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In its infancy, corruption has a justification—the quest for survival; having to drive to the back of a petrol station where a keg of petrol is loaded unto the boot of your car even though the petrol station declines to sell petrol into jerry cans to the general public—your undue advantage being that you know someone in the management of the station, or you were able to drive a good bargain by doling out cold cash. After all, your children who are now on holiday need it to power the generators so that the air conditioners can keep them cool during this season of heat waves while you are at work.

Corruption at this stage seems harmless, even though it is what it is since other people who want to buy petrol and have found themselves on the queue will buy petrol—eventually.

The thing is, corruption at this phase is the deadliest because you begin to build and reinforce the thought that you are more important than the rest of us. It is the phase where impunity suckles until it becomes the untethered monster that sinks its teeth in between the fabric of our nation literally draining it of its lifeblood— the innocent citizens that die daily in Nigeria by Nigerians.

Corruption like every ferocious monster is cute in its infancy as I am sure you won’t mind cuddling a week-old lion cub if it is placed in your arms. But wait until it is grown and try it if you live to tell the wanton destruction it leaves in its trail.

Recently, there was a bloodletting in Agatu, Benue State, for the reason that monies that could have been voted to set up a National Homeland Security Drone Surveillance Program to save Nigerians from the brewing menace of ‘foreign’ Fulani herdsmen had been voted into private pockets.

As harmless, yet shameless, as shunting the queue at the filling station while trying to buy fuel; or at the airport while trying to board a plane—may seem, it is corruption in its infancy; a form of idolatry; a worship of self, steeped in the thinking that one is ‘more equal’ than others to borrow the words of George Orwell in his book, The Animal Farm.

To worship simply means, to ascribe worth to a deity. Christians give offerings of praise, money, intercession and charity to ascribe worth to God. And so do Muslims. Both faiths frown at idolatry; the worship of a person or thing other than the one true God.

So when a person siphons money that should be used to create value for a country into their own private use, they make a statement that they are of more worth than the rest of us. When people shunt queues, they make the same statement. They take a position that belongs to God; they worship themselves, and that is idolatry.

As my mind now drifts back to the Fulani herdsmen that picked up machetes to ascribe more worth to their grazing cattle than to their fellow human beings in Agatu; and the complicit inactions of our political class, I can only say that the monster, Corruption, is fully grown and when it hungers, it will not discriminate between its adherents.

Only idolatry degrades the essence of a human being and this exactly is what corruption is.

  In respectful memory of Alhaji Abubakar Rimi, (1940-April 4, 2010)

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This article was first published on 4th April 2016


Nehikhare Omotayo Igbinijesu is an Economist, Poet, and Social Entrepreneur. 'He is the author of The Code: A Simple Story About Raising Great Women' and 'Marriage: 12 Questions You Need To Ask Before You Say, “I Do”'. He lives in Lagos with his wife, Akudo and two sons. He is Co-founder of, a motivational resources company based in Lagos. You can email him via nehijesu [at]

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