Fighting Corruption can never kill poverty. From another perspective, most poor countries are poor because their Government is corrupt. People are often mistaken to assume that a strong man is needed to ensure that public resources are not stolen, and that public power is not not used for private gain. They believe without this, poverty will be justified. Can this be right?
One may be tempted to believe this based on the preponderance of propaganda in Nigeria against the last administration and the groundswell of dissent of now. This is a narrative that neatly and comfortably aligns the promise of prosperity with the struggle against injustice. Even the Pope was quoted to have said on his trip to Latin America that “Corruption is the moth, the gangrene of a people.” He went further to say “The Corrupt deserve to be “tied to a rock and cast into the sea.” Perhaps they do but will that make the country prosperous? Let’s remember that abuse of Power & Nepotism in a democracy is Corruption also. How many Presidents do we have to cast into the Sea while we expect a miraculous turn around?
We can look into the data (from project syndicate). The breast measure of corruption is the World Bank’s Control of Corruption Indicator published since 1996 for over 180 Countries.The CCI shows that while rich countries tend to be less corrupt than poor ones, countries that are relatively less corrupt for their level of development, such as Ghana, Costa Rica, or Denmark, do not grow any faster than others. Nor do countries that improve in their CCI score, such as Zambia, Macedonia, Uruguay or New Zealand, grow faster. By contrast the world Bank’s Government Effectiveness Indicator suggests that countries that, given their income level, have relatively effective governments or improve their performance, do tend to grow faster. In other words we do not grow productivity or effective governance by a noisy Fight of Corruption, media trial or jailing spree. Studies have shown (Jonathan Haidt’s “Righteous Minds”) that our moral sentiments are strongly related to feelings of empathy in the face of harm and unfairness. Thus *it is easier to mobilize against injustice than for Justice* (Typical case in Nigeria).
We have grown accustomed to enthusiastically fighting the bad (or perceived bad in most cases) for instance Police killings instead of Police Reforms. We are more willing to fight Hunger & Poverty instead of fighting for the kind of Growth & Development that makes Food & sustainable livelihoods plentiful. So when we focus so much about fighting the bad we lose sight of what constitute the Good & how to unleash it. Sometimes switching from the “bad” to the corresponding “good” is simply a matter of semantics: to fight against racism is to fight for non-discrimination.
But, in the case of corruption, (a bad that is caused by the absence of a good), attacking the bad is very different from creating the good. The good is a capable state: a bureaucracy that can protect the country and its people, keep the peace, enforce rules and contracts, provide infrastructure and social services, regulate economic activity, credibly enter into inter-temporal obligations, and tax society to pay for it all. It is the absence of a capable state that causes corruption (the inability to prevent public officials, often in collusion with other members of society, from subverting decision-making for private gain), as well as poverty and backwardness. Some might argue that reducing corruption entails the creation of a capable state; the good is created out of the fight against the bad.
But is it? Teachers and nurses often do not show up for work, but that does not mean that performance would improve much if they did. Policemen may stop asking for bribes, but that will not make them any better at catching criminals and preventing crime. Curtailing side-payments does not imply the ability to manage concession contracts or collect taxes.Those that are in NASS believe a new Bill may be the answer but is it always about more legislation?
Aside from prosecuting some bad apples, measures to fight corruption typically involve reforming procurement rules, public financial management systems, and anti-corruption legislation.The underlying assumption is that the new rules, unlike the previous rules, will be enforced.That has not been Uganda’s experience. In 2009, under pressure from the aid community, the government enacted what was billed at the time as the best anti-corruption legislation in the world; and yet all corruption indicators have continued to worsen. Uganda is not an exception, same is happening in Nigeria since 2015 change of Government with an anti corruption themed political party.
A scholar at Harvard, Matt Andrews, has documented the failure of public financial management reforms designed to prevent graft. And the reasons for these failures are not specific to financial management. All organizations, Ministries & Agencies Of Govt need to be perceived as legitimate.They can create this perception by actually performing the function for which they were created, which is difficult. Alternatively, they can borrow from the natural world a strategy called isomorphic mimicry: just as non-poisonous snakes evolve to resemble the poisonous species, organizations can make themselves look like strong institutions in other places that are perceived as legitimate. Some call this locally as the “body language” creating a phantom expectation of resolute no nonsense scenario, which may wane with time. And this is what the anti-corruption agenda often ends up stimulating: the creation of orgs that are more obsessed with abiding by the new & burdensome processes than they’re with achieving their stated goals.
