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Cisi Eze: We Are Nigerians & ‘Corrupt’ is Our Default Setting

Cisi Eze

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dreamstime_m_6384983Corruption is the new black. This means corruption is what’s fashionable. As per, black is seen as chic and fashionable.
When people think of corruption, they imagine an ugly, over-weight man donned in Agbada holding a Ghana-Must-Go. People think only politicians are corrupt. Guess what! Most, if not all of us, are corrupt.

Once upon a time, I was standing on a BRT queue at CMS. Ah! The queue was long. Some people, who refused to stand on the queue because they have two heads, were going to meet some of us standing at the front to help them get tickets so they would not have to stand on the queue.

The man in front of me said, “You are shouting corruption. Look at what you are doing. Is Buhari here?”

As he was walking to the back to join the queue, the corrupt man gallantly retorted, “Our leaders have failed us. What do you expect us to do?”

The dictionary defines corruption as “the act of corrupting or of impairing integrity, virtue, or moral principle; the state of being corrupted or debased; loss of purity or integrity; depravity; wickedness; impurity; bribery.

It is doing “bad-bad” things to enrich and better yourself at the expense of another person. Those men that refused to join the queue are corrupt. They wanted to get into the bus at the expense of other patient people standing at the back.

Corruption is a hydra-headed, multi-faceted problem that has gnawed into the fabric of the Nigerian society. Like a wound, it has festered and gotten septic to the point of rotten. The stench of corruption has pervaded every social institution. Every social institution in Nigeria- the family down to religion- abets corruption.

Look at the family, the smallest unit of society. Children are corrupt when they inflate the prices of books and lie they want to buy books they are not using.

Homemakers are corrupt when they inflate the cost of running their homes.

Breadwinners are corrupt when they partake in shady deals at their places of work. E.g. Inflating the prices/cost of things.

What do we say about the cleric that misuses funds meant for maintenance of his/her religious centre?

The politician that steals from the governed through various means at his/her disposal, e.g. receiving a ridiculously fat salary while people are suffering, is corrupt.

The journalist that ignores a story because he/she has been silenced with money is culpable of this act, too.

The policeman or judge that takes bribes is corrupt.

CORRUPTION IS OUR CULTURE! It has been institutionalised here in Nigeria.

Who is the problem of Nigeria? Nigerians!

What makes up Nigeria? Breeze, fishes, and leaves? Hahaha! When you look at it, one is compelled to give a bribe in a bid to get certain things. A friend told me, “Only by being corrupt can you get ANY service at a decent time. Corrupt is the new normal.”You want to get a job and someone is telling you to pay a certain amount of money. If you have been in this situation, you know what I am talking about. You might have given the bribe and asked God to forgive you. You even went on to say, “I leave it to God” because the Nigerian legal system has inadvertently become the paragon of corruption- you can’t report the person to the authorities. Why not fix our legal system? Why do we leave everything to divine intervention? This, dear friend, is the cause of most of the problems in our country- We are WAITING for external help. We’re waiting for things to happen. We are not happening to things.

Are there punitive measures to serve as deterrent to offenders? Are there structures in place to prevent corruption? Do we treat corrupt people as the criminals they are? Au contraire, we celebrate and idolise them. Imagine a situation where there were punitive measures meted out on corrupt people- they steal, they go to jail. Don’t you think everyone would sit up?

Our lawmakers are there doing nothing. Of course, they won’t push for an anti-corruption bill that punishes criminals. Because they know they are culpable.

We should be ashamed of ourselves for normalising corruption. How do we explain that a very religious country, with at least one religious centre within a distance of five streets, is highly corrupt? When we said we wanted change, we didn’t realise we are the ones to bring about change. If divine intervention could end corruption, all those prayers would have ended it. Aren’t we a joke? Many religious centres, few factories. Even Solomon said, “Go to the ants and learn from them.” But here, we want to pray ourselves into economic growth and development without getting rid of dark deeds. How, please?

Nigerians are intelligent and hardworking people; however, the structures on ground wouldn’t allow us to be great. Brilliant minds get frustrated here. Some move out to countries that support the same values we condemn and they shine. Doesn’t this bother you? WE MOVE TO COUNTRIES THAT SUPPORT THE SAME VALUES WE OPPOSE! Haha! We are corrupt hypocrites! Corruption and hypocrisy is wrecking our country like the queen and bishop in a game of chess. Shame!

Yes, we are Nigerians and we are corrupt by default because corruption has become a way of life, our culture.

