Lagos - Corruption in Nigeria is systemic and affects all aspects of our lives. It can be traced to public office holders (elected or otherwise) at federal, state and local government levels. Corruption does not involve only those in government, but also involve individuals in the private sector, civil servants, professionals, traditional rulers, religious leaders and security agents. With endemic poverty and systemic corruption, ethical values have been lost across board. Corruption seems to have been accepted as societal norm.
There are several Nigerians of noble, great and good characters. No one seeks perfection as no perfect man exists. But the societal norm must innately abhor corruption as a way of life. The societal norm must not be permissive of ethical flaws without appropriate punishment. The summarized points below provide an overview of why we are in a big mess today. The reasons we are faced with endemic poverty, infrastructural deficiencies, educational ‘paper’ certificates without skills acquisition and productivity, moral decadence, religious and political exploitation, mistrust between the governed and the government, ethno-religious mistrust between the people, social vices and various forms of insecurity challenges.
Primary and Secondary schools are established solely for economic survival, tertiary institutions operate below international standards, parents help their wards to pass examinations fraudulently, teachers are poorly trained and sometimes cannot read the words on their certificates, grades in tertiary institutions can be obtained in cash or kind, building professionals and monitoring agencies look the other way while buildings continue to collapse, doctors do certify non-existing conditions for N.Y.S.C postings/others or perform ‘open and close surgery’ for pecuniary considerations, staff promotion is not necessarily based on merit but primordial considerations, police officers demand for bribes in public, security agents engage in ethical breaches with impunity, public funds are either embezzled or misappropriated, transparency and accountability are not common in governance, public institutions are either weak or compromised, dispensation of justice cannot be guaranteed through investigative panels and the courts.
Artisans are not less corrupt and it is not rare to learn of road side mechanics (and others) creating non-existing problems to demand for more money.
In other cases, the artisans no longer have the skills like their educated counterparts to do the job expected of them. Nollywood movies (which do shape societal norms and are watched by almost all groups) continually teach voodooism rather than causes and effects, hard work, scientific inspirations and public good. The average Nollywood movie shows that when individuals are doing poorly in their endeavours, the underlying cause is spiritual and not the results of acts of omission or commission, causes and effects. Problems of unemployment are not resolved through individual creativity (that produced Bill Gate) or good governance but through exchange of destinies, money-making rituals and/or cultism.
Infertility problems are not resolved through medical examinations with resultant treatments, surgical interventions or assisted reproductive technology. Nay, infertility problems are resolved through local spiritualists, fake pastors and alfas. Similarly, some religious leaders ascribe individual problems to spirituality not necessarily causes and effects. Religious leaders preach prosperity and non-existing miracles without true teachings of causes and effects, work and prayer. Traditional and religious leaders work with the political elites to short-change the poor masses. The list is endless and several examples abound in public domain.
Antithetically, Nigeria is home to millions of muslim organizations and churches. Several religious institutions can be seen on the same street even when none is ever filled to minimal capacity explaining other considerations beside religious as reasons behind the establishment of the institutions. In fact, muslims and christians continually claim to be in the majority.
In most cases, the corrupt artisan, private worker, civil servant, teacher, lecturer, doctor, engineer, lawyer, lawmaker, local government chairman, governor, commissioner, minister, president, security agent, traditional ruler, pastor or imam is either a muslim or christian. If as claimed, more than 60% of Nigerians are either Muslims or Christians; it is non-disputable that with deeply rooted systemic corruption in Nigeria, our professed societal input is Islam or Christianity but our societal output is neither Islam nor Christianity. Where are the Muslims? Where are the Christians?
Faith and Good Deeds:
The Qur’an teaches the attainment of success through faith and good deeds. The Prophet of Islam, Muhammad (peace be upon him) is described as the best of exemplary conduct. Clearly, genuine Islamic faith demands moral and practical obligations. Similarly, the Bible commands and teaches exemplary conduct, good works and non-conformity with bad ways of this world.
’’But those who believed (in the Oneness of Allah - Islamic Monotheism), and worked righteousness - We tax not any person beyond his scope, such are the dwellers of Paradise. They will abide therein.’’ Al-A’raf 7: 42
‘’And be not conformed to this world: but be ye transformed by the renewing of your mind, that ye may prove what is that good, and acceptable, and perfect, will of God.’’ Romans 12: 2.
Love and Good Neighbourliness:
The scriptures teach us to love others like ourselves. Both the Qur’an and the Bible teach love and good neighbourliness even to strangers irrespective of race, ethnic or faith background.
