Carrots For The Corrupt; Sticks For The Scrupulous – The Curious Case Of Dr Adedayo Olagunju


George Orwell’s “Animal Farm” is a satirical novella published in 1945 that uses a group of farm animals to allegorize the Russian Revolution of 1917 and the subsequent rise of the Soviet Union. The story critiques the corruption and hypocrisy that can arise in revolutionary movements and governance and demonstrates how the ruling pigs betray the ideals of the revolution, rewarding themselves and punishing the other animals, despite initial promises of equality. 

The story begins with the animals on Mr. Jones’s farm being inspired by Old Major, an elderly pig, who gives a passionate speech about rebellion against human oppressors. His vision of a society where animals work for themselves rather than humans set the stage for the revolution. After Old Major’s death, the animals, led by pigs Snowball and Napoleon, successfully overthrow Mr. Jones and take over the farm, renaming it “Animal Farm.” They establish a set of principles called the Seven Commandments, which emphasize equality and animal solidarity.

Napoleon and Snowball initially lead the farm together, but conflicts arise. Napoleon uses guard dogs to expel Snowball and takes control of the farm. Under Napoleon’s rule, the pigs begin to consolidate power, taking special privileges, altering the Seven Commandments to justify their actions and enjoying luxuries while the other animals suffer. The original commandments are gradually changed to suit the pigs’ desires, culminating in the final, paradoxical commandment: “All animals are equal, but some animals are more equal than others.”

The novella ends with the pigs hosting a party with human farmers, symbolizing their complete transformation into the very oppressors they once overthrew. The other animals, watching through a window, can no longer tell the difference between pigs and humans. “Animal Farm” thus explores how those in power can become corrupt and oppressive. The pigs, who initially advocate for equality and justice, gradually become tyrannical and exploitative betraying their revolutionary ideals. 

Carrots for the Corrupt

“Animal Farm” is a powerful allegory about the dynamics of power and the dangers of totalitarianism and provides insights into political corruption, the fragility of ideals, and the importance of vigilance and critical thinking in the face of propaganda.

We are currently living this paradoxical and dysfunctional system of governance where dishonest and corrupt individuals are rewarded or incentivized, while those who are honest, ethical and upright are punished or disincentivized. Systems and policies where unethical behaviour is seemingly more beneficial than ethical conduct inevitably exposes the moral and systemic failures of organizations, governments, or societies.

In political discourse, carrots for the corrupt and sticks for the scrupulous highlight corruption within a government where officials engaging in graft or other unethical practices receive rewards such as promotions, bribes, or other forms of enrichment. Conversely, whistleblowers, reformers, or those who try to maintain integrity are marginalized, demoted, or otherwise punished.

It is a judicial system where wealthy or powerful individuals can evade justice through bribes or influence (the “carrots”), whereas ordinary citizens face strict penalties (the “sticks”) for similar or even lesser offenses. Wealthy or influential individuals might escape punishment through bribes or legal loopholes, while those without such resources face harsh penalties for similar or lesser offenses. On the contrary, individuals who expose corruption or wrongdoing within the legal system constantly face retaliation, including legal action, job loss, or personal threats.

The phrase implies a severe moral and systemic problem, suggesting that the rules and incentives within the system are fundamentally flawed. Such a dynamic can lead to widespread disillusionment, loss of trust in institutions, and a culture of cynicism where unethical behaviour becomes normalized.

We constantly witness corrupt public officials and politicians rewarded with second terms, promotions, financial kickbacks, or immunity from prosecution. This further incentivizes unethical behaviour and undermines public trust. Conversely, politicians or public servants who refuse to engage in corruption or who expose wrongdoing face demotion, harassment, or other forms of retribution.


Sticks for the Scrupulous

Dr Adedayo Olagunju, a former Executive Secretary of the National Commission for Mass Literacy, Adult and Non-formal Education (NMEC for short) and his colleagues are a classical example of this paradox. He was an impeccable public servant who was appointed from his post as an Education Officer in the Federal Civil Service on April 7, 2007. They had unknowingly irked the wrath of the then board chaired by Paschal Bafyau for being too scrupulous and thus the almost 13-year ordeal began.

On June 12, 2009, the Commission’s office was raided by the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) following an anonymous and undated petition alleging sundry crimes against him without any invitation or notice of petition, and promptly arrested all officials whose designation were listed by the anonymous petitioner. They forcefully carted away documents, files, computers, laptops and were all detained for 14 days.

Dr Olagunju was arraigned with 10 of his colleagues on a 17 Counts Charge under the Criminal Code Act on 24 July 2009 at the Federal High Court, Abuja without any Proof of Evidence.  After 4 years of the pendency of the charge in court, the EFCC brought a new 79 Counts Charge under the Public Procurement Act 2007 and Criminal Code Act respectively.

Surprisingly, all the witnesses who took the stand in the case exonerated the accused confirming that no funds were embezzled and that the procurement processes were transparent and followed due process. 

Two of the accused, both outstanding public servants died as broken men during this time and never lived to see the day of his acquittal. Dr Olagunju himself was separated from his pregnant wife who was far away in Canada to deliver a set of triplets at age 46 – the couple’s first successful pregnancy after 17 years of marriage. While the matter remained in court, he was placed on suspension despite the intervention of the Office of the Attorney General of the Federation that his suspension be converted to interdiction.


Road to Redemption

The current status quo underscores a critical problem where the foundational principles of fairness and justice are inverted. The consequences include erosion of public trust as people perceive that unethical behaviour is rewarded; a culture of cynicism and disillusionment, where individuals no longer believe in the value of integrity; and perpetuation of corruption which difficult to eradicate. To correct such a system, several steps are necessary. 

Firstly, we must strengthen accountability mechanisms and ensure that there are robust systems in place to detect and punish corruption effectively, ensuring that corrupt individuals face consequences. Secondly, we must encourage ethical behaviour by creating a culture where ethical behaviour is recognized and rewarded through incentives and recognition programs to foster a culture of integrity. 

Thirdly, we must implement transparent practices and independent oversight to prevent abuse of power and corruption. Fourthly, there must be protections and incentives for whistleblowers to come forward without fear of retaliation. Lastly, there must be regular training of employees, officials and the public on ethics and the long-term benefits of upright behaviour for both individuals and the organization or society. 


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