In a typical Nigerian conversation, once someone complains about one government induced struggle or the other (bad roads, no water or light, etc.) a conversation ensues on how the government needs to change: “Our leaders don’t care about us”, “CORRUPTION!!!”
One such conversation unfolded recently on my way to Lagos Airport early in the morning, on a dark road that should have had streetlights. The driver, and my cousin who accompanied me, began a heated conversation on how the electricity situation had deteriorated so badly. Silently, I chuckled.
My cousin and the driver had just agreed with themselves about how Nigerian leaders are corrupt. That was when I felt inclined to join in and correct them. It is not just Nigerian leaders who are corrupt. Nigerians are corrupt—including myself and the driver and my cousin, and any other supposedly upstanding citizen of the nation. Minor things that incur tickets, taxation and even jail time in other countries are norms for us.
Any right thinking Nigerian given a government position today would not be able to fight corruption alone. Even if you wanted to try, your family, friends and anyone that ever let you borrow their phone to make a two- second call, would hound you for how you are supposed to change their life and bless them the way God has blessed you with that position. Even your mother may cry to God in amazement when her situation is not changed drastically in your first month in office.
Our darling nation runs a very simple, unvoiced agenda: “If you can’t beat them, join them.” No one, since Fela, has actively tried to “beat” the corrupt sway of events in Nigeria. Even he, in his unique way was not without blame; marijuana, after all, is illegal. In very subtle ways, reputable individuals not involved in government have in one way or another given into corruption or even encouraged it.
Corruption has become so interwoven in the fabric of our lives in Nigeria that there is hardly any avoiding it, and hence no right for anyone to throw blame. Paying extra to get your passport done on time is not a normal thing. Neither is owning a drivers license without taking a test. “Working” your service to your state of preference or even living in a state without paying a simple tax are all forms of succumbing to the powers that be. To be fair, these minor offences we commit are not because we are delinquent or intend from our hearts to be corrupt, but to survive in this wild that is Nigeria, once in a while, we must.
So when conversations like the one between my cousin and the taxi driver come up, I heave a big sigh, roll my eyes and ask: Are we still on this subject? Our leaders are no greedier than our friends would be if they had that much power. And they are even more encouraged by the people around them who push them to limits to prove themselves. Those people are not leaders; they are simply Nigerians.
Photo Credit: Dreamstime | Harperdrewart