by Nonye Obi-Egbe
1. lacking in integrity; open to or involving bribery or other dishonest practices
Somewhere in Enugu the line of people waiting for service in a bank is so long it extends to the doors. The middle-aged labourer, young mother of two and well-dressed young man were waiting before the doors officially opened. Since then many more have come to join them; because they all know each of them will get service, everyone waits their turn patiently. Suddenly there’s a small commotion at the door, an entitled-looking Igbo chief walks in with a few scary-looking guys. He completely ignores the line made up of people with mixed facial expressions and important plans. He rudely walks to the service representative and demands her attention, all the while laughing and talking loudly on his expensive phone. She knows him, every staff does, so she helps him with his transactions and he sweeps out. ‘Next in line please’, she then says.
Every driver in Lagos has a slight case of lunacy; it is essential to survive behind a wheel. The reason is, some roads are not just death traps, there is a constant battle for space with okadas and danfo drivers and taxi drivers. The general opinion is that in a space tussle with a danfo driver, it is just easier and cheaper to let him win. This may be true of bus drivers, but it is also true of almost every Lagos driver. No one uses their trafficator or is generally polite when trying to get in ahead of you. So, usually, you’ll find cars weaving in and out of lanes without warning and as a result there are many near misses. Worse still, the forcefulness of people behind the wheel of police vehicles can leave one exasperated. Why do they think they must push through ahead of everyone else? It’s probably because they can, because of the loud offensive sirens they can turn on at will.
Down in the Delta, a contracting assistant opens the door to her oga’s office for one of the prospective new FEED contractors. She waits as her oga welcomes him and offers him refreshments, then she hurries away to make the coffee. She closes the door to their conversation, all the while wondering what that rich-looking guy is offering her boss and if he’ll take the bait. An hour later, the man says his goodbyes and emerging, takes out an envelope from his jacket pocket and hands it to her. She’s used to this, all of them come in looking to get an advantage over others; all of them try to buy her loyalty. As usual, she refuses. The next week he comes in again and after his meeting, spontaneously hands her a wad of N1000 notes, ‘for your lunch’, he says. She takes it because this time, it is not a bribe, it’s lunch time and the man knows she’s got to eat.
We see corruption everywhere and on every normal day, on the way to work, at the supermarket or hair salon, in a restaurant, while driving to an appointment, and so on. But, since we christened our leaders corrupt, our definition of the word evolved, became narrower. We don’t realise that when it becomes easy to cheat or take someone’s place, values are eroding, the lines between right and wrong blurring, the world becoming greyer. That entitled chief, uncaring danfo driver, offensive policeman, and hungry assistant have only just begun the process. Given the right circumstances, the perfect reasons, there will be no qualms to sinking lower into the bases of human morality. They have been infected with the bug of corruption, we all have. And that disease will spread like wildfire and infect all the ones coming after, until the whole country is taken over by the epidemic.