WE shall keep remembering Charles Dickens (1812–1870). He might have been one of those who, in the early days, saw tomorrow. We are almost convinced that when he engaged himself in the superlative degree of comparison, close to a century and half ago, Dickens was already seeing the Nigeria of today.
One cannot get bored listening to the telling paragraph of his Tale of Two Cities: it was the best of times, it was the worst of times; it was the age of wisdom, it was the age of foolishness; it was the epoch of belief; it was the epoch of incredulity; it was the season of light, it was the season of darkness; it was the spring of hope, it was the winter of despair; we had everything before us, we had nothing before us….
In the particular case of Nigeria, we have attempted to add, it was the land of plenty, it was the land of stoic lack; it was a land of extreme religiosity and a land totally immersed in crime and criminality.
While we were encouraging ourselves over what science has achieved in the past few years, at least in the area of making everything – good and evil – easy for humanity, we almost forgot that everything has become a lot more difficult for the Nigerian. If he must go to school, he must do so in tears and excruciating pains. He knows from the beginning that he will eventually graduate into unemployment.
After the ordeal of going through school, he must enroll in the NYSC programme from which only the lucky ones return alive. Many have been consumed by the Boko Haram debacle.
Before we were aware of what was happening, the bribe-for-job initiative had been institutionalised and there is nothing anyone can do about it this late hour. The system is already so tightly entrenched and properly internalised that no one can break it anymore.
While we are yet focusing on the Federal Civil Service Commission and the Department of Immigration, the bribe-for-job scam is pervasive all through the Federation. The Federal Civil Service Commission and the Department of Immigration where the National Assembly is currently concentrating may be mere scapegoats – a clear case of the dog in whose mouth you have seen some excrement, whereas all dogs eat shit (Excuse my French).
It was the season of Christmas 2010. This friend of ours came calling from a neighbouring state. She was visibly happy. Why? She quickly announced that she was now in very good terms with the Chairman of their State Local Government Service Commission and that she has been allocated five slots in their recruitment exercise.
The slots were N200, 000 each. Apart from raising the N1 million for the five slots, she was also able to pay another N500, 000 for two other slots from another colleague who was unable to take advantage of his own allotted slots.
I confronted her. “Is that why you are happy, that you have been able to purchase appointment opportunities?” She retorted: “Yes o. These are people who graduated many years ago and they couldn’t find jobs.
They have been depending on my lean resources for everything. Besides, do you know how these appointments have suddenly increased my rating in the village and our family setting? I am so happy.”
She then opened up and informed me that the routine promotions now go for as much as N200, 000 – 500, 000. Deployment to areas considered as blue chips, say in the Customs, attract between N5 million and N10 million.
The bribe-for-job scam is not only in government. It is also widespread in commerce and industry. It is in cash or kind, with sex forming a major component.
This column declines jurisdiction on the decision of the role of the Church in all this.
For all we know, some churches have since become the high ground for evil. On the final day, many men of God will have a lot of explaining to do.
The 419ers have moved vigorously into the centre of it all. The unlucky applicants have yielded their bodies and/or money and no job was forthcoming. And the scam goes largely unreported. After all, it remains a con game in which those who would have reported the crime are part of it.
Their agents are all over the place. They prey on the innocence of these young applicants. Just last week, this writer got a phone call and the following conversation ensued: Caller: “Hello. Do you remember me? I am your friend, Mr. X, the one in Warri; who uses a blue Honda car.
I work in the personnel department of Chevron…” Me: “Ok. I can’t quite remember but is anything the matter? What’s guan?” Caller: “Do you want to work in Chevron?” Me: Has the MD resigned? What other position can I occupy there? Do you really know me? Caller: “Don’t you have children who need jobs? Today is the last day.
The pay is N180, 000 per month. You work for two weeks and take two weeks off”. Me: “You go waka go front. See how you have betrayed yourself so cheaply?
Those who know me are aware that my children are employers of labour and their drivers already earn a lot more than what you are now canvassing for Chevron!” That was the point at which I cut off the phone. How many unemployed youths can so strongly resist the devil so that he will flee?
The bottom-line is that when a man buys a job, it is cash-and-carry. It may not matter much that he is blind, deaf and dumb or lame. Standard is compromised. He comes into the service in a culture of corruption, which must be perpetuated.
From the very beginning, productivity, efficiency and discipline are sentenced to death. That’s why we are still where we are and there is no reason for hope! Which way, Nigeria?