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Corrupt practices in the family

BY: Dr Canice Enyonam Kudonoo

Families are basic units and pillars that form societies. Families in African communities include nuclear and extended members near and far with one elderly member as the family head. 

In an ideal African family situation, family heads play leadership roles by interpreting the acceptable relations between members and their obligations to wider kin through established norms, values, and beliefs.

A cluster of good families in a location makes good communities and several good communities make good villages, towns, cities, and nations with high ethical standards. On the other hand, corrupt families make corrupt communities and nations. Often, corrupt politicians come from corrupt families due to family demands.

This article discusses practices that are classified as corrupt or create room for families to get involved in corruption to fulfil family obligations.

Roles of the family

Families— bonded by marriage, blood, and adoption—tend to provide the physical and emotional needs of members, offer status (chieftaincy, or head of the family), identity (in the case of naming systems), provide a sense of security for its members, procreate to replace the deceased, provide love for development of members, resolve/prevent conflicts, and organise funerals of deceased members, among others.

Family heads ensure support and harmony among members, while taking decisions that drive progress. These roles kept families intact in the past, but lately, unethical practices have infiltrated family dynamics to the extent that some members are compelled to indulge in corruption.

Corrupt practices

Over the years, issues of corrupt practices emanating from the desire for self or family aggrandisement; lazy individuals who scheme to deny deceased members’ families their inheritance; expensive funerals and widowhood rites that are detrimental to the financial, emotional, and psychological well-being of widows, and the embezzlement of funeral donations by elders of the deceased’s family have become common.

Additionally, the family places high demands on members holding high positions in organisations to provide money for their sustenance and employ relatives even when they are not qualified, to occupy positions they are incapable of holding, leading to non-performance on the job. Such people create problems in workplaces and any disciplinary measure taken against them attracts the displeasure of family members.

Furthermore, unreasonable increases in bride prices, multiple sales of family stool lands, and envious individuals who use fair or foul means to exterminate relatives who are better endowed and more hardworking are cropping up to disrupt harmonious family living. These, among others, are some corrupt practices that bedevil the family.

The family has ceased making funerals occasions to mourn the dead, but rather opportunities to make money through donations, make merry — wine, dine, and dance. A lot of money goes into funerals just as for weddings.

For instance, families announce funerals using huge billboards, posters, radio, and TV stations, which are costly. Uniformed pallbearers carry caskets from the hearse to the cemetery while displaying their prowess to the admiration and entertainment of mourners. All these activities cost huge sums of money, compelling bereaved families to borrow on the pretext of making the deceased happy.

These acts may encourage corruption as family members may use unethical means in order to pay back the money spent. Also, widows are subjected to harmful and inhumane acts, including denying them possessions they have helped their husbands acquire. Consequently, extorting from them that which rightfully belongs to them.

Another family corrupt practice involves modern marriage ceremonies. For instance, when a woman’s hand is asked for marriage, her family gives a long list of items to the prospective groom to purchase and present. The list includes items for knocking, a traditional marriage list/dowry, which comprises several pieces of cloth, shoes, bags, and jewelry, a stipulated amount of money, assorted drinks, and a different list of items including money for in-laws.

This means that young men cannot marry if they are not rich, and those who really want to enter the institution of marriage must find other means of getting the extra money to meet wedding demands. Weddings have become extremely expensive, which usually puts pressure on the groom to find other sources of getting money.

Another corrupt practice in the family has to do with individuals who think they are entitled to the fruits of others’ labour, as such lazy about and go begging for money with the excuse of “you are my kin, my blood, and it is your duty to look after me”, rather than work to earn a living, they behave like leeches sucking what others have worked and toiled for.

The writer is a lecturer at Ashesi University