Are we going to wait for the lawmakers to pass an anti-corruption bill?

Alternatively, are we all going to make a conscious effort to stop being greedy, selfish, and corrupt?

What is it going to be?

A friend once joked, “Can we just take these lawmakers to a remote island (…)?” But I told him that there’s no point sinking that island if the next crop of people would do the same thing their predecessors did.

WE NEED STRONG INSTITUTIONS. As Chester Arthur put it, “Men may die, but the fabric of our free institutions remains unshaken.”

We cannot eradicate corruption, we can only reduce its occurrence to the point it would not be an impediment to economic development.

Until then, you and I are corrupt. Uh-hmm…Very, very corrupt. If we want change, we have to change ourselves. Else, in hundred years, our grandkids will ruin things because corruption is our culture.

Photo Credit: Dreamstime

Cisi Eze is a Lagos-based freelance journalist, writer, comic artist, and graphics designer. She feels strongly about LGBT+ rights, feminism, gender issues, and mental health, and this is expressed through her works on Bella Naija and her blog – Shades of Cisi. Aside these, she has works on Western Post NG, Kalahari Review, Holaafrica, Mounting the Moon, Gender IT, Outcast Magazine, Rustin Times, 14: An Anthology of Queer Art Volume 1 and 2, and Sweet Deluge (Issue 2). Her first book, published by Tamarind Hill Press, UK, is titled “Of Women, Edges, and Parks”. Cisi’s art challenges existing societal norms.

20 Comments

  1. A Real Nigerian

    December 14, 2016 at 10:57 pm

    Rant on baby!
    Reading this article gave me an orgasm.

    • Nv

      December 16, 2016 at 1:28 pm

      Lol, what an interesting way of puting a compliment!

  2. Kay

    December 14, 2016 at 11:10 pm

    I was discussing something similar with my brother. When the foundation is shaky, how can you build anything meaningful on it without it collapsing?

    The mindset of a lot of Nigerians is alarming! I’m actually scared for the future generation.

    • nene

      December 15, 2016 at 12:09 am

      i agree with you. it’s ingrained in the average nigerian. we always complain about our leaders but imagine a society where only 1% are honest, upright and law abiding, that is the present and future of nigeria. it is scary!

    • Jade

      December 15, 2016 at 3:55 pm

      The foundation is shaky, and that’s where change starts. The leaders will point fingers at are reflection of the people. So, change starts from me and you. It’s a character and mindset problem. .

  3. EE

    December 14, 2016 at 11:13 pm

    Corruption is not the problem, a bad economy is. If the pie were growing, people wouldn’t notice that some are stealing crumbs.

    The problem with Nigerians, we internalise the criticisms others throw our way without critical thought. Every country in the world is corrupt, some are just rich enough to resist the temptation to make theirs overt.

    Overt corruption is the Nigerian problem.

    • A Real Nigerian

      December 14, 2016 at 11:47 pm

      “Corruption is not the problem, a bad economy is. If the pie were growing, people wouldn’t notice that some are stealing crumbs.”
      *Corruption is not our only problem.
      Wickedness and incompetence also follow.
      Have you thought that maybe our excessively corrupt nature prevents economic growth? Through what? Bad policies – made out of either selfishness, incompetence or both – that accumulate over time. Purposely allowing infrastructure to rot because we just don’t care.
      The countries you talk about had leaders who put aside their corrupt nature even for a little while just for their countries to grow. Those leaders felt shame, they had a bit of empathy, and it was something of pride for them to rule a nation that had something tangible to boast of regardless of how corrupt they were. Ours? Their own corruption is so bad that they have no shame, no conscience and no empathy – just like the common Nigerian man.
      Even when our economy was booming and growing, how did it translate to a higher standard of living for Nigerians?
      Our own corruption is something special. It has eaten so deep into us.
      There is something intrisically wrong with Nigerians.
      Newsflash: If the pie were growing, they’d steal the whole pie and still leave the crumbs to the people.
      Angola is a perfect example of that. Except, of course, you mean ” economy” in a completely different context.

    • EE

      December 15, 2016 at 12:52 am

      “Have you thought that maybe our excessively corrupt nature prevents economic growth? “: China, Indonesia, Great Britain and the US of A disprove that.

      Bad policies. Economic growth is itself borne out of selfishness and a competent government is rarer than virgin’s blood.

