OUR CULTURE BREEDS STEALING AND MALIGNANT CORRUPTION

                                         DELE MOMODU
Writes on the urgent cultural response and building of social structures
 against corruption and stealing

"Let’s call a spade a SPADE, our culture encourages stealing. We must study and imbibe the measures that discouraged and reduced corruption in other climes. Until we do this nothing will change. The present anti-corruption war will evaporate like the ones before it unless we put certain structures in place. I do not know of any developed nation without some form of credit system. You can’t insist on people paying cash for every transaction and expect cash not to vanish regularly and intermittently. Indeed, a viable and credible credit system is a veritable tool for wealth creation of the sort that would take Nigeria to the level that it deserves to be.
Our banks and other financial institutions need to change their attitude in this regard. No credit system can thrive where interest rates are as exorbitant as they currently are in Nigeria. There is no impetus and incentive to repay any credit because there is simply no way to pay back at the rate that is being sought. The Central Bank has a significant role to play in this regard."

"My thesis is hinged on these facts. Stealing often starts from human needs and deprivations before it germinates and grows and matures into full-grown greed. Stealing is very attractive to both the rich and poor in our country. Even if you wanted to live like a saint, certain conditions and conditionality often conspire against you. Let me pick one of the commonest of human needs, Shelter. You are a worker earning meagre or major income. You need to rent a house wherever it may be located. Your landlord says you should pay two or three years rent in advance. The most benevolent landlord asks for one year at the beginning of your tenancy. Three or four things are likely to happen to you. One is ask your employer for a loan you are not likely to be granted because business is very slow or the man is just incorrigibly tough.


The second is to become beggarly asking everyone fortunate or unfortunate to cross your path for help. The third is to compromise yourself by indulging in all manner of sexual exploitation including female (and nowadays even male) prostitution. The fourth is to descend into the abyss by seeking bribes, kickbacks or financial gratification in every possible misadventure. This is the foundation of the desperation and temptation that leads to large-scale stealing, the likes of which now seems to be a common occurrence in the polity. It is gratifying that the last Fashola administration in Lagos State tried to reduce the burden in this area by legislating that only one year’s rent should be demanded by landlords but the truth is that even this is too high. For most people a year’s rent is sometimes even more than their annual salary."

" If you manage to scale that hurdle and somehow manage to pay your rent without compromising your principles, something else comes to challenge your manhood in our kind of society. Members of your family, committee of friends and village elders would soon send a powerful delegation in your direction if they consider that you are affluent but you have not built a house in your village where you don’t live and may never stay and another beautiful home in the city you are domiciled. It does not matter if you’ve been charitable with your income by helping your nieces and nephews, friends and associates to get education or even build their own homes. No one cares how you find the money for this project. It is simply a matter of prestige, not incidentally for you, but paradoxically for them! This is the second level leading to stealing in Nigeria.

The pressure becomes so scorching that you begin to feel the blisters all over you. Your brain starts to work overtime and your whole being goes into overdrive. What can you do? You must find money to buy your land in an area that supposedly befits your status. Meanwhile your regular income is not commensurate to your assumed stature in society, but by this time nobody cares and you yourself are now so far gone that you don’t care too. You must devise means and find ways to steal. It starts slowly and steadily until it becomes a rollercoaster. You need to do your foundation, buy your cement quickly, import your finishing, and so on. It is a rat race. You are running at blinding pace until you forget God and begin to worship the god of money. Can anyone blame you for your slide into the pits of corruption when you can’t readily walk into a bank, fulfil all righteousness and hope to get a decent mortgage?

" A brand new home means you need to change your good old reliable banger of a car. As a matter of fact, you must get at least one for Madam if you want peace in the house. I almost forgot that you need one for school runs, one for market trips and another as escort for your personal safety. Your kids must think of going to schools abroad because the ones at home are no longer what they used to be. Everywhere you turn, you need big money. Your church or mosque is undergoing renovation. Your friend’s daughter is getting married. Your schoolmate’s dad has just died. Your cousin has been sent out for unpaid school fees. Your nephew is about to be ejected by his landlord. You have your own pending bills and no one to talk to because they won’t believe you’re only patch-patching your personal life like a vulcaniser. Can you blame any artful dodger for altering the books and running amok with any money in sight?

Dele Momodu is the publisher of Ovation Magazine and a politician.

Picture source: thenet.ng, Youtube, Osundefender.org

Comments

I totally agree with Mr. Momodu and advocate for mutual reorientation of our society. The cost of living in Nigeria and extremely low income belts of a greater percentage of the population indicates that it is near impossible to meet our social family and social obligations with our income. The fight against corruption should go begong catching thieves to pro active steps to discourage hardship and poverty