When The Price Is Right… By Bola BOLAWOLE

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Those who say if we do not kill corruption, corruption will kill Nigeria know what they are saying! Not only is the case of corruption killing Nigeria futuristic, it has already happened to us; only that Nigeria is yet to be buried. Corruption, we have always had with us but it has now become endemic. The epidemic nature of corruption, in which everything, anything, and virtually everyone is compromised is why there is consternation and worry.

There is no country or place in the world where there is no corruption. In the less corrupt nations of the world, the incidences of corruption are marginal and far-in-between and there are mechanisms to checkmate it and punish culprits. In such communities, laws are enforced and enforceable reward and punishment systems are not toyed with. Every effort is made to let everyone know that corruption or crime does not pay.

It is the understanding that one would almost likely get caught, no matter how long it takes, and that punishment would be meted out, that dissuades many in saner climes from engaging in criminal activities; not that they are better human beings than those of us here. Hence the saying: “The long arms of the law”! But where the arms of the law are short, as they are in Nigeria, then, the propensity for corruption will know no bounds. Scripture says in Isaiah 59:1 that God’s hand is not short; hence He is able to deliver! God knew not to allow His hand to be short. We ought to take a cue from that!

Corruption is as old as humanity; hence God Himself said in Genesis 8:21 that “the imagination of man’s heart is evil from his youth”. Corruption, interestingly, exists because it performs a function. Theorists of Functionalism of corruption posit that whatever exists, exists to perform a function. It is like the economists’ theory of demand and supply. Once there is the demand for a product or service, the supply aspect will automatically pop up.

Ever had a policeman flaunt Matthew 5:25 in your face? That scripture quoted Jesus Christ as saying: “Agree with thine adversary quickly, whiles thou art in the way with him; lest at any time the adversary deliver thee to the judge, and the judge deliver thee to the officer, and thou be cast into prison”? Says William Shakespeare in Merchant of Venice: “An evil soul producing holy witness is like a villain with a smiling cheek. A goodly apple rotten at the heart. Oh, what a goodly outside falsehood hath! Take note, Bassanio, even the devil can quote the Bible for his own purpose” .

But there are things the authorities do that inadvertently promote corruption – like when the penalties for simple infractions are harsh; offenders will find a compelling need to “settle” or “quickly agree” with the adversary!

Can Nigeria win the war against corruption? Has it even started? With a National Assembly that pads budgets, thereafter going ahead to shamelessly defend it, flaunting it in our face, to security agents that allowed a high security detainee to escape the country – where do we go from here? Major Kaduna Nzeogwu and his fellow coupists of January 1966 ain’t seen anything, as they say, when they accused the politicians of the First Republic as “ten per centers… who make the country look big for nothing” .

Far too many more outlandish occurrences have made Nigeria the laughing stock of the international community. A detainee was put in a posh apartment, was allowed access to the phone, and was escorted to Jumaat service, and you wonder how he managed to escape from custody! He would be a fool not to – that is, if it is not the same security officials that even escorted him into the aircraft!

Once the price is right! I first heard that statement said about one of our judges: He reportedly calculated how many more years he had to sit on the Bench; added up his salaries, emoluments and retirement benefits and found that the amount he was being offered to throw an election petition case was many times more; he chose to play ball! The price was right! There are few people in this country today who will not think twice once the price is right and the chances of getting caught and getting punished are very remote! It was a military president here who reportedly said everyone has a price. If the person says no, it means the price is not right! Jerk it up!

In saner climes, by now heads would have rolled over the Binance executive, Nadeem Anjarwalla’s escape from custody. The National Security Adviser’s office reportedly confirmed the escape. The Tinubu administration would have earned the respect of many if the confirmation of Nadeem’s escape had also been followed with announcements of resignations (the NSA’s inclusive?) or of heads that have rolled for this national embarrassment.

To be sure, with this kind of dereliction of duty, not much will be achieved in the war against insecurity. It is not only the arrest of the lesser officials that we need if this country must move forward. The leaders at the top must take responsibility as well. Now, we are begging the Interpol to come to the rescue. When they finish laughing at us, maybe they will!

Talking seriously, I have wondered, each time his case comes up and he gets disappointed by the court, why Nnamdi Kanu has been wasting his time in court – adjournment today, new charges tomorrow – when he should just have done the needful. I am sure you know what I mean! If the price is right, you know!

Ndigbo has more than enough cash to throw around! Put your money where your mouth is, men! Those who devise all manner of ingenious methods to smuggle just about anything in and out of any country should be able to smuggle a blockhead out of detention. Or is the price not right! One school of thought, again quoting the scriptures, says “a man’s foes shall be they of his own household!”(Matthew 10: 36). Think about that!

Everyone suffers when a country is tarred with the brush of corruption. To start with, nothing works at home. Like Fela crooned, everything is upside down. “When the righteous are in authority, the people rejoice: but when the wicked beareth rule, the people mourn” ( Proverbs 29:2). Tell me, are Nigerians rejoicing today or they are mourning?

And that is not to say that there are no dots of righteous men in positions of authority in this country today but they are very few in numbers. They are far outnumbered by the wicked ones. And this is also not to say that the leadership may not be minded to rule righteously but the odds against them are daunting, especially where they lack the political will to do the needful.

Once they have entrenched themselves in positions of authority, wicked men and women are not easy to dislodge – be it in political offices, in churches and mosques, in the private sector; name it! Every tree bears fruits of its kind, says Jesus in Matthew 7: 17 – 20: “Even so, every good tree bringeth forth good fruit; but a corrupt tree bringeth forth evil fruit. A good tree cannot bring forth evil fruit, neither can a corrupt tree bring forth good fruit. Every tree that bringeth not forth good fruit is hewn down, and cast into the fire”.

To hewn down the bad trees that are bringing forth bad fruits and cast them in the fire is the challenge that faces the country. Who will bell the cat? I once worked with a governor and was perturbed that many of his aides were not supporting his dream project. I consulted one friendly aide and solicited him to go with me to intimate His Excellency with my findings. To my amazement, he not only declined to go with me but also advised me, “in my own interest”, not to try it. Asked why, he volunteered that the wicked ones I wanted to complain about were in the majority in that government. “They will just squeeze you and smash you with their sheer numbers”, he said.

I felt sad and was crestfallen. “Then His Excellency will not know that he has (green) snakes under his (green) grass”, I moaned, but my friend assured me His Excellency would know. How, I asked? “When he looks behind him and finds no one!” That is why, even when they are well-meaning, leaders hardly achieve much when in office. That is also why they often get wiser only after they leave office.

Can Reuben Abati be correct, then? Do demons bear rule in our Government houses? When the devil tempted Jesus with all the riches and glory of this world, it is instructive that while Jesus refused to bow down and worship Satan, he did not contest the devil’s emphatic statement that it was in his power and authority to give the world to whomever he pleases. (Matthew 4: 1 – 11). Food for thought!

Former Editor of PUNCH newspapers, Chairman of its Editorial Board and Deputy Editor-in-chief, BOLAWOLE was also the Managing Director/ Editor-in-chief of THE WESTERNER newsmagazine. He writes the ON THE LORD’S DAY column in the Sunday Tribune and TREASURES column in New Telegraph newspaper on Wednesdays. He is also a public affairs analyst on radio and television.

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