A recent feature in news stories today are calls from the Nigerian Government urging youths not to engage in illegal activities to amass wealth. The latest in the series being advice from EFCC boss Ibrahim Magu telling the youths not to “blow”, that is, not to take quick routes to wealth. Conversely, the president’s anti-corruption fight is made evident in the media by uncovering grand discoveries of lootings and fraud. Recently the social media celebrity known as Mompha was outed as having laundered up to 33 billion naira. Recently the President called for a forensic audit of the Niger Delta Development Commission, revealing that billions of naira had been allocated to the commission since 2001, with little to show for it.
The Government’s effort to prove their dedication to the anti-corruption fight, though commendable, seem not to have taken into account the effects of these stories on the youths. With stories of grand corruption plastered all over the media, the resulting effect has been citizens engaging in grander and more complex schemes of corruption in order to achieve success. The current minimum wage set at 30,000 naira (less than $100 a month), has yet to be implemented due to what can only be described as bureaucratic bottlenecks. Taxes are increasing, with the senate most recently proposing a tax on communication services, which chairman of the Federal Inland Revenue Service, Babatunde Fowler justified by saying “Nigerians talk a lot on the phone”. These realisations are not encouraging for the average citizen, who is struggling to make ends meet. Taking into account the widespread poverty, citizens are seemingly more drawn to these stories of corruption and wealth amassment as no other reasonable alternative is presented to them.
A wiser approach would be to incentivize integrity. Highlight the amiable works of the crop of citizens who are doing the nation proud in spite of the difficult conditions. What becomes of the stories of citizens who returned huge sums of money found with little reward? The late Stella Adadevoh, whose act of ultimate self-sacrifice helped quarantine an Ebola scourge that threatened to wipe out large numbers of the population, could have become a symbol for the development of medical care in the country; rather what recently emerged was a quote from the Labour minister encouraging disgruntled Doctors to leave the country in search of greener pastures. A story from the Vice President urging the youths not to depend on their formal education does not speak well of specialization, especially with the realisations of politicians sending their children abroad for schooling. As it stands there seems to be little incentive for study or good will. An expose from statistician general of the federation revealed threats to his life for attempting to do his job diligently, from fellow government officials nonetheless.
We need more support for campaigns such as Integrity Icon, a program of Accountability Lab which identifies honest and outstanding Government officials and celebrates them, exposing their efforts to the world and instilling hope in the system. Most recently the campaign got an endorsement from the Embassy of Sweden to Nigeria, in an event titled “Meet the Icons”. Sweden, which ranked sixth in a 2017 Transparency International Corruption Perception Index, knows the importance of celebrating those who extol virtue. A productive economy can only come from a motivated citizenry, whose productivity and creativity are recognised, and most importantly, supported.