By Kayode Ketefe
As the stage is set now for tomorrow swearing-in of a new government, the breeze of a new era is already blowing perceptibly across the landscape as the forces of corruption have become jittery while hopes and expectations of the upright Nigerians have sky-rocketed on the grounds that a more auspicious season is at hand.
Not even the sad scarcity of the petroleum products which has now crippled all aspects of the economy (as at the time of writing) can overshadow the great expectations of a morally and ethically renascent Nigeria. The new hope is anchored on the now proverbial mantra of the in-coming administration that it would remove corruption from our national life.
However, when a friend asked me to suggest a single most potent way to fight corruption in Nigeria, a number of suggestions, ranging from enhanced and severe punishment for corrupt people; comprehensive institutionalisation of foolproof checks and control system, to divestment of the executives of the power to directly award contracts, flooded my mind.
Upon deeper reflection, I realised that for a start, the single most potent way to begin the battle against corruption is just a single step, that is- “Stop the unconscionable enrichment of a section at the expense of the masses!”
The best way to begin this is to ensure that the salaries and emoluments of all public office holders reflect the state of the country’s socio-economic development. It will be foolhardy for a government to be preaching the gospel of austerity measures on the grounds that the country has no money while all its officers are living in stupendous, nay, prodigal opulence.
Our previous governments had shouted to high heavens their resolve to fight corruption, but there is ostensible want of synch between what had been preached and practised, and since Nigerians are not deficient in wits, they see though the hypocrisy.
The theatrics of fighting corruption in the face of the unmitigated poverty of the masses and ostentatious profligacy of the ruling class pop up in the mind the risible burlesque of the comedians.
How can a system that claims it cannot afford basic things of life to its impoverished masses still be able to produce the highest-paid legislators in the world? Our leaders are the ones giving unwitting sanctioning to the spread, growth and consolidation of corruption through the neglect of the masses whom they still love to stun with their stupendous wealth.
The link between poverty, deprivation and dysfunctional systems has been well documented by the sociologists and political scientists.
Elitist profligacy in the full glare of famished populace breeds distrust, apathy and anger. Why should Nigerian graduates be dying in stampede to get the jobs that pay remuneration on the basis N18, 000 monthly minimum wages when every legislator (even those without a degree) counts monthly remunerations and allowances in hundreds of millions of naira.
That has been the reason corruption has percolated every facet of our national life. In sport, politics, social life, and even religious circles, no matter where you look, fat maggots of corruption are wriggling with euphoria in the putrefying rot of the respective smelly maelstrom we call the polity. All the facets intertwined to form one steadfast fabric of stinking, graft civilization.
Many people do not trust the police and even police officers do not trust one another. You go to the markets, you are short changed by conmen in the name of merchants.
Many religious leaders are simply spiritual highway men who artfully and “piously” milk their followers and dispossess them of earthly resources upon the promises of heavenly ones, while enjoying the same holy loots right here on earth.
Many people have accepted this state of affairs as a way of life and would simply resort to ripping off others to offset their own exploitation! The society seems to have settled into some sort of negative equilibrium, thriving on moral bankruptcy.
Yet, there are many good Nigerians, who are honest, hardworking, upright and lovers of virtues; but these are daily being disenchanted by the system; they have become endangered species in the reality of the prevailing culture. Even moral enthusiasts who have managed to be aloof from the bug of corruption are still daily in great danger of contagion.
So, in the final analysis, the best way the incoming President Muhmmadu Buhari can begin the fight against corruption is for him to review the emoluments and allowances of all public office holders. Their pay should reflect the actual reality of our socio-economic state.
If we state that our national minimum wage is just N18, 000, then our political representatives in all offices must not be given pay that is a million times out of alignment with that calculation! If they manage the country well and the nation is buoyant, then nobody would begrudge them any fat or even obese remunerations, but until then, the political office holders must be reminded they are Nigerians, and not from Mars, and therefore not entitled to callously fantastic remunerations Nigerian can ill-afford.
Ketefe may be followed on twitter @Ketesco
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