In 2001, a high-ranking military officer, a commodore, reluctantly offered me a literary metaphor for solving the problem of corruption but warned me earnestly not to take it literally. He informed me that African corruption was an African problem and can only be effectively solved by an African understanding. It is a tale worth sharing.
We have to assume corruption is a lion for this metaphor.
There was once an African village that was irregularly terrorised by lions. The village was without a ruler and was governed by the consensus of its elders. The villagers lived in constant fear. The attacks by the lions had been happening for several years. Sometimes the attacks were weak and sporadic, and at other times they were intense and regular. Occasionally, the acts of feline terror would claim a life or severely maim a man, woman or child. The lions’ terror also diminished the capacity of the villagers to cultivate crops, fetch wood, fish and travel far outside the perimeter of the village.
The villagers resorted to trying several innovative methods to eliminate or mitigate the terror of the lions, boosted by the egalitarian decision-making process they had in place. One method was to build a high wooden fence around the village. Another way was to dig a thorn filled moat around the village. Yet another was for the villagers to make strange loud sounds in unison when the lions were sighted. Then there was the use of dogs to bark at the lions in unison as a reinforcement. They even try to appease the lions by throwing their livestock to them. Other methods tried and adopted to keep the lions out. Unfortunately, whatever plan or approach the villagers chose worked for a while, sometimes for days, sometimes for weeks or even for months. Each time the method or approach adopted by the villagers successfully repelled the attack of the lions and brought security to the village, after a while, the lions overwhelm it.
Then one day, unexpectedly, Providence must have spoken to the villagers in the most indirect of ways. A young boy, ten years old, at a village meeting shockingly without any prompting yelled “why do we always try to keep the lions out? Why don’t we kill all the lions?” Almost immediately, the villagers were spurred into action by adopting the boy’s wisdom; they killed most of the lions while the remainder of them relocated to new lands. It was no surprise that the boy later became chief in a once chiefless village. And the villagers lived happily ever after without the fear of lions.
Nigeria is in the grip of the terror of corruption. Here is where the metaphor matters. Many anti-corruption undertakings in Nigeria have not worked. If a solution to corruption in Nigeria is to be found, all forms of it have to be effectively eradicated simultaneously rather than just exposed, mitigated or reformed piecemeal. It may require more-than-moderate to drastic measures to achieve. If such measures are adopted and diligently employed, the people of Nigeria or wherever it is implemented can live happily ever after in an uncorrupted society.
Remember, do not take the metaphor literally as attractive as it might seem.