Going home on vacation has become annual ritual for me. It’s not only sacred and majestic, but spiritual. Like a pilgrim, the yearly ‘pilgrimage’ renews my faith, hope, and love for my country. It’s also an opportunity to reconnect and reunite where my boyhood was formed and shaped with unrestrained exuberance. It was a land where I imagined Utopia was in process of becoming reality.
Though it’s too soon to forget about summer infatuation, mine ended immediately the Boeing 777 taxied at Murtala Muhammed International Airport (MMIA) in Lagos.
The smooth, bumpy-free, and flawless connecting flight from Houston’s International was punctuated by a downpour that greeted our arrival at MMIA.
Right from the time we set foot inside the airport, visible signs of neglect and decay from the rooftops to the floor of the airport advertised a microcosm of a nation parallaxed to hell.
Drops of July showers that escaped through the leaking roofs of MMIA baptized passengers with the ostensible truth that warned us to fasten our belts for the turbulence ahead.
The airport was partially boarded up and torn down. Looks like an abattoir undergoing some face lift ready for inspectors from department of agriculture.
Everywhere looks mangled, air-thirsty, decrepit, and filthy. Scraps of construction materials compete for space like trees hewed down by the storm: an ironic reminder of MMIA’s vestiges of its former greatness.
By now, the rain had become more violent and unfriendly. The waiting lounge was a bedlam. People waiting for their loved ones were pounded by the rain. The ‘madding crowd’ needless to say, had become inured and enamored with the copious beatings of the rain.
Out of the sea of heads, I managed to recognize my family completely bathed in the pre-noon rains. We collided into each other’s arms with a prolonged hallelujah that I made it safely home!
Thus the one month vacation has begun in earnest. Of course, a month vacation was not enough for me (or any visitor for that matter) to travel extensively and exhaustively to intimate me with the socio-politico-economic problems in Nigeria. Good enough, I’m no stranger to these problems.
The socio-politico-economic mess in the country is well known and well documented. Thus I believe it’ll amount to nauseating redundancy to laundry-list for the umpteenth time the lack of modern conveniences that Nigerians have come to accept as the norm.
These age-old problems make for equal opportunity in all the 36 states of the federation – see one see all. But on this trip, I’m hell troubled by corruption, today’s most lucrative industry in Nigeria.
Of all the social and economic plagues that badly afflicted and deformed our body politic, corruption is the most noxious. If superstitions are vestiges of ancient religion, corruption has become the creative destruction of a modern Nigeria. Poverty, one of its derivates, is on full scale war with our people.
To be a guest of corruption in Nigeria, you needn’t crisscross this huge country looking for hosts.
Corruption is all over the land: you can feel it, smell it, hear it, read it, watch it, and embrace it!
Corruption in Nigeria has assumed a special status with different species. There is collusive corruption and retail corruption. Collusive corruption is a phenomenon whereby the ruling class takes care of each other at the expense of the people who elected them as their representatives.
Retail corruption involves exploitation, scheming, scamming, and ripping of individuals by individuals on one hand, and bribery of individual law makers on the other hand by corporations. According to the World Bank report just released, 80% of businesses in Nigeria paid bribes to government officials on request to remain in business. Both forms and strands of corruption are visible, massive, deadly, and alive in Nigeria.
The scale and scope of stealing, looting, and fraud is riveting to the eyes. One can literally hear the screams of corruption in the banner headlines of the dailies.
From oil subsidy gate to pension scheme fraud, bank fraud, ghost workers, overseas junketing and jamboree of legislatures and their wives, forged and inflated contracts, senseless presidential trips with army of aides, unending meaningless retreats and unproductive seminars, and many other sickening evil and con devices have become intertwined to form a national catechism.
Whether it is collusive or retail corruption, the result is the same: it continues to ebb and eat away our human flourishing. Corruption has effectively abbreviated the exercise of liberty in the pursuit of happiness for our people.
The justified and lasting satisfaction with life is completely wiped clean by this greed and graft. The guarantee and expansion of economic liberty has been stunted and halted by the same malfeasance. Earned success and achievement from different endeavors have been supplanted by these assorted venalities.
It’s like expecting springs in the desert for Nigerians to earn a living for themselves and their families through hard work and own efforts. Finding decent work that not only pays the bill but that people enjoys is a rare commodity of Nigeria’s past.
Corruption has created a humiliating and primitive stagnation of our social life. With corruption, families have been ripped apart. Our children are not raised as proud members of the community with devotion to our culture of ingrained moral values.
Our young ones have become wild and homeless lot, culturally lost, spiritually disinherited, candidates for streets, highway robbery, and prisons. Lost generation, if you will!
The war of exploitation and marginalization of the poor on one hand, and the destruction of the middle class on the other hand, has been renewed with zealous impatience by corruption.
The fastidious corrupt appetites of the ruling class have become the political face of our own brand of democracy.
The Devil once lived in Heaven and those who have not met him are unlikely to recognize an angel when they see one. If you have not seen real poverty in action, visit Nigeria. Listen to the assessment of a writer on Nigeria’s self inflicted poverty: “Nigerians are living on a lonely island of poverty in the midst of a vast ocean of material prosperity.”
The jungle dwellings, the mass unemployment and under employment, the open solicitation of prostitution by the young and the old, the biting hunger, the untamed malnourishment, the helplessness and hopelessness of now and the future, put the human suffering of Nigerians on Biblical proportions.
There is no medicine like hope. But it is one thing to speak of hope when things look doubtful. It is fearful to speak of hope when the future is uncertain. It is frustrating to speak of hope when the pestilence of poverty bears all the signs and symbols of satanic verses.
Yes, it is something else to speak of hope when there is no doubt that the present is a disaster, when the future is surely uninviting, when circumstances have consigned you to the gutters. Definitely, hope in the midst of utter turmoil cannot be starry-eyed optimism; it must be built upon bedrock reality.
Wherever you see persecution, truth is often on the persecuted side. How can we explain the inequalities in Nigeria today? The wicked, oppressive, and corrupt ruling class generally goes unpunished. Corruption covers them like a robe. They wear injustice like a turban.
The swindlers prosper, while the honest citizens go bankrupt. Everywhere I looked I saw distorted business ethics, perverted justice, unpunished criminals, and unjust suffering.
Everywhere I looked there was unsettling apprehension of pessimism. The architects of evil, wickedness, and tyranny (and we know them) prosper and enjoy the luxury of their looted wealth. They spend their days in prosperity. They’re spared calamity and they’re buried with honor.
They oppressed the poor and left them destitute. Pictures of utter helplessness and desperation are everywhere. The poor are left cold, hungry, and at the mercy of the elements.
The dying groans for comfort. The wounded cry for help. The Boko Haram continues to consume the poor, the needy, and the innocent just as drought and heat consume snow.
Faced with the prospect of being swept away by the tidal wave of corruption, Nigeria is as good as dead. The choice before us is merely between a grey twilight and total darkness. With corruption on the rise and unabated, Nigeria is headed for total darkness.
I may sound like a boastful apocalyptist, but I tell you this: Nigeria is closer to the brink of collapse today than yesterday. This is the end!