Is the ‘whistle blower’ who gets paid also a ‘patriot’? Or do true patriots have to be paid to blow the whistle on crimes that put everyone in harm’s way? A Pentagon whistle blower, Ernie Fitzgerald was the one who described ‘whistle blowing’ as “committing the truth”. It was his own way of stating the reverse of ‘committing a crime’. Those who pervert the ‘truth’ by perpetrating an ‘offence’ are said to ‘commit a crime’; and for which the law exacts punishment. Conversely those who ‘tell the truth’ to expose ‘crime’, – in the vengeful perception of those that they expose – are said to be guilty of ‘committing the truth’. And often too they are also made to pay for their ‘truth’. And this is what ‘corruption’ is reputed to do whenever it gets into ‘fight back’ mode: it seeks to punish those who have dared to ‘commit the truth’ by exposing graft.
In a sense therefore ‘truth telling’ is essentially at the heart of the ‘whistle blowing’ novelty. Exposing falsehood, or squealing on wrongdoers. And which by the way, should be the duty of all true lovers of country, who should be prepared always to ‘commit the truth’ in order to expose those whose ‘perversion of truth’ puts society in harm’s way. But any people that will –for sectional motives- imprudently look the other way when the extravagant sons of the land deliberately put their country in harm’s way, is doomed inevitably to stew in its own blitheness.
The term ‘whistle blower’ is ‘novel’ only to the extent that it is merely avant-garde and a trendy renaissance of its old name ‘police informant’. We have always had whistle blowers. Only we did not call them whistle blowers. And most of our ‘police informants’ of old –unlike our whistle blowers of today- were genuine patriots who did not have to squeal on enemies of the State for pecuniary reasons. Which is not to suggest that they did not receive operational tokens as encouragement to expose wrong doers. Our Police informants primarily offered useful information to law enforcement agents chiefly because they saw it as a duty incumbent upon them to play their part in bringing about a better society.
But not any more. Most Nigerians today are not ready to love their country more than they love their constituencies. And now even with the chance of a life time offered to ‘whistle blowers’ to be legitimately rich, (courtesy of the 5% offered by government), many will not help the State to uncover high crimes and misdemeanors perpetrated by lords and lieges that they know. In fact not a few Nigerians will rather be looters themselves taking the whole 100% than, for a meager 5%, wait for a ‘patriotic chance’ to blow the whistle on some otherwise ‘lucky’ dude who has managed to ‘achieve’ what they hope someday to ‘achieve’ too.
The ‘Whistle blower’s Survival Guide’ produced by the Washington ‘Fund for Constitutional Government’, describes whistle blowing as ‘courage without martyrdom’. Because it takes both courage and genuine love of country, without the motivation of any mundane benefit, to be a whistle blower. Said an American Iowa Senator, Charles Grassley, everywhere “courageous and self-sacrificing individuals come forward to tell the truth (by whistle blowing) under highly adverse circumstances. They contribute enormously to the public good”.
But not in Nigeria. Many of us are either too cowardly and will not take the risk even when there is something in it for us, or we are too self-seeking that our courage is only directed at feeding our insatiable avarice. Someone posted on Face book a hypothetical scenario: he wanted to know what his Facebook friends would do if they came upon a cache of millions of dollars in some derelict graveyard, a rundown soak-away or any of the ubiquitous hide-always that have bizarrely come to symbolize the search for looted funds in Nigeria today. Would they blow the whistle and be content with a ‘meager’ five percent, or would they –if they could get away with it- rather keep all? And nearly seventy percent of those who responded said ‘to hell with 5%!’ They’ll rather keep every dime of it. One in fact said -with some kind of righteous indignation- “Me, blow whistle ke? I be referee?”.
And you wonder what kind of people we are, Nigerians? We are as avidly greedy as the thieves we want to see guillotined. We are offended by corruption but only because it is not us or our own that have the opportunity to perpetrate it. We are disgusted by obscene wealth (whether earned or un-earned) but only because it does not belong to us or to someone that we are beneficially connected with. We are appalled by the sight of looted funds but only because we are not the ‘lucky’, avidly greedy ‘finders’ who –if they have their way- would be happy to keep every dime rather than be ‘patriots’ who blow the whistle on it for some ‘measly five percent’.
In our Nigeria of today, we have neither gratuitous, patriotic volunteers of useful information to help law enforcement fight crime nor do we even have duty-loving law enforcement agents prepared or able to process such information for the benefit of society. We have become so selfishly lazy that even when we pray that God enriches us, we do not have in mind ‘working hard’ to make that prayer come to pass. What we have in mind is that someday an opportunity from God -or even from Mammon- will present itself to make us instant billionaires: it could be God himself, just for our own sake, resuming his Mosaic gratuity by dropping for us ‘manna’ of dollars from heaven; or it could be the devil leading us to stealing what does not belong to us or to some other forms of theft by default, like playing ‘Monte Carlo’, ‘beggar-my-neighbor’, ‘MMM’ or any one of numerous exploitative on-line and cable promos that include, nowadays, even turning our aged parents into some ridiculous TV break dancers –in the hope of winning competition.
Anything but working legitimately to achieve! anything but being productively creative! Our so called Banking gurus licensed by law to keep our monies -in trust-have become worse than the burglars that we fear may break into our homes. They steal all the money and collapse the banks; our clergies and so called ‘men of God’ mop up all our kobo-kobo to buy jets we’ll never fly in and to build private universities that we can’t send our children to; our judges, for morsels, sell justice to the highest bidders; our legislators make laws to legitimize stealing; our lawyers are paid humongous fees to mystify the law in order to set the corrupt free; our journalists are paid by desperate politicians to misinform or to under-inform in order to create schism in the society; the abjectly poor who should direct their anger at the real enemy, are paid pittance to kill each other in the name of partisan thugry; teachers are ready to be paid, and parents are happy to pay, for academic grades or certificates for their un-schooled or poorly-schooled children’.
And now we are beginning to have even desperate arm-chair gold diggers claiming to be ‘patriotic whistle blowers’. Or are they political witchunters masquerading as ‘whistle blowers’? Either way we are only acting true to type, Nigerians; there never anything so pure that we will not corrupt. The irony here being that our own kind of whistle blowers who should be in the patriotic duty of ‘committing the truth’ -as Fitzgerald would say- to expose crime, are rather ‘committing a crime’ in the hope of dubiously benefiting from an otherwise noble duty’.
Said the anti-corruption psalmist “One thing is certain. With the truth on their side, individuals can make a difference. Whistle blowers are the Achilles heel of organizational misconduct, if they bear witness when it counts. Used strategically, truth is still the most powerful political weapon in our society, capable of defeating money and entrenched political machines. Armed with the truth, whistle blowing Davids repeatedly have exposed and defeated Goliaths who put goals of economic or political power above the public interest”.
Genuine whistle blowers in other climes do it not for the money, but for the glory. It is a shame that here we have to get paid –ironically from the same loot- to awaken our ‘patriotism’, to squeal on those who act to jeopardize our future and the future of our children.