Oct. 29, 2013
by Farouk Martins Aresa
Is there a law against non-payment of salary without just cause?
Corruption is easier than petty thief and not as laborious as hard work. In many cases if you steal chicken change to buy food for your family, your neck would be laced with tire and turned into suya for the birds. If you do not believe us, go to the market and steal food for your children. You will be lucky to escape with your life. Ask people for bribe, they would pay you without wahala. Show up as gutter cleaner they would despise you!
Social scientists agree that behavior is mostly shaped by basic human needs for food, shelter and sex. Based on that premise, corruption could be mostly shaped by greed and hunger. While we all condemned greed as the basis for corruption, we often neglected the pain of hunger. The main purpose of salary is to provide for our families and needs. Those that do not depend on salary or contracts, do trade, farm or live on others.
Are we supposed to open our mouth to empty air and get fed without pay? Many of us do not think deep about hunger drive. Look here Bobo, thank heavens for corruption. For the past six months we have not been paid. But for corruption, we would not have been able to feed our families and pay our bills. Put yourselves in our situation, non-payment of salaries is the oppressors’ surest way to encourage the culture at all levels.
If our salary is paid regularly most of us might be able to resist the temptation but that would be at the disadvantage of the Oga at the Top. He would miss collection from the bottom. The best way for oppressors to enhance their control over poor folks like us, is to make sure we never have enough to live on. We always have to go back to any means we can to make money and we also have to deliver the lion share to oppressors.
The first day we were hired, the Chief at the top warned us about corruption and never to take bribe from anyone. Our first six paychecks went smoothly, so we behaved very well and reported those trying to bribe us because we did not want to lose our jobs. Nobody would want to go home and tell the family that he misbehaved on the job by taking bribe because the Chief got his loot at the top and from bottom.
All of a sudden, the first paycheck was missed. We thought it was a glitch, so we went to relatives and friends borrowing money. We promised to pay them on our next paycheck expecting double pay. The paychecks never came and we became unreliable debtors since no one could depend on our promises. We started hiding from creditors, telling the children to lie that we were not at home. Take-home pay could not take us home.
Many of us found out that some of our colleagues did not miss the paycheck and Oga was very pleased with them, even when we were working harder. It did not take long before we realized they were taking bribes and delivering some of the bribes to Oga. This was the same Oga that was withholding our pay, only to find out later that it was collecting interest in his bank account. Some of us even had accounts we never knew of.
We learned fast and started collecting bribes for a little service as delivering each file from one place to another; to big services. Everyone was happy and we also realized that the amount of money we made on bribes was more than our salary. So it did not make a difference whether the Chief diverted our salary to his account or not. This was how corruption was entrenched and became endemic the society.
Indeed, the story is the same everywhere. People learned to collect bribe as a means of survival forced on them by those at the top. If the military head of Government could say bribe is a family support, you know when we veered downhill into the hopeless situation we find ourselves today. When police, the reflection of any community were not paid and had to service their vehicles, do not be surprised if bribe spread like fire.
The silent voice of hunger is so cruel, some poor people were more willing to die of bullets and face Bar Beach Show because it killed them faster. We may want to think hunger only affected the poor people until you remember the story of the middle class and the politicians that thought they could defy Abacha. Many went to their graves hungry. Hear the chairman of the 593 members of the House of Rep, Hon. Obi Anoliefo:
“We have lost over 100 members to death. Many were struck down with stroke because of their inability to meet with family obligations …wives of some members left them because of their lives of near destitution. Families of many members were dismembered. Some of us still had the cheques of our allowances but the Abacha junta froze all the National Assembly accounts before we could access our money. source
Hunger do change the behavior of a generation and children of that generation learn what it was to be hungry at home where their parents were helpless. As adults many watched the boss at ThisDay pay foreign presidents and dignitaries in hard currency for the opportunity to take pictures with them when they show up; to post it in the news.
Hopefully, all is not lost. Corruption, we thought was encouraged during Shagari’s NPN and was so rampant, many gave up. Buhari/Idiagbon regime restored some sanity until IBB and Abacha championed corruption again to an unprecedented proportion. Today, most Nigerians do not even know which is worse anymore. They just want to survive.
We need Buhari/Idiagbon characters but they must be agnostics. Religion and royalty was Buhari’s weakness. Recantation of Buhari/Idiagbon good moral character is not a monopoly. We need another shock of conscience. So far, Yoruba, Hausa/Fulani and Igbo have been disappointments. They are too busy either sharing loot or trying to break the Country. Leaders could come from anywhere. Ethnicity is only used to fool the masses.