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Re: Before We Blame Others

Gen. Mohammadu Buhari


Adewale Kupoluyi

Since the above titled article was published some days ago, I have received series of comments and reactions from Nigerians, who have expressed divergent opinions on the subject-matter. From the reactions, two commentators seem to have devoted more attention to the discourse than others. First, was National Mirror’s Back Page columnist, Dozie Okebalama with the caption, “On Corruption: Dedicated to Adewale Kupoluyi” (30/10/2015) and the second was Sunday Mirror’s Back Page Comment by Jim Unah, Professor of Philosophy, University of Lagos and captioned, “The ‘Everyone is Corrupt’ Alibi” (01/11/2015).

To start with, Okebalama’s main argument was hinged on my position in the piece which he observed was “of-the-mark buck passing, which suggests that ordinary Nigerians are fanning the embers of endemic and festering corruption in the land, is unacceptable”. He noted that he was unsure of the class I stuck out my “neck to defend, between government officials and politicians”. The author would also want me to “realise that there is basically no difference between leaders and parents; and between followers and children, in that order” and finally recommended that “if the headship of the three arms of government stand firmly against corruption, and the judiciary, especially, firmly punishes culprits, no rocket science would be needed to curb practices in all facets of Nigeria’s life, public or private; and in record time”.

Similarly, Unah’s rejoinder to Okebalama’s piece also questioned my submission as follows: “What is problematic, and I think that is what Okebalama finds irksome in Kupoluyi’s narrative, is how to professionally isolate the cancerous virus for efficacious oncological surgery”. He further alleged that my position, which “convoluted ethnicity or tribalism and nepotism have combined forces to expand and consolidate the networks of corruption and make it almost impossible to track down offenders of the anti-graft law of the land and apply the appropriate punishment to deter would-be offenders, a resort to the excavation of all the dimensions, manifestations and ramifications of corruption, as Kupoluyi has done, is a disservice and merely a ploy to cause paralysis, and make a mockery of the fight against the cancerous and contagious virus”.

As a reminder to both authors, the main message in my said article was that “Corruption is not only limited to the politicians, many people engage in the practice directly or indirectly. It is a social problem that should be curbed with the co-operation of all and sundry because the government and the anti-graft agencies cannot do it alone. Both the leaders and followers should stop trading blame, brace-up, be fully prepared to end impunity and corruption in our nation”.

Without prejudice, both columnists have freely given their opinions on the discourse as permitted by law. Beyond that, they have both offered additional tips on how to tackle the issue of corruption. Despite, their submissions, I would still maintain my position that in order to effectively curb the social problem, in addition to the elite and political class, there is the need to uproot the malaise at the grassroots level. It was, therefore, hasty and fallacious to insinuate that my position negates the ongoing fight against corruption. On the contrary, I have consistently decried corruption and impunity pervading the land in most of my weekly newspaper columns and other publications over the years.

Just in the last few months, I have written a lot on corruption and impunity, the need to put an end to the scourge as well as having belief in the current administration’s determination at bringing about the desired change. The following published articles are recommended for reading: “What’s Next After Buhari’s Assets’ Declaration?” (The PUNCH, 15/09/2015, page 27 and New Telegraph, 14/09/2015, back page); “While Awaiting Buhari’s Cabinet (The PUNCH, 05/08/2015, page 24); “The Burden of Public Office” (The PUNCH, 19/05/2015, page 31); “The Challenges Ahead of Buhari’s Victory” (The Nation, 07/04/2015, page 21); and “Who’s Afraid of a Presidential Debate? (The Vanguard, 05/01/2015, page 18 and 06/01/2015, page 18).

As canvassed in the article under contention, “there is the need for a change of mindset by realising that impunity and corrupt practices are not limited to government officials but those that are engaged in the acts at all levels of our social life”. When I was referring to “we”, I did not mean that 170 million Nigerians were corrupt. I was only alluding to the fact that people do not need to get into politics or public office before taking part in corrupt practices. For instance, I have noticed that it has now become the norm for people not to give-out change in the course of buying and selling goods. Once you give out a higher money denomination, just forget about collecting change. It will simply not be given to you! This is what I’m talking about.

Also a few weeks ago, a colleague shared an experience with me that was similar to what I personally witnessed two months ago. I was driving on the problematic Lagos-Ibadan Expressway and got stranded due to one of the several failed portions on the road. Having waited for over two hours without any movement, I noticed that many commercial vehicles that were familiar with the route decided to divert to a nearby village en-route Ibadan. Because of the frustration of having waited for so long and without any likely solution in sight, I risked joining the vehicles to detour. To my surprise, we met some young men that mounted ‘toll plaza’ in the village and were busy collecting money from stranded motorists that drove past their territory while the elderly ones amongst them were seen jeering as events unfold! So, how do we explain this if not an acute display of corruption?

Without over-flogging the issue, the endemic corruption in our country is not about ethnicity, religion, tribe or status, it has reached an institutionalised stage that only concerted efforts, drastic measures, attitudinal change and a combination of solutions variously identified that can bail us out. Therefore, we should we ready for change by refusing to be accomplices to the act, supporting the government in ending the scourge and more importantly, embark on self-appraisal in a bid to becoming better, patriotic and committed citizens. We should lay less emphasis on blaming others, always be honest and truthful in our dealings so as to engender a nation that is built on solid value system. This is what I’m saying, please.

Kupoluyi writes from Federal University of Agriculture, Abeokuta (FUNAAB), adewalekupoluyi@yahoo.co.uk, @AdewaleKupoluyi


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