Essay Topic: In your own opinion, what is the greatest ethical challenge
Name: Emmanuella Chisom James (15)
School: Stafford House International Schools, Nigeria
Student: High School Student (senior)
It's time we spoke about the greatest epidemic of our time. No I’m not talking about Ebola. I mean Corruption. Former President of the United States of America (USA), Joe Biden said,
“Corruption is a cancer; a cancer that eats away at a citizen’s faith in democracy, diminishes the instinct for innovation and creativity; already-tight national budget, crowding out important national investment. It wastes the talent of entire generations. It scares away investments and jobs.”
Its spread is rapidly growing. We look left and right and see either in ugly black form or dressed up in pretty pink is corruption. From the roadside seller inflating price unreasonably to the police man demanding for bribe from the unlucky driver to the Public officer declaring no money yet the purchase of the latest car.
Corruption is simply the use of public office for private advantage. Government officials with their greedy eyes exploit government revenue and taxes hardly educated citizens are forced to pay in hopes of a greater future.
The politicians make promises of a prosperous future just to be voted in while the poor work hard in quest for survival. After being voted into power the roads remain the same, schools are being mismanaged and the late or non-payment of civil servants’ tradition continues. New policies favouring public officers are formulated and the voice of the helpless mass is continually drowned. Cases of misappropriation of funds, no justice, demanding of bribes from defenceless citizens; These stories are endless.
Nigeria as a case study
I’m from Nigeria, a country situated in West Africa. Nigeria has the largest economy in Africa but has been ranked high in corruption by Transparency International (TI). My motherland filled with diversity, bursting with culture and overflowing with natural resources is also the pitiful nation ruled by corruption.
It is no news that corruption is a pressing issue in Nigeria. It is a potent cancer that has mercilessly eaten Nigeria to a state of stupor (Professor Peter Nwangwu). Research shows that corruption in Nigeria could cost up to 37% of GDP by 2030.
It isn’t only present in government but in literally every sector of the society. To further buttress my point; Corruption is a dishonest or illegal behaviour especially by powerful people. In other words, anyone is capable of corruption. Political corruption has led not only to depletion of national wealth, retarded growth, imbalanced economic development, abandoned welfare projects and infrastructure, misallocation of resources and the continuous suffering of the poor but has also brought about a new culture.
Corruption is the new norm
A Nigerian goes to an international airport in a foreign country and he is thoroughly searched as a result of the stereotypes that has arisen due to how deeply corruption has been rooted in the country.
When the legal arm fails to catch up with corrupt public officers, the practice finds its way into the private sector and eventually the entire society. Its suffocating to see public officers getting away with their crimes. The very legislature which makes laws against corruption is found to be guilty of these crimes. The judiciary saddled with the responsibility of protecting the human rights of citizens and punishing offenders ends up taking bribes and so justice is an infeasible term.
Government workers are not paid on time or at all. They go to work with zero zeal having inadequate income for survival. So what do you think happens when they get a chance to make money to support their families even if illegal? Corruption has now set in. Bribes are being demanded at the slightest opportunity notwithstanding the cost- infringement of another citizen’s right, a person’s life, the suffering of the poor etc. The victims are now the offenders. And soon enough all the victims engage in corruption.
The disease is spreading. People accept it. What other way is there anyway? People no longer see the point of integrity. Corruption has become accepted as a way of life. No one wants to resist a culture from which they have benefitted from and people are weary from protesting against it when no change arises. After all, if you can’t beat ‘em, join ‘em. When drivers break the law and are apprehended by police officers, they need not wait to be told. Even without being asked they offer bribe.
This disease is very infectious and has spread to every imaginable area. In our educational systems it is present. We have university lecturers who demand for payment either in kind or cash in exchange for good grades. Those who are underserving of passing their exams do so with the help of manipulative methods. It has gradually found its way into sports, business, healthcare etc.
Nigeria is suffering from crisis, disunity, poverty, poor standard of infrastructure and educational systems because of this culture.
Corruption here to stay?
Allegations of corruption are made but this is met with plain denials from the offenders and swept off the table like nothing happened. Corruption has become a part of our everyday lives that most people choose to ignore it and focus on other issues.
It is upsetting that despite angry reactions and evidence from journalists, citizens and international organizations such as Amnesty International these corrupt practices still go on because the bodies responsible for punishing these crimes are corrupt themselves.
It is surprising to see someone (in power) who is not corrupt. The government in Nigeria set up an agency, The Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) to investigate financial crimes and fight corruption. The EFCC has brought corrupt officials to book but how can we say we are fighting corruption when the former chairman of the EFCC, Ibrahim Lamorde was accused of fraudulently diverting over N1tn proceeds from corruption recovered by the agency.
An analysis of the anti-corruption laws in Nigeria shows that corruption will continue to thrive in spite of the law because perpetrators do not fear the consequences. This is the same situation in many other countries where corruption is dominant.
Where are our values?
Africa is a continent rich in values. Values once upheld are rapidly being eroded. We have a saying here in Nigeria which in English is translated, ‘Be your brother’s keeper’. In other words, have love, compassion for your fellow man. Let his problem be your problem. But the Africa we see today is filled with corruption for we have ignored these age long values that bonded us as family.
Corruption has led to a different meaning of humanity (the qualities that make us human, such as the ability to love and have compassion). Today we embrace sayings such as ‘survival of the fittest’, ‘Every man to himself’ which have encouraged selfishness, greed, dishonesty, lust, overshadowing values such as love, co-operation, honesty, care, transparency etc. We are willing to sacrifice the lives of others just for our silly desires and human cravings. There is no concern for the suffering that could occur as a result of our actions. This is corruption at its best.
Corruption is a global issue, being it poor or prosperous, democratic or authoritarian, big or small nation.
Say No to Corruption
Corruption is the greatest ethical challenge in the world today and we need to combat it. We must say no to corruption, face it and fight it! It is corrupt individuals that make corrupt government. So to fight corruption there is an urgent need for good values to be inculcated in people. Confucius said, “The strength of a nation is derived from the integrity of a home.” Charity begins at home. It is the duty of parents to teach their wards good values. Campaigns and enlightenment programs should be conducted to stir up the awareness that values are still as important as they were in the past. The failure of some parents to instill good values in their offspring has affected national development. Children need to be properly trained in order for them to say no to corruption when they are of age. In the past, corruption and other crimes were minimal in society because values were instilled.
A.P.J Abdul Kalam said,
“If a country is to be corruption free and become a nation of beautiful minds, I strongly feel there are three societal members who can make a difference. The father, mother and teacher.”
Prevention is better than cure. Children need to be taught on the negative impact of corruption and made to desist from such behaviors.
Citizens need to be empowered by strengthening their demand for anti-corruption and encouraging them to hold government accountable. If we don’t speak up, then these crimes will never end.
The most effective way to fight corruption is co-operation among nations. There is need for us to work together and see it as a global issue. It’s time we learn to Be our brother’s keeper.