Essays / Satiric / The Pontifical Papers

WHY I AM CORRUPT | In Defense of Nigerians by Ayo Sogunro

Nigerians are corrupt, they say. I am a Nigerian and I know why I am corrupt.

I am corrupt because I am hungry. Because I need the food, the whole food and nothing but the food. Because I have to “hustle” if I want to see the food. Because without food I am useless, to myself and to society.  A hungry man has no principles; morality is a luxury affordable to the well fed. I am corrupt because my hustle for food is filled with obstacles, because I cannot work as a labourer without tipping the foreman, because I cannot work in the civil service without greasing the wheels, because I cannot work in the private sector without “knowing” someone, because I cannot get a contract without contributing to the network. I am corrupt because I am hungry.

I am corrupt because nobody knows tomorrow. I am corrupt because my society has no welfare plan and the pension scheme is unreliable. Yet a portion of my salary has to go to the pension scheme, tax and whatever else the government decides. I have no confidence in the private sector—because the labour laws are unhelpful. Because my employer is able to fire me without compensation. And other people are waiting to take my place. Because my hard built business may collapse any time. And it is a foolish person who forgets to plan for the future. I am corrupt because my daily bread is not secure. I am corrupt because I do not want to beg tomorrow.  I am corrupt because I do not want my children to be corrupt.

I am corrupt because tertiary education is a status symbol. I am corrupt because academic achievements are required to attain a comfortable middle class life. And even though I have technical and vocational skills, I cannot get a job without a certificate. The right certificate can make a way where there seems to be no way. I am corrupt because I have to do whatever it takes to get the right certificate. Because I do not want to be condemned to a second class economic life. I am corrupt because academic knowledge is power.

I am corrupt because I need a car. Because I need a power generator and a water pumping machine. Humanity has progressed and the individual must progress with it. And I want to enjoy the comforts that modern science and technology offer. I am corrupt because I would rather drive than walk for kilometres. I am corrupt because our cars are treated with more value than our roads. I am corrupt because we have bad roads. And the bad roads have ruined my car. And I have to pay my mechanic to be able to continue the use of my car. I am corrupt because I need a new car. I am corrupt because God has invented the private jet.

I am corrupt because I am religious. Look, heaven helps those who help themselves. I have been taught this since I was five, that the race is not to the swift or the battle to the strong. Because my religion insists that I will prosper only through divine favour. Because I have been assured that success does not come through hard work. Because I have seen people succeed in life without hard work. Because I must give my testimony too, someday. I am corrupt because I pay my tithes.

I am corrupt because the alternative is dangerous. In the final analysis, the price of honesty outweighs the consequences of corruption. Because there is no safety net for the honest person. Because a N100 note privately donated to the policeman is less cumbersome and less problematic than an honest trip to a Nigerian police station. I am corrupt because corruption is a logical process, because integrity is unreasonable. I am corrupt because corruption is ordinary: a mundane fact of life. I am corrupt because corruption works.

I am corrupt because the government is corrupt. And members of the government amass more power and gather more wealth. Worse, the lawmakers have legalized corruption and they simply allot public funds to themselves through the law.  Yet, the economics of the country hasn’t changed: the rich get richer and the poor get poorer. Because the government has an anti-corruption crusade but it has no welfare agenda. Because those who claim to tackle corruption belong to the corrupt system. I am corrupt because I don’t trust the government.

I am corrupt because the system is corrupt. Because this country is a public limited company whose majority shares are held by looters. Because this is the Federal Republic of Nigeria, Plc where corruption is the price of a sizeable shareholding. Because honest people don’t get to own a stake in the country. Because any Nigerian can become the President but a corrupt person stands a better chance.  Because shares in the government are being traded by the insiders. I am corrupt because this is an unregulated stock market. I am corrupt because everyone else is corrupt.

I am corrupt because I want to stop corruption. I am corrupt because I am a social activist. I am corrupt because I cannot change the system from without. I have to join the system if I want to change the system. I have to win an election if I want to join the system. I have to join the party if I want to win an election. I am corrupt because I am anti-corruption.

But you are not a Nigerian; you cannot understand why I am corrupt.

Ayo Sogunro is the author of The Wonderful Life of Senator Boniface and other Sorry Tales. A lawyer by profession, he also indulges in socio-legal philosophy on this blog. Interact with him on Twitter via @ayosogunro.





39 thoughts on “WHY I AM CORRUPT | In Defense of Nigerians by Ayo Sogunro

  1. Pingback: Dear Nigerian, corruption will kill you! | Superkay23's Blog

  2. Sincerity and integrity – two vital words that have lost their value in society. What do we do? Jump on the bandwagon or remain aloof? You did a nice job, Ayo! And to reward you, I’d become an ardent follower of this wonderful blog.


  3. what you just stated all boils down to leadership. Without purposeful leadership we would remain corrupt. Tony anenih was minister of works for years who had billions of naira at his disposal to fix our roads yet our roads are death traps. I am corrupt if i stand on the sidelines and wait for others to do the right thing while I run blogs , follow on twitter or vent my anger via facebook . Until we all imitate the likes of Dr. dora and are willing to pay the ultimate sacrifice for the frredon of our kids , we should all stop talking about corruption


    • Funny thing is even Dr Akinyuli while trying become governor became enmeshed in all kinds of issues…she took the position of minister of information even when many knew she was not fit for that job. Give another example. Dora was a great woman, but in the end. She was a Nigerian…and as nigerians , we r corrupt.


