How can one manage corruption effectively? This is the question the Nigerian US-based author Wright Aloba tackles in his latest book ‘Managing Corruption: Turning Present-day Corruption into Good Corruption in My Country of Hope.’ Aloba explores the complexity of corruption in 30 chapters, meticulously dissecting various facets of this intricate problem.
Written in an interactive style, and simple and lucid language, Aloba delves into the diverse faces of corruption, using relatable scenarios to prompt self-reflection. Contrary to the common belief that only the wealthy and powerful engage in corruption, Aloba contends that the poor are equally culpable when accepting bribes for life’s privileges. Through his metaphorical ‘Country of Hope,’ he illuminates the varying degrees of corruption in society and traces its ancient roots.
Aloba not only identifies different forms of corruption, including traditional corruption rooted in cultural beliefs but also examines why corruption persists today. Deliberately avoiding blame, Aloba encourages readers to introspect before pointing fingers, fostering a mindset of self-reflection rather than condemnation.
The author goes on to propose solutions to combat internal, structural, and endemic corruption in his ‘Country of Hope.’ His key recommendation is managing corruption, suggesting that it can be transformed into a positive force when intentions are transparent and delivery is intentional. Take, for instance, if a contractor inflates the cost of constructing a new stretch of road but delivers a good job, then his corruption will have more advantages than disadvantages because everyone is happy and benefits from it.
“If corruption is inevitable, good corruption is the least we should work to achieve,” he writes in Chapter 11.
In Chapter 13, he expounds on the benefits of managing corruption, emphasizing the potential for more sustainable growth. The subsequent chapters provide practical examples of effective corruption management.
Aloba expands on his book in the following interview. Here are some excerpts.
Your book takes an introspective approach, offering numerous examples and quizzes. What influenced the direction you chose for the book?
The usual and current solutions to corruption (writings, speeches, etc.) over the centuries have not worked or yielded any meaningful results against corruption. Preaching to the choirs (what the experts do) and telling people stories about corruption, or who is corrupt (data presentation); and expecting people to just stop being corrupt, have not resolved and will never resolve it. No one provides answers or solutions, which in my mind, is the typical way those talking about corruption approach it. My approach is to have new, realistic and practical approaches to it; to find solutions basically. My approach is more realistic than writing, complaining about it because these old strategies have not produced any solutions to corruption over decades.
Is complete avoidance of corruption a realistic goal, based on the examples you provided in your book?
No one or to be gracious, very few are incorruptible. The issue is to what extent and under what circumstances. Even if you don’t want to be corrupt, would the corrupt ones allow you or leave you alone? Even those who specialise in ethics are corrupt or unrealistic themselves. You may want to be ethical but will they allow you to be? I know of instances where an officer will be honest and say, “Sir, your papers are in order, but still find us something,” as narrated at the beginning of the book, in the conversations of the poor man and his daughter. I may not want to be corrupt but will the environment I must function in allow it? Those who want to go to work, do their best but the politics of the workplace has no regard for their handwork and resolve. You may want to do good to others but it’s the same people who will make it difficult and ungracious – ungrateful or not enough.
All human beings cannot avoid being corrupt, by the nature of men and women, for all the reasons, as expressed in the book. Although I consciously avoided discussing corruption in other countries, corruption is everywhere, even in all countries perceived to be corrupt-free. All someone has to do is google the latest corruption and bribery in any country and corruption is everywhere. The difference with the country of Hope is that these countries are corrupt but they do some good with it for the citizens to see. There are tangible results. I mentioned the USA, Europe, Dubai, etc. as examples of such good corrupt countries in the book.
Let’s accept corruption as unavoidable in all human beings (I’m corrupt too in one way or the other), with the caveat that corrupt folks must be expected to show something tangible for their corruption.
You suggested in your book that corruption can be viewed as ‘good’ if managed properly, akin to the idea of a ‘good thief’ and ‘bad thief.’ How do you reconcile this perspective with moral considerations?
Morality is overplayed. In today’s world, morality is less to be desired. Those talking about morality are themselves immoral. That is one of the reasons there have been no solutions. What else is moral anymore, to be realistic? I describe morality and the lack of it in the book. As far as I am concerned, morality is dead in most human beings. We need to stop kidding ourselves about morality…churches are preaching it and yet, decadence multiplies each day, even within the churches. When folks say, you must be a member of something to be free to operate your business or when they manipulate everything, I ask, where is morality?
In your book, you highlighted that corruption may have been enabled by factors like ignorance or fear. How do you perceive these elements hindering efforts to curb corruption?
People don’t know that they can be corrupt and still do good for humanity. Take for example, you hired someone or employed someone to do a job, the same person who needs the job (so they cried to get the job) and sooner or later, they do everything to sabotage the job: steal, undependable, etc…Is that not ignorance and stupidity when they need this job for their future and the future of their families? I have experienced this phenomenon many times in my life. As they say, “Ignorance is bliss.”
What specific role does religion play in fostering corruption?
Over centuries, religion has always been the cradle of corruption, from Adam and Eve to Emperor Augustus. One just has to listen and watch religious folks objectively to realize that they are part of it. I know many in my family who are very religious but corrupt. I deliberately have a chapter in the book about the religious angle to corruption. Do you ever wonder why we have so many churches growling exponentially everywhere and yet the society is still getting worse by leaps and bounds every day – wars, discrimination, racism, etc.?
I’m curious about the possibility of corruption management being the much-needed and long-awaited elixir to corruption. Is it achievable?
My suggestions are new and transparent and even though untested, they’re fresh solutions. I’m just tired of people just talking about it as if it’s going to go away by the speeches, divine intervention and voluntarily. Our history at Hope has not supported that…I mentioned in the book that a person with existing obligations cannot just find Jesus and stop being corrupt…How are they going to pay their commitments with their meagre salaries, which had never satisfied their appetite in the past – greed, need and the environment? That was why Okonkwo fell victim in Chinua Achebe’s book ‘No Longer at Ease.’ They don’t have to embrace it. I am presenting another look at the demons within all of us.
Your country of Hope seems to have a duality: a corrupt country yet hopeful for an incorruptible society. What specific steps or actions can citizens of Hope take to move towards an incorruptible society?
My country of Hope is going to officially remain corrupt forever, but, unlike other countries in the world that are corrupt, they perform as promised, with corrupt money, to perform a project. I have examples of good corruption in the book. No society has ever been corruption free and none will ever be. Have you met anyone who is not corrupt in one way or the other? For example, can you say you have been treated fairly, even in your place of employment or in daily encounters, without you fighting for your rights many times? As I said in the book, I addressed the ‘Purists or those with ethical principles’ that, if they have better solutions, they should present them, otherwise, they should remain academic about it…For instance, if a barrage of prescription drugs cannot cure a disease, then, they need alternative medicine. This is where we are today and where we will be tomorrow, as we have been doing in the past if we continue to take the current path. I mentioned some writers in the book who fought and wrote about it and all came to naught so far. The book is available on Amazon.