This is who we are: Thieves, corrupt, tribal and lazy

By:  Ben Patrick

I have seen an outrage by many people the past few days following the Financial Intelligence Report and some recordings as well as reports of some people – public and private individuals purported to be involved in grand corruption.

It is easy to join the complaint bandwagon and appear smart like some architects of this very social rot are now doing, but let us be honest, whatever is happening around us is a reflection of who we are as a nation:

If the politicians are corrupt, it is because we are corrupt.

If politicians are thieves and plunders, it is because of us, on average, given an opportunity, we would be thieves and plunderers. In fact, most cases of white collar thefts have involved not politicians, but rather highly educated citizens working in either the civil service or the private sector. In fact, doesn’t the Financial Intelligence Report actually state that the so-called Politically Exposed Persons ‘clean’ their loot with the aid of private individuals such as lawyers and bankers?

We say politicians are tribal, well, aren’t average us citizens tribal? Don’t we, traditionally, and ‘ideally’ culturally even marry on tribal lines? To this day, don’t we have people among us object to intermarriages? Don’t we, on average, even in professional work places prefer to employ and promote those from the same region or tribe? I am not trying to promote any of these vices, but don’t they exist in our homes? Work places? Aren’t they the ‘norm’?

Let us face it, how many of us don’t love being paid without working? How many civil servants get DSA without actually being at meetings? How many highly educated senior officials sign for cheques for work they have not done? How many bricklayers get paid and then disappear without working, to only come when they are broke? How many of us have asked for 10% to award contracts? How many of us have bribed their way to get a job? How many of us have abused their leadership authority? How many of our siblings feel entitled to our support for not doing anything, but merely being siblings?  This is who we are, even at the political level.

Simply put, the politicians we are calling thieves, plunderers and tribalists are nothing but a mere reflection of what our society has to offer, what we have to offer as a people to the political environment.

The problems we face were not thrust on us by some cruel act of God or the Devil, no, they are a reflection of our collective choices and values as a people, as Africans. Our leaders do not come from some far away universe, no, rather, our leaders come from among us: They are born and raised in our environments, some are educated in our very schools while others even have greater education abroad, yet, their true social nature is shaped by our environment which we sustain as is.

Our leaders are a reflection of who we are as a society and ideally, we must be proud of them and all they are doing, because that is who we are!

Today, the very people we blame, if they crossed camps and sung oppositions songs, some of the people condemning them would rejoice, because they would be set on a path to gain personally. Today, with all the open reported ills, we have a clique among us that justifies the status because it benefits them.

So what is the difference? Is it because one group is eating and the other is not? Probably, otherwise, what explains people’s constant shape shifting depending on who is buttering their bread?

So until we make changes at the individual, household and society level to do away with the vices that are entrenched in us, we shouldn’t expect much at the political level.

Until then, we are a nation of thieves, tribalists, lazy & corrupt individuals!

Change starts with you, so, are you changing your attributes today?

Ben Patrick is a PhD Fellow at University of Aberdeen Senior Consultants and Cofounder of ShimaHR Consultants Limited.

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