By Magnus Bendu
You will agree with me that almost everyone wants to get rich. But we all have various means of getting rich. Some people strongly believe that engaging in corrupt activities is the fastest way of getting money. Whilst others believe that corruption, in whatever sense, is immoral.
The issue of corruption and its effect on Sierra Leone has become an issue of national concern. Recently, I was caught up in one of these corruption debates on a ‘Poda Poda’ (mini-bus) from Freetown to Waterloo. Pretending to be an African sage, a man in his seventies quietly remarked: “People get rich and succeed in life in four main ways – by stealing huge sums of money (this he says could be through embezzlement or otherwise); by gaining money as a result of good education (which he says is rather very slow); by inheritance (which he thinks is not reliable) and by doing business (which he also thinks is slow and uncertain).
After the man had uttered this dangerous wisdom, almost all the passengers were pleased with him. As an anti-corruption crusader, I was upset; mainly because of his belief that ‘embezzlement’ is one of the few means he thinks people can acquire wealth. I thought such ill belief should not come from such an elderly man.
I was even more devastated when this man who had already won the popular opinion in the mini bus concluded that almost all of the rich we see are as a result of some kind of ‘crookish’ practice or idea.
In his attempt to further glorify stealing as the easiest and fastest routes to acquire wealth, he explained that he lost his opportunity of becoming rich some years back when he honestly handed over huge sums of money he discovered under his master’s table while he was working in a diamond dealer’s firm.
Yes, I may have been upset and devastated but was not surprised at the propagation of ways to get rich. If you are closely following the pattern of thinking of both the young and old of today’s Sierra Leone, you will realise that what this old man said captures the prevalent view.
Some cliché in our everyday language such as – ‘Bo nor sleep oh’; ‘Usai dem tai cow…’; and ‘mas-mas’, are all indicators that the belief in corrupt acquisition of wealth is a phenomenon that has filtered into our culture and everyday life.
However, the fact remains that considering corrupt means as a legitimate means of becoming rich is an unfortunate concept. This belief is the root of the faulty perception that the rich becoming rich and the prosperous prosper only at the expense of misappropriating monies meant for the poor.
I strongly believe that this whole idea of dishonesty, in whatever form, is not good for the development of the country.
In an article titled: “The Dangerous Samaritan: How We Unintentionally Injure the Poor”, Michael Bauman laments that: “If the poor (are made to) believe that most wealthy people are exploiters and thieves who squash other people into poverty for personal gain, they will not be likely to climb the ladder of economic success.” With this kind of wrong perception, the poor may remain poor and continue to believe that financial prosperity depends on your knowledge of dishonesty rather than believing in the core principles on the path to becoming genuinely rich which are: hard work, diligence, ingenuity, sacrifice and postponed gratification.
The problem with some of us, remarked Dale Carnegie, an American Educator, is not the capacity and potential to be economically successful but the lack of understanding about the science of getting rich in a genuine way. It is important to learn the principles of financial success and follow the route the rich tread on, in order to build a corrupt-free society. This call becomes more urgent as we see various surveys rating poverty as one of the top reasons for corruption in Sierra Leone. In as much as it is agreed that poverty is seen as one of the main causes of graft, the facts, as shown by the Anti-Corruption Commission (ACC) prosecutions, is that many of the convicts of corrupt practices in Sierra Leone are not poor people.
First, the poor who are thought to be vulnerable to corrupt practices are poor either because they have nursed a wrong view of how to get rich or they are kind of infected with a contagious kind of laziness that is always fermented by fatalistic beliefs such as Luck, ‘Na God dae gi’, and ‘U bobor dae’.
Second, those who are somehow financially successful or are on the path to success do not make good use of their money. They do not understand the core financial principles that aid the control and good use of money, so they want of more to maintain a particular status after wasting what they had, naturally makes them indulge in corrupt practices. They forget that this route to financial enrichment will sooner or later result in shame and also as many of us Africans believe in a generational curse. Some of these have ended up being interrogated and prosecuted by the ACC and later convicted as criminals.
I am of the opinion that none of us would want to damage our reputation in this manner. Therefore, it is our responsibility as dignified citizens to endeavour to follow the safest path to getting rich and becoming successful based on four simple principles: Don’t spend more than you earn; save as much as you can; put maximum commitment to your work and thus increase your value; and always invest in business or people.