Bob Majirioghene Etemiku
In the three and half years that the Buhari administration has fought corruption tooth and nail, corruption seems to have remained adamant. A Transparency International Publication, Nigeria Must Strengthen Anti-Corruption Bodies and Increase Transparency on Asset Recovery of June 16 2016 had said that 75% of Nigerians felt that corruption had increased in the period 2014 – 2015, while 78% felt their government was doing badly in the fight against corruption. This makes it seem that in spite of its best efforts, corruption is growing in leaps and bounds in Nigeria. It is easy to tell that if all that the present administration and its allied anti-corruption agencies need to convince anyone that it has drastically reduced corruption in Nigeria, it would be in the statistics and data in the number of arrests, and media trials and convictions. It would also be in the many travels that Mr President has embarked on to enter into extradition treaties, to get the corrupt in his predecessor’s administration in jail.
However, very many instances have devalued the anti-corruption swag of the present administration. Even though one is tempted to highlight some of these instances as evidence that there are double standards in the fight against corruption in Nigeria, that, would not be in the interest of this discussion. Rather, we would be trying to say that the status arrogated to corruption as the bane of our very poor condition as a nation is very much overestimated and very much misplaced.
Corruption is not Nigeria’s problem but the lack of strong systems and institutions to deal with it is. In 2008 when the US economy crashed, mechanisms already in place immediately went into automatic mode. That was not all. They system self-regulated and handed those responsible time for the crime. In Nigeria it is not so. At least the Presidency said so itself that if indeed Nigeria were to be working very well, many of the juggernauts gallivanting around seeking votes would be behind bars. Even though most Nigerians thought this to be one of the sublimest piece of irony there ever was, some of us were not overly surprised at that quip.
But the sad thing about Nigerian systems not working well is that while the weak system favours the political class and lets them hop along, it undermines the rest of us and devalues our humanity. Just a few days into this New Year, I was to be confronted with a sight which so drained me. Whilst commuting to town from my village, we suddenly ran into this stark naked man lying by the side of this lonely road. We alighted to find out what this amiss. He looked in great need. There was a phone with the battery lying by his side. At first glance, you would think this was a drunkard, and indeed everyone thought so. Yet, on closer examination, you would discover something eerie. Both wrists appeared broken, and the only clothing on him had been used to tie up his legs. He kept muttering something, which sounded like ‘Give me water, give me water…!
‘Give him water and he would die the next minute…’, someone said to me as I made to get him water.
‘Then let’s go to the police’, I said. ‘This man is not drunk…he looks like somebody who was tortured or attacked and left here to die’.
‘Police…? By the time those people are through with you, you will hate your life. I beg, let’s go bo’.
Yet as we journeyed on, I could not get the glazed expression on the face of that unfortunate fellow off my mind. So I went to the police anyway and begged them to try save the poor fellow.
Oga, you see? I am the only one here o. We no get motor, no logistics to carry that man. I beg just go your way. If our country dey work well, we go fit do something sir…I beg dey go’. This cannot be. I ran back to the poor fellow with two sachets of water. He drank and drank, and was a bit refreshed after I poured the rest of the water on him.
‘Who are you…what happened to you?’ Muttering, he said ‘I come from Ghana…I…I…’ He was barely audible.
Just close by, I espied another Federal government institution. So I ran there as well. Luckily, they agreed to come with to ‘investigate’. But a glance at this fellow, they pronounced judgement: Oga this na armu robber o. I beg come dey go…go your way now now o’.
At this point, I knew it was almost over for this poor fellow. The sun was blazing hot, and in less than two to three hours, this chap would certainly die. Therefore, I made one last push and reached out to certain members of that community. I explained and explained but none made a move.
The long and short of this sordid tale was not that the fellow eventually died but that the community swung into action at once. The confirmed gist is that nearly everyone paid up and collected N40,000.00 (forty thousand naira), a fraction of what could have helped to convey the unfortunate chap to a hospital, to remove the corpse to the mortuary.
If Nigerian systems and institutions worked well, the police would have cordoned off that place immediately. Then they would have picked up the phone and taken that poor chap to the hospital, revive and ferret crucial info from him and from that phone that would likely help to unravel whatever circumstances that led to that poor fellow being left at that corner to a miserable death. A system like that we learnt, was what the US used with the underwear bomber, and which helped them to nail Osama Bin Laden.
If Nigeria were to be working well, members of that community would not have left that poor fellow to die and then begin to collect money for transportation of the corpse to the mortuary. Nigeria is not working well, and corruption is not responsible.
Etemiku is author of Pathways for Development Communicators, https://www.amazon.com/dp/B07MPZS3V5