Re: The need for strong institutions

A reader felt strongly enough about the penultimate Sunday’s offering in this column on the nation’s need for strong institutions that he sent in this piece. So, the column is yielded to him today.

In our quest for the eradication of the cankerworm in our society called corruption, we have come up with numberless attempts and methods. Yet a permanent solution has been elusive. We must ask ourselves: why?

In the medical profession, most diseases have cure. But the beginning of a permanent cure of any disease is the right diagnosis of that disease. Different known and generally acceptable treatments are available and would usually lead to a cure. However, if all known treatments are applied to a diagnosed disease and yet a cure remains elusive (as we have in the case of corruption in Nigeria) then the diagnosis is most likely wrong, or the medicament is fake. Incidentally, the two misadventures ravage our nation’s shallow search for the cure to her disease.

Again, in the medical profession, what most uninitiated believe to be a disease is actually a symptom of a disease; the real disease being a more deep-seated problem. Treating a symptom relieves pains for a while but does not cure the real disease and so fails to help the patient. Many readers will be stunned by the declaration that corruption really is not the disease of our country but a symptom of a more deep-seated disease. The real disease in our society is warped mindset; a warped and perverted mind that is a cesspit of corruption.

I was attracted to Sulaimon Olanrewaju’s Borderless in the Sunday Tribune of 24th July, 2016, by just two words: Institutions and Character. The summary of his treatise is simple. A virile society needs strong institutions, but strong institutions need strong characters. Beautiful treatise. But which institutions and strong characters from where? Surely, Donald Trump will not send them from America. Neither are we going to borrow some from Jerry Rawlings’ Ghana. We will have to produce our own men of strong characters.

I assume that Olanrewaju was referring to such institutions as the judiciary, the legislature, the executive, the bar, the medical profession, civil service and lots more when he mentioned ‘institutions.’ There is no doubt that we have to strengthen these institutions with men of characters. But where are we to get these men of characters? Of course from within.

Characters are built by institutions, but not institutions of Olanrewaju’s definition. The real institutions are those ones that should be referred to as Traditional Institutions. Traditional Institutions are the homes, the schools, the religious institutions, different clubs and friends. These traditional institutions are factories where citizens are processed and characters developed. The finished products of these factories are then presented to Olanrewaju’s institutions to determine the virility or otherwise of the society.

It is what the home produces that would be presented to the religious bodies and schools, which would school and present them to friends and clubs. By the time the products reach Olanrewaju’s institutions, they have become finished products, dried fish that cannot be bent. They have become individuals whose characters and mindset have become fixed. It is always laughable when a leader promises to fight corruption if voted president. Vote-catching as it might sound, it is nothing more than a deadly joke, a fraud in the real sense of it. In the first place, a fight against corruption is not that of solo effort. It is not even a fight at all. It cannot be anything but a dramatic display of a populist gladiator.

The real fight should be against perverted mindset. When a perverted mindset is replaced in the society by the right mind, strong characters would emerge and a virile society would evolve. But the tragedy of our society is that the traditional institutions that should be held responsible for our national moral decadence are experts in playing the ostrich, burying their heads in the soil and blaming political institutions for our national tragedy.

The current political parties are less than 20 years old. But the traditional institution has been on board from the beginning. If a politician from a home, who went to the educational institutions and is a member of a religious group and social associations turns out to be corrupt, who should be blamed? The church where he was born and baptised and where he worships every Sunday or a political party, which is not a moral school in the first place? It is common to see men of God on the pulpits preaching against corruption and corrupt politicians. But the pulpit on which he stands is bought with corrupt politician’s money. And after his sermon, he will feel honored to come down to embrace the very politician he had just preached against and probably receive envelopes from him.

Most corrupt politicians are known only by their political parties. The challenge should be that the religious, educational and social identities of such corrupt politicians should also be unmasked to the whole world, for they are more responsible for the citizens’ decadence.

In conclusion, the real fight against corruption will start when we realise that the fight is a collective responsibility and the building of men of character is everybody’s duty. Institutions that are responsible for the building of individual’s character need to be alive to their responsibilities.


Olatunde sent in the piece through [email protected]