By Michael Oluwagbemi
Corruption is like a plague, worse than Ebola, once it begins to consume a population it stops at nothing until the entire conscience of the society is devoured or a more powerful external force comes to stop it. The former is evidently the direction Nigeria seem to be heading as the cancer of corruption seem to have eaten so deep that those that refuse to “eat” are now regarded as enemies of state. In Nigeria, accepting what is not yours and compromising integrity is now the norm.
First it was the Niger state government that had to deliver itself from a certain TV journalist from Delta state that wanted to blackmail the state to extract huge sums of money. This journalist works for the Nigeria Television Authority, the public broadcasting service and supposedly had incriminating information on the State Governor. While the journalist was ultimately arrested by the State Security Service, it shows how low our Fourth Estate has sunk to become participants in the daily horse trading of benefits at the expense of the unknowing public.
Also, a video was leaked where TB Joshua the leader of the Synagogue Congregation was offering money to journalists to keep quiet on his current debacle of falling building that crushed over eighty souls to death. It was evident in that recording that the vast majority of attendees in the meeting took the Prophet’s brown envelope and kept quiet.
Now, the same people are silent like morose as one brave young man (Mr. Ibekwe) leaked the recording. The young man is reportedly under attack as well- evidence of a decayed societal norm. The likes of Ibekwe are a rarity among our journalists. These hungry men of the press now collect cool brown envelopes to distort public perception.
Speaking about perception, the BBC recently reported on how our politicians now use an army of “unemployed youths” to “rig public opinion”. According to the BBC, “Political thuggery has gone digital. As Nigeria gears up for the 2015 general elections, squads of young people are being recruited across the nation to storm cyberspace: To harass, intimidate and persecute their employer’s opponents or those with views that oppose his ambitions”. As if matters were not already worse, this BBC report also revealed another sleight of hand from the Fourth Estate; “Another young man told me that certain online platforms, especially newspapers, block any comments his team members post in support of their candidate. Others allow support for his principal, and disallow negativity from enemy camps. “
What a country indeed! We now have journalists for sale in our unemployed youths, and it is even documented that our newspaper now have political camps much like their absconding editors that now prefer side gigs as press consultants and future spokesman for the corrupt elite (remember that guy called Reuben Abati?).
Such is the level of our descent to ignominy that people now rush to defend those caught with their hand in the cookie jar. Just this week, two incidents proved that the Press which should be our preserve of honesty and integrity is now constant assault.
One of those robust defenses of these vermin journalists by a Sun Newspaper journalist (not surprised) is being circulated by you know who. The excuse was that journalists are poorly paid; hence they have every right to take care of themselves at the expense of public probity and delivering the truth to power and the people.
I say hogwash! Only in our morally bankrupt society will the need to keep body and soul together being a counter weight argument to have integrity. A society that has elevated silver and gold over sterling reputation is one in the gutters! What happened to working hard? Yes you can be a journalist but you can also write, teach and do other things but destroy your good name. Yes you can be poor, but you don’t have to live above your means! In Nigeria, we give excuses for living in the jungle.
External forces that stop corruption could be in form of revolution or natural evolution (survival of the strongest). Revolution happened in France when the Royals were beheaded, it happened in Russia when the Czars were killed and communism imposed, and it even happened in Ghana when Jerry Rawlings cleaned house. Can it ever happen in Nigeria? There are doubters out there. The unique ethno-religious tapestry of Nigeria ensures evildoers always have a home constituency.
Far before revolutions, evolution also took place to account for the need to reverse debilitating corruption. The invasion of Africa and slavery of her people was a response to the corruption of the political elites of middle age Africa; these neophytes traded their people for salt, umbrella and mirrors. Afonja conspired to sell out the Alaafin and wars were started on the altars of ego and rambunctiousness. Africa paid for it, but there is no doubt that we’ve not learned any lessons. Another colonization or revolution may come again. When the Fourth Estate, the last conscience of our society start eating with the rest of the dirty elites, then we are playing with fire.
Michael Oluwagbemi wrote in from Lagos