The Corruption Perception Index (CPI) based on the 2009 findings, placed Nigeria on the 137th position out 180 countries sampled despite the so many cultural renewal and rural development programmes put in place by past governments over the years to re-orientate Nigerians and restore value to the system.
The Yar’Adua administration irked by the deteriorated image of the Nigerian State came up with another social re-engineering project, Rebranding Nigeria Project with a slogan “Nigeria, good people, great nation”. The advert featured eminent and noble Nigerians that made great achievements on clean slate. But like so many other social re-engineering projects, the present one is trailed with pessimism. This prompted The Tide On Sunday to find out if transparency and integrity being the crux of the project can be achieved in the polity.
Any effective approach aimed at curbing corruption and institutionalising integrity, transparency and accountability must address both the supply and demand side of corruption: The bribe givers and the bribe takers. The problem of fighting corruption is not because we don’t have enough laws. In fact Nigeria as a nation has one of the highest numbers of legislations against corruption in the world. However, we must begin to consider not just critical issue of law, regulation and policy, but also the core cultural issues that permit wrongdoing.
All elected political leaders should be bold and courageous enough to declare their assets and liabilities prior to assumption of office, and make them public so that they can be verified. They should encourage vibrant opposition and see same as providing alternative position on issues of national interest. The EFCC should be strengthened and made as independent as possible from executive interference.
The traditional institutions and the various professional and religious bodies also have roles to play. Most of these people who are either being accused or being convicted of corruption are members of professional bodies, traditional title holders and are members of the religious bodies. As a way of demonstrating that they are collaborating with the government in the fight against corruption, they should also be seen to have a code of conduct which must be respected and invoked on whoever is found culpable.
However, and sadly enough, the moment a political office holder or career person is accused of corruption and embezzlement, the highest honour and award from a professional or traditional institution is bestowed on him or her as a show of shameful solidarity. By so doing, corruption has become institutionalised instead of being eradicated.
The political class is very crafty. Usually a few months towards any major election, they begin setting traps for the unsuspecting masses through sinking of boreholes, awarding scholarships, getting involved in developmental projects, and buying their way through the traditional institutions by being given traditional chieftaincy titles.
Nigerians should begin to distinguish between genuine leaders and ‘contractor’ leaders. Genuine leaders seek the general good of the people. Service to the people is the motivating factor. While ‘Contractor leaders’ only show temporary and false sense of patriotism, just to win elections and thereafter corruptly enrich themselves.
Barr. M. A Oha
The first thing that comes to mind touching this issue, is an election that can be acclaimed free and fair. If a free and fair election can be organised and people vote their leaders and their vote counts; and they remember again that at the end of the day, they will go back to these people if they want to remain there and that they are accountable to the people. I think that is one step and a great one at that if we have to achieve transparency. Because where people just buy themselves there and are sure that at the end of the day they can always go back by that crude means; they will behave any how because the people did not vote them there and they are not accountable to them. I don’t sing praises unnecessarily, on what I am saying the only exception is only Governor Amaechi. His name was not in the ballot box, but he came to power because the court felt that his name was wrongly replaced by his party; any how the Supreme Court warned that it should not be a precedent as it was ruled on substantial justice. What I am saying is, the fact that he is not operating on the bases of personality has made him to achieve a lot. I know that PDP Secretariat used to be a semi government house, whatever you want to do you pass through there but it is not like that again, nothing is happening there. He is not looking at somebody’s face. If you go round Port Harcourt, it has changed and there are many more things he is doing. If Rivers people love themselves they should allow him to have a second tenure so that he can complete what he is doing. For Amaechi, the indigene thing does not work you have to do the right thing. He is not looking at party hierarchy because party did not put him there. It is Almighty God. He is looking at God and posterity as he carries out his duty in the state. This is why I say he is an exception.
Two, people should not go into politics because you are in need of job. The people that should go into politics should be people of proven integrity who have something to offer.
In Nigeria, politics is the last option where you go and begin to steal. And these politicians, if you look at the records of most of them, they were not passing exams. They are the people riding posh cars. So to work hard or to be intelligent is no longer working in Nigeria.
There are some parts of Nigeria where if you ask about their children, they will tell you he is learning 419 and after that it is either he is going to the house of assembly or senate. What can a rogue, a 419, do in politics? So what I am saying is men of proven integrity should be the people to be allowed into power.
Also, there should be checks and balance. There should be no lip service about this. If a particular arm of government did not do well, the other should be able to fish it out and exposed it. For instance the oversight function of the legislators, they use it now as a way of extortion. If you don’t play well, we will use our position as legislators to strangulate you. This also affects the judiciary and the forth estate of the realm. Are you doing your duty? What are the journalists doing in government house always, the brown envelope issue. There are special departments in other states devoted to taking care of journalists thereby shutting them up. If those in power know that if they do anything bad, they will be exposed, then they will always try to do what is right.
It is believed that a life of integrity and accountability is the most fundamental source of personal and societal worth. A person does not have to be a councilor, chairman of LGA, State or Federal legislator, Minister or State governor or president to live a life of integrity, transparency and accountability. We must live a life that shows our integrity in any position we hold at any particular time, be it in the public or private set up. It is a life that hold sway in any decent cultures.
But in Nigeria, non-adherence to moral and ethical principles, soundness of moral character and honesty is the order of the day. Those who hold public offices rather prefer diverting funds meant for development for personal use.
The lack of transparency and accountability of those at the helm of affairs, in this country have ridiculed us before the international community.
So in the rebranding Nigeria project, integrity must take a centre stage. Men and women of great intelligence without integrity are social liabilities and pose great danger to this project. Men and women with average intelligence but with integrity are potential assets that can build this country to a viable one. They are the people we need in power.