On Wednesday, 11 May 2016, the then British Prime Minister, David Cameron, at an anti-corruption summit held in London, brandished Nigeria as “a fantastically corrupt country.”

President Buhari also on that occasion said of corruption: a hydra-headed monster which threatened the security of countries and does not differentiate between developed and developing countries.” 

While both statements may appear rather conflicting given the fact that David Cameron somewhat leaned towards sarcastically taking a swipe at Nigeria and Africa on a larger scale, and President Buhari seemed to opine that corruption is a worldwide canker, there is no ounce of doubt in the fact that corruption is indeed a worldwide canker, which has its far reaching roots thrust into the holistic make-up of the African continent. 

Many an ink has been spent on the debasing topic of corruption while many international and local (African) plans and programs have been launched in a bid to combatting corruption in Africa and the world as a whole. However it is rather demoralizing to know that many of these plans have but failed and others were politically-motivated policies of leaders and aspiring leaders. Political leaders in Africa, being very cognizant of the far-reaching consequences we face through corruption use it as a tool in their self-serving campaigns. 

What we realize is that opposition political parties use it as one of the most vibrant tool to steer public opinion in their favour. For instance, the then President John Adjekum Kuffour of Ghana was reported to have lost his seat due to some corrupt practices which were associated with his administration and the fact that, the opposition political party was there at the right time, to fully utilize what they saw as a full-blown opportunity to get into power. This kind of politics which feeds off of the corrupt ramifications of incumbent governments and political administration is one of the reasons why many an African live a very opulent life. 

Since its unwelcome inception, corruption has cost Africa a lot more than HIV/AIDS ever did. This rather unsettling statistic is well amplified in a scholarly article written in 2007 by Dr. Lawal Gbenga of Olabisi Obasanjo University, in which the writer submits that “corruption is the bane of our political and economic development.”  He went on to make a very salient submission on the very patent evils of corruption which I couldn’t help but agree with. He submitted:

Once corruption becomes entrenched, its negative effects multiply. It induces cynicism, because people begin to regard it as the norm. It undermines social values because people find it easier and more lucrative to engage in corruption than to seek legitimate employment. It erodes governmental legitimacy because it hampers the effective delivery of public goods and services. It limits economic growth because it reduces the amount of public resources, discourage private investment and saving and impedes the efficient use of government revenue and development assistance fund.

Hitherto 2007 and after the publishing of Dr. Lawal’s article, statistics show that ,Africa, despite being the only continent endowed with every category of natural resource, is the most corrupt and poor continent in the world. There are no words to overstate the level of opulent livelihood in many African countries, and that is down to the fact that corruption is ever present in every facet of our make-up: political leaders incessantly siphon state funds into their offshore accounts, police officers constantly take monies from individuals in broad daylight, custom officers go to every length to make sure that people pay ridiculous amounts for their goods and to mention but a few.  As-a-matter-of-factly, almost every public office in Africa is tainted with one corrupt activity or the other. 

The following are a handful of reports and evidences of corruption in Africa, and while they may seem outdated, if you are involved in any corrupt act or plan on dabbling into it, I want you to take a look in the mirror and picture where Africa would be if all these amounts did not find their way into the pockets of greedy and self-centered individuals: 

• According to the African Union (AU) around $148 billion are stolen from the continent by its leaders and civil servants. 
• The recent Forbes’ list of most corrupt nations had 9 out of the first 16 countries coming from Africa. 
• On 17th September 2002, a Canadian engineering company called Acres International was convicted by a High Court in Lesotho for paying $260,000 bribe to secure an $8billion dam contract in Lesotho. 
• In 2002, Halliburton, a US company was accused of establishing $180m flush fund intended to be used to bribe Nigerian officials in order to secure a $10 billion Liquefied Gas Plant contract.  The accusation was then proven right when the then executive of the company pled guilty of having set up the purported $180million flush fund. 
• Oil saw its discovery in Nigeria over 50 years ago, over $400 billion has been realized, yet the entire population continue to live in abject poverty and the country has nothing to show for its oil discovery. 

In order to grind corruption to halt, I opine the following be done and done with the African people at heart: 

➢ Well-funded independent watchdogs should be instituted to periodically investigate governmental institutions, and prosecute and punish all culprits. 
➢ Africans must use whatever means possible to demand transparency and accountability on a regular basis so that corrupt officials may have no time at all to cover up their tracks. 
➢ Just like in the case of Ghana, I believe a state prosecutor who is not partial and biased should be set up in every country to deal specifically with corrupt individuals ( this should be entrenched in the state’s constitution) 
➢ Laws must be enacted to protect individuals who risk their lives and properties to blow the whistle on these acts. 
➢ Africans must unite and gear themselves towards achieving a corruption-free continent. It only by uniting that we can fight together. 

While many may blame corruption on people who are in power, I believe the words of Marto Thomas, an American IT guru, pretty much sums up who is to blame when it comes to corruption:

 

There are two kinds of people in the world: Givers and Takers. The Takers may eat better, but the Givers sleep better. However, when it comes to matters of corruption, both the Giver and the Taker are guilty.” 

Author : Aleksandre Evans Kwofie