By: Jacob N.B Parley
When it comes to what actually causes a man to engage himself in unacceptable practices such as corruption, unprincipled advantage taking, greed and related vices in any society, several schools of thought continue to proliferate.
- One is that it is the society in which an individual lives that makes him to be corrupt.
- The other school of thought is that it is the very man who causes the environment to be polluted through actions that are incompatible as far as the concept of decency is concerned.
I am not in the position to enter the intellectual boxing ring with those whose opinion on the issue may run contrary to the way I see things as an individual.
However, a recollection of what a former teacher of mine once said is almost sufficient to provide the necessary clues that quickly see me on the opposite side of the intellectual divide.
While attending Zwedru Multilateral High School from 1982 to 1987, I initially decided to pick up electricity as a trade at Multilateral. I am sure that everyone is aware that ZMHS is one of the vocational technical institutions of learning in Liberia.
It may sound laughable that my initial plan to take up electricity was dashed upon seeing a displayed picture of a practicing electrician who allegedly got electrocuted while doing a piece of job. I quickly changed my mind right after orientation and decided to do business education.
While there, the teacher I am talking about, a Ghanaian, Mr. Ernest O. Kingsley joined a student related argument which had begun before he entered the class to teach book keeping.
One group said mankind by nature is corruption free, but observed that it is the communities in which people live that make them to do the wrong things. Some said communities do not exhibit the characteristics of human beings, so how can they have such negative impact of their inhabitants.
‘’Communities do not enter banks and other places to steal, neither do they walk into our latrines to make them filthy,” said one of our colleagues.
As the argument was reaching what I will call its peak, our book keeping instructor walked into the class and closely followed our argument. After a while, he called our attention and said, ‘’One of the things that lead to corruption is the inordinate desire of certain people to always want too much for themselves even when it is obvious that their income cannot afford what they want at a particular time.”
My former instructor’s point and what I keep hearing and seeing today is enough to ring a bell in the loudest manner that indeed, wanting too much for oneself could lead to stealing and other negative practices.
In our country today, there are reports that some of those accused of corruption are individuals who allegedly have the history of wanting too much for themselves at the expense of their reputation. Every time I sit with some of my former school mates and others who know my potential and the time I have put in over the years to help build up my capacity as a media practitioner, they ask certain questions that make me laugh at times.
For instance, some of them would say: “Jacob, you have been in this press business for long time now and so we know you have at least two cars in the traffic to add to your monthly salary.’’ There are times my colleagues even go the extra mile and imagine some other huge benefits and resources they think I am getting considering my performance, qualification and some of the prominent individuals I interview at times and also the frequency of my stories.
I claim all the good things my concerned friends keep talking about and predicting, in the name of Jesus.
I don’t want to believe that these colleagues of mine are making mockery of me as some people may be thinking. Instead, I think they are concerned about my well-being as a productive individual because reward sweetens human labor. However, in our country today, performance and qualification seem not to matter in some of our institutions. Instead, many payroll records are replete with unending stories of salaries and allowances being determined, not on the basis of qualification, job description/ title, but who brings you into the system or how connected an employee is.
The noise and uneasiness arising from some of our institutions, especially government-owned entities clearly tell any enlightened mind that our merit system has collapsed.
Most of our institutions have turned into notable vehicles for the accommodation of family members, friends and relatives, some of whom lack the procedural knowhow to perform duties assigned them. But in terms of salaries and huge benefits, they are offered what professional or experienced employees are far from earning even when these qualify people remain in some of these entities for the rest of the years-up to retirement.
What a country of unending painful surprises!
This is because in some institutions, the more you strive to be productive or diligent; detractors will say the wrong things about you.
‘’You think he’s sending in all those stories from the field or from that assignment for nothing, I think he’s receiving something from there, so let’s change him from the place right away.’’
As I was saying, every time my colleagues put forth some of these concerns, I always try to put my point this way; ‘’Well, gentlemen, you may be right but I believe in managing the little salary I’m making instead of trying to put my hands to where my monthly income cannot reach me.” We usually laugh together and go to other discussions.
In Liberia today, it is becoming glaring that the tendency of certain people trying to live above their income is a major source of the tears we are sharing today. I am talking about tears arising out of the evil of increasing reports of corruption.
From the perspective of common sense, anyone who always wants to live above his income will automatically hurt others by denying them what is meant for them. The way such elements try to satisfy their inordinate desire for material wealth is to go the extra mile by depriving others without any remorse.
Today, a lot of individuals in Liberia, including young people seem not to be moved even if they were handcuffed in broad day light and dragged in the streets of Monrovia for alleged corruption.
What matters most, to some of these people is what they can take home to appease their quest for financial /material well-being at the perils of their reputation.
I wonder why someone would prefer enslaving his reputation for the sake material well-being.
Each time I read some of the local dailies listen to the news about people, especially young people being sent to court or jail for alleged corruption, my heart bleeds from a psychological stand point.
Perhaps we have not realized that all of these negative practices, whether in high places or at the lower level of society are helping to retard progress in Liberia. These vices are affecting nearly every segment of the Liberian society, including my so dearly cherished journalism profession.
What a financially sinful nation we live in today, that nearly everyone who is given an opportunity to serve prefers to fill his own pockets before thinking about the very country he claims to love.
Following conversations on street shoulders, sitting in public gatherings, some Liberians are brave to openly and shamelessly declare: “If big people can steal our country’s resources and nothing can come out of it, why I can’t steal,too?
There are also reports that the few who want to do what is correct are targeted by others who see these vices as rewarding. Some other people feel compared to engage in corrupt practices because there is a likelihood of people making unfriendly comments against them after leaving certain key positions. For instance, ‘’He was whole minister or commissioner for all those years and he didn’t do anything for himself because he wanted to act like an Angel.”
While I agree that there are cases in which some people don’t manage their salaries to improve their lives, our society shows that when people make such observation (He didn’t do anything for himself when he was in that big position), they simply mean that the person being referred to needed to take more than what was legally set aside for him in line with his title or job description to go the extra mile –stealing.
While I agree that some big hands have been accused of corruption, does it mean that others who see such practice as harmful cannot make a difference by doing what is prudent to help move our country forward?
For those who may believe that there is currently an attached premium to acts of corruption in our country, I wish to equally remind these people that I am one of the few Liberians who strongly believe that Liberia will not remain like this in the years ahead. I can proudly, with the help of the Almighty God, say there will one day be a Liberia in which people with unpleasant financial history, among other negative records, to include corruption may not have any space to stand.
The darkness may not be thick enough to cover them or protect them against shame and prosecution.
However, I think it is not too late for us to change our attitudes by beginning to wear the coat of nationalism, patriotism, honesty, and love in the highest degree so that we can succeed in collectively replacing the lost years.
At 169, I think we deserve more than what we have today, considering a small population of 3.5million people.
I am not saying we are not making any progress after nearly fourteen years of civil war. But I think we need to roll up our sleeves and move faster, considering our abundant natural resources;( gold, iron ore, timber, rubber and diamond) , while there are increasing reports of oil blocks knocking at our door as a nation.
Let me be loud and clear that all of us need to be part of the process of transforming Liberia, not through mere words but practical steps.
A hint to the wise is quite sufficient!
The author is journalist by profession, reachable through firstname.lastname@example.org/0886560455