      ??????????They didn’t, but a shortened version reads something like this. Western Europe by virtue of certain geographical and institutional advantages were able to conquer the world, extracting resources and labour through the barrel of a gun. Their entrepreneurs used the capital derived to kickstart the industrial revolution. The Asians that followed channeled the selfishness and corruption of their entrepreneurs in a state led export system under authoritarian governments. Look up the Chaebols, the Zaibatsu and the CCP/PLA connections of must/all of Asia’s leading corporations to get the gist.

      “Even when our economy was booming and growing, how did it translate to a higher standard of living for Nigerians?”:
      I expect better from your, to be blunt, the Nigerian has never had it so good. Standard of living has jumped every year since recorded history, we are more literate, richer, our mortality rate is much improved, we move and can communicate faster than ever e.t.c. The problem as stated, the pie isn’t growing, the cause, government.

      “Our own corruption is something special. It has eaten so deep into us. There is something intrinsically wrong with Nigerians.”:
      Not really, Nigerians are just reacting rationally to the incentives they receive. Remember SS1 economics,? why monopolies are bad. Well we have a singular monopoly. That gives its agents too much power and gives ordinary people the incentives for corruption. Corruption = Monopoly + Discretion – Accountability. How do you hold the guys with not just the guns, but all the resources accountable?? Violent revolution aside, the clear choice is to try and buy agents of said monopoly.

      “Angola is a perfect example of that.”:
      I’d have gone with E.Guinea, but even then, the living standard of the average Angolan has improved markedly (they are emerging from a civil war after all). Something else both Angola, E.Guinea and any other example you can think of have in common. An overweening state apparatus and an easily repressed population. Corruption = Monopoly + Discretion – Accountability.

      Please note repression works in many ways, the most important of which is a disarmed populace. Then primed instruments of coercion, co-opting the societal “elites”, controlling the means of communication and perhaps most importantly giving the population too much to lose in a violent revolution. Globalisation has also contributed, previously if the smart talented people felt they had nowhere to go and lacked fulfillment in their land, they’d whip up the peasants into a revolution. Now they can just emigrate and send back remittances, ironically helping to cushion the effects of state incompetence.

      Its all to vast and complicated to write down (even for my longer than normal comments) but this is the gist of it.

    • EE

      December 15, 2016 at 6:34 am

      “Have you thought that maybe our excessively corrupt nature prevents economic growth? “: China, Indonesia, Great Britain and the US of A disprove that.

      Bad policies. Economic growth is itself borne out of selfishness and a competent government is rarer than virgin’s blood.

      ??????????They didn’t, but a shortened version reads something like this. Western Europe by virtue of certain geographical and institutional advantages were able to conquer the world, extracting resources and labour through the barrel of a gun. Their entrepreneurs used the capital derived to kickstart the industrial revolution. The Asians that followed channeled the selfishness and corruption of their entrepreneurs in a state led export system under authoritarian governments. Look up the Chaebols, the Zaibatsu and the CCP/PLA connections of must/all of Asia’s leading corporations to get the gist.

      “Even when our economy was booming and growing, how did it translate to a higher standard of living for Nigerians?”:
      I expect better from your, to be blunt, the Nigerian has never had it so good. Standard of living has jumped every year since recorded history, we are more literate, richer, our mortality rate is much improved, we move and can communicate faster than ever e.t.c. The problem as stated, the pie isn’t growing, the cause, government.

      “Our own corruption is something special. It has eaten so deep into us. There is something intrinsically wrong with Nigerians.”:
      Not really, Nigerians are just reacting rationally to the incentives they receive. Remember SS1 economics,? why monopolies are bad. Well we have a singular monopoly. That gives its agents too much power and gives ordinary people the incentives for corruption. Corruption = Monopoly + Discretion – Accountability. How do you hold the guys with not just the guns, but all the resources accountable?? Violent revolution aside, the clear choice is to try and buy agents of said monopoly.

      “Angola is a perfect example of that.”:
      I’d have gone with E.Guinea, but even then, the living standard of the average Angolan has improved markedly (they are emerging from a civil war after all). Something else both Angola, E.Guinea and any other example you can think of have in common. An overweening state apparatus and an easily repressed population. Corruption = Monopoly + Discretion – Accountability.

      Please note repression works in many ways, the most important of which is a disarmed populace. Then primed instruments of coercion, co-opting the societal “elites”, controlling the means of communication and perhaps most importantly giving the population too much to lose in a violent revolution. Globalisation has also contributed, previously if the smart talented people felt they had nowhere to go and lacked fulfillment in their land, they’d whip up the peasants into a revolution. Now they can just emigrate and send back remittances, ironically helping to cushion the effects of state incompetence.

