Knowing the difference between a gift and bribe is not the same thing as knowing what to do if we find a gift in a bribe. What then is the difference? The first is established based on human beings potential to demarcate what is right, permissible, from what is wrong and prohibited by law. The second is based on how pre-emptive, proactive, progressive and pragmatic we are in our socio-political milieu.
At the conventional morality principle, a gift is any valuable thing a person gives out to someone without expecting anything in return. This is not an attempt to say a person who receives expensive gift from a fellow human being will not acknowledge it with deep sense of gratitude, appreciation and heart full of joy. However, a bribe is given something of value to a person to do what is prohibited by law with expectation of return. For instance A Law Enforcement Agency asked a taxi driver for “Party Kola” instead of Motor Particulars or document. The driver tries to squeeze N20 into the pam of the Uniform Man to avoid wasting his time as a regular user of the road. “What is it?”: Officer queried. “Green Sir”. “No, No you are trying me ba I need white”, Officer Said breezily. Immediately the taxi driver gave N50 which is white in colour. The driver bribed his way while the Uniform man was improperly induced by a token to change his behaviour from carrying out his legal duty. A judge in a Law Court ones said he does not accept bribe from his client but will accept gift from anybody who dim it necessary to appreciate services he rendered within the ambience of the law.
In a liberal democratic setting like Nigeria gifts are permissible through friendly atmosphere or solidarity. We know politician whose act of giving and generosity is routine exercise from Adam. Some go as far as devoting their time participating in meetings, energy in community developments services, and putting their most cherished property to support the people to remedy nagging situations. One of the challenging and interesting issues is when a person who is not known to be a free- giver from childhood becomes generous to almost everybody overnight. Without the assistance of rocket science, we should know he or she has a target with such Greek gift. The best way to make the electorate distinguish between a gift in a bribe or a bribe in a gift is for the people to study carefully the relationship between the person given and the person receiving it. The choice of words, body gesture is always full of indirect language. E.g. “Omawede”, I am your son even though the father does not know who is the legitimate mother to him or her talk less of the date of birth. Timing is also important especially giving a gift during election from a politician who is not known with a culture of giving before joining politics is a bribe in disguise to buy you to vote for him or her contrary to your conscience. Such a politician can easily forget you (the electorate) on assumption of office, first recover the lost cash and remember you at the expiration of his or her tenure which is absurd. A gift therefore becomes a bribe in disguised if it is aimed at getting a person’s mind is warped to do something he or she shouldn’t do such as voting against your conscience, thuggery, hooliganism, economic saboteurs, blackmail and so forth. If you can accept bribe, make sure it is big enough that you can live comfortably on it after you are denied physicall and infrastructure structural development. Or else. We are a product of a liberal democracy where gift is free, freely given and free we receive but not to the detriment of our conscience and the future yet unborn.
– Inah Stephen, Lokoja