Quid Pro Quo – This For That – In Nigeria: Matters Arising

     Chioma is a brilliant, creative and disciplined young graduate of biochemistry. It is now two years since she passed out from NYSC, yet she has not been employed. She has attended several interviews and has been told on three occasions that she was the most qualified for the position and was expected to start work soon. Then the phone calls came. Meet me at X, Y and Z hotel for your acceptance letter. At the various hotels, Chioma’s various prospective male recruiters asked for one thing, sex. Chioma refused all requests and walked away. Each time she hit the hotel room door, she always heard the same thing. If you leave this room, then forget about the job. So was it.  After the third incident which happened just a few weeks ago in Owerri, Chioma called me for counseling but also begged me to talk to one of the three recruiters she knows very well to be ‘a very good Catholic, a Knight.” I counseled Chioma and prayed for her but chose not to call the recruiter. Rather I decided to write this article.

     Whether it is sex in exchange for a job, gifts in exchange for a promotion, or ‘ten, twenty…percent’ cash back in exchange for a contract, quid pro quo is common among Nigerian politicians, professionals and business men/women.  Although quid pro quo is considered unethical in the business world and may contravene some parts of the Nigerian National Ethics in Chapter II, section 23 of the 1999 Nigerian constitution, neither the Nigerian government, labor unions, business organizations nor professional bodies seem to worry about it. In most civilized and civilizing nations, quid pro quo belongs among the ‘zero tolerance’ unethical behaviors both in the private and public sectors. In the US, for instance, most employers in the private sector will fire Chioma’s recruiters right away. If they are professionals, such as medical doctors or teachers or priests, they may loose their professional licenses temporarily or permanently. If they are in the public sector, they may have to serve some jail terms in addition to loosing their jobs and licenses.  Why is quid pro quo not tolerated around the world and should not be tolerated in Nigeria? Several reasons come to mind, but let us consider a few.

     (1) Quid pro quo is an act of injustice: Whether justice is giving each person her due or as fairness, quid pro quo falls short of it. If Chioma has emerged as the most qualified for the job, it would be unjust to demand an arm from her for the position, after all sex with recruiter was not part of the formal requirements for the position. Even if it was, such a requirement would be unconscionable and offensive to our common sense of justice and fairness in the job market.

     (2) Quid pro quo discourages hardwork, excellence and merit at a very high social cost: Not everyone can be a biochemist. Only those who have excelled in their training as biochemists are usually given such jobs. That is why those wishing to pursue a career in biochemistry have to work hard while in training to excel. This is true of any career. Imagine how Chioma’s younger Sister, a hardworking 200 level petrochemical engineering student would feel on learning that even with a magna cum laude, the only way her sister could get a job would be to have sex with a recruiter. Of course she will be discouraged. In Nigeria where Chioma’s case is commonplace in high and low places, the immediate social consequence of quid pro quo is that younger people (who are mostly the potential job seekers) will find no value either in going to school  at all or working hard in school since the job market has no regard for excellence and merit.  Little wonder our country is now one of the worst countries to be born on the planet. Who wants to live in a country where he or she cannot walk his way to success by merit?

    (3) Quid pro quo has an economic cost: The end of the usual competitive training towards any career is not only to weed out those who can’t do it, but also to prepare those who can to do a quality job. Surely, having denied Chioma (the best qualified) the job, it would have to go to someone else less qualified – perhaps someone more romantic! The immediate consequence of this is that the rest of us would have to live with a less qualified biochemist. In Nigeria where quid pro quo is almost cultural, it should not be a surprise why majority of the nation’s workforce whether in the offices or in the factories can hardly deliver high quality jobs. Perhaps, this is one of the reasons why Nigeria has been listed as one of the worst places to do business in the world. Who wants to buy from a market filled with amateur work force delivering little or no quality outcomes?

     (4) Finally, quid pro quo is an abuse of human dignity. Although employers, especially in the private sector, can hire and fire at will, they are often bound by some legally enforceable moral obligations not to abusively hire or fire. Demand for sex in exchange for a job is a shamefully exploitative way of hiring Chioma. So also are demands for gifts for promotions and cash backs for contracts. Such exploitations in no small way abuse the inherent dignity of every human person because perpetrators of these evils are simply using their victims to achieve their selfish ends. As Immanuel Kant has rightly argued, no person may be used as a means to an end because no other end is more valuable than the human person who is an end in itself.