Ancient Benin City
Nigeria is renowned for corruption and and it’s people for a lack of work ethic.Not a day goes by,without some politician or government official being pilloried in the media for one alleged financial misconduct or another.The perception on the street,is that government officials work only to fill their own pockets.But not only public officials,private ones too.The impression has taken hold that,every Nigerian sees his office as a prebend:a place to collect his share of the spoils rather than to work.This is the “this is not my father’s work” syndrome. How did Nigeria come to this pass,Especially considering, that Nigerians are very hardworking and religious people?
Colonialism.Colonialism heralded the bifurcation of morality into personal and public strands to reflect the dichotomy between traditional and western societies.You have to understand that, traditional Nigerian society subscribed to a value-system which was very different from that of the west.For example,work.Traditional society judged hard work by the amount of physical exertion involved.A man could not become wealthy,unless he was willing to put in years of hard work,farming or fishing.There simply was no short-cut,to acquiring wealth or riches.Absolutely none.
Imagine the quantum leap that colonialism represented.All of sudden a man could become wealthy,not by sweating it out on the farm,but by “loafing” in some square building in the mission house for a few years.For spurning farm work, in favour of schooling,these lucky people were rewarded with the white man’s money,which enabled an exotic life style:white man’s house,white man’s car,white man’s authority.The message was,to a farming or fishing community with it’s traditional definition of hard-work, simply that one did not have to work hard to become rich anymore.Just grab those certificates,by whatever means necessary.All hell was let loose.The race for the white man’s money had begun.
You only work for the money.Period.This is especially true of government work.Because the colonial government was an appendage of the government in London,people have come to identify government work as working for foreigners.People did not feel that,in government service,they were working for themselves.Today,after many years of independence,that feeling is still very strong.This alienation being exacerbated by tribalism,most people only want to get their hands on government funds,to privatize it,for the benefit of themselves and their kin.For many people,the federal capital might as well be London or Paris.
And the politicians are no different.Indeed you could argue that the politician are mandated by their people to bring their share of the “national cake”.In a country subscribing to hierarchy of loyalty,the interests of your kin trump the national interests.The result is the looting that goes on in government,because people are celebrated in their communities,for having the gumption to go to the center and grab their own share.As though they were big -game hunters,returning home from successful hunts.And the duality of morality enables this,because where as stealing within the community is deplored,stealing from government is not.For government money is still seen as white man’s money.And that is fair game.Except,the new “white man” is the Niger Delta man.