Nigeria is one of the most corrupt countries in the world. Transparency International as at the last reckoning gave us a score of 26/100 and ranked us 136/168. In other words, out of 167 countries analyzed, only 32 countries were more corrupt than us. There’s no gainsaying that virtually all the problems we’re facing in this nation is due to corruption. From an economy that’s in recession, poor education, and infrastructural decay, to insecurity, unemployment, and poor health indices, the ugly elephant called ‘corruption’ can not but be held responsible. But on the other hand, we Nigerians love what is called ‘unmerited favour’. Are both connected? As in is our love for unmerited favour linked to the deep corruption ravaging the nation?
Let’s start by examining both terms and see if there’s an overlap. Corruption is not a new word. We all know what it means. Corruption is when you own what you don’t deserve. Corruption is when your belongings are more than what you’ve worked for or gotten legally. Corruption is when what shouldn’t belong to you belongs to you. Corruption is when you give to someone what they don’t deserve or you aid and abet them in getting more than they’ve worked for. Once again, I doubt if there’s a Nigerian that can’t expertly define corruption.
On the other hand, unmerited favour is not a stranger too. Pastors use it as the title of their messages. ‘Unmerited’ means ‘what you don’t merit or deserve.’ Most people regard unmerited favour as when a higher power grants their wish and gives them what they haven’t deserved. You attend an interview. You’re the less qualified applicant but a higher power makes them give you the job instead of the person that’s qualified. That’s unmerited favour. When we were in the university, folks used to give testimonies of God showing them answers in their dreams a day before the exam. That’s how someone who hasn’t prepared for an exam passes while the person that has prepared fails. That’s unmerited favour. The government contract is supposed to be quoted at ₦100m but you somehow get the contract for ₦150m. That’s unmerited favour.
Let’s bring nepotism in. When Buhari appoints someone who is not qualified for the job as minister just because she’s from his part of the country, we say it’s corruption and nepotism. The lady sees it as unmerited favour. When God gives something just because you’re his child, everybody say it’s unmerited favour. When Buhari does exactly the same thing, we call it nepotism. How do we separate these things?
I guess the difference between corruption and unmerited favour is the executor. If it’s God that’s allegedly doing it, it’s unmerited favour. Of course, man can be questioned but God is unquestionable. And because he’s unquestionable, that can’t be corruption. If it’s a fellow human being, it’s corruption. It also depends on who’s talking. As far as the beneficiary is concerned, it’s unmerited favour. To the victim of such an act, it’s corruption. Just like they popularly say that one man’s meat is another man’s poison, one man’s corrupt practice is another man’s unmerited favour.
One way to move ahead as a nation is for us all to be on the same page concerning all major issues. A situation where some people believe in getting things without merit (i.e., ‘unmerited favour’), it will be difficult to define corruption and fight it. If you want the Vice Chancellor of a university to consider giving admission to a candidate that’s more qualified at the expense of his own less qualified child, then stop celebrating a testimony of God doing the exact opposite. If we want to rid this nation of corruption, we should be ready to change in principle and in action.
And it has to be everybody. We have to place the nation above the self. Unmerited favour is about the self, not above it. Nobody talks about unmerited favour for the whole country. Unmerited favour is spoken of in the context of the individual. Whether the happy event has a negative impact on the rest of the society doesn’t matter to unmerited favour believers. For instance, whether a less qualified company that ends up clinching a road construction contract with the government will lead to a bad road in the end or not doesn’t matter. The MD/CEO of the construction company counts himself as someone who has received an unmerited favour. And whether a medical student who is incompetent but has successfully become a doctor will lead to the unfortunate deaths of innocent citizens or not doesn’t matter. To him, he has passed via unmerited favour. This is why one way to elevate the nation above the self is to dump the belief in unmerited favour.
There’s a company with poor quality products, products that don’t deserve to sell at all. However this company via corrupt practices keeps having more sales than their rivals who put in a lot of effort to develop a very good product. Well, the citizens keep suffering the effects of the bad product while the owner of the company keeps celebrating the unmerited favour he has received.
‘Well, you can beef me all you want. I don care. Na my God do am for me. Unmerited favour spoke for me. If you like, go and sue God…he who God had blessed, no man can curse…’
That’s the spirit. That’s what it’s all about. The unmerited favour craze. ‘It’s about ‘me’ and I care less about you.’ If you think that way, why should your politicians think otherwise? It’s a scavenger race. Every man for himself. Grab all you can and don’t care whether there’s nothing left for the other person or the society. That’s unmerited favour. Don’t care if your own success destroys someone else. Afterall, it’s your God, not theirs. It’s a system that perpetrates societal decay in all fronts. The belief in unmerited favour is prevalent in societies where everybody scampers for individual survival without considering the welfare of the society. The common good has no place in the concept of unmerited favour.
‘The race is not to the swift neither is battle to the strong’, you say? Athletics keeps being popular and exciting because the fastest person always gets the gold medal, i.e., the race is always to the swift. Imagine Usain Bolt coming 4th in a sprint but he getting the gold medal. Do you think anybody will want to watch the games or pay for a ticket? If you won’t lke sports if the principle of unmerited favour operatwes, i.e., the medal goes to those who don’t deserve it, why do you then believe so much in unmerited favour? If God won’t make someone who doesn’t deserve a sports medal take it, why should he make you get a job or position you’re not qualified for?
In a society where everybody believes in unmerited favour, no progress can happen. Picture a nation of 20 people. Just 20 people. Call the nation Favouria. Favouria is an underdeveloped nation. High poverty rates, poor infrastructural decay, just name it. They need to develop the nation. The total number of the citizens is 20. They’ll need 200 Joules of effort to transform Favouria from a third world country to a first world country. Every citizen needs to put in 10 Joules of effort. A citizen will be rewarded if he puts in his bit.
But somehow, one person puts in only 4 Joules of effort and gets rewarded like he would’ve if he had put in 10 Joules. He claims he has received unmerited favour. Then another citizen observes that he might actually not need to put in 10 Joules to be successful. All he needs is 4 Joules of effort plus unmerited favour and he’ll be successful just like the other person. That’s how all of them puts in 4 Joules of effort each, having been blessed with unmerited favour. They end up with 80 Joules of effort, too small to transform their country and Favouria remains a third world country.
In the end, their private success gets overridden by the dire situation of the Favouria and unmerited favour becomes useless. That’s how unmerited favour that supposedly makes individuals succeed at the expense of the rest of the society comes back to bite you in the bum. When a section of the country gets less than what they deserve, they get frustrated and take up arms to avenge against those who have considered themselves beneficiaries of unmerited favour. I’m not justifying crime and banditry. I’m only showing you the relationship between belief in unmerited favour and insecurity.
Just like I’ve said earlier, unmerited favour is useless. Totally useless. Individual prosperity is somehow tied to collective prosperity — Nigerians will become more prosperous individually when Nigeria becomes a better country. Unmerited favour supposedly makes a handful of individuals succeed even at the expense of the society. The unsuccessful society takes its toll on those who count themselves as beneficiaries of unmerited favour and in the end, their unmerited favour becomes futile.
Belief in unmerited favour is premised on the belief that the all-powerful force in the universe has left the rest of the society in its poor state to bless a single individual who has been considered worthy of such benefits. Unmerited favour never happens to a country. A country always needs to work their way towards prosperity. If we need to take Nigeria forward, we all need to imbibe the culture of reaping rewards that are commensurate with our productivity.