Saturday, December 26, 2009

The Logic Of Corruption

Oga (Master in the Yoruba language), do you know that I don't understand you self? (A typical Nigerian grammatical construction, ignore the blotch.)

What do you mean, omo iya (my sibling)?

For whose benefit are you writing all those big, big grammar?

What do you mean?

Oga, don't be angry with me, but I always read you and your big grammar complaining about this and that about Nigeria. Don't take offense, but it looks like you've got nothing better to do with your time.

You mean that no one should write about the shortcomings one sees around him? I thought the writer's onerous job is to chronicle the ills he sees in his society.

Absolutely not! Those things you called shortcomings are the spices of life. What you called ills are the same things that make our sweet world goes on its merry rounds in a smooth trajectory. You always sound like a sour grape, and sometimes you really sound like a crybaby. See what happened to all the chroniclers of the Bible. Where did it get them? If you hate our world the way it is and the way we live it, you can easily get off it and go and enjoy your blissful heaven wherever it is. You might even get your seventy virgins to go with it, who knows?

I am not following your logic.

Oh! It's quite simple. If only you'll listen.


Yes. Think of it this way. I once read a piece where you wrote that Nigerians consider laws as mere suggestions.

Yeah, what is wrong with that?

Ah, Oga, can't you see that everything is wrong with that position! Let me, with all due respect, ask you a question.

Okay, go ahead

Laws are made by human beings, right?

Yes, right.

Human-made laws are not some immutable laws of nature or of physics, right?

Quite correct, carry on.

So if now and then I break some laws or bend some rules just a little, who is injured?

Why don't you ask yourself what will happen if everyone decides to bend the rules and break the laws a little? The result will be totally anarchy. Would you like to live in an anarchical society?

You are generalizing there, but let's leave that be. But you're also always sermonizing about corruption, are you saying that you have never been in a situation you've tempted to offer a little "dash" (Nigerian slang for bribe) to someone?

Hell, no. Why should I?

Ah, Oga! I find that hard to belief. Do you have a passport or a driving license?

Of course, I do.

You are not telling me that you got them legitimately, are you?

Of course, I got them legitimately.

Hmm. I find that hard to belief in this country of ours. May I ask you another question?

Go right ahead.

It's a theoretical question, purely academic.

Stop beating around the bush. What's your question?

Oga, supposing, just supposing that you are to go and sign a ten million naira contract, you're in your car driving to meet the appointment. Your adrenaline is pumping and all that. Along the way you ran into one of those hopeless Lagos traffic logjams with your brain frying in the merciless African heat. The person with whom you are going to sign the contract is a renowned no-sense woman who doesn't believe in not keeping prompt appointment. You can kiss the contract goodbye if you are a minute late for the appointed time. Your only option is to take a one-way side road to beat the traffic. But it really was not your day for as soon as you branched a policeman stopped you. And you know our police, now. The officer demanded that you settle him before he'll allow you to continue your journey. He asked you for five thousand naira. The question now is: would you give the policeman five thousand naira he demanded and get on your way or will you tell him off and kiss the ten million naira contract goodbye?


Oga, sorry, but let me land before you bury me (another Nigerian expression). How about this, your beloved wife developed serious complication during childbirth. You know that the conditions in our hospitals are not great. The doctor hinted that both mother and child will die unless you can give him something to arrange some emergency surgery to save their lives. Would you stand on your principle on not giving bribery and allow them to die? Will your conscience be at peace?

That would not be necessary if things are well-ordered and...

Ah, there you are. Well-ordered! Are things well-ordered in this dear country of our death?

But the system will continue to rot if people give bribes. Moreover...

There is no moreover there. The saying is that when you're in Rome do as the Romans do. Take our education system for another example. I am using system here advisedly since there is absolutely no order to the parlous state of affairs at our places of learning in this country. You have this brilliant daughter whose chance of getting a place at the university depends on you giving something to someone who knows someone who might help. Would you let her education suffer because you want to stand on principle?

I will let her compete on her own merit.


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