The “Everyone-Else” Syndrome and Mass Complicity—My Corruption Story

All over our dear country are pointers of corruption: if it’s not the dilapidated roads which billions of naira have gone into their constructions, it is the budget with staggering figures for frivolous expenditures or it is the police, spread across Nigerian roads seeking bribes from motorists whom they end up extorting. Acts of corruption are tangible, breathing entities that can be felt all over the country.

We all have had different encounters with corruption because it is a regular thing. If one does not find acts of corruption, one need not worry, corrupt acts will soon find one! My most recent encounter with corruption was at the airport. Yes, it doesn’t sound out of place. If you have ever been to Nigerian airports, corruption stares you in the face almost at every direction. Often it is our security agents who perpetuate these. The same people who are saddled, in a great deal, with the responsibility of rooting out and fighting corrupt practices.

So, on that Saturday evening, as I arrived the International wing of the Murtala Mohammed Internal Airport, Lagos, I was already famished. As anyone who is acquainted with the Lagos terrain would know, moving from one point of Lagos to another could prove herculean. On that day I had spent about

4 hours commuting to the airport, hence, my famished state. Also my friend who has been at the airport waiting for a connecting flight was hungry as well. Expectedly when we met, the one thing on both our minds was to get food, but it turned our greatest undoing.

The eateries at the airport were inside the check-in area of the airport so to say; one must pass through a door manned by, on this very day, a FAAN official, a policeman and a military man. So as we approached the door, we told the finely dressed gentlemen, that we were hungry and would want to go in and get some food. They all suddenly began to wear a mischievous smile. Then one who seemed to have been self-appointed as the group’s spokesman asked if my friend and I were travelling. We said, no, just one of us. His mischievous smile broadened. He then shockingly requested that we have to “settle” them, to “find them something” in Nigerian speaks. All these being euphemisms for bribery.

My friend, who wasn’t having it at all, told them she had seen someone she knows walk in with his dad, why was the group now asking us to pay to gain entry. The self-appointed spokesman said the man gave them (pointing individually to the other ones) “something”. We were livid at this point. We insisted that we enter and get food but they were obstinate, also insisting that we parted with some money like everyone else. In the end, we couldn’t get food, we didn’t get food. It wasn’t just the security team that denied us food that day. Also complicit is “everyone else”. And that’s more disheartening. We all must interrogate the different roles we play in enabling corruption in our dear country. It is not enough to pontificate and point fingers, but we require conscious, positive action. It is the sense of entitlement that goes with these acts of corruption that is shocking. All around the airport that day were men in uniform who felt entitled to some sort of tips for doing their job. Their freaking job! From the moment the cab guy dropped me, a policeman kept at me till I left, asking for tips. Though we can’t all become saints and absolutely end corruption, we can reduce corrupt acts to an insignificant.

I am a Nigeria and this is My Corruption Story

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