By Sunday Oyinloye
In 1991, I had an exclusive interview with the former spokesman of the Nigeria Police, Frank Odita and was shocked when he personified corruption as a Nigerian. In that interview, the retired police officer tried to explain why the Police should not be singled out as the only government agency that was corrupt.
About 27years after the interview, Nigeria is still not only battling to fight corruption, its image as a corrupt nation is worrisome. More frustrating is the fact that some African countries that are equally corrupt have also been labeling Nigeria and Nigerians as being corrupt. Can you blame them? We are the architects of our problem. Interestingly, I am very much aware that when some Africans who are non-Nigerians commit crimes outside the continent, they claim to be Nigerians, it is as bad as that. They hide under our large population and battered image to further soil our name
Successive administrations in Nigeria have been accused of massive lootings while some officials of the present administration have also stained their hands in what I will call blood money. Blood money? Yes it is . The money that is supposed to be used to provide the basic needs of life for the people is being stolen by few greedy individuals.
Like most African countries, politicians, their collaborators and the elites in Nigeria have insatiable appetite for money. They lust after material things and power. The reason for this is simple, the rich man in Africa is a god that is worshipped by unsuspecting members of the public who don’t care about the source of wealth of the elites. Besides, success in many African countries is measured by the bank account of an individual and not hard work.
The rich are respected and celebrated while the poor are despised, so, that gives room for a rat race. The truth is that low income earners in Africa feel inferior to the affluent because there is no dignity in labour in the continent unlike Europe where the success of a man is not determined by material things or fat bank account . This is the major missing link between the attitude of a typical European and an average African.
For more than two years, I have been researching on how to reduce if not eradicate corruption in my country and I have since found out that the major reason why people acquire and acquire without considering the plight of the poor is because of societal attitude towards wealth.
Nigeria will be a better place the moment the rich and the poor get the same justice, the moment someone who rides a limousine does not look down on the man riding a bicycle on the street. We shall be a better country when riding a big car is not seen as a measure of success and bicycle not seen as a symbol of poverty. Nigeria will regain her lost glory when the son of a man who lives in a two bedroom can walk straight to the daughter of a man who has mansions and say I love you. That is part of the attitudinal change we need.
To deal with corruption in Nigeria, I want to propose what I call ‘’ The Bicycle theory” . What do I mean by this? Like the Dutch, the rich and the poor in Nigeria should embrace the culture of cycling to the office and other social engagements. Did I hear you say this is not possible because of bad roads and security challenges? I believe it is possible with determination.
In the Netherlands, bicycle is not a symbol of poverty, but it is in Nigeria, forget about the few rich who ride bicycle within their estates as a form of exercise. The Prime Minister, members of the parliament(male and female), Ministers, the super-rich and the poor in the Netherlands, all have bicycles, therefore, sighting a man on the bicycle there does not mean the man is poor and with that, it is difficult to ascertain the status of the man or woman on a bicycle.
Some might view this theory as insignificant but a deeper thought will reveal it is. The problem with most Nigerians is the mind and some culture which we have do away with if we must tackle corruption. Chief among the culture which we need to do away with is over-celebrating of wealth especially money that the owner cannot account for. By the time we embrace cycling as a way of life, the thoughts of living bigger than one’s income will begin to reduce. It will also go a long way at ensuring a better and constant interaction between the rich and the poor. Envy will reduce and people will begin to build confidence in each other no matter the social status. It might sound impossible, but a Journey of a thousand miles starts with a step.
I want to plead with my countrymen wherever they may be that we should all begin to be good Ambassadors of Nigeria. I am sick and very sick . Can you imagine citizens of countries we helped with our blood and resources branding us criminals. My interaction with some fellow Africans since I started my international weekly online magazine has been very heart breaking. The rest of the continent seems to have concluded that hardly could any honest person come from my dear country. It is even more sad when in some cases, it is the pot calling the kettle black .
However, we cannot really blame the pot for calling the Kettle black, the time has come for the kettle to prove the pot wrong. A new culture of cycling or the bicycle theory might just do the magic.