Nigeria: A snag in the wheel of the graft war

September 28, 2018 Nigeria , Opinion , OPINION/NEWS

Reuters photo

 

By

Abdulyassar Abdulhamid

 

 

For the progress it has made, one will not be absolutely wrong if he says the anti-graft war is cyclical. The crusade is nether absolutely effective nor has it been jettisoned. From Obasanjo’s Nuhu Ribadu-led EFCC to ‘Yar Adua’s Farida Waziri-led EFCC, from Goodluck Jonathan’s Ibrahim Larmode-led EFCC to Muhammadu Buhari’s Magu-led EFCC, this snag lies egregiously in the wheel of the so called fight against corruption and is persistently throwing a sledgehammer into the works.

 

Billions of Naira has been spent, security has been beefed up and many whistles have been blown all in an attempt to counter corruption, but the snag could not let go; like many African presidents, it has sat tight to its seat and is even looking indomitable.

 

This obstacle has become an automatic behavior that varies according to the person and the place involved. It is not only stalling the fight against corruption; it unrelentingly encourages the abominable behaviour, for it benefits from it. But many people seem not to see the writing on the wall and the threats it poses.

 

The other day I was discussing some big catches the anti-graft war has recorded, although it has been ridiculed in some quarters, with a friend, he asked why only public servants should be arrested. I answered with a big “no”, for the law, as they say, is blind and is meant for all. Where my friend was found wanting is: public service, as the Hausas will say, tumbin giwa ce (is a melting pot). Like the heart to the body, so is public service to governance. When you sanitize it, everything will fall into place. But the irony is the snag, like fleas to dogs, has engrafted itself to public servants and, like a tail to a dog, follows them wherever they go.

 

I have specially picked an interest in this hidden problem in the wheel of the anti-graft war not because other obstacles are not worth discussing; but because the undoing it does, although overlooked by many, to the society outweighs many others by far. They are the ones forcing the horse of civil service, in most cases, to drinking from the stream of corruption. And yet they see this as their birthrights.

 

The first day I was introduced to one ministry by my principal one very Monday, I regarded the number of people I saw there with awe. The first thing that came into my mind was: the government must have been struggling to pay salaries to this teeming crowd, assuming they were workers. I asked many rhetorical questions: “Are these people here to complain about poor service delivery, knowing the ministry is the largest in the state? Or are they itinerant retailers since retailers now prefer taking their goods from one office to another and even see benefit in selling out their wares on credit?” But they seemed to be carrying no goods. So, what were they there for? I was very inquisitive that day. It dawned upon me later that they are panhandlers and this is what they have taken up for a business or means of livelihood. Business? Yes, business.

 

I had a brief discussion with a very jovial, young man I met there, who told me he was there upon his uncle’s insistence. He disclosed to me how those people jam-pack government ministries, stop the officers from doing their works and sometimes mar good service delivery.

 

“This is my third coming here. On each day I met not less than fifty persons waiting for the commissioner for not any other reason than personal ones. You will hardly see anyone there due to shortage of bed spaces in our hospitals, rise in maternity death, scourge of road accidents, massive failure in WAEC or NECO; or lack of sustainable community-based safe water supply or sanitation system; but they come here with doctored medical bills, wedding invitation cards or to tell of the naming ceremonies of their children”, he concluded.

 

However, to many families, relatives, neighbours and friends, civil servants are synonymous with ATM machines and civil service oil wells. They do not reckon with the fact that they are on fixed salaries. It will not be something unusual if you become a director today and the following day your neighbour breaks the story of his fallen walls, your friend demands some money to pay dowry of a second wife and your relation from the village comes to tell you of his poor harvest season.

 

The higher one’s position is, the more are one’s responsibilities and concomitant to financial burden, they say. I secretly sympathized with the officers from directors upwards. Apart from the fact that they direct everything under their watch, they mostly work themselves out, and to compound the problem, they have to leave the doors of their offices open to every Tom, Dick, and Harry; and tolerate every visitor whether they like or not, since the habit has been engrained that very few see the danger it may bring.

 

In the last three weeks I was at the office of a newspaper I write for to see the Managing Director, who is also the Editor-in-Chief; but unfortunately he was not at his seat. After exchanging pleasantries with his subordinates, I found a place to wait for him. I was later joined by an editor. We discussed a lot about the development of my career and how I should best nurture it.

 

I was still waiting for the arrival of the managing director when two elderly persons came to sit near me. They started discussing the purpose of their being there. The first, from his looks, was in his late fifties. He dressed in a flying robe, a cap placed carefully on his head. He said he was there to give an invitation card of the wedding of his daughter to the managing director, whom he only knows as the MD. For his age, I should have asked, “Is this for advertisement in the paper?” But I was not in the mood, neither was he.

 

The second person arrived in the company of his friend, who was much younger than the first one. He asked whether the managing director was at his seat. I told him I doubt if he was for I was waiting for him, too. He told me he was there for a certain help; but from his gestures he was there to solicit for money. He rang the managing director’s phone expecting him to call back.

 

The following day I went back there to submit an assignment given to me. I carefully took note of those who came in and went away. Many of them were there to distract the publication process and beg for money. They never consider the fact that the officers have tight schedules.

 

They have family issues to solve and need some time to rest. As directors their taste and that of their families must have been some steps ahead of ordinary civil servants’. School fees of their children alone may weigh down their salaries; their wives and children may have high tastes, they may definitely want to appear ostentatious of some sort and still the officers may be living on salary alone.

 

Their relations have high expectations from them. They are considered goldmines in many quarters. Not only during festivities, their kith and kin visit them every month to remind them of poor harvest seasons, weddings and naming ceremonies of their sons and daughters or medical bills.

 

Until family, friends and other members of society stop putting undue pressure on public servants, corruption has come to stay.

 

 

 

 

Abdulyassar Abdulhamid

Abdulyassar Abdulhamid, Kano based, is graduate of B.A English from Bayero University, Kano. He is a budding writer, social analyst, freelancer at Sunrise Language Practitioner (SLP) and regular contributor to Nigerian dailies. 
His writings have appeared in The Communicator, a magazine published by Kano State Polytechnic and in Dailytrust, The Triumph and The cable newspapers. He has a strong interest in literary theory.

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