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Corruption: We are all participators

T HE above headline comes from The FCPA Blog, one of the international anti-corruption blogs I subscribe to for news and commentaries. I became curious enough to go through the write-up authored by Caveni Wong. He discussed something so intriguing that normally passes as part of our behavioural traits but is never taken serious – CHEATING, as an integral form of CORRUPTION.

Here are excerpts from the article: “It is an uncomfortable thought, but given certain circumstances, most of us would cheat. Ron Carucci just wrote about how easily one can cross the line in Forbes article that featured a conversation with Richard Bistrong. The cheating often involves people who don’t even realise that they are crossing the line.

“Studies have repeatedly shown that most people cheat when asked to self-report their own performance on a task if it means a higher pay-out. But they only cheat a little bit, enough to gain a little extra benefit, but not so much that they’d feel bad about themselves.

“That’s consistent with what I observed early in my career. Lunch among a few colleagues would somehow become a “client” meal, in which actual client names would be scribbled on a receipt and submitted for reimbursement. A colleague admitted he often embellished expenses. A $45; a $25 dinner into $40 — a practice my colleague said he learnt from watching others.

“These small transgressions tended to be committed by those I considered to be good work ethic. Those employees didn’t know they had crossed the line. Their actions were just part of the informal culture. And that’s the insidious nature of minor cheating that goes unchecked. It slowly builds up a culture that can eventually set the stage for more serious violations. ”

This is the crux of the matter. Corruption has so eaten deep into the fabric of everything in our lives – be it social, political and economic – a malaise that is presently driving Nigeria’s economy to its worst recession in history. Then, who is to blame? I draw strength from John 8, where Jesus Christ exonerated and rescued a woman allegedly caught in an adulterous act from accusers who were ready to stone her to death. Jesus simply stooped down, and scribbled something on the ground and asked a thunderbolt of a question: “He that is without sin among you, let him first cast a stone at her”.

That question pricked their consciences. One by one, they moved away. What a timeless lesson for all. Today, many of us are shouting corruption at the rooftops. At most major fora, the thrust of discussion is corruption but in our subconscious minds, are we not guilty one way or another? Do we not cheat and cut corners in our inter-personal dealings – be it at home, at work and businesses? How many of us can vouch that if appointed into higher public office, we will not cheat? Just look around you, and tell me if corruption is not staring at you.

Seriously, I believe that instead of mouthing corruption at every public discourse, let us start a serious re-awakening of the anti-corruption crusade, starting with ourselves, our homes and neighbours. Our children, today, have lost every value of integrity through the mind-boggling revelations of looters of the national treasury being hyped by the media on daily basis. These looters are not aliens. They are not ghosts. They are people in our backyards and homes.

It is not too late to start fighting the monster from the self. Man’s insatiable greed for primitive acquisition is so alarming that you keep wondering whether he will ever leave this Mother Earth. When you look at the crazy acquisitions, one discovers that most of them are products of cheating. Then, where do we draw the line between cheating and corruption? There is a very thin line between them. In fact, they are birds of the same feather.

In writing this article, I sought the perspectives of some of my friends and I got them talking. One of them, Mr. Femi Adefemiwa, said: “What a sound argument! There is no collective guilt but individual guilt. By nature, every human being is selfish and perhaps self-centred. The deprived background which a significant number of us experienced, and the undue societal expectations from us, have created some primordial tendencies in us, e.g. primitive acquisition. To make matters worse, justice in our land is always to the higher bidder. So, an innocuous combination of these ills has put us where we are today. But we have to start somewhere. Cleaning the mess must not be by academic exercise. Whether we are all guilty or not, we just have to draw a line and start from somewhere. And perhaps we have started.”

Another contributor from the United States of America, who identified himself simply as Tolu, wrote: “Your Food For Thought is direct and challenging indeed. It is the type of introspection that will help us not to be hypocrites. It is like admitting categorically that I have never sinned. I admit that I’m not pious enough to admit that I’m free from the taint of moral and character flaws. As human, I still need to recognise the society’s decadence and my personal contribution to such moral bankruptcy. The challenge of the conundrum is knowing how to maintain a balance between transparency in my conducts and standing against blatant disregard for the rule of law and sense of decency by the people in power.”

Similarly, another friend, Fisan Bankale, loved the Food For Thought “because it energised my thoughts in the direction of how to get people to own up to their contribution. Let me share a thought here. A man or family whose son or daughter was given a job at CBN or FIRS would go to church or mosque to thank God. But that job is a proceed from a corrupt act because the job was through an abuse of due process. The late Yar’adua publicly acknowledged that the election that brought him to power was riddled with fraud. Such open acknowledgement of wrong doing is what everyone should subscribe to.”

  • Olamiti, a media consultant, wrote from Abuja.