Of Lunacy and Leaders

Ian Heath , 2003, wrote that “A person’s use of social and political power usually reveals the limitations of that person. The limitations reflect the moral boundaries of the person – narrow and bigoted boundaries often indicate little ability to handle power for the common good. One limitation is the belief that there is one law for those who have power and another for those without it : the person with power respects only those who also have power. This gives rise to a common failing. When a person has power, that power is abused when it is directed into areas of society where the person has psychological problems. Abuse occurs because the person’s psychological problems undermine his moral principles and corrupt his exercise of power. Power is neutral but the person is not. So power magnifies both the person’s virtues and his vices”.

Looking at our systems in Nigeria today, it encourages corruption by the following reasons: there is scarcity of goods and services; there is monumental red tape and delay (bureaucracy); there is lack of transparency from the governments; our judicial system cannot guarantee justice, fairness and equality; tribalism and nepotism among the corrupt to protect each other (as with the expression “thick as thieves” and no expression as “thick as honest people”).

With the above causes of corruption are also four key players: the corrupt politician, the corrupt bureaucrat or civil servant, the corrupt businessman and the criminal, who combine together in different formulations, permutations and combinations to perpetrate their corrupt acts on the people and the nation. Incidentally, they are all of the same ilk, carved out of the same tree. For example, if the corrupt politician were to be a businessman or civil servant, he will still be corrupt in those roles, and vice versa for all four groups. It does not matter what position or role they play either in governance or business, or just any role in the society, they will always be corrupt. The environment does not have any effect on them. It is difficult to say when the civil servants are taking bribes because it is like trying to guess when the fish in the water is drinking water. The civil servants are very much part of the system and it is difficult to detect their corruption, but we all know they aid the politicians to steal us blind, hence their culpability.

Most kleptomaniac leaders, bureaucrats and politicians are also psychopaths, therefore they rarely feel remorse or fear the consequences of their misdeeds, and this only makes them more culpable and dangerous. Again, examples abound currently with indicted or arrested ex-Governors, and their friends in Government, still pulling strings in their incarceration or hideouts to remove evidence, getting anti-corruption chiefs removed or even resorting to murdering witnesses.

The psychology which breeds corruption is that today corruption is a low risk, high profit activity. There is no shame in being corrupt, as exemplified by those arrested ex-Governors who are still strutting about on the streets, fighting all corners, and in fact, still being hailed by their own people as some malformed heroes. So if you can make easy money and also there is no loss of prestige in the society, why not indulge in corruption? In fact the only restriction of corruption can be from two sources. One is the internal check of conscience and the moral values an individual gets form his family, background, religion and his own society. In our current situation in Nigeria, moral values of all kinds seem to have rapidly and irrevocably declined. The second of course is external control, which the government can exercise to make corruption a very dangerous exercise. As a Nigerian, I am concerned with the second part, because, invariably, it is in Government that we find 90% of corrupt officials in Nigeria, so how can the Government make corruption a dangerous exercise to would-be corrupt leaders or politicians?

My reason for writing this article is my belief that before one can understand the reason behind this our national malaise, it is pertinent and important that we understand the psychology behind corruption and the people who perpetrate it on 120 to 140 million people before we can devise effective strategies of confronting the perpetrators. We need to study and understand their psyche. It is also because of my inability, much as I try, to comprehend the reason why corruption is so pervasive in the Nigerian society that I grew up in. All many Nigerians had wanted in life, and what our family, background, religion and society had taught us then was to have a good education, take up a job in any sector of the society and do our best to ease the suffering of society in any way we individually or collectively can, and that is simply by working hard and serving our people. However I fail to understand why others – corrupt, avaricious, selfish, arrogant, insensitive and murderous people – feel the wealth of a whole nation belongs to them by right or by virtue of the position they find themselves in – elected or selected. I cannot understand how a Governor or even a Minister can walk or drive on the streets of Nigeria and be totally impervious and immune to the suffering and poverty going on around them. These people even feign ignorance of these and insulate themselves from the public, as if they have never been ordinary citizens before. I cannot for the world of me, reconcile being corrupt with being happy because you have more money than me. Mind you, I am not naïve. I have needs too, as a normal human being, but I don’t think I can be happy by depriving others of their needs or entitlements too.

It is therefore safe to conclude, from the psychological analysis of corruption, that our corrupt politicians and leaders must be mad. They must be psychopaths. This is the only plausible explanation for their behaviour. It is therefore not asking too much if perhaps they should be subjected to very rigorous and extensive psychiatric tests before they are allowed to run for office or take office, as cumbersome and impracticable as this may seem. It is not even enough asking them to declare their assets before they take office or before they even run of office – they always manipulate this exercise in futility. A lot of them are a danger to the Nigerian society, like armed robbers, policemen (yes) and mad people on the street. Unfortunately, a mad person never realises his/her problem, they think everybody else but themselves is the mad person.

But I am sure that if we put our heads together and follow the dictates of Truth, the Law, the ability to recognise good and evil, Nigerians will be able to come up with effective solutions to check corruption and utilise government and the people to check corruption. We must come together, we must survive and enjoy together, we should build on our strengths of ideas and resourcefulness; our ideas must be bright and shining and practical and sincere, and we should remove the poison of misunderstanding between us and there should be no hatred.

Truth be said, we are all fighting a very common enemy in corruption. Our very survival and that of our future generations, now or unborn, depends on it. Some people believe Nigeria is irredeemable and incorrigible and is a failed state. The problem is those who hold such thoughts and opinions will die, along with the rest of us, never knowing otherwise, and Nigeria will still be there. Breaking Nigeria into several different nations will not solve the problem of corruption, as we know that our corruption is not unique or peculiar to any religion or tribe. Let the Ijaws have their own country today, and you will see what happens to them when they control the oil. Let the Yorubas have their own country today, and that is when you will know there is something called “corruptis invincibilis”, the mother of all corruption. Give a country to the Northerners, and you will know the truth about what corruption really is – total immorality couched in religious ostentation. To the Igbos, a country called Biafra, and that is when you see brothers killing sisters and fathers killing sons because of money and corruption. Sorry; and all other tribes who consider themselves mini-nations in Nigeria. It is only collectively that we can fight it.

That is the plain truth. So what the heck are you complaining about?

Written by
Akintokunbo A Adejumo
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