There’s an old Bedouin story I heard or read somewhere that put some perspective into our culture of impunity for me. Its goes like this;
An rich old Bedouin lived in the desert with his eight wives, twenty sons and 44 daughters. He had many camel, sheep, donkeys and horses. His wives had many fowl and wore much gold.
One evening the old man was lounging in his tent when his sons ran in.
“Father, father. Big mother just reported that one of her chicken went missing. What are we to do?”
“Go find the chicken” the old Bedouin told them. But they didn’t find the chicken and soon enough forgot about it. After all it was just a chicken.
It was evening a few days later and the old Bedouin was again longing in his tents when the sons rushed in.
“Father, father. A dozen sheep are missing”
“Go find the chicken” the old man told them. But they had forgotten all about the chicken and already given it up for lost. They looked at the old man like he was crazy. “But father the chicken is lost. What should we do about the sheep?”
“Go find the chicken” the old man told them.
A few more days passed. It was evening and the old Bedouin lounged in his tent sucking on his shisha when his sons ran in.
“Father, father 18 donkeys are missing from the herd! What should we do?”
“Did you find the chicken?” the old man asked them.
His sons looked at him like he was insane.
“Father why are you still asking about one chicken when 18 donkeys are missing?”
And they went away shaking their heads. They never did find the donkeys and soon enough they stopped looking for them.
A few more days passed and it was evening and the old Bedouin lounged in his tent watching a belly dancer when his sons rushed in.
“Father, father 40 horses are missing from the herd! What should we do?”
And the old man asked “Did you find chicken?”
His sons got really upset.
“Why are you asking us about one chicken father when 40 horses are missing?”
And they walked away shaking their heads. After a few weeks of search they gave up looking.
A few weeks passed and the sons forgot all about the one chicken, the dozen sheep, the 18 donkeys, and the 40 horses. There was so much other more important things to do.
One evening the old Bedouin was lounging in his tent listening to a band of travelling musicians when his sons rushed in.
“Father, father” they shouted in panic ” a hundred camel are missing from the herd! What should we do?”
“Have you found the chicken?” the old man asked?
“Father you’re still talking about one chicken? A hundred camels are missing!”
They really thought their father was going senile. They walked out of the tent shaking their head. They looked for the camels for awhile but soon enough they were once again so engrossed in their lives they left off the search and forgot all about it.
A few moons had passed and it was a fine evening and the old Bedoiun lounged in his tent eating figs with his youngest wife Fatima when his sons rushed in very distressed and crying. Outside women and children wailed.
“Father, father!” they screamed “woe is us! Our sisters are missing? What should we do?”
“Did you find the chicken?” the old man asked.
“Father how can you be asking after one chicken when our sisters are missing?” his sons wailed and threw themselves on the ground. “How can you be asking of one chicken at a time like this?”
“Because if you had found the chicken you wouldn’t be missing your sisters.”
I like that story. It illustrates how important it is to stop small transgressions before the thieves become bold enough to commit big ones.
In Naija the tendency is to forgive all transgressions like Zik said, we’re conciliatory. Catch a thief and we collar him with a tyre but if we catch someone cheating we are reluctant to punish. ‘Don’t destroy his career, his marriage or whatever’.
I heard the tape of Farouk Lawan has been made available to various agencies yet no one is showing it to the public. No one is even leaking it. By now there should be a bootleg copy on YouTube. Or is there and I just haven’t seen it?
They’re still protecting him shielding him from the consequences of his bad behaviour which of course is why impunity reigns in Nigeria. We’re all guilty too. I know the Bible tells us forgiving is divine and a virtue and it is but people need consequences. It really is like training a dog. Reward good behaviour, punish bad behaviour.
We didn’t do anything when they stole a little so they just keep getting bolder and bolder. And by doing something I do not mean writing editorials or holding press conferences or protests. We didn’t gather the evidence and prosecute diligently. We turned a blind eye, even shared with the looters. Till they over ran us.
Give an opportunist an inch she’ll take a couple thousand miles. A study I read last week in the WSJ online suggest only one per cent of the population is honest all the time no matter what and only one per cent is dishonest all the time no matter what. The 98% of the population that is in between these two extremes will be dishonest if they feel they can get away with it and are kept honest by deterrence.
We Nigerians know we can get away with pretty much anything especially if you have money. There has to be consequences to bad behaviour. Most people will not be good just because some authority figure or the paternalistic government said so.
In my years working with the organised sector I have consistently preached this message. We the people must hold the elected representatives accountable and must make them feel the consequences of their actions.
I did just that in my places of work and I wasn’t very popular for it. As a matter of fact I’ve been asked by my line manager not to fire a troublesome and obviously corrupt employee out of consideration for his dependants and family.
I’ve always faced the consequences of my actions squarely. After all, I did it knowingly and willingly, right? An apology or an atonement is better than continuing the injury, right? So I’m really scandalized to hear Farouk Lawan claiming he will be vindicated. He’s still denying the charges. I guess he can. After all the PDP government has buried the video of him collecting the bribe. He’s probably still waiting for the balance of the $3 million before presenting it as evidence. I heard he was demanding Otedola send a private jet to bring it quickly.
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