      • She initiated the doctrine of necessity when her fellow FEC members including the president were too “Nigerian” to have spoken out. Ford did not study automotive engineering yet he built cars. The concept of leadership is totally different from the concept of qualification . Leadership is an inherent ability to thrive within any environment , the ability to appoint people who are round pegs in round holes which she did. I would be honored if you could explain the issues she was enmshed in. I only read she returned funds back to the public purse when she could have looted it and years after her actions spoke for her. How Nigerian can she get? The “corrupt” Nigerians are those like I stated earlier who are arm chair critics . They love to seat on the sidelines while dissecting the failures of our society without proffering solutions. They are like the fans who seem to know how to play better than those in the field of play. Fortunately dora was not a Nigerian. Would you as a Nigerian go to jail rather than pay a bribe?


  4. I don’t even know we’re to begin cos you have, in one article, summarised my entire take of nigeria and corruption and truly no one would understand why we as Nigerians are corrupt except you are a Nigerian.

    Thanks Ayo for a job….never would words dry up with you.


  5. I love the way you have expressed the reasons for corruption. In Uganda, as in almost every country on our beloved continent, corruption is the order of the day. I have condemned the corrupt all this time and never thought of it like this..that they too were once honest before they degenerated into thieves because of the system ad the struggle for a better life. Also, I see now that I am corrupt too and corruption goes beyond the huge scandals in the big offices and extends to me giving the police officer a little money to look the other way. This is brilliant and provoking. Wow!


  6. Nice joke, Ayo!! Seriously, this is not excusable, except by those who think its someone else’s responsibility to build our nation. While we understand that corruption is a part of all political economies, excusing it in this way is at best lazy. We all have a duty to work on creating the basis upon which this argument is redundant (at least for the majority of us). The first step is that corruption and impunity must have consequences. Simply pointing to places where “things work’ without acknowledging that they did not get there with this mentality is folly. Look too at the consequences in those places. We all have a role to make it inexcusable – including by not joking about it Ayo.


    • am glad someone seems to have same opinion I share as regards this article. I am presently in the UK and most Nigerians I have met and that I have worked with in Nigeria are all culpable . Nigerians in diaspora will tell you that they have no choice than to also loot Nigeria dry because of the reasons ayo just stated. By now I expected ayo to have come with a piece proffering solutions as to how this “Nigerianess” in us can be expunged. I work with the Federal government of Nigeria and I have a friend , one amongst many who has actually returned funds to the Agency’s purse and he his in his 30’s. This article tends to give the impression that all Nigerians are corrupt and standing on the sidelines would not augur well for any one of us either


  7. It seems so wrong to an unconscientious audience in search of endorsement of misguided attitudinal dispositions.

    But, with this satirical persuasion on blatancy of corruption in Nigeria, the writer (Ayo Sogunro) puts forth (or catalogs) the stupidest excuses and justifications by our people to commit crimes and ethical violations against the human society; but being a Nigerian is not a license for immorality. At the time, the composition exposes the sorry communal sentiments in the nation, explains the repugnant mentalities of an entire citizenry in selfish bids to run Nigeria aground, and incites a reflection on vicious cycle of wealth-pursuit culture and the consequences of poor decisions from a people possessed by hungers (of sorts). A sad reality!


  8. I once a knew a man who raised himself out of poverty with heavy amount of hard work and also the grace of God. He strived to improve himself from his situation and refused to go the corrupt route. He stuck to what he believed in and his hardwork was rewarded and he made something of himself. Alas upon trying to teach those around him the way he was frowned upon as too ethical and not the kind of man to be given a political position. This man was not dismayed but carried on in his efforts. Forever making his life a service to all around him.

    Does he not wish for a better life? An opportunity to be appreciated? Probably he does but he sleeps well at night with the singular knowledge that he is not corrupt.

    Life is what one makes of it. The typical Nigerian is corrupt and yes I can see why but to the few that choose to stand for ideals let us sing and praise them.

    For it is easier to be a corrupt Nigerian and that I know.


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  19. Thought provoking. Honest. The thing is we can go into an academic tirade on how what Ayo has said is immoral, lazy e.t.c but it is truth. What we can do about it is another discussion. Corruption in my humble opinion will go away slowly when people can feed without having to cheat, steal or kill; because at the end of the day we will do a lot of things to stay alive. In Nigeria our politicians know this and keep their constituents on a leash through what we’ve come to know as ‘stomach infrastructure.’


  20. Sadly, what Ayo penned down is the reality of our situation and as funny as it sounds, it is quite thought-provoking and a call to action, the endemic nature of corruption alludes to a certain ‘fact’ that everyone is corrupt, which in itself is a fallacy, I believe without fear of contradiction that not only has ‘ The beautiful one been born’ but also lives among us.


  21. Pingback: WHY I AM CORRUPT | In Defense of Nigerians by Ayo Sogunro – Beauty, truth and elegance

  22. Wait.
    You acknowledge everyone is corrupt, including yourself.
    And you want more government? And You WANT TO BE GOVERNMENT?
    Seems to me you should be pushing for anarchy, instead, you just want to have whip so you can be the most corrupt one of them all.



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