“Spouses of scoundrels, who see nothing, hear nothing, and say nothing as their better halves steal the country or their companies or their associates blind should take heed.”
Yet the tragedy of the Nigerian situation is that even as we write this, and in spite of all that has been said and written about corruption, putative misleaders like that young generic Minister are still waiting in the wings, plotting feverishly about how to get into lucrative offices and barely able to conceal their involuntary salivation over the steal-able goodies that await them once it is their turn to misrule.
As an evil terminology, corruption has lost its shock impact on the Nigeria psyche. Having become so pervasive, corrupt activity has virtually lost the negativity it once connoted here and still connotes elsewhere. The term corruption at least in the Nigerian mentality has been transformed into a quasi – positive concept.
Far from being something to be ashamed of, in the Nigerian mind-set, corruption, sharp practices and the opportunity to engage in corrupt activity is now synonymous with blessing from above, good fortune, intelligence, brilliance, resourcefulness, opportunity – all things to be envied not abhorred. The term corruption now deodorizes stealing malfeasance, having lost its ability to shock.
Given that at least to the Nigerian mind-set, the corruption terminology presently white washes and glosses over things ordinarily odious, moving forward we are well advised to address corruption by its proper name – stealing. Practitioners of stealing historically are petty criminals, thieves and scoundrels, be they in high or low places.
Many Nigerians in positions of authority at all levels including misleaders in high places now justify their thieving practices by declaring through their body language and occasional verbalization that ‘stealing in office did not start with me. I met the practice. Others stole and the heavens did not fall. Now it is my turn to steal. Why should my case be different? It is my turn to enjoy what my predecessors enjoyed. And nobody can deny me of my enjoyment. Nobody should deprive me of my own opportunity’.
Once in office of course, such misleaders set ever higher world records of stealing achievement and exhibit ever greater stealing prowess. And so the vicious circle of stealing frenzy goes on, each misleader-in-office becoming far worse than his immediate predecessor. With each new world record of stealing created at all levels, the country invariably, inevitably and inexorably sinks to even greater depths of despair and decrepitude.
But thieving scoundrels rarely act alone. They have a vast support network of active and passive sympathizers. There are two classes of people who provide active spiritual support to thieves and scoundrels. They are pastors and native or rather witch doctors. To make assurance of stealing success doubly sure, scoundrels inevitably swing both ways. In the day time they are in churches, tithing to donate private jets to pastors. Come night time they are in occult covens swearing oaths and sanctioning spiritual sacrifices of dear and not so dear ones in order to win appointments, elections or maintain their current positions. Pastors of dubious means are well advised to be wary of flying in gifted private jets.
By providing spiritual succor for a price, many pastors and witch doctors have morphed into receivers of stolen goods and they are now winging their ways happily to the bank. But they represent the two halves of a murky spiritual see-saw that seeks balance on the unstable fulcrum of theft and graft. But ascent in a see-saw is not stable and ebb it must, only to rise again.
In engineering parlance we may say that when excited, a see-saw undergoes alternating rigid body motion with decaying amplitude about the fulcrum. When the witch-doctor rises to the top, the pastor drops below. When the Pastor rises to the top, the witch-doctor falls below as they eternally grapple for influence over the minds of women and men of dubious means in positions of authority.
Spouses of scoundrels, who see nothing, hear nothing, and say nothing as their better halves steal the country or their companies or their associates blind should take heed. Indeed if I were the father, mother, brother, sister, spouse, child, close associate or staff of a man or woman of dubious means I should be very wary indeed. For the witch doctors who consult for them may ask for your very head as the next sacrifice to enable them achieve their criminal ambitions.
Ordinarily, to call someone a thief is the worst kind of insult you can render to that person. Not so in Nigeria. In Nigeria we now have proud thieves who strut around the place. Look at us they chant with their affluent sybaritic lifestyles – look at us and steal if you can. A critical observer of the goings-on in Nigerian could easily conclude that a competition of Olympic proportions is going on to see the Nigerian who would emerge as the Thief – In – Chief of the Federal Republic of Nigeria or in other words, the greatest thief Nigeria has ever produced.
By the unprecedented stealing spree going on in Nigeria, thieves and scoundrels seem to have composed a new national slogan for the country. The singular version of this unofficial slogan goes like this: ‘Here I am, a Nigerian, proudly stealing’. Its group version is this. ‘We are Nigerians, stealing proudly’.
The greatest danger stealing and corruption poses to Nigeria is not the quantum of money stolen, as grievous as this is. It is not even the opportunity cost to Nigeria in terms of shoddy infrastructure as damaging as this is. It is the dis-incentive to genuine and honest hard work that stealing with impunity generates in the societal fabric. Only the disciplined, perhaps God fearing minority are patient enough to realize that over the long term they are better served individually and collectively by walking the rough, narrow and straight road instead of plying the paved, wide yet crooked path.
So how do we fight stealing and corruption in Nigeria? The first cannon of the fight against thieving internal colonialists should be: ‘Honor not a thief lest he be encouraged to steal more’. The second cannon should read thus: ‘Suffer not a thief to be in your midst, much less to lead you. He will ultimately ruin you’. The third cannon should be this: ‘Name and shame a thief as soon as you can positively and unequivocally identify one’. We must continue to research into more potent ways of defeating thievery in Nigeria.
The measure of a man is his response to temptation. People who resort to stealing are invariably inadequate people who cannot compete fairly without cheating. It takes a real man or woman to say no to opportunities to steal. It does not matter if by so doing they remain as poor as church rats. They are the ones to honor.
And so our fourth cannon is this: ‘Single out honest hard working people for honors regardless of their financial status or social standing’. An honest conscientious street sweeper makes a net positive contribution to Nigeria’s progress and is therefore infinitely more valuable to Nigeria than a thieving President, Governor, Minister, Senator, business mogul or civil servant who by his stealing actually makes a net negative contribution to the country.
In the days of old, if my memory serves me well, there used to be a course in primary schools in Nigeria called Civics. I do not know if this course is still being taught in Nigerian schools. But I would strongly recommend that moving forwards, all Nigerians irrespective of age or position from President down to street sweeper should be compelled to take continuing education courses in patriotism, morality, ethics and civics in addition of course to religious instruction.
The main thrust of these courses should be the following among many others.
Firstly, if you do not give a damn about your company, organization, state or country yet find yourself in a position of authority at any level or station, do give way so that people who care about that company, organization, state or country can step in and fix the mess you and your predecessors created.
Secondly ask not about what you may steal for yourself. Ask rather about what you may do to make your company, organization, state or country a better place for all.
May God bless Nigeria.
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Engr. A. C. Konwea, P.E. firstname.lastname@example.org Managing Consultant, Strategic Research Consortium Limited, Asaba, Nigeria.