‘’Worship Allah and join none with HIM in worship, and do good to parents, kinsfolk, orphans, the poor, the neighbour who is near of kin, the neighbour who is a stranger, the companion by your side, the wayfarer (you meet)…’’ An-Nisa’ 4:36
“By God, a person cannot be a believer (that is, a Muslim) until and unless he likes for his neighbours and for his brother what he likes for himself.” “A person from whose evils his neighbour is not safe will not go to heaven.” (Sahih Muslim)
‘’Jesus said unto him, Thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy mind. This is the first and great commandment. And the second is like unto it, Thou shalt love thy neighbour as thyself. On these two commandments hang all the law and the prophets.’’ Matthew 22: 37 – 40.
Sanctity of Human life:
The scriptures teach us to uphold the sanctity of human life. We are taught not to kill but to save lives irrespective of race, ethnic, creed or faith background.
‘’Because of that We ordained for the Children of Israel that if anyone killed a person not in retaliation of murder, or (and) to spread mischief in the land - it would be as if he killed all mankind, and if anyone saved a life, it would be as if he saved the life of all mankind…’’ Al-Ma’idah 5:32.
‘’And he said unto him, Why callest thou me good? there is none good but one, that is, God: but if thou wilt enter into life, keep the commandments. He saith unto him, Which? Jesus said, Thou shalt do no murder, Thou shalt not commit adultery, Thou shalt not steal, Thou shalt not bear false witness, Honour thy father and thy mother: and, Thou shalt love thy neighbour as thyself. Matthew 19: 17 – 19.
The scriptures teach religious tolerance and mutual understanding. In fact, no matter what we do, we cannot wish away the establishment of other individuals who will be adherents of other faiths or no faith. God has deliberately created the world to be inhabited by people of different ideologies, faiths and orientations; and instructed man to search for the truth and hold on to it. It is evil to think or act wrongly against members of other faiths or thoughts. It is evil and ungodly to harm and kill members of other faiths or thoughts.
‘’..., If Allah willed, HE would have made you one nation (one faith), but that (HE) may test you in what HE has given you; so strive as in a race in good deeds. The return of you (all) is to Allah; then HE will inform you about that in which you used to differ. Al-Ma’idah 5:48.
‘’The good deed and the evil deed cannot be equal. Repel (the evil) with one which is better (i.e. Allah ordered the faithful believers to be patient at the time of anger, and to excuse those who treat them badly), then verily! he, between whom and you there was enmity, (will become) as though he was a close friend.’’ Fussilat 41:34.
‘’There is no compulsion in religion. Verily, the Right Path has become distinct from the wrong path. Whoever disbelieves in Taghut [false deities, false worship etc.] and believes in Allah, then he has grasped the most trustworthy handhold that will never break. And Allah is All-Hearer, All-Knower.’’ Al-Baqarah 2:256
‘’The Prophet (Muhammad) stood up out of respect for a Jewish corpse being carried away for burial. When he was asked why, he replied, ’’Was he not a soul?’’ (Bukhari). Prophet Muhammad gave 500 dinnars to Abu Sufyan (the leader of Makkah) to help the Makkan poor people in famine during the Peace Treaty of Hudaibiyyah despite the fact that he and his fellow Muslims were persecuted, killed and chased out of their birthplace by the same Makkans. A woman who placed harmful materials on Prophet Muhammad’s way to the mosque was visited on her sick bed when he noticed that the harmful materials were absent for some days. The said woman was surprised at his good heart and accepted Islam.
‘’And it came to pass, when the time was come that he should be received up, he steadfastly set his face to go to Jerusalem. And sent messengers before his face: and they went, and entered into a village of the Samaritans, to make ready for him. And they did not receive him, because his face was as though he would go to Jerusalem. And when his disciples James and John saw this, they said, Lord, wilt thou that we command fire to come down from heaven, and consume them, even as Elias did? But he turned, and rebuked them, and said, Ye know not what manner of spirit ye are of. For the Son of man is not come to destroy men's lives, but to save them. And they went to another village.’’ Luke 9:51-56.
‘’Finally, be ye all of one mind, having compassion one of another, love as brethren, be pitiful, be courteous: Not rendering evil for evil, or railing for railing: but contrariwise blessing; knowing that ye are thereunto called, that ye should inherit a blessing. For he that will love life, and see good days, let him refrain his tongue from evil, and his lips that they speak no guile: Let him eschew evil, and do good; let him seek peace, and ensue it. 1 Peter 3:8-11.
The Way Forward:
This write-up is informed by new events taking place in the polity. In June 2014, a crisis erupted in Wukari, Taraba State over the purchase of recharge cards between a buyer, said to be a Christian and a seller, said to be a Muslim. About 100 people were reportedly killed for no other offence than professing Islam or Christianity. The two sides in the crisis are kindred, mostly of the same Jukun ethnic group. Severally, in the past ethno-religious crises aside the Boko Haram devilish group led to killings of innocent individuals. This emphasizes the need for us all to preach the truth of the scriptures. We need to preach religious tolerance and mutual understanding!
