Last week, Kenyans woke up to the drama of a highly-placed individual behaving in a way that was way beneath the expectation of the holder of such an office.
This however is not the first case of office holders behaving badly. An official was caught on tape slapping someone. There is also the footage of two elected politicians engaged in a fist fight.
In Nigeria, there was a time when members of the National Assembly threw chairs at each other. When we see supposedly respectable people behaving badly we get upset, but in reality the problem is deeper than what we see. The problem is the expression of a society that is deprived of decorum and good manners.
There was a young man who was recently arrested by the FBI. He was a Nigerian who had portrayed himself as the newest thing in entrepreneurship. He was invited to several places to share his story: Multitudes wanted to hear his wisdom. At the end of it all, he was a fraudster and he was caught.
I remember years ago another young man who presented himself as the youngest billionaire in town. People flocked to wherever he was speaking and they held on to his every word. He was the toast of morning shows on television, and hopped from one network to another. Again, it turned out that there was no substance to back the image. It was all a facade.
Why are we so gullible? Why do we fall for the same thing over and over again even when it is coming from politicians or entertainers or so-called business people?
There is the story of a couple that reportedly has a violent relationship. That does not stop fans from gushing over them in admiration and hanging on to their every word. When they hosted an event for couples, thousands showed up. My wife, a colleague and I were discussing this and the big question was, what did they tell people?
The truth is that no matter what they said, people left the event full of adoration for the “wonderful” couple, even though they probably fought again when they got home.
THE PROBLEM IS US
The biggest problem in our society is us. It is our lack of values of distinction. I remember once when I went to a government office and outside, there was a large sign that read, “This is a corruption free zone”.
Inside, I met an official who proudly told us that a businessman who had just left the office had come with a $200,000 bribe for the government officials to approve a design that did not meet the city requirements, and they did.
When I asked why they would approve it, he said that now that they were in office it was “their turn to eat”. He went further on to explain that many people were depending on him, and so he needed to take care of himself in order to take care of all his dependants.
And therein lies our problem. We are a society that is more interested in what people have than in how they obtained what they have.
CORRUPTION BY ANY OTHER NAME
It is for this reason that corruption will not end unless something drastic happens. When a person gives away more than their annual salary at a single fundraising event, we celebrate it. It is the fault of the people who created a conducive environment for theft to thrive.
The concept of corruption will soon fade away, not because the vice has ended but because it has attained a new status. Because of the environment that we have created that looks only at actions without regard for inner values, a person will steal and be called a thief, steal again and still be called a thief, steal yet again and be called a thief but get to a point where because of the good works they do with the money, they will continue to steal and finally attain the status of Robin Hood — the champion of the poor and the helper of the helpless.
At that point, we will have a truly “corrupt-free” society, which is what we deserve. It is the reward for placing a premium on how things appear over how they really are.
Welcome to the continent of Robin Hoods. There is absolutely nowhere like Africa!
Wale Akinyemi is the chief transformation officer at PowerTalks