*Institutionalised Poverty, the Driver of Corruption*
(An Essay by Pastor Emmanuel Okonkwo)
Why are our people corrupt?
Why is corruption synonymous with us?
Why are even the very rich still corrupt, still stealing ?
The answer is simple.
Let’s explain institutionalised poverty first before I return to show you why and how it is the driver of corruption .
There is poverty.
It is a personal thing. People can be poor. No big deal.
But there is institutionalised poverty!
That’s big deal.
It is poverty that is built into the system.
*It is when a system is so loaded against the people that you have a 95% chance of being poor and disenfranchised in your country!*
When I was in England,as imperfect as England is, I never ever ever ever thought that I could ever be poor, not even with the added liability of my black skin and my thick Nigerian accent.
I obtained a Master degree from University of East London but honestly, I didn’t need it to put food on my table!
There was poverty, it was personal , never institutionalised.
In fact every time I go to England , I feel rich, I feel confident , I feel I have a chance.
Whenever I arrive in Nigeria, even at my level, I can sense immediately the gravitational and systemic pull of institutionalised poverty.
I always sense that it is possible that I can wake up one morning and beg for bread.
No regular Nigerian is ever far from that possibility!
Whenever I come into Nigeria, I get a sense that anything can happen to me here; I can quite easily wind up a poor man even with all my talent.
I never felt that way in London, not once !
That’s institutionalised poverty.
*So what are the ingredients of institutionalised poverty?*
How do you recognise a country that has entrenched institutionalised poverty?
There are things to watch out for.
*First, Life time unemployment.*
A system that guarantees that a person can be unemployed for a life time or under employed for a life time is a system with institutionalised poverty.
Underemployment is when a Master’s degree holder is working as a security guard.
I am a pastor. I know people who are 50 years old today and have never been employed. They have spent an entire life time seeking work and have never found work.
*Second, Minimum wage below living wage.*
A country that has a minimum wage that is below living wage is a country with institutionalised poverty.
A minimum wage that cannot even get someone the worst of accommodation around is one of the hallmarks of a country with institutionalised poverty.
*Third, The absence of social security or safety net.*
When the above two exist and then you have a system with no health insurance or social insurance of any kind for the people, the institutionalisation of poverty has been perfected.
*When these hallmarks of institutionalised poverty are perfected , corruption can never be eradicated.*
That’s why our religion and churches have not done much.
*Here’s why institutionalised poverty makes corruption unconquerable.*
*When the dice of the system is loaded to make you poor , then something happens in every one of us. An animal instinct kicks in.*
The man who is on minimum wage that is below living wage must steal.
You earn 18k a month but need 60k to just survive.
What should he do? You tell me!
Now many say, OK, that explains why the poor steals but why are the rich still stealing?.
Well here is why the rich are still stealing:
They need to steal to “hedge their family” from the risking and possibility of institutionalised poverty.
They want to guarantee that them and theirs can never again fall victim to this monster.
They are thinking “in this system that guarantees poverty for its citizens, how much do I need to steal to make sure that I secure my family to the 5th generation from the gravitational force of institutionalised poverty?”
“How can I use this one chance I have at power, to make sure that generations of my family will never again run the risk of being poor?”.
The loot they obtain by corruption is simply a “hedge fund” against institutionalised poverty!
So the poor steals because of the direct effect of institutionalised poverty.
The rich steals because of the fear of it.
So , what’s the Solution?
A society without institutionalised poverty!
We have never been ruled by a visionary!
We have never had a Mahatma Ghandi, never had a George Washington or a Lee Kuan Yew.
It’s the curse of Nigeria!
Not even the folks who fought for independence had a vision that went beyond personal and tribal.
The best amongst them was just there to look after himself or install a tribal hegemony!
They were “mostly small men” who ran into power and never really had a high vision of what to do with it.
I know we like to talk about them like they are patriotic saints but we should know better.
We have never had a single leader with a vision to “wipe out institutionalised poverty”.
And until institutionalised poverty is wiped out, corruption will continue to thrive.
Deal with institutionalised poverty and you have cut off the head of the snake called corruption.
It might sill wiggle for a while but in a few moment it will be dead!
Pastor Emmanuel Okonkwo.