Explainers, Politics
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Nigeria and Morality of Corruption

The causes and effects of corruption, and how to combat corruption, are issues that are increasingly on the national and international agendas of politicians and other policymakers. Corruption is not a major problem in some countries as it is in Nigeria today. The evolution of corruption in Nigeria could be traced back to pre-colonial era, but many believe it exploded like epidemic in the 80s, in particular under Babangida’s administration. One of the reasons former President, Olusegun Obasanjo, established the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission – EFCC in 2003. Since its establishment EFCC has proved to be the only agency in Nigeria with the best striking skills to fight a very defensive corrupt society.

It was number one on the primary agenda of the current President of Nigeria, Muhammadu Buhari GCFR, during his campaign in 2015. The revelations since it took office about millions of dollar some individuals appropriate to themselves without due process and with the sole intent of looting the commonwealth of the country is mind-boggling to say the least. A petty question that comes to mind when one sees the buried cash, stocked hard currencies and monies fixed in proxies’ accounts in the news, is how heartless are these individuals? They aren’t that heartless, rather they are brainless!

The question to ask is “what would they do if money was no object?”. A philosophical analysis of money vs wealth by British philosopher Alan Watts suggests that:

“The moral challenge and the grim problem we face is that the life of affluence and pleasure requires exact discipline and high imagination.”

It is evident that most corrupt officials lack discipline and any form of imagination.

And yet, despite our best efforts not to worry about it, money is an object — so much so that it renders the question all the more urgent and pressing today, in our age of growing political corruption coupled with increasing insensitivity to amoral acts by the citizenry themselves. Those that ought to reject any form of corruption, instead have no abhorrent attitude towards it. Some of them even do not consider corruption obnoxious and detestable. They believe everyone are the same (corrupt) and as such no one should be seen as different (upright/incorruptible). This is the premise and justification for witch-hunt by these people whenever an individual is investigated for corrupt practices.

I will quote Alan Watts as a response to these sophists:

“If you say that money is the most important thing, you’ll spend your life completely wasting your time: You’ll be doing things you don’t like doing in order to go on living, that is, in order to go on doing things you don’t like doing — which is stupid!”

Alan Watts response is a poignant exploration of our tendency to confuse money with wealth, a manifestation of our more general inclination to mistake symbol for reality, which Watts considers “the peculiar and perhaps fatal fallacy of civilization.” Many people today worship money, allowing money to be subject while they turn themselves to object. What can we do to help the corrupt ones among us become subject over money?

Alan Watts spent his career reconciling Eastern Zen practices with Western thought and civilization. In his lectures, Watts explores the makeup of Western society and offers insight that releases us from the confines of our unquestioned social norms. Watts encourages readers and listeners to achieve a state of existence, in which we become the designers of our own experiences, our own identities, and the cultivators of our own happiness.

To do this, Watts asks you to answer the original question again, but this time eliminate perhaps your greatest perceived obstacle:

“What would I like to do if money were no object? What would you really like to do in my life?”

Watts urges us to detach ourselves from the internalized notion that money will bring us happiness, to relieve ourselves from the impulse to chase something that can offer us some sort of quantifiable understanding of our achievements and our existence—something that is (seemingly) material. He goes on: “If you say that getting the money is the most important thing, you will spend your life completely wasting your time.” To structure your existence with an objective of monetary gain is to spend a lifetime chasing an abstraction; “[Money] is only an accounting of economic energy,” and its relationship to happiness is an ideological construct which denies us the ability to discover our own identity and carve our signature on life.

For Watts: “Experience is a thing we are taught. We are taught what experiences are permissible and not, just in the same way we are taught what speech is permissible and not, and what actions are permissible and what are not.”

It is so easy to follow what we are taught, to walk the beaten path, but while “Social pressures are irresistible,” Watts directs us towards deviation:

“Clouds never make mistakes. Have you ever seen a misshapen cloud? Have you ever seen a badly designed wave? No, they always do the right thing. So, as a matter of fact, do we, because we are natural beings just like clouds and waves.”

For Watts, a mistake in life is an organic occurrence—in the grand scheme, no mistake at all. Deviation from a normative path surely comes with its own potholes, but missteps form a necessary cycle for natural beings to flow through and to learn from.

A wave, regardless of its design, will constantly rise and fall, much like our journey that comes with its own highs and lows. How do we move through these cycles, and seek what we desire, without giving into pressures? “Trust your own mind,” says Watts; trust that when you make a mistake, you will rise back up; trust that your mind will reveal your desires and permit you the ability to feel what is right. After all, happiness is not quantifiable, it cannot be measured; happiness is a state of being. It can be felt. It requires constant work to be achieved and then achieved again. This is the result of unlearning experiences we are taught and allowing ourselves to listen to our own waves, our own ebbs and flows which compose the events of our life and the cycles of our mind. “You identify yourself with a series of events that you remember.”

How do you want to identify yourself?

In the next article, I will be looking at what corruption is. The reason being that most of the definitions of corruption are unsatisfactory in fairly obvious ways. Conceptualizing one given by the former President, Goodluck Johnathan, when he attempted a definition of corruption by first eliminating what is not corruption. According to him, mere stealing is not corruption. Is stealing not corruption?

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