By Sam Amaku
St. Marks Gospel, 14 (10-11) gave an account of how Judas Iscariot, one of the twelve disciples of Jesus Christ, betrayed his master over a chicken change for which he also committed suicide. That was corruption per se.
Ananais and his wife, Sapphira also lost their lives because of their dishonesty, untruthfulness and lack of accountability. Similarly, Achan, according to Bible records, also displayed dishonesty and disobedience to ‘God’s instruction and subsequently lost his life by public execution through stoning.
These are the manifestations of some of our experiences today in Nigeria hence the current fight against corruption.
A forthnight ago, Nigerian civil servants trooped out into the streets in their hundreds in the 36 state capitals including Abuja, the national capital city. They demonstrated their solidarity with President Muhammadu Buhari’s anti-corruption crusade. During the rallies, the workers demanded stiff penalties such as “CAPITAL PUNISHMENT” or rather “DEATH SENTENCE” for anybody found guilty of official corruption.
What a welcome development? But what exactly is “CORRUPTION”? To what extent do we go in this crusade against corruption? Should it be total or would the definitions and punishments differ? These questions are very apt because some people think that corruption centers only on the “big men and women” in high places. These people think that anti-corruption crusade is fashioned out only against those who are suspected to have looted our common treasuries and carted away billions of our money thus running down our economy.
According to the Oxford Advanced Learner’s’ Dictionary, CORRUPTION, means “dishonest or illegal behaviour especially of people in authority”. Here the word “people” does not specify the category of person or persons-whether a big man in an office, a messenger or whatever. In other words, the word “people” simply refers to anybody in a position of authority who willingly uses his or her power to do “dishonest or illegal things in return for money or to get advantage”. At the same time, the word “CORRUPTION” does not specify when the offence becomes “SMALL OR BIG”.
Therefore, CORRUPTION is not limited only to those who salt away our money in Ghana-must-go bags or in trailer loads. No! People in authority are not just the Governors, Ministers, Advisers, and Commissioners, Legislators and even Local Government Chairmen or heads of government parastatals.
It is evident that in our country today, there are many public servants who do not depend only on their pay packets because they have deviced other clandestine avenues through which they extract money on daily basis from the public, especially in times of utmost need. To them the promised federal government’s bail-out scheme to help state governments pay their workers’ several months of salary arrears means little or nothing. Is this not super corrupt practice?
The messenger in an office who must expect his palms to be greased before he carries a contractor’s file to OGA’S table for his endorsement is of course into high profile corruption as well.
Those who must also receive kick-backs to award contracts as well as those who demand money before issuing out needed employment FORMS etc to deserving applicants are equally guilty of corruption offence if found. What about that police man in official uniform who stands out there on the highway or at the BUS STOPS to extort N20 or N50 from commercial drivers? Similarly, the public outcry against collection of money for police bail at police stations is still un-resolved. Where do we place that? If you go round our country today, you will see that official corruption has eaten deep into us. Bribery and corruption are everywhere in multifarious ways even with impunity. Our higher institutions are not better where envelopes exchange hands, especially during admissions of new students. Some university lecturers even go to the extent of shamelessly sleeping with some of their students (married and single) as necessary pre-conditions to pass them in their examinations.
Go to our market places where the so-called council officials collect levies from traders on daily basis but hardly do half of these collections enter the various council treasuries. Same applies to other states and local government law-enforcement agents who run after motorists every day and extort money from them without accountability.
So when the Nigerian workers trooped out in their thousands all over the country to demand “DEATH SENTENCE” for those found guilty of corruption, it was not quite clear to me whether they thought deeply of the far-reaching effect of their demand. That even among them demonstrating, there could be culprits. This is because there is a saying that when one of the five fingers is pointing accusingly against some one, the other four fingers are also very likely pointing at the accuser.
If per chance you are in a position of authority and you use same to favour only your family members, friends and associates, know that you are dishonest and corrupt in a way. So, how many of us Nigerians are the Saints-Not even in the church?
Of course, in our public service today, there are those in offices who earn less salaries but they control huge bank accounts and hidden investments than their superior officers. There are those who would not even like to be promoted or go on transfer because of the fabulous gains they make daily where they are. Unfortunately, it is only here in Nigeria that people live above their known incomes and nobody questions them.
In this on-going crusade against corruption, where do we place that petrol and gas dealer who siphons his products at mid-night and sells them in black market only to pretend he has no supplies? There are also those who illegally adjust their pumping machines to cheat the law. What about those contractors who collect mobilization fees and abandon their work half-way or even those who provide sub-standard jobs hence our roads and bridges collapse one year after they are built?
I think our crusade against corruption should also be backed up with re-orientation programmes. The government and the church should partner together. When someone becomes a true child of God, that fear of God will be in him or her and the evil thought of involving onself in corruption will be far from him or her. May God help us.