Nigeria is one country where living a lie has been elevated to an art. It is a nation of contradictions where a police man is kitted and armed, and set off on empty stomach.
After all, patriotism is all he needed to be suffering and smiling.
Nigeria is a unique country where the total take-home of the civil servant may not even take him to the next bus stop. Yet, the leaders are sure that the worker can look the other way when public funds are kept in their care.
Is it not truly hypocritical hoping that corruption will go away in the country where the keepers of publicity tills have little or nothing to legitimately take care of their most basic needs?
The way the public service is arranged in Nigeria is exactly what incentivizes corruption. And because, naturally, survival comes before morality, preaching anti-corruption to the public servants is like trying to reconcile God and Lucifer.
Let us do an analysis with a worker in the federal capital territory, Abuja. Over 70% of them live outside the city and many more in the remote Nasarawa and Niger states in rented one or two rooms going – usually – for about half a million naira and commute to work daily in public transport for about 24 days in a month.
He eats his lunch, takes care of his family and dependents and attends to social needs in order to belong in the church, alumni associations, clubs, town unions and so forth on his minimum wage of N18,000!
That is not all.
In his neighborhood he has to pay for security (vigilante service), pay for light he hardly consumes (somebody said it is now more like paying for darkness), pay for service charge (whatever that means) if he lives in an estate, sink his own borehole for clean water or buy from water drawers.
He has to send his wards to private schools as public schools have since collapsed…
One can see that on the average, for a worker to survive in a place like Abuja, it may take well over N100 thousand per month whereas what comes to the average worker officially in the month may not be anywhere near half that amount.
How then does he survive if not by cutting corners?
Teaching ‘do not steal’ to a bunch of workers who have no legitimate ways to earn an honest living is but a waste of time. It is simply hypocrisy.
Nigerians have been told that if they do not kill corruption, corruption will kill Nigeria. Agreed; but are we really fighting in a manner as to win the war?
The conditions that will make Nigeria win the war are simply not there. Forget the propagandistic postulations of the Government of the day.
After all, we all heard the same stories under Obasanjo, Yar’Adua and Jonathan. Do not forget, PDP set up the EFCC and ICPC and corruption grew only larger under their watch.
Surprisingly, the conditions to make the nation do away with corruption are relatively simple: To begin with, government has to offer the civil servants a living wage.
A living wage is the minimum income necessary for a worker to meet their basic needs.
This is not necessarily the same as subsistence, which refers to a biological minimum, though the two terms are commonly confused. These needs include shelter (housing) and other incidentals such as clothing and food.
In some nations such as the United Kingdom and Switzerland, this standard generally means that a person working forty hours a week, with no additional income, should be able to afford the basics for quality of life, such as, food, shelter, utilities, transport, health care, minimal recreation, one course a year to upgrade their education, and childcare..
The living wage differs from the minimum wage in that the latter is set by law and can fail to meet the requirements to have a basic quality of life and leaves the family to rely on government and often illegal sources for additional income in uncivilized climes such as Nigeria.
Following such postulation, whoever wants to find an uncorrupt civil servant in Nigeria of today will have to pay a visit to the graveyards.
Those not dipping their hands in public tills yet probably do not have the opportunity and they are all praying for it. That is what has given rise to the clichés like ‘wait for your turn’; ‘na turn by turn’; ‘no put sand-sand for my garri’ and so forth.
That was what the Deputy Senate President Dr. Ike Ekweremadu was saying at Ibadan recently when he called for N50,000 minimum wage. Those fighting the war against corruption need to first secure the civil servants and enlist their active support.
Without their cooperation the war cannot be won because they are the ones who create the loopholes being exploited by looters. Only they can also plug the loopholes.
The next factor is giving deterrence its due premium. Punishing corruption adequately is the only way to provide deterrence to would-be looters of public funds. In the psychology of motivation, not punishing corruption can produce a worse effect than not fighting it at all.
In learning psychology, reward and punishment are what reinforce behaviour the most. When government focuses on recovery of loots and not on punishment, the likely response of the public officials is that they too can only forfeit their loots when caught tomorrow.
Tell me why they wouldn’t loot today if those caught have received only slaps on the wrists?