"All Nigerian politicians are corrupt!"I know that is a statement/sentiment shared by many Nigerians, but does that mean it is true? The reason why I ask is because of an enlightening conversation I had with a fellow blogger not too long ago. While we discussed Lagos politics, we happened to debate whether every current Lagosian and indeed national politicians are corrupt. Playing the role of 'Devil's Advocate', I argued that not all politicians are corrupt and stressed that there had to be some that did not take bribes, shunned corruption and strove to do their job responsibly.
My fellow blogger then provided a basic analysis of the Nigerian political situation that even I found hard to dismiss. He made two points -
- Most Nigerian politicians 'chop' and are therefore corrupt.
- For those politicians that do not 'chop', they see others 'chopping' and do little or nothing to stop them and as such are equally corrupt.
He didn't hesitate, but laughed, probably for my benefit and to lessen the sting of his frank response. He concluded that if I ever became a politician in Nigeria, I would undoubtedly fall into one of the two categories regardless of my intent or whether or not I did a good job "because that is the system."
WHY THIS IS TROUBLING
With much respect to my fellow blogger, I have to state unequivocally that his position is not only troubling but extremely dangerous. The conclusion carries a sense of futility that is detrimental to the hopes and aspirations of all persons regardless of nationality who aspire to create a better existence for themselves and others. Such an attitude, right or wrong, suggests that there is very little reason to work toward a better Nigeria. If one were to take this conclusion a little further then no politician, leader or even person can be trusted to work for their constituents and the nation would never improve.
But even more important is the concept that a person can be 'guilty by association'. Far too often, I see that Nigerians automatically distrust people who are accomplished (either in their career or financially) and suspect them of being corrupt simply by the mere fact of their success. While this is very different from suspecting that a politician is corrupt, especially given the history of corruption in Nigeria, the roots of both sentiments are similar in that the mere category a person falls into (in this case - politics, while in the other case career/financial achievement) determines the level of suspicion that he/she will face at the hands of Nigerians. Isn't that problematic? I learned in my younger days that "Correlation does not mean causation" and to deem everyone the same without taking the time to separate the wheat from the chaff helps no one,least of all the Nigerian public. So, on this issue, I will have to say that although I sincerely respect my fellow blogger's thoughts and hope to learn more from him, I will not submit that all politicians, or anyone else, should be guilty by association. I will consider each person on their individual merit for the accomplishments or failures and encourage them to do better.
I only wish I had asked my friend and fellow blogger if he would have fallen into one of the two categories of Nigerian politicians that he suggested. Now, that would have led to an even better debate!