Some argue, when inept organization adopt “best practices” such as financial management systems & procurement rules, …they become too distracted by decision-distorting protocols to do what they were established to do. We have seen many instances of this in the current ruling administration in Nigeria. DGs looting Ministeries, SGF cutting shady deals, MOJ/AGF engaging in circumventing of the law & shady deals with fugitives, COS collecting bribes from Multinationals etc. It was pointed out by Harvard scholars also that *the development of a capable state that is accountable, transparent & ruled by law is one of the crowning achievements of human civilization. It involves the creation of the sense of “us” (Unity & Ownership), and imagines community on whose behalf the state acts.*
We are also aware that this is not an easy task when societies are deeply divided by ethnicity, religion, or social status. After all, who is the state for? All Iraqis or just the Shia among them? All Kenyans or just the Kikuyu? All Nigerians or just about the “focus on the North?” What is to prevent the ethnic group currently in power from diverting resources to itself on the argument that “it’s our turn to eat?” Why shouldn’t those currently in control of the state transform it into their patrimony, as in Venezuela, where, more than two years after former President Hugo Chávez’s death, his daughters still occupy the presidential residence?
The fight against corruption mobilizes all of us because we want to do away with evil and injustice. But we should remember that casting the bad into the sea does not imply the sudden appearance on our shores of the good that we need. Prof @femiaribisala once said _“Anti-corruption is good public relations, but it is no substitute for a viable program for economic growth.”_ Making a difference means fulfilling the government’s campaign promises. It means ending the petrol shortage. It means increasing electricity generation and distribution. It means providing jobs for unemployed youths. It means providing social security for the teeming poor. “In these practical decibels of government, the APC is at sea.” Popular Bono also quipped that “The biggest disease is Corruption and the Vaccine is Transparency” is our Govt willing to be accountable?
It is very sad that some people are so intent on leaving their mark on the country that they don’t care if that mark is a scar. All evidence & no handcuffs sickens the masses. Especially those of us that witnesses the extraction of the doors of Justices of late. Purely on a hunch not even out of conviction by any court of law & also without overwhelming evidences. But now nothing is happening. When they mention huge sums you wonder why this campaign is necessary but I will give you a hint. This is to further perpetuate their trickle down theory which impresses & proliferate nepotism & corporatism (see Dangote). A principle that suggests the deliberately impoverished (via Government vile monetary policies) who must subsist on table scraps dropped by those fleecing us (the rich, fat on legalized looting, in political circles as shielded by Govt), can best be served by giving the Rich (APC chieftains & the Daura Cabal cliques) bigger meals.
As they say a man is known by the company he keeps. If this was the basis for deeming GEJ Corrupt then GMB is Corrupt based on events of now. Patriotism is not obedience to Govt but it’s is obedience to the principles for which Govt is supposed to stand. I’m personally not writing off the admin yet. I believe they can recover and do right for Nigerians via full disclosure & transparency.
‘Segun SEGA Awosanya, is a senior columnist for Corruption-Free Press News. He is a Bachelors (BSc,) & Masters Degree (MSc.) Holder (Estate Management) from the prestigious University of Lagos, in the Department of Estate Management. He’s currently researching his PhD thesis on Environment and Sustainability on the one hand and Institutional Reforms on the other. He is a disciplined result oriented, energetic creative and technical director (by training), media marketing consultant, broadcast engineer (Lyon, France), researcher and realtor with over 16 years track record of creating and developing highly successful and innovative advertising, brand, information technology technical support and direct marketing campaigns (driven by strategy and powered by business objectives). His strength include developing and delivering total value proposition strategy documents, user centric designs, brand development/reincarnation on diverse media, perception and crisis management, strategic communications and excellent implementation of skills across a variety of platforms with a proven record in managing teams, training, building and maintaining client relationship. He is a realtor, life coach, strategist and convener of Universal Institutional Reform Movement popularly known as the #EndSARS #ReformPoliceNG campaign.