Talking Drums

The West African News Magazine

Nigeria Our Motherland We Hail Thee!

Tunde Amusa

Why is it so difficult to get anything done through the "right channels" in our country and yet so easy through the backdoor?... I know corruption occurs in all countries, but why is it so big in Nigeria?
'God punish your mama! The devil bend your neck'

I turned round in consternation. What in the good name of heaven could make anyone 'fire' such 'expletives' at his brother? And if you're wondering where all this was taking place, it was in busy traffic in Supele a town in Bendel State Nigeria.

As George Will the columnist wrote in Newsweek magazine after the shooting down of the South Korean Airliner, the surprising thing was not the shooting down itself (for as he argued the total number of people killed that day was less than the average daily total of the Soviet government since Stalin's days) it was the shocked reaction of people in the Western world.

In this case I guess the strange thing, to me, was not so much what the driver had said but the non-reaction of anyone else except myself on the bus. All for a minor traffic offence.

In case you're wondering who I am, feeling shocked and surprised in my own country, well I am a full blooded Nigerian, the only problem with me was that I had been born and bred outside Nigeria, in Ghana specifically, and had arrived back home only days earlier. That was in 1978, of course since then I have become used to all that and I feel ashamed to admit I actually swear that way daily now but on reflection I ask myself - is it necessary? Why are we Nigerians always in a hurry, so quick to condemn and yet so complaining?

Why is it so difficult to get anything done through the 'right channels' in our country and yet so easy through the backdoor?

Sometime last year the Wall Street Journal awarded us the dubious title of the 'most corrupt country' in the world. Remember they gave comparative data to show that contracts in Nigeria cost between 200-300% more than say, Kenya which is also a third world country and maybe just as corrupt. Or are they?

Why have we institutionalised corruption in Nigeria? Sometimes it seems to me that we, as a people, have come to believe that it is un-Nigerian to be straight. It is 'wrong' to know a fraudulent method of making money and not use it, maybe even foolish! The other day someone said 'who am I to refuse a bribe when Shagari can rig himself into power?

I have no doubt that man was probably U.P.N, but can he justify his corruption by pointing fingers at others? Would it have been any different if any other party or person was in power?

When N.E.T. got burnt in January 1983, I remember arguing with some friends that absolutely nothing would happen to whoever the culprits were. My prophecy appears to have turned out true. Unless my memory has failed, six people were being investigated for squandering about N54.million a few months earlier. Rumours of the fire threat were in the air and a fire truck was stationed near the building. Someone bribed the Chief Fire Officer or some such official (that's what we were told by the NSO and police soon after the fire) to remove the truck about two days before the fire. Other experts told us the fire was caused by bombs planted along the electrical duct system in the building etc.

Okay, some people have been interdicted but it is almost a year now and it appears the case is dead! It does not matter that some people died, nor does it matter that the building itself cost millions, which the country can ill afford. The same thing happened to the Indian Hemp smuggling case involving the Foreign Service.

I know corruption occurs in all countries but why is it to such extremes in Nigeria. Everything about us is big, I agree. We have a big land mass, extremes of temperature - compare Jos in January and maybe Kano in April or so.

Our population is between 80 million to 150 million depending on what you want to believe, either way, not a small figure. So, I suppose having the greatest amount of corruption in the world is just in keeping with our character.

That reminds me, sometime ago we also got the equally dubious distinction of having the dirtiest capital city in the world Lagos. Again, why are we so dirty? I remember in Accra there is a place called 'Lagos town' and I know it is one of the dirtiest places in that town, which is quite clean you know.

Anyone who knows anything about Lagos is aware that heaps of rubbish are a fact of life whether in the markets or at the doorsteps of homes. The same is true for most of the Southern states especially. I have heard some argue the dirty habits are even tribally linked. Maybe he has a point, for Governor thee! I certainly love my country - but Jakande of Lagos State has put in a lot of effort yet what do we see? But watch it, I don't think it is quite so simple. Owerri in Imo State is perhaps the cleanest city in the South if not all Nigeria. Rubbish is collected twice a day but what about Onitsha? Both are Ibo right? And in Benin City any gutters built alongside roads are guaranteed to disappear in 3 months flat overcome by the rubbish that we pour into them. Come the rains and we complain - no drainage system!

That reminds me of another wonderful thing that could only happen in Nigeria. Remember how about six people shared 15 or was it N50 million in Abuja? And a 'bush fire' promptly engulfed the accounts building alone in the Federal Capital Territory. The messenger had about N2.5 million under his bed! Don't ask me how much was in his bank account or how much the Chief Accountant had. Again it is not so much the stealing that worries me - it happens often enough, but after we find out what do we do about it?

In Modakeke, we recorded more votes than the total population of the town during the elections and all the Electoral Commissioner could say was the he 'had never been there' and the elections were successful!

Nigeria our motherland, we hail thee! I certainly love my country, but can we go on this way, forever?

talking drums 1983-12-19-26 Government through mob action - kotoko win africa cup