The reason cannibalism isn’t rampant isn’t because we have strict laws against it. It is because we are (mostly) people who do not want to eat other people.
We never say, “I know that man ate a few people, but he did so much good for the community! Look at all the people he helped.”
No, we are turned off enough by his flesh-eating actions to disown everything else that he does.
We don’t have that same instinctive reaction to corruption. Even though we complain about it, talk about turning in the corrupt, fume about them getting off easy when they are caught, we are not disgusted by it.
We accept it. We are even occasionally proud of people we know who have been able to do it.
We brag about our family members in public office, about how much money they made, and about how if you went into wardrobes in their houses, you would find bags of money. We are comfortable with that.
In a conversation about elected office, my friend said, “If they put me there, I would steal money too. I just have to make sure to do some work. Because that is the problem we have in Nigeria, people are stealing money but not working.”
Apparently, the stealing is expected.
So when people clamour for government to root out dirty officials and bring corrupt businessmen to justice, I say, “who are we kidding?”
Is there any adult in Nigeria who doesn’t know at least one corrupt person? Anyone who doesn’t know a few people who can be given a little money to let some shit slide?
It would be nice to pretend there is a straightforward way out of this. That we can have President Jonathan rat out his close friends who are stealing the funds, we’ll string them up and parade them through the streets as lessons to everyone else.
But punishing them doesn’t stop corruption.
The truth is for every corrupt person in government, there are thousands of corrupt people waiting their turn to replace them and ‘chop’ their own money.
The law does not deter evil, it is the nature of the people that does that. All the law does is punish those people who have already set their hearts on evil.
And we are an indisciplined people with our hearts set on this particular evil.