The Carnegie report provides lessons on the war against corruption

A recent report of the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace singled out corruption as the most important obstacle preventing Nigeria from achieving its enormous potential. Titled “A New Taxonomy for Corruption in Nigeria”, the report said that corruption weakens the social contract between the government and the people, stymies development and causes billions of dollars to be stolen every year from the country’s economy. What is particularly worrying is that this abuse is not only at all levels of government, it has been extended to virtually all critical institutions in the country, including those in the private sector.

What is particularly instructive about the report is the claim that members of both the ruling All Progressives Congress (APC) and the main opposition Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) use political power to steal public resources. “Both are almost identically structured, non-ideological organisations. Both rely on misappropriated public funds to finance election campaigns. Neither values internal party democracy, allowing money and high-level interference to corrupt candidate selection processes,” the report said.

Given the revelation that the line between APC and PDP is very thin, this report should change the partisan manner of fighting corruption by this administration if any appreciable progress is to be made. Just recently, the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) froze the accounts of two states – Benue and Akwa Ibom based on what many believe to be partisan political considerations. It took a public outcry before the restrictions on the accounts of both states were lifted.

The accounts of the Benue State government were obviously put on ice because the State Governor Samuel Ortom defected from the APC to the PDP. Why, many wondered, didn’t EFCC vet the state’s security votes when Ortom was in the APC? And why did Akwa Ibom come under the searchlights immediately Godswill Akpabio, Senate (PDP) minority leader and former governor of the state defected to the APC? Why is it that EFCC is only interested in states controlled by the opposition, such that it would gloat after the PDP candidate was defeated by the APC candidate in Ekiti State after the June election?

As we have said on this page severally, there is a world of difference between fighting corruption and peddling sensational information with political motives. The drama and media showmanship that Nigerians have over the years witnessed in the name of fighting graft will worsen corruption in the future. Yet, it is a given that where leadership misdeeds anticipate no consequences, democratic governance can only abide by rules made by autocrats and enforced by a rogue judiciary.

We have at different times challenged the current administration that fighting corruption requires some underlying doctrines that will inform the battle plans with the overall objective of carrying the people along. But with a campaign that has no foundation in public morality or ethical good governance beyond empty propaganda, fighting corruption has been reduced to the arrest of some opposition politicians and telling tales.

What the operatives of this administration ignore is the link between distortion of values and abuse of, or general disregard for, extant rules. Yet once rules are ignored, all templates lose their validity, submitting to collusions and arbitrary exercise of discretion that is nothing but grand corruption that has become very pervasive in the country, regardless of what officials are saying.

Indeed, as we have consistently argued, a war against corruption that is guided only by a blanket notion of naming and shaming opposition politicians will ultimately exhaust its ammunition and record ephemeral success. Fighting corruption in an environment such as ours goes beyond the sensational arrest of persons to putting in place structures that will lead to trials and convictions of those that are guilty without tarnishing the reputation of innocent citizens.

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