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Institutional Corruption: Dissecting The Psyche Of An Average Nigerian By Sirnucy Lafiagi

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Photo: authorityngr.com
On Tuesday, 10th of May, 2016, the
former UK Prime Minister, David Cameron, was caught on tape, in what
appeared to be a private conversation with her Majesty, the Queen and
the Archbishop of Canterbury describing the Nigeria as a #Fantastically_Corrupt nation. In his words, Cameron said:
“We’ve got some leaders of some fantastically corrupt countries coming
to Britain… Nigeria and Afghanistan, possibly the two most corrupt
countries in the world.”
Immediately the tape was leaked, some folks took to their Social Media
pages/handles to lash out at Mr. Cameron for what they described as a
reckless statement aimed at tarnishing the image of the country.
Unfortunately for those folks, less than 24 hours later, President
Buhari, in a brief interview with Sky News’ Diplomatic Editor, Dominic
Waghorn, confirmed Cameron’s allegations that, indeed, Nigeria is
fantastically corrupt. Here is the text of the interview:
Waghorn: Will you like an apology from the Prime Minister?
Buhari: No, no. Not at all.
Waghorn: Are you embarrassed by what he (Cameron) said?
Buhari: No, I’m not.
Waghorn: Is Nigeria fantastically corrupt?
Buhari: Yes.
With this confession by the number one citizen of the Country, the
argument as to the credibility or otherwise of Cameron’s gaffe was put
to rest. Buhari knows better and is in the best position to defend the
country, if indeed Cameron had goofed. Even the hailing hailers knew
this, except that hypocrisy had beclouded their senses of rational
reasoning and logical judgement.
And just while we were still recovering from Cameron’s outburst, ousted
Chairman of the Appropriation Committee of the House of Representatives,
Honourable Abdulmumin Jibrin opened another can of worms on the massive
fraud going on in NASS since 1999 in the name of budget passage,
constituency projects, et cetera. The #Dogaragate scandal
reminds me of Ex President Olusegun Obasanjo’s letter to the National
Assembly sometimes in January, accusing them of institutional
corruption.
However, my post is neither about David Cameron’s gaffe, nor is it about
the Dogaragate. Rather, it is about something more fundamental, more
dangerous and more detrimental to the present and future of the nation.
It is about how an average Nigerian sees corruption as a petty and minor
issue, not worthy of concern. From the market places where we sell
foodstuffs, to the gas stations, to the schools, to the checkpoints, the
scale of corruption that takes place daily in this country is, to say
the least shocking and embarrassing.
Today, I want to report to you my nasty experience in the hands of fellow Nigerians yesterday on my way back from Lafiagi.
I boarded a commercial vehicle from Lafiagi to Ilorin at an inflated
rate of 1,000 naira. There were ten of us in the bus and the driver was
the eleventh person. When we got to the first Army checkpoint in
Tsaragi, the driver pulled out a 100 naira note and gave it to the
soldier that waved us down. In return, the latter brought out a 50 naira
note and gave it to the driver.
I was shocked, but I kept quiet.
We got to the second checkpoint, and a Soldier pulled us over and said
to the driver, “òun tún dá?” (Where is it?) Immediately, the driver gave
the balance he collected from the former soldier to him and he let us
pass.
Again, I remain calm, in spite of my disgust and discomfort.
When we got to the third roadblock, a stern looking soldier pulled us
over, with a roaring voice as if to say he suspected the driver of
conveying some terrorists or concealing contraband substances. After we
were parked, the soldier moved to the back of the vehicle, with his eyes
fixed on us, the passengers. The driver alighted and moved towards the
soldier. I eavesdropped on their discussion and what I saw shocked me.
The driver thought he could outmaneuver the man in khaki when he pulled
out a 200 naira note and said, “oga, I no get change ni” (Sir, I don’t
have change). To my surprise, the soldier collected the money &
returned 150 balance to the driver.
After we left the checkpoints, I decided to challenge the driver for
bribery and inducement. What I witnessed next left me in a state of
maniacal bewilderment.
 
After we had left the checkpoints, I asked the driver, “E jọ Sir, owó
kini ẹ fún wọn yẹn?” (The money you gave them (soldiers) is for what?”
He looked back with a wicked smile and, in a rather rhetorical, yet
scornful manner, said, “ẹ ó gbó Alfa, ẹyin ẹ ṣe ọmọ Nigeria ni?”
(Imagine what alfa is saying, are you not a Nigerian?). This response
got me so pissed off that I asked him for a second time to tell me why
he offered bribe to the soldiers. At that point, he looked me straight
in the eye and said, “ṣe ẹyin fe sún sì ibí bayi ní? (Do you want to
sleep here?).
Visibly angered by the rhetorical manner of his response, I pressed
further with yet another question:” ṣe tí ẹ kò bá fún wọn, nkankan wá ti
wọn yio se ni?” (Should you refuse to give them, is there any
consequence?). As if I had insulted his parents, he said, “ṣe kí a padà
kí ẹ lọ gbá lọ́wọ́ wọn?” (should I reverse so that you can retrieve the
money from them?).
Like automated machines, everyone in the vehicle joined the conversation
almost at once in defense of the driver. No matter how hard I tried to
make them rebuke the driver for corruption, it just won’t fly with them.
My voice of reason and commonsense was suppressed. I was literally
rebuked; albeit subtly. It was an unequal debate. With ten people
against me, the “Ayes” definitely had it. The majority had both ‘the
say’ and ‘the way’. I became the proverbial lone sheep in the community
of wolves.
 
