Another annual international Corruption Perception Index, another year of depressing reading for Nigeria.
This year’s league table of the most corrupt countries on Earth sees Nigeria slipping even further – dropping a further five places to 154th out of 180, making us the second most corrupt nation in West Africa.
Describing this position as “a historical low”, independent NGO Transparency International cites the exposure in the so-called Panama Papers leak of “more than 100 powerful individuals” using anonymous companies to buy properties with a total worth of £350 million in the United Kingdom alone and “inaction over past disclosures” which has “created a sense of impunity” for stalling anti-corruption progress in our country.
Speaking at the launch of the report the organization’s representative in Nigeria said corruption is “the greatest contributor to underdevelopment” in Nigeria.
And that was not even the only high-profile criticism our nation received this week!
A coruscating editorial in the internationally respected Financial Times of London noted how on a recent flight from the British capital to Abuja “nearly all the space (was) taken up with flatbeds… Nigeria’s economy may be flat on its back, but the political elite flying to and from London will spend the flight flat on theirs, too”.
The newspaper continued:
“The chances of a corrupt system reforming itself are slim. But if Nigeria’s ruling class cannot manage it, any remaining faith Nigerians have in their system of government will evaporate. That way lies disaster.
“Left to their own devices they are unlikely to field a candidate willing to take on vested interests. So unappealing was the choice in 2019 that only 35 per cent of Nigerians bothered to vote. This time it is vital that candidates emerge with a coherent strategy. Ordinary Nigerians must get involved. Politics in Nigeria is far too serious to be left to politicians alone.”
President Buhari was elected on a ticket of fighting corruption – in 2015 he even declared war on it.
Seven years on, it looks like corruption is winning.
In fact, on the basis of an independent international analysis, things have actually got worse!
The 2020 Basel Anti-Money Laundering Index, for example, ranked Nigeria the 14th “most vulnerable country” in the world – down from 33rd in 2017. A United States Department of Commerce report has recently suggested that an eye-watering 40% of all public sector procurement funds in Nigeria is lost to corruption.
Only one man can fix this.
Granted, his track record is not promising. But think about it.
President Buhari is not running for re-election. He does not need to worry about fundraising or making powerful enemies in politics, the press, or the private sector. I am sure he can look forward to a financially comfortable retirement. No favours can be called in. No debts need to be repaid. In some ways, he is completely free.
Would it not be the most perfect legacy for Mai Gaskiya – Mr. Honesty – to leave his nation on the path to a corruption-free future?
This could, and should, be the focus of the last days of the Buhari administration – a holistic strategy led by a tough, determined and relentless team – selected on the basis of talent, not connections or favours.
No stone should be unturned – even if it stirs our political class and institutions. Resourcing needs to be provided to make investigations thorough and prosecution rapid.
And President Buhari should personally take charge.
But he cannot do this alone. All Nigerian politicians need to commit to transparency. And at the digital democracy campaign, I lead we are trying to make it easy for them.
One of the projects we have developed is a free smartphone app called Rate Your Leader, which puts politicians and the people they elect in direct person-to-person contact, creating a direct line between electors and elected helps both sides better understand each other, and collaborate to make our communities better.
Rate Your Leader encourages politicians to do everything out in the open, and rewards them in the form of positive feedback and ratings from the people they serve, improving their reputation amongst their contacts friends, peers and neighbours – the people whose opinions they trust the most. It also makes abusive communication impossible.
Building trust in the political process has to start from the very top – but its foundations begin at the bottom.