Face to face with Corruption

"Doctor, I have completed your clearance for you. Oya, find me something."

Sharply, I turned my face to stare at him.

I had just graduated medical school, and as part of the compulsory clearance, I had to do a library clearance, where they'd have to see through their records if I had outstanding fees to pay or library books unreturned.

I was squeaky clean.
No fines.

So, hearing those words shocked me.

"Are you still looking at me? You know if I don't append my signature on your clearance form, you cannot be inducted. So, do something. You are a doctor."

That familiar feeling came back; the burning sensation I feel within my chest whenever a scene of injustice courses by.

The molten wrath, like magma climbed up my oesophagus, fuming and frying, till...

"What on earth are you asking me for, Sir? A bribe?? Do you realise that this is corruption? Asking me to hand you some money for doing what you are paid to do?"

He clearly didn't see this coming.
The weight of the word "corruption" was too much for him.

Visibly embarrassed and angry at the same time, he handed me my form.

"Oya, carry your trouble and go. You are accusing me of bribery and corruption? Okay, you will wait for Madam to come back to sign for you."

"No problems, Sir. I will wait." I retorted, catching my breath.

A couple of minutes later, Madam arrived.

She quickly signed my form, but not without an admonition.

"You could have just helped him. It's not by force. It's a kind gesture."

Turning my heels home, my head was filled with thoughts.

It's easy for my countrymen and women to blame the government for corruption.

In fact, that's what we do everyday.

But, any attempt at turning the lights inwards into our own dealings with business associates, is met with resistance.

We justify our misdeeds with a whole lot of things.

Indeed, we have divided corruption into two large camps:

The corruption of greed, practised by the politicians and the élite; and
The corruption of need, practised by the rest of us.

Somehow, the corruption of need is seen to be not that serious.

"His wife just had a baby. His children have been sent out of school. There is no food at home. So, what else did you want him to do? He had to do it to survive."

While it is easily obvious that the corruption of need tends to place the person in need on a pedestal of complete exoneration, what is not quickly noticed is the brazen selfishness embedded in that school of thought.

The person you are extorting that money from to meet your need is very likely himself to be neck deep in his own needs.
But the corruption of need does not see this.
And it doesn't even care.

Like the soldier who cocked his gun to pierce the lungs of a Keke driver over a fifty naira squabble, the corruption of need is totally blind to the needs of others.

The bleeding man was rushed to the emergency unit of our teaching hospital.
I was just beginning my clinical years.

"My children! My children!" He continued to wail.

But the oxygen tank was empty.

Whoever saw to that may have also justified themselves with the mountain of needs in their home.

"My children! My children!" He wept.

And in moments, he was gone.

The corruption of need perpetrated by a poor soldier and by the needy person who withheld the money for the oxygen tank refill, made this man's children fatherless.

Sitting behind our phones and keypads to tweet criticisms at the government while justifying the extortion we have so cleverly rationalised as "help", "corruption of need" and this annoying one: "blessing"; only puts us on a very vicious cycle.

I really cannot tell how far we can continue on this doomed pathway, before the oil dries out of the Atlantic and economic apocalypse visits.

I'm just sitting here with my hand beneath my chin, watching cows use a flyover.

Written by Dr. Uju.

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