Ask any Nigerian what the biggest problem of Nigeria is, and you’ll most likely hear “corruption” as reply. The government is corrupt, therefore the nation remains stranded, plagued by mass poverty despite our plentiful resources. Rightly so, the government carries the most blame. However, the government is not the only culpable party.
We need only look at our day-to-day interactions to realize that corruption has indeed eaten deep into the fabric of the society. It is not surprising, though, that corruption is mostly related to the government. Our lexicon has made it so. For example, the first definition of corruption by Merriam-Webster is: “dishonest or illegal behavior especially by powerful people (such as government officials or police officers)”. So, we can see that there’s a dwelling focus on public office holders. But, this doesn’t tell the whole story, especially in Nigeria’s case.
While the looting of state assets takes place in the higher echelons, an even sadder reality appears to be established among the populace. The interactivity between the common people is mostly devoid of trust and fairness. In pursuing personal gains, most people do not care if they trample on the rights of others. From the market square to our public institutions, we experience the glorification of money, at the expense of true values and ideals.
You’ll find corruption among civil servants, teachers, religious leaders, bankers, students, just as it is among public office holders. João Lourenço, the President of Angola rightly said: “corruption happens because there is impunity. That’s the reason why corruption is widespread at all levels – from the person who asks for a bribe on the street to those who hold prominent positions”.
We also know that the masses are responsible for making corrupt leaders. Through unfair elections, where money is the main decider of winners; through blind affiliation to political parties; through tribal and religious discrimination; and through several other means, we ourselves sustain corruption. Likewise, we should also remember that the government is more or less a reflection of the society at large.
The problem of corruption is further compounded by the individual who refuses to examine himself/herself. If we are to rise above corruption and move this nation forward, then everyone must self-reflect. We must bring to fore our relationships with the fellow citizen, and examine our doings. Then, we’d come to the realization that almost everyone indulges in acts of corruption. The only caveat is that the common people act in their own capacity; hidden beneath the radar of public inspection.
Where does this leave us?
It is the duty of every institution to inculcate the right ideals and values into the society. From our homes, to our schools, to our religious gatherings, we must encourage altruism over material gains. Every child should be given to the desire to contribute positively to the society. Every form of dishonest gain should be discouraged. Angel Gurría said: “Integrity, transparency and the fight against corruption have to be part of the culture. They have to be taught as fundamental values”.
It is essential that we impact our immediate society positively, if we are to bring any growth to the nation. Thus, everyone should remember that they’re as corruptible as the other person. We must therefore give ourselves to self-examination and make sure that we are worthy to lead the fight against corruption.