical expression: If you no get money, hide your face! I bet a good number of you are conversant with the expression. It made me understand in better terms why most of the things that happen in our world happen. It is simple, because we all want to show “our faces” even if it means we have to borrow or steal those faces. Faces and, characters we have heard about and seen as well as those that should only be imaginary and nothing more.

Hidden Face
A youth with face hidden with a mask.

In a bid to show our faces; we seek to totally crush our “enemies” (hide their faces) by “creating compelling spectacles through every means possible, especially through power”. Power empowers us like we can never really fathom and goes on to overpower most of us. Books and the media tell us so much about people that wielded power across the world ; a few of us are however not oblivious of the fact that they are susceptible to embellishment and over exaggeration , after all, popular opinion is another crucial power worth having, ask the Jews if you have any doubt. Since the attainment of independence, the country has gone through several phases that have created a culture of “lending and stealing faces” in a way that has correspondingly brought about experiences that had better be left in oblivion at least for the sake of our sanity.

Why is it so important to show our faces? If there is a reason, why is money the condition precedent? In our little corners, we all talk about being real only to partake in the trade of stealing and borrowing faces. Can we just plant the goal post somewhere central and stop shifting it? And please not on money. How about on value and values? How about on common sense and common wealth? The race to show our faces is the reason corruption is now a reoccurring topic in our socio-political lexicon. I guess there won’t be any need to define or describe it as it is a real character in our everyday story with a memorabilia present in almost every household.

Different wooden souvenirs at the local Mexican market
Souvenir of corruption in hidden faces

The fight against corruption seems to be an unending rat race as because our faces keep changing. A crusader against corruption today ends up becoming the “corrupt one” tomorrow and a “corrupt man today suddenly becomes an “anti-corruption crusader” tomorrow.  I think it is a simple case of lack of identity, self-worth and capacity to create wealth. I do not think this will change anytime soon because the antidote to this frustrating neighbor is one we are conscious of but deliberately refuse to administer. If we must show our faces, let it be for the value we create and exchange; value to ourselves, family, community and society at large.

We are optimistic that the current “fight against corruption” is yielding results because Nigeria’s recent Corruption Perception Index as captured by Transparency International improved after it exited the top ten (10) for the first time in years . This is a feat worth celebrating because as a citizen, one is daily confronted with simple grand variants of corruption. A bus driver in the name of free market arbitrarily hikes his fare at the disadvantage of commuters, how about the classic case of the electricity distribution company that sends exorbitant estimated monthly bills to customers with functional meters whom they didn’t supply power? I chose to focus on these minute details because the big cases of corruption that stares us in the face today started off as minute examples we overlooked through the years.

Today, the corruption tag is easily slapped on any and every one for any reason, no reason and even bad reason.  We are in a situation where greed and envy has cloaked our real identity. We no longer know the truth because it is strange to us. Truth of what corruption is; truth of why we are in those offices we are, truth of the price of value. This explains why a lazy man named Peter, cannot think for himself and work within the confines of the law to alleviate his economic situation but is hopeful that Paul is direct opposite will help his case and when he doesn’t, he screams “corruption”! Now if the reverse were the case that Paul is really corrupt but passes some of the cheese to Peter, he goes to the ends of the earth to justify the actions of Paul.  People only condemn corrupt practices when they are not direct beneficiaries of such acts-shifting the goal post you will say.

Chess game leadership and competition
Dare to be different

Truly the challenge before us as a people has never being a leadership problem as one cannot do beyond his or her capacity. The reality is that we have a follower-ship problem. The sour taste in our mouth is not a product of what our former, present and future leaders did, are doing or will do but a direct reflection of the quality and character of the follower-ship.  The reason is that we don’t even know who we are when no one is looking. When you read the papers and follow the conversation on the street, word is that “the government has failed us”, the rain is not falling over here”, “why do we have only sunshine”. The lawyers say he who comes to equity must come with clean hands”. How clean are our hands? What is our nature? The true measure of a man is what he will do when he thinks no man is watching. What are we really doing in our little crevices? How much sincerity can be mined from our actions and inaction? Are our choice of thoughts and actions based on values rather than personal gains?

two road in forest
What is it going to be?

Look at the way technology is changing the world today, and how it has caused serious wealth redistribution in other parts of the world through the instrument of the law and processes. The wealth of IT giants like Twitter, Facebook, Amazon, Apple lies squarely on intellectual property law. Now let’s come back home, the list of corrupt sabotage by the followership in every facet of the Nigerian and African Society is inexhaustible.

The solution does not lie in the institutions established and manned persons borrowing and stealing faces but on laid down procedures backed by law. Our affairs must be structured independent of any office but on processes for unity and prosperity. What is our procurement process? How are talents sourced and monitored? How are resources allocated? How is Justice Administered? What is the process? We cannot afford to continue paying the cost associated with borrowing and stealing faces for the “show”. We need to identify the things that will mitigate or/and eradicate corruption and then go on to engineer and adopt processes that will help us overcome corruption. The best processes must be adopted and implemented today because according to a great man that I do not know, the greatest freedom we can gain is being able to not worry about what happens tomorrow because we are happy with what we have done today. As it stands now, the future is very bleak; if the Nigerian story mustn’t transform into the jungle book it is imperative for us to adopt processes that promote learning, transformation, forgiveness and most importantly “showing our value”. There is no gain in creating an air of mystery or keeping our people dependent on transient wants and aspirations simply because they don’t want to hide their faces.