Not too long ago, Nigeria was bedevilled by the Ebola Virus Disease. Mr. Patrick Sawyer, a Liberian- American, flew into Lagos with the disease and refused to inform the airport officials of his health status. It was as if the virus caught both Nigerians and the Nigerian government unawares. As of the time of Sawyer’s visit, average Nigerians knew little or nothing about this deadly fast killing virus. On the part of the government, none of the government health care facilities could boast the equipment required to effectively fight and contain the virus that is ravaging some countries in the West African sub-region such as Liberia, Guinea and Sierra Leone.
Immediately the index case of Sawyer was detected in Lagos, Nigerians and the Nigerian government put all their differences aside and united to fight the disease that sneaked into our country. There was no buck passing among politicians and the political parties. The Peoples Democratic Party did not blame the All Progressives Congress neither did the latter accuse the former of inviting the Liberian to the country. What we observed was that the PDP-led Federal Government worked effectively and synergistically with the APC-led governments in Lagos and Rivers states to contain the virus. There was a unity of purpose between these two never-agree political parties. We saw our leaders for the first time practising what they preach. Not only were we told to avoid hand shake, wash hands regularly, use sanitiser among other things but we also saw our leaders doing exactly the same things they asked the common man to do. It was not a case of the government official telling the people to go cashless while they carry millions of dollars in aircraft across the continent.
Considering the numerous challenges facing the country-ranging from insecurity to corruption and others, a number of lessons can be learnt from the country’s Ebola experience. Suffice to say that if the same can be replicated in the fight against corruption, for instance, it will go a long way in curbing this common enemy of our great nation. Both the leaders and the led should realise that the fight against corruption can never be won if we leave it to either the PDP or the APC. This fight should not be left for government agencies alone. Records have shown that neither the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission nor the Independent Corrupt Practices and other related offences Commission alone can win this fight against corruption.
It was reported that some people who had contact with those infested with the Ebola virus and were quarantined were stigmatised after they were certified Ebola-free. In some occasions, many were sacked from their jobs. In another instance, it was reported that neighbours ran away from one of the quarantined persons when he returned to his home. Banks, hospitals, hotels and other corporate organisations started screening their customers they could allow into their premises. Secondary and primary schools’ resumption date for the 2014/2015 academic session was postponed across the country. People started washing their hands regularly at will. Husbands, wives, brothers, sisters consciously advised their loved ones who were suspected to have the virus to go for treatment at the government quarantined centres. Those who refused to present themselves for medical observations and treatment were reported even by their close relatives and loved ones. What an unusual scenario?
This is obviously in sharp contrast with the ways Nigerians celebrate suspected and convicted corrupt individuals. It is on record that Nigeria is the only place where people can throw parties because a thief who stole public money and was sentenced to prison by a court of competent jurisdiction is returning from prison. We have had cases of a former governor of a state obtaining a ridiculous perpetual injunction from the court against the institution of the state empowered to fight corruption, not to prosecute him for the financial improprieties he committed when he was in the office. It is on record that both the government and the people have done absolutely nothing to vacate this kangaroo injunction. Regrettably this is fast becoming a culture in Nigeria.
The Minister of Petroleum Resources, Diezani Alison-Madueke, did not waste time to follow the same footsteps. She quickly went to such courts and obtained such unfortunate injunctions stopping the House of Representatives from probing her. She was accused of spending about N10 billion in hiring and chartering aircraft for her personal and family engagements with public funds. An Igbo proverb says, “Aruru ala gba afo, o buru omenala”, (when evil reigns in a land for a year, it becomes a culture).
Our religious leaders are not helping matters in the fight against corruption. Public officers who have helped themselves with our commonwealth are often given undeserved recognition and awards in our churches and mosques. These types of recognition have consciously or unconsciously gone a long way in affirming that there is nothing wrong in stealing public funds, thereby encouraging corruption in the country.
For Nigeria to win the fight against corruption, it is my humble submission that the same “methods” applied to Ebola should be extended to corruption. All individuals that have been convicted of corruption should not only be stigmatised but also isolated. Every corrupt practice should be reported to relevant agencies no matter who is involved. Corruption should be seen as our common enemy, that is fighting so hard to destroy our dear country. We have to stop seeing corruption as a PDP’s or APC’s problem. The negative effects of corruption are no respecter of any individual irrespective of how highly or lowly placed the individual is. Accidents for instance, resulting from bad roads do not care whether the victim is Hausa, Igbo or Yoruba. It is not only the poor masses that are suffering from the insecurity situation in the country; many of those who have lost their lives include highly placed individuals such as current and former political office holders, first class traditional rulers, religious leaders; and lowly placed individuals.
Let us therefore stand up and unite and make corruption a thing of the past in our country by fighting it the Ebola way, and Nigeria would be better for all of us. We can win the fight against corruption, the way we won Ebola’s, if we see the former as as deadly as the latter.