Corruption has been one of the major issues Nigeria as a nation has been facing for years. But the people at the helms of the country’s affairs have failed to look at the root cause of corruption. After reading the opinions of scholars and religious articles, I was able to conclude that societal immorality is one of the major factors fuelling corruption in Nigeria. In Nigeria, we often associate corruption with politicians and government officials. Meanwhile, we as the citizens are guilty of some forms of corruption, either in our workplace, amongst friends, in our inter-personal relationships, in our business dealings and even during petty trade dealings. We fail to acknowledge that it is average Nigerians that end up as politicians. Average Nigerians are the ones who carry out criminal activities daily. The moral decay in Nigeria keeps getting depraved that is why we have people who kidnap others for ransom, we have people breaking into other people’s houses to steal, In Nigeria today you cannot travel from Kwara State to Sokoto state by road without the fear of being kidnapped for ransom. It is not the government officials who stay on the roads to kidnap citizens, it is our fellow Nigerian citizens who carry out this heinous act. Some people would say Nigeria has porous borders which allow criminals from other countries to flock into Nigeria to commit their acts, but I would like to see this from another viewpoint; there is no way a foreigner would have committed a crime in a place without the help of the locals. In our country today you cannot sleep with both eyes closed. It is not just the government that has failed Nigerians, but we the citizens have also failed to carry out the duties and moral responsibility we owe to the nation.
Societal immorality is a bigger problem than insecurity. From an Islamic religious point of view, Islam came as a message of guidance from God to all creation at a time when ignorance and corruption were universal. The achievements of Islamic thoughts were enough to bring light, guidance, and knowledge to humanity. Islam categorically forbids lying, stealing, cheating, and negligence but in our society today these forbidden things are now seen as a norm. I am certain it is the same for Christianity too, those things are forbidden. They are not just forbidden because God was showing us humans his might, they simply actions that will see a man carrying out injustice on his fellow man.
Immorality is essentially the violation of the social norms; evidence shows that immorality tends to be intuitive and emotional in actual social actions but in recollections of moral experiences it is reflected upon with rational reasoning and justification. For example, the person who commits a crime of theft tries to morally justify his actions by saying the person he stole from has enough of the item stolen, so what he/she stole will not be a problem. What the thief has failed to put in perspective is that the victim of his action has been subjected to injustice from him even if the victim has more of the stolen item. If you reverse the role the thief would also cry that someone has stolen from him. Another example is the fact that a portion of society today tries to justify why the rate of kidnapping has risen in the country by saying the government is failing to meet the demands of some group of people. Primarily, making other people suffer for the wrongdoings meted on you is wrong, because in this case people are being kidnapped by criminal syndicates while travelling,they are being kidnapped in their homes, and when they are going about with their daily activities. How can you not feel safe in your fatherland due to the actions of your fellow countrymen? This is wrong, they are innocent people who are unable to fortify themselves with security personnels or unable to transport themselves via airplanes, so they settle for what they have. However, they are the victims of some other people’s immorality, others are being exploited by some groups who are also Nigerians yet we still blame the government. This is not just a problem from the top, the problem is actually from the bottom.
The issue of societal immorality is far bigger than what I can fit in this write-up, but I will point out what is obvious. Some key institutions in Nigeria are meant to uphold the laws of the nation for example the Nigerian Police Force. The Police force consists of Nigerians not foreigners, but the way some officers of this institution carry out their duty of securing the lives and properties of the citizens is very bad. Not to say the entire police force is bad, but some officers have been seriously affected by the moral decay in the country which as rubbed off on the officers who tend to exploit ordinary citizens by virtue of their position and for the fact that they are armed. I have been a victim of the immoral acts of some bad police officers, but that is a topic for another day. In the United Kingdom for example the police do not carry ammunition while doing their routine patrols, this is possible because the society portrays a certain level of morality, they do not perceive threats because they believe their citizens uphold good morals to a certain level. In contrast to Nigeria, it is completely impossible for police officers to patrol without being armed; this is because we Nigerians see other Nigerians as threats and It is only happening because we do not value good morals in the country again. This is not to say the United Kingdom does not have its level of immorality. Another example is that of Saudi Arabia where a vehicle owner can leave the engine of his car running and walk into a shop to buy something without the fear of the car being stolen. The car was not stolen because the people that make up the society know that good morals and values are very important to the security of their society. They understand that the moment theft becomes a norm in their society, that will be the beginning of their decline.
It is an open secret that bribery is now normal in the country. This is not only common in the affairs of the government, but it has also become a norm in the daily lives of average Nigerians. For example, bank security officials or workers will help you jump the cue just because you will offer them a stipend. People will expect you to pay for something that is meant to be free, just because they are at the helms of affairs there, your failure to comply with their demands would see your efforts being frustrated.
Morally, we have declined to the point that our normal activities are hardly just and sincere. The worst thing about societal immorality is that our children will be guided through the same immoral conduit so that they can adapt to the same society’s painful expectations. This is dangerous for any society, as what comes after this is the society’s ruin and annihilation, it can be seen today with everything going on in the country.
We need to tackle this issue before we slip into a pit of no return and see our nation to its ruins. For our society to be developed on a true moral footing, then we must teach our children the good virtues of honesty, truth, regard for one another and above all the fear of the one who created us. The sooner we get on track, the better it is for the social, fiscal, political, security, cultural, and conscientious development of the nation. Average Nigerians need to drop the mentality of themselves first before any other person. We need to recognise that a progressive nation’s foundation is the good morals and values of its people. Our leaders should stop fuelling our division lines and blur it out so that we can feel the spirit of “One Nigeria” once again.
Farid Abdulrazzaq Sholagberu
LLB (Brunel University London)
LLM (University of Law, Bloomsbury London)
Kabir Olanrewaju Ishowo is a Kwara-Born, a community developer, An Online Media Practioner and the CEO/Publisher of Gistmeblog247.