(Vanguard of Sunday, October 8, 2006)
We were 46 last week and the bad news is that a world we have always depended on to endorse everything we do, even if they are anti-people, did not list us among those countries that have been fighting corruption!
Yet, we have had EFCC chairman Nuhu Ribadu and his team moving from one sector of our life to the other, whether political or economic, to arrest those who are said to have abused forum. At the last count, Ribadu was telling us at the Senate of the National Assembly that 31 of our 36 governors have questions to answer in respect of the integrity which is supposed to be the key prerequisite for office-holding.
Fifteen of them would be in court within a month, which is that there is enough material to roast them with. So much money is involved in the various allegations of wrong-doing that if at least 25 African countries had access to such huge sums that have gone to our state governments and local government councils since 1999, those countries would be singing praises to the Good Lord for His material mercies bestowed on them.
But here we are, even defending theft in public places and arguing that the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission is selective in pushing for cleanliness in our public life. That may be true, but how many of the 31 governors under investigation are opposed to the President? If they all are, and that accounts for why they are being haunted, then the President can happily do without friends.
There is dirt in our lives and the sweeping must start somewhere. If the President is also dirty, and many people now begin to believe that he is no angel, then it is a question of time before he will be done in, too. Is the outfit he created not going to outlive him?
The sad news, however, is that the last meeting of the World Bank/International Monetary Fund (IMF) in Singapore did not think that we have been clean in fighting corruption. I do not accept the way they did it, but that is where we have been looking for endorsement of how well we are supposed to have been doing with taming the corruption shrew.
The writers of the Governance Matters, 2006, claim, according to a report on page 4 of the Daily Sun of September 27, 2006 that only six African countries are making progress in “improving governance and curbing corruption.” The countries are Botswana, Ghana, Senegal, Sierra Leone, Mozambique and Liberia.
The authors are at the World Bank Institute. They monitor global governance and what they see, in my view, must be in accord with what they regard as acceptable standards to be met in governance. The research that missed Nigeria out of consideration for improving governance and curbing corruption, was said to have been a result of responses from 120,000 citizens, enterprises, and experts worldwide.
These, said the Sun report, “are used to construct the worldwide governance indicators through a state-of-the-art methodology.” So, the rubbish we pushed into the computers that do not have facilities for reading minds, and cannot have such facilities, are the ones we are depending on to determine Nigeria’s qualification for being listed as improving governance and curbing corruption.
The indices are wrong because they are inadequate in establishing what is, and can be responsible for wrong-doing. I have always tried to take a step backwards, into time, to find out why we do what we do. It is not enough to look at the fruits of what we sowed. We must look at the seed that we planted, that sprouted, and blossomed and fruited for our harvest.
The truth is that fighting corruption does not prevent it, cannot prevent it, if the institutions we have created can breed corruption. Which institutions? It is easier to say which institution does not breed corruption than to mention which ones do.
But even our Constitution is guilty of breeding corruption. The National Assembly is guilty. The Judiciary is guilty. The Executive is the most guilty. So are some of the many laws that flow from the Constitution itself.
And to put icing on the cake, we have leaders who, with the active help of professionals, look at laws for the opportunities they provide for the breach rather than the observance of their provisions.
So, there is one thread running through all of them – they are institutions and structures run by human beings, in our case, Nigerians. We are undisciplined because our leaders are not disciplined.
So where there are institutions to nourish, we look for how we can run them down, turn them into dunghills, because we are not sold on their usefulness to others as they should be to us.
If we have a Constitution that provides for full time lawmakers at the national, state and local government levels when they have so little to do that they can have time to devote to sharing money, then the Constitution provides a platform for corrupt practices.
Why can we not choose what we are ripe for, and that is part-time law-making and pay N2000 as sitting allowance to councilors instead of putting them on remunerations that directors in the ministry cannot access in 20 years of service!
Do we know the cost of litigating a matter in our courts and what the judges go through? Is it questionable that the prosecution of every criminal case is a political decision?
Is it not corruptive for government organs accountable to the people to decide what the people must know and send to jail anyone who divulges information not authorized by an appropriate authority? Is that not what the Official Secrets Act is saying?
Is the law of sedition not still in our books to punish those who are accused of telling people what is being done in the dark recesses of government offices, but who must pay for their temerity because such information disparages government?
What have we done about the laws that would never make democracy work, but which we still retain in our books? How long for have we had the freedom of information bill in the National Assembly? Who is afraid that people should have access to how they are governed? How can the media be told that unless INEC announces results of elections, even if they are rigged, then there are no results?
Corruption is the name given to a human failing arising from lack of or inadequacy of brief on the human question. The human question is not just material welfare, encapsulated in the Constitutional brief that government is there because of the welfare and security of the citizen.
The welfare and security would be meaningless without their material and spiritual aspects. You need food on the table for everyone, but you also need values that make life what it should be. It is only those who have experienced material wealth that will confess that the more of it they have, the less secure they discover they had become.
There is something always there to access, and this you discover the more you have money, property and the so-called material things of life. The West and their assessors of life’s material needs, which is all they seem to regard as important, cannot see what we in so-called developing countries see and behold.
They say it is fiction, hallucinations. But they err, even if through unstoppable propaganda we are hypnotized into accepting that we have no other senses than they say there are.
Why is it that the Nigerian official does not feel guilt when he manipulates government funds into his personal accounts but is afraid to touch church money or the funds of his cultural group whose treasurer he is?
The proof of honesty in western arrangements is satisfied when the books are in order, and the auditor is the final authority. But culture money is looked after by the ancestors who are “all-seeing”. Church money is “visible” to the angels who look at its movement!
The truth is that the values the West passes on to us in proof of their perception of honesty are strange to us, and we celebrate our prowess in undermining them. With so much dependence on the man in government, no one asks where he got the money he is spending from, or how. Because the people he relates to do not know him to be a thief. Hasn’t the culture money in his care been returned on request?
The values we must imbibe are not known to the West. But the West has answers in encouraging minimum government, that is in diversification of responsibilities. The market forces have helped immensely in streamlining things, but where there is little room for competition, the situations become more critical and corruptive influences creep in.
This is why I have opted for Vision 2010 rather than the National Economic and Empowerment Development Strategy (NEEDS) as the foundation for growing this country. We give more details next week.
(Vanguard of Sunday, October 8, 2006, Democracy Watch: A Monitor Diary, Vol. 2, pages 208-211)