Let Us Legalise Corruption
Much ado about corruption. Stopping it was almost the entire manifesto of our current president. It has a broad definition which is pretty much the opposite of integrity. In our country it means when a government official embezzles cash or makes decisions that favour them personally and disfavour the nation.
But is corruption really that bad tho? In my discussions with friends, acquaintances and random strangers I have discovered that some people believe corruption helps drive the economy. Some say it helps keep the money in circulation. We like to cite the prosperity of the United States of America as an example of why corruption isn’t that bad. Some people say hey fuck it, we’re corrupt, let’s own it. When a family member is in public office and they don’t enrich themselves they are seen as fools. When a family member is in office and they don’t use the opportunity to employ their family members they’re seen as evil. Even the comedian Basketmouth stated the best model of leadership to be that of “You chop, I chop.”
In this post, I am going to try to give reasons why corruption is bad for the economy. I am going to speak in layman terms too, because one, I’m not an economist by profession, two, I love telling stories and giving analogies and three, I look forward to a lot of outrage in my comments section. Okay, here we go.
As I mentioned in an older post, Nigerians have a warped view of money. The paper ‘Money’ as we know it is really a store of value; it is not valuable in itself. It has to be managed too, that is why the Central Bank can’t just decide to flood the country with naira notes. If they do, there will be inflation. If they don’t supply enough notes, there will also be inflation. There is already inflation. Many people are not aware that it costs us to mint said notes. Which is why it should be an offence to deface naira notes; and why it was distasteful the way we rejected coins, which last longer and are much more cost effective.
The world is global now, and countries interact with themselves like people these days. Ignorance can’t be afforded now because it costs us. Strong economies are built on their volume of trade and income streams. What determines the value of your currency is basically a question of “how useful is your money?” The richest countries in the world are those that provide the most value.
For example, the USA which we try so much to emulate, has so many income streams from so many different parts of the world. Their entertainment sector alone sees a lot of viewers and customers from foreign nations. While the ‘Black Panther’ movie had us making Wakanda signs and adorning native dresses, the producers made $1.4 billion globally from a budget of $200 million. This is just one example from one sector. Hell the website I’m using right now is an American creation. You’re boosting their economy right now just by reading this. The USA has many other products which are exported to our country for cash and other resources. That’s value.
Countries like Saudi Arabia provide value by having a massive store of oil reserves which they provide to other countries. India is making leaps in Medicine and industrialization. China is a country that has seemed to master the Industrialisation complex and is a technology world giant. They provide value by sending us pretty much all the electronics we use.
So the real question becomes what value does Nigeria provide to the outside world?
A knee jerk response would be “hey! crude oil” as even the government has complained that we are operating a mono economy. But that’s where the corruption comes in. Nigeria does not refine her own crude. So what we have now is this weird arrangement where crude oil is exported, refined, then re-imported to us for a fee, costing us employment opportunities, development of our industries and many other big words I’m too pissed to mention right now. As a kid, I read how crude oil is distilled in secondary school chemistry textbooks, but at some point in our history, it became less of a priority for us, I guess.
There are a lot of national advancements I heard of as a kid that seem like folk tales now. I heard Nigeria milled steel at some point in Ajaokuta, I heard $1 was equal to 1 naira in ancient times, I heard the Nigerian football team was once 5th in the FIFA rankings, I heard coal was once mined in Enugu, I heard of a rich culture and tradition, I heard we once used coins as legal tender and they were called kobo, I heard that fuel once sold for 5 naira to a litre, but I can barely remember what a 5 naira note looks like anyways. Nigeria is just 58 years old, but it all seems to have happened so long ago.
Now, we have developed a culture of consumerism to the point that we import what we can easily produce. One reason is we were too late to hop on the technology train. The second is corruption. Our best and brightest brains are exported to foreign countries where their talents are better appreciated, while we wallow in mediocrity. It is because of corruption that the best football players may never see the green of a national team jersey, that is if the funds for the jerseys have not been diverted to private pockets. It is still because of corruption that a Nigerian tailoring company may never be considered to manufacture said jerseys…
Our last Olympic football team was sponsored almost in its entirety by the generous Nigerian soccer legend, John Mikel Obi. Despite the Nigerian team arriving the country 2 hours to the start of their tournament, the nation went on to win bronze. One world cup tournament later, Mikel’s parents were kidnapped and held for ransom during the world’s premiere footballing tournament. Mikel was forced to keep a straight face and play like nothing was wrong while he was dying inside.
In a corrupt system, the value of money gradually becomes useless. That is evident and we are the evidence. It becomes a game of who can cheat the other the most, and all products and services are watered down to their barest element and drained of quality. Transactions are carried out without trust, which means less reliance on trade, which means less transactions. We have heard many cases of corrupt individuals diverting money overseas, or even digging giant pits in their own homes to store money. This drives currency out of circulation and kills its value, because it’s not in use. It would be much better if it was reinvested in the country, but then the environment isn’t too safe for investment is it? due to, again, corruption. It has even reached a point where borrowed money cannot be accounted for, driving the nation further into debt.
I have no doubt that the Nigerian story will be one for the history books. It reads like a biblical tale of woe. Like a manual of 101 things to avoid when starting your nation. One of the many reminders of the cruelty of humanity. I do hope we get it right one day. Till then, I remain focused on survival and enlightenment.