Fellow Nigerians, if you are a Christian you must definitely be familiar with the concept of deliverance. Just in case you are a non-Christian and you don’t know what it is to be delivered, then let me explain it the best way I can. A man or woman who requires deliverance is presumed to suffer some spiritual attacks or demonic afflictions.
The problems are such that can’t be tackled and resolved through conventional means. In traditional societies, the families, and sometimes friends, of the afflicted often run to a Babalawo who has oracular powers of the third eye and is able to see, diagnose and exorcise the demons worrying the victim of spiritual oppression.
There are Pastors, especially of the Pentecostal denomination who have the capacity to expel or banish the demons and ghosts assaulting the afflicted and restore normalcy to the supplicant. Some people get delivered while some cases are too protracted and defy every power of prayer and restoration. This seems to have been the likely situation with Nigeria.
Our case is so desperate that most of us have virtually given up any belief or hope that normal remedies and palliatives can work so that we are now in search of miracles and possible deliverance.
Let’s now try to determine our biggest affliction for which we need urgent deliverance. We shall analyse the impediments we are likely to encounter. We shall proffer solutions without which nothing tangible would ever happen. Here we go.
Ask the smallest Nigerian what our biggest problem is and you’re likely to get a response like CORRUPTION. The word sounds too simple to say and understand but not very easy to decipher under rigorous scrutiny. Let’s employ the simplistic approach. The common denominator of corruption which the man on the street will accept is STEALING. However, the more esoteric will say that corruption is ‘abuse of office’ and stealing is a mere incidence of that abuse.
We can move forward with our lesson in Semantics concentrating on the common man’s definition. What is stealing? A straight-forward answer should and could go this way: “It is an art or science, or both, of pilfering what belongs to someone or group of people!” Won’t you shout Eureka, like Archimedes, to that brilliant definition and revelation? But it doesn’t end there. Our matter is much worse. We actually steal our own property, even if it is our common wealth. This is the crux of the matter.
Why would any sane person steal what belongs to him, you may wish to ask. But until you look well, you may not see or find the answer. Stealing is as old as mankind. The book of Exodus 20:15 is very emphatic in its injunction: “Thou shall not steal…” Theft is treated with disdain and considered Haraam in Islam, totally forbidden and punishable under Sharia Law by cutting off the hands of the thief. Why then do we still steal and commit such monumental sin that every religion frowns at?
My first instinct tells me that we are mostly infidels who pretend to love our faith and serve our God. May be that is also not very correct. So let’s try another approach. Can’t we say the needs of man override all considerations? I see and hear how many Nigerians comment, condemn and pontificate over what has been aptly tagged Dasukigate. It presupposes that only those in government can steal and misappropriate resources while studiously ignoring the private sector.
Truth is as the Bible rightly put it “let he without sin cast the first stone.” As long as we limit our attitude to seeing only those in government as rogues, our deliverance would be far-fetched.
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?
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 exhorbitant 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.
The atrocious funds available to politicians also make corruption attractive and intractable. Over inflated contracts have been our banes in Nigeria. Sadly, it has reared its ugly head even in President Buhari’s controversial budget. The figures we are about to waste on pampering our leaders are unjustifiably foolish for a nation in dire straits.
Whilst the President is preaching austerity and belt tightening some bureaucrats seem hell bent on treating governance as business as usual. The money channelled into wasteful, profligate and outlandish items and projects should have been pumped into the productive sector thus creating the much needed employment and job opportunities for our army of unemployed youths.
Politics is still the fastest means of getting rich in Nigeria. The Buhari government should make it less attractive but it would only happen if and when the Federal Government tightens its own belt. Instead of making provision for white elephant projects and ostentatious living Government should embark on aggressive industrialisation and invest heavily in agriculture, food production, preservation, processing and distribution.
The Governors would have nothing new to learn when the Federal Government itself fails to operate austerity measures. Right now the binge continues. All talk of a fight against corruption thus becomes meaningless and a charade, if care is not taken.
Another area that makes for stealing and corruption to thrive is what the President has described as the rot in the Judiciary. I will however only go far as to say that all is not well with the Judiciary.
The Judiciary is the last hope of the masses. It is the last bastion of the fight against corruption and the bulwark upon which democracy is founded. Yet in Nigeria it is bleeding dangerously. The conditions of service of our Judges need to be looked into and the entire system overhauled. A poor judge would always fall for big or even cheap temptation.
In other countries Judges are the highest paid individuals because it is recognised that they are needed to sanitise the society and everything must therefore be done to make them comfortable and thus relatively incorruptible. Similarly, a miserable police force would go the same way.
An underfunded EFCC, ICPC, Special Fraud Unit, CID, SSS, or whatever nomenclature we give them would collapse under the weight of corruption. All these agencies combined lack the capacity and capability to investigate the horrendous cases at hand. At the rate we are going, most of the cases would stall as always and we may be back to square one unless we change a lot of things around from the way they are presently configured.
Perhaps however the biggest sign that deliverance may never come our way is the fact that Government itself is guilty of stealing from the people. How else can you explain a government that fails to pay its workers at the end of each month not to mention one that does not pay for months on end and still expects dedication, forthrightness and loyalty from its civil servants?
To compound matters you have the case of a government which fails to pay pensions on time, or sometimes even at all, to public servants who have rendered loyal and stellar services to their Fatherland. What do you expect those pensioners to tell their children about government service and integrity? The younger generation is ultimately afraid of becoming impoverished like their parents when old age comes knocking invariably.
There are many more examples and I have merely chosen two from the extreme ends of the scale but the sum total is that unless the Government itself stops short-changing the people the loyalty it seeks and craves will only be a mirage. Government must first start this corruption crusade from within by embarking on policies which demonstrate that it understands that loyalty is reciprocal and is not a one-way street. Until then not even deliverance or exorcism can save us!