I cite a personal example. My great father was a Christian. My blessed and sweet mother is a Muslim and comes from a rooted family of Islamic scholarship. Two of my siblings are Christians. Several of my family members are practicing Christians. My first institutional exposure to discipline and ethical values was through church officials and teachers at the Roman Catholic Mission Primary School, Ipetu-Ijesa, Osun State. My close primary and secondary school friends at Ipetu-Ijesa with whom I enjoyed childhood to the fullest were largely Christians. My roommates, classmates and friends at University of Ilorin were largely Christians.
As a student activist, some of my comrades are professed atheists till date. When I wrote a book (The Untamed Silent Killer) on drug abuse counseling during the N.Y.S.C. programme, I quoted passages from ‘Awake’ of the Jehovah Witnesses which I came in contact with through my family members who belong to the group. I got appointed as a university teacher at Olabisi Onabanjo University, Ogun State through the supports of two Anglican Reverends/Professors, one of whom is my non-biological father. A Redeem Church Pastor and a Professor was the Chairman at my wedding (Nikkah) ceremony.
I got my desired training in Stem Cell/Molecular Biology in the United States through the great supports of two Professors one, an American Jew and the other, who is non-religious. Of course, I had enough close muslim friends and elders who had been great pillars of unparalleled supports. All of these must have significantly impacted on my global understanding of humanity and positive interactions with all irrespective of race, ethnic, creed, religious or irreligious persuasion. I, therefore, think we should take a second look at our children attending faith-based schools from primary to tertiary levels without appreciable interactions with members of other faiths or orientations. I also think it is desirable to teach comparative religious knowledge in our schools to improve religious tolerance and mutual understanding.
For the sake of peace and unity, Muslim and Christian groups should kindly desist from campaigns or adverts that may (even when not intended) increase ethno-religious tensions in the polity. I listened recently to an advert by the Christians’ National Political Awareness Committee on Royal FM informing Christians (aside getting voters’ cards) that only one Christian Governor had been elected into office in Kwara State and calling on Christians to contest for public offices. The advert ended with a song in Yoruba that ‘’ayanfe o etun ramu o, ki emase sun lo, o lewu’’ meaning ‘’brethren, be prepared and do not go to slumber for it is dangerous’’.
I have also read of Muslim groups saying ‘’no hijab, no vote’’ in Lagos State when the case though lost at the State High Court can be appealed and when the Lagos State House of Assembly can be approached for resolution. We must be very careful of what we say as devilish elements within us may capitalize on our statements to bring chaos into the polity. Similarly, we should discountenance completely the badly divisive political message of individuals such as Bosun Emmanuel as directed by the respected General Overseer of Redeemed Christian Church of God, Pastor E.A. Adeboye.
In any case, the presence of the assumed one of us in elected or appointed public positions has not brought the change we desire to any particular ethnic or religious group. It has not saved any ethnic or religious group from insecurity challenges, poverty, un-employment and infrastructural deficiencies. Members of all religious or irreligious persuasions and ethnic groups are collectively responsible for our failures and successes. All religious or irreligious persuasions recognize moral ethics and good deeds. The solution then must be collective and be free of blame-game. We should rather ask our members to obtain voters cards and vote for the best individuals who can bring the desired change in the polity irrespective of ethno-religious affiliations. We must accept the reality that our society can only change for the better, if we are ready to change the way we do things. We have to work and make sacrifices to realize a better society that we deserve!
In addition, let societal norms uphold ethical values and punish corruption. Let our public institutions be strengthened to function effectively. Let the focus of our educational system be problems-solving and not theoretical acquisition of knowledge. Let Nollywood movies and the entertainment world celebrate scholarship, hard work, creativity and public good.
Let us remind our youth that Paul Langerhans was a year two medical student when he discovered Islets of Langerhans (that produce Insulin) in the pancreas. Let us be encouraged to make positive use of the teeming intelligent brains in our large populations to diversify our economy and become producers of technological prowess while respecting the fact that several countries with smaller populations are world leaders with or without oil. Let our religious leaders teach us the truth that for eco-systemic balance: the poor, lower, middle and upper classes and the wealthy can never cease to exist irrespective of our belief or otherwise in God.
What has to be done, is to strive hard through individual hard work/creativity, collective societal growth and good governance towards positive re-definition of our socio-economic classes. Let our religious leaders teach us the roles of causes and effects in our endeavours vis a vis the efficacy of hard work and prayers. Let us preach peace, unity and religious tolerance. Let the Muslims, Christians, traditional worshippers, worshippers of other religious persuasions and irreligious persuasions come forward to save Nigeria in faith and good deeds. Let us bring forth the great fruit which is innately in us.
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