That is just one example of what the commercial bus drivers suffer
everyday in the hands of security officers on the Nigerian roads. From
Share to Ilorin, my co passengers took turn to narrate their nasty
ordeals in the hands of soldiers whose brutality knows no bound. I was
told about how a driver was asked to do frog jump several times from one
point to another simply because he offered a soldier 30 naira instead
of the standard amount of 50 naira. I was also told of how a passenger
was asked to jog with a sachet of pure water from one electric pole to
the other just because a Soldier claimed that the former was staring at
him.

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What kind of a country is this? I soliloquized. And just a few meters
away from ‘iyana Share’, in front of ‘Kara Market’ we were again stopped
by FRSC Officials who, like the soldiers also took bribe from the
driver and allowed him to go without checking either his car papers or
driving license.
Not long after we passed Iponrin, Panada and other neighboring
communities, we came across a team of MOPOL who, again took their share
and waived at us passengers. What shocked me most was the haggling of
price that took place between the driver and the policeman. The former
had issued the latter 20 naira but he turned it down, saying that things
have changed, and that the new levy is now 50 naira. At the end, they
both settled for 30 naira!

 

Former British PM, David Cameron
What if we were Boko_Haram terrorists on a mission? What if we were
concealing weapons and contrabands? What if the driver has neither
license nor up-to-date documents? What if? What if? What if? These were
the questions agitating my mind as we proceeded to our destination.
I don’t have a problem with the Police, Army, FRSC and VIO who have
jettisoned and compromised professionalism for peanuts. They all are
hardened criminals worse than Abacha and Dasuki combined. My problem is
how the psyche of an average Nigerian has been so bastardized that
everyone seem to be at home with these anomalies.
Could it be fear? Has corruption become institutionalized? Have we
become so used to corruption that we have now adopted it as a culture
and tradition?
Unfortunately, every Tom and Harry will come online and wail: “Buhari,
this is not the change we voted for.” The question is, “how much have
you changed in the past one year?”
It is so unfortunate that the average Nigerian you meet on the street
cannot define the term “corruption” conveniently. This is because his
psyche has been wrongly configured to ONLY perceive as corruption, the
humongous amount of money being stolen by people in position of
authority. Take a walk down the street in any state or community and ask
the petty trader, the Okada rider, the farmer and cab driver what
he/she knows as corruption. You will definitely be shocked by the
perspective from which they understand this concept.
The real corruption is not the massive money laundering or oil bunkering uncovered by #Baba_Buhari and investigated by #Father_Magu at
his Parish. The real corruption has nothing to do with snatching and
stuffing of ballot boxes at the polls. The real corruption has no “gate”
suffixed to the names of its perpetrators: #Abachagate#Dasukigate#Ekitigate,#Oduahgate, et cetera.
For a moment, let us take our minds off the huge amounts of money
siphoned by previous administrations in their billions and trillions and
focus on the #fantastic_corruption that takes place everyday within our social environment.
Let us focus on the nefarious activities of commercial bus drivers who
hike bus fares unnecessarily and yet, will overload the buses with
passengers and luggage/goods. Even this afternoon, I had a nasty
experience while going to Unilorin to place an advert for my University
on the forthcoming convocation ceremony. Few meters away from the
roundabout down the road after Government House, the bus driver who had
two passengers sitting on the front seat sighted officers of the FRSC
& immediately turned back. He took another road inside GRA & we
came out from the street opposite #Amasi_Lodge. This is a fundamental corruption that happens at our car parks daily.
Let us focus on the fuel marketers who deliberately hoard PMS in order
to inflate its price and exploit common Nigerians. Let us focus on how
they alter the litre of petrol and deceive the poor into believing that
they are selling at a subsidized rate, while in the actual sense, the
hoi polloi are being shortchanged. Let us focus on that petrol attendant
who will not ‘rub’ an initial sale properly before inserting the nozzle
into the gas tank of the next car.
Let us focus on the officials of Okada riders’ club/association who
harass their colleagues by turning off the ignition of their motorbikes
while in motion and seizing their keys over a 20/50 naira ticket. I was
reliably informed that most of them have cloned ticket which they sell
to Okada riders and keep the money for themselves. Let us focus on those
guys that extort money from Okada riders by loitering around major
Okada routes along Agbo Ọba and Taiwo area. These guys are neither excos
members of any association of Okada riders, nor do they own any Okada
themselves. They are just miscreants terrorizing innocent Nigerians.
Let us focus on the so-called area boys aka “ỌMỌ ONÍLÉ” who terrorize
land owners and property developers. These guys storm construction sites
and demand for huge amount of money as “settlement” from either the
contractor or property owner. Failure to “settle” the boys usually leads
to disruption of work at the site. In some cases, lives are lost and
properties vandalized.
Let us focus on that self-acclaimed beggar who has created artificial
injuries and wounds to deceive the common man on the street. Let us
focus on that professional ‘bara’ who roams the street and moves from
one car to the other, as well as from one office/mosque to the other
seeking for financial assistance over fabricated tales of travails.
 
 
Sirnucy Lafiagi first published this opinion on www.sirnucylaf.com

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