Hands up if you’ve never offered or taken a bribe. You deserve a prize for being incorruptible. I’ve not taken bribes but I have offered them, as have many people I know. Nothing grand. A few shillings here and some niceties there just to get by.
Don’t blame me. Blame the system I grew up in where people almost always ask what’s in it for them. And so you find yourself falling in line, not because you want to but because not doing so would make life a lot more stressful.
It’s amazing how easy things become when you grease the right palms. I think I wrote before about a guard where I used to live. It didn’t matter what time you went home. The man took his sweet time to open for you and once inside, he would close the gate without so much as a word to you, his expression suggesting you were bothering him. We paid him a monthly stipend as instructed by the landlord and as far as I know, none of the other tenants slackened and yet he made all of us feel like we had wronged him in some way. His way of punishing us was making us wait at the gate, sometimes for up to 15 minutes. His room was right by the gate but no amount of yelling, knocking or pounding with everything from heels to stones would get him to open unless he felt you’d waited long enough.
It was frustrating and I was considering telling the landlord about it, after all, he had hired the stubborn man. One evening, I returned home quite early since some friends were coming over. I had warned them about the gate situation but that day, he actually opened the minute they knocked. One of my friends gave him 2,000 Shillings and I can tell you that in the two years I’d lived there, I’d never seen Sam that happy. “But I give him a lot more than that each month and if he should be nice to anyone, it should me,” I thought to myself.
For the next few days, he didn’t make me wait and I knew that if I wanted that to continue, I’d have to part with a few more Shillings every other week. Better than huffing and cursing or constantly looking over my shoulder wary of some thugs. The other bribery incident I was involved in was when I applied for my Transcript. The university I attended is well known for its bureaucracy and stories are told of students who got their transcripts four years after graduation. Others never got them at all, having grown tired of the back and forth. Eager to hit the job market, I joined the long queue for mine since every potential employer was asking for one. Months later, I still hadn’t got it and only after narrating my ordeal to a friend was I pointed in the right direction. I did what needed to be done and got the transcript in a couple of days.
Elsewhere, friends have gotten Driving Permits through similar means. Most people will warn you that it is next to impossible to pass that driving test, not because you’re a bad driver but because someone is looking to get something from you. Try applying for a Passport through official channels and you will miss that Conference or Meet you were looking forward to. How about getting your child into that prestigious school? They don’t have the grades but an insider tells you that if you do the necessary, that won’t be a problem. At the end of the day, we do these things to survive, and that includes both the giver and recipient. I’m not saying it’s right. Remember I don’t even take bribes. But like I said, life presents challenges and you have to deal with them one way or another.
To be continued…