I love my country, I no go lie. There is no place else like Nigeria. This is the reason I keep coming back. I get drawn and taken to the remote corners of the earth but, to Nigeria, I still return. That corruption is rife in Nigeria is not news. I grew up in the environment and am aware of, though insulated from, it’s many ills.
It’s barely a few weeks that I have been back and to me, despite the very hard work that PMB is doing, it seems he is yet to scratch the surface tip of this giant ice berg. Really, it seems it has become worse with each passing day and the recession in the economy has not helped matters. Everywhere I turned, I was faced with this monster in high and low places.
It is my thesis that it is highly improbable for any resident of Nigeria to make heaven. Let me clarify this a bit. I am not saying no Nigerian will make heaven, far from me to make that proposition. Of course, I am not God and I fervently believe in grace. However, I do postulate that it will be extremely difficult, if not impossible for anyone residing in Nigeria, white, black, mulatto or whatever, to make it to heaven. Please be patient with me while I use three distinct experiences that I have had in the past few days to support my position. On my return home, I got informed of the problems with my car’s shock absorbers and a quote was obtained for me for the repairs. I made the requested payment and await the return of the vehicle. On return, I was informed that the shocks couldn’t be replaced – too costly and unavailable. So an ingenious solution was devised – they switched the shock absorbers from an accidented vehicle, still undergoing insurance claim issues with mine and paid the custodian of the vehicle. This happened without the owner’s knowledge or consent. It seemed a smart thing to do and they were seeking my commendations for their ingenuity. I pointed out that the action was fraudulent and should not have happened and would have preferred the car being returned without repairs along with my money to the action that they took. All were surprised and looked at me with bewilderment, could he be serious?
Barely two days later, I got a call from a colleague intimating me of an opportunity and requesting for a meeting. At the meeting, I got introduced to a man who had a business proposal. He is from Edo State, not that it matters. He presented the deal to me and I quickly cut through his long story to understand the transaction. Simply, an entity of the Federal Government of Nigeria has awarded a contract to this man to acquire some 40 pieces of an item at a sum, just a little below N50mm. The contract value was kept below N50m to ensure it was within the approval authority of the Managing Director of this entity and needed no further oversight and approval. These items would be bought from a German manufacturer for N10m and the contractor will incur another N2m in travelling to Germany to bring them into Nigeria in two suitcases. No registration with Standards Organization of Nigeria (SON) was planned as the N2m already provides for bribes to custom officials at the Airport, on arrival in Nigeria. He informed that the MD has requested for a meeting with him the next day. The subject of discussion will be the percentage of the contract that will be paid to him. In his opinion, the minimum would be 15% because the MD is new but it could be as much as 20%. After listening to his story, I mentioned that I had no interest as the opportunity was fraught with risks. In order to get me convinced that all was well with the transaction and that he has all the right connections in the system, he told me of another transaction of which he just got off the phone call. He mentioned that he is a registered contractor with Lagos State and that, given his connection and network, all he does now is allow his company’s name and bank account be used by officers of the state and he gets his cut. I asked how this works. To this, he explained that officials will award and execute contract in the name of his company and once the State Government makes payment into his account, the officers instructs him on how to distribute the payment while he keeps his own share for the work he never did. He saw nothing wrong with this and, being who I am, I remained convinced that any partnership with this man would be too potent for me to handle. I walked away.
Fast forward a couple of days thereafter. I sat in discussion with a Professor who had spent his years working at the University. We were talking about the quality of the academic works in the country and he dropped the bombshell. There is no quality here! I probed him further asking whether the University accreditation system doesn’t guarantee this. He said, “for where?” and explained the “rent-a-crowd” approach that Universities are taking to beat the accreditation team. Months before accreditation, the Universities will offer “unconfirmed” appointments to qualified academics to come and teach in their institutions. Some of these offers would be in name only, an office and a door name allocated to an individual who never shows up in the school to teach. He further mentioned that some universities are that desperate that they go ahead to rent equipment to display in their laboratories and workshops prior to the arrival of the accreditation panel and return these to the owners, after the panel has left. I asked, now that everybody is blowing whistles, what about being a whistle blower to expose this cankerworm. To this, he retorted that nothing is currently beyond the knowledge of the accreditation team as they are serving lecturers picked from other universities for the assignment. They are also aware of what obtains in their institutions as well.
As I tour the country, from Ibadan to Benin, Lagos to Modakeke. the stories abound and no institution is immune. The Passport office has its schemes that make corruption thrives. So also is the Customs, with its men that it has armed and thrown on the roads to spring surprises on motorists along the Abeokuta-Imeko road, the Ibadan-Ife road and similar.
Which way Nigeria?