      Its all to vast and complicated to write down (even for my longer than normal comments) but this is the gist of it.

    • Nitomeya

      December 15, 2016 at 2:40 pm

      A basket cannot retain water, corruption is the problem of our economy. It is draining the economy and preventing the growth of the economy. I agree with Cisi Eze, the Nigerian system is a collective effort of its people. We are individually corrupt. We need to change.

      I went to buy diesel recently at a NNPC station, after paying for the amount of diesel I bought, the attendant asked for a tip, so I gave him 500 naira and he got angry that I didn’t give him more money. I was shocked at the boldness at which he asked for extra money for doing a job He had already been paid for.

  4. tunmi

    December 14, 2016 at 11:14 pm

    Lobatan. There is nothing to add. Unless people want to turn the comments section to confessionals

    • Loki

      December 15, 2016 at 10:09 am

      Bless me Father for I have sinned….

    • Nv

      December 16, 2016 at 1:33 pm

      Lmao!

  5. CovertNigerian

    December 15, 2016 at 5:19 am

    This is a well written account of our collective truth and shame. Too many of us justify our own bad behavior by waving the bad behavior of others as an excuse. We only need to look around and listen to be inundated by examples of police men and women demanding bribes, fuel attendants insisting on ‘gallon money’, lecturers selling plagiarized handouts, students cheating during exams, and an incredible inability across ALL age groups to maintain and respect a simple queue. I even remember an instance years ago where a boy scout on a danfo I was in refused to pay his fare because he was ‘wearing a uniform’ and so like misguided police and military personnel, he thought he was entitled to a free ride.
    Our country is very very sick and while it is appropriate to point fingers at our leaders in many cases, I agree with the author that too many of us are hypocrites and fail to acknowledge our share of responsibility for the change we seek.

  6. Get your eyes tested

    December 15, 2016 at 7:05 am

    Cisi Eze. Speak for yourself
    .You are corrupt and corruption is your default setting. How dare you speak on behalf of 200 million people!

    • Nv

      December 16, 2016 at 1:38 pm

      See what they’re saying? I don’t know why you feel personaly affronted by this article. Simple logic tells you that there will be acknowledgement of exceptions but by and large, curruption is the norm.

  7. Gerald

    December 15, 2016 at 8:15 am

    nice article dear, more of this.

  8. Marian

    December 15, 2016 at 10:56 am

    It takes the grace of God mehn. Corruptions has been normalized that people don’t even view their actions as corrupt, it’s just normal everyday something.

    Lagos airport is like the meeting place for some of these people.

    It’s so irritating and i have to bite my tongue a lot of times from calling people out. Just be honest mehn, tell me it’s 200 naira with great customer service and i can tip you 2k or more sef. I’m a sucker for great customer service. What usually happens to me is people selling a 200naira product for 1k with bad customer service. Will the difference make you rich?

    Doing business in naija is another shameful something. I remember one time these jorunalist came to interview someone i know and they were asking for bribe to write a good story. Like why???? The price for not paying the bribe was evident in the printed story.

  9. fixnigeriaseries

    December 15, 2016 at 12:17 pm

    I agree with the person that said the author should speak for herself. Articles like this only help in cementing the unhealthy ideal that corruption is the new normal in Nigeria.

    Through my years in a Nigerian secondary school, a Nigerian university, NYSC, postgraduate studies, registering a business, getting a driver’s license, job searching and actual working on a job in Nigeria, I never spent a dime trying to bribe my way to get ahead. Things may have moved slower because I waited on the queue, but I always got what I needed to get. My one dip into shame was when I wanted to renew my passport and felt pressed for time (interesting thing is that I would still have gotten the service had I waited my turn), and another occasion I took a wrong turn while driving at night and policemen wanted to take me to Bar Beach (to do what I don’t know), Both situations were avoidable and I have learnt from the consequences: no one needs to make these kinds of mistakes. But to make the claim that this is the only way of life possible in Nigeria is erroneous: every Nigerian can decide to take a stand to be a law-abiding citizen and wait their turn for whatever service needs to be rendered.

    • Nitomeya

      December 15, 2016 at 3:03 pm

      You disagreed with the author and cited examples to support what the author said. The main point of the article is that we need make changes.

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