Much ado about TI’S rat­ing

The Punch - - EDITORIAL - Bob Ma­jiri­oghene Etemiku, ANEEJ, Benin City, @ boba­neej

SINCE the re­cent re­lease of the Trans­parency in­ter­na­tional’s Cor­rup­tion Per­cep­tions in­dex rat­ings on Nige­ria, so much has been fly­ing around. I have watched the Fed­eral Gov­ern­ment pass the buck by ma­lign­ing the In­dex, say­ing that it is the way it is be­cause cer­tain in­di­vid­u­als are un­favourably dis­posed to the ad­min­is­tra­tion. The gov­ern­ment has also said that there is no way in hell that cor­rup­tion in Nige­ria can ever be this ram­pant as por­trayed by the TI rat­ings. Af­ter all, the Eco­nomic and Fi­nan­cial Crimes Com­mis­sion has been up and do­ing to rid Nige­ria of cor­rup­tion. And Pres­i­dent Muham­madu Buhari’s “body lan­guage” clearly shows that he has zero tol­er­ance for cor­rup­tion.

In 2016, Mr. Pres­i­dent at­tended the Lon­don Anti-cor­rup­tion Sum­mit and signed Nige­ria on to the Open Gov­ern­ment Part­ner­ship. The ad­min­is­tra­tion even­tu­ally went on to de­velop a Na­tional Ac­tion Plan along four the­matic ar­eas of fis­cal re­spon­si­bil­ity; ac­cess to in­for­ma­tion; cit­i­zen par­tic­i­pa­tion and anti-cor­rup­tion. He strength­ened our bi­lat­eral re­la­tions by sign­ing ex­tra­di­tion treaties with key coun­tries wherein our monies are stashed away.

And just re­cently, Buhari was crowned Africa’s Anti-cor­rup­tion cham­pion by the African Union. His aides have been do­ing their best to carry the civil so­ci­ety along in the fight against cor­rup­tion, and as a mat­ter of fact, the Min­is­ter of Jus­tice, Abubakar Malami, par­tic­i­pated very ac­tively in the first Global Fo­rum on As­set Re­cov­ery in Wash­ing­ton DC where he signed an MOU, on be­half of Nige­ria, with the Swiss Gov­ern­ment for the re­turn of $321m Abacha loot stashed away in Switzer­land.

But there is a sur­prise. First, why are po­lit­i­cally ex­posed per­sons close to the rul­ing party who are fac­ing prose­cu­tion for cor­rup­tion charges, sud­denly get­ting their charges dropped as soon as they de­fect and ap­pear to kiss Mr. Pres­i­dent’s feet? Why does it seem that peo­ple in his kitchen cab­i­net and oth­ers in his party are sa­cred cows, and can there­fore graze on any­one’s farm and with im­punity? What makes the whole sce­nario very de­press­ing is the fact that a co­terie of com­men­ta­tors has al­ready be­gun a com­par­a­tive anal­y­sis of the level of cor­rup­tion be­tween this ad­min­is­tra­tion and the one be­fore it. Some civil so­ci­ety groups have called the In­dex a wake-up call on Mr. Pres­i­dent (and rightly so), while oth­ers in­sist that the only way to go, af­ter the rat­ings, is a par­a­digm shift in our ap­proach to the fight against cor­rup­tion.

The prob­lem that the ad­min­is­tra­tion has is that it has yet to ap­ply the same set of rules to all. The In­dex is an in­di­ca­tor and most of it is based on the idea which peo­ple have con­cern­ing the fair or un­fair method­ol­ogy which the gov­ern­ment has adopted in fight­ing cor­rup­tion. The very first im­pres­sion we all had that Buhari would fight and die fight­ing cor­rup­tion was with his han­dling of the Da­suki­gate af­fair. He gave us all hope that no mat­ter how rich, pow­er­ful and po­lit­i­cally con­nected they are, loot­ers will go to jail if they dip their fin­gers in the pub­lic till. But cer­tain flip flops be­gan to oc­cur. A mem­ber of his kitchen cab­i­net ac­tu­ally dipped his hands in the pub­lic purse, and rather than pur­sue that in­di­vid­ual with the same mea­sure of re­solve as he did the Da­suki­gate, he ap­peared to dither and was slow in wield­ing his ham­mer. That was where the dis­ap­point­ment set in.

But we must all un­der­stand some­thing about per­cep­tion. It is usu­ally based on cer­tain pre­cepts like mo­tion, ex­pe­ri­ence and vis­ual pro­jec­tions. It can eas­ily es­tab­lish or break down pro­to­types, stereo­types and archetypes. If the Buhari ad­min­is­tra­tion had re­alised that cor­rup­tion is cor­rup­tion and must be taken on no mat­ter the po­lit­i­cal and so­cial con­sid­er­a­tions which make it an ac­ces­sory to the fact, then the per­cep­tion of cor­rup­tion un­der this ad­min­is­tra­tion would not be sub­ject to such a de­bate.

Yet, it is to those call­ing for a par­a­digm shift in the way we fight cor­rup­tion that I may align with…even­tu­ally. Last year, I at­tended one of those anti-cor­rup­tion meet­ings wherein the suc­cesses and fail­ures of the Buhari anti-cor­rup­tion fight were high­lighted. I’d stud­ied the doc­u­ments which the or­gan­is­ers gave to us only to find out that they had spent so much money and time churn­ing out pa­per af­ter pa­per on fight­ing cor­rup­tion. In spite of that, it didn’t seem as if cor­rup­tion was re­duc­ing, rather it seemed to be grow­ing in leaps and bounds un­for­tu­nately. And, there­fore, when it was my time to speak, I sug­gested a par­a­digm shift in the form of a counter-im­agery to dis­lodge the pos­i­tive idea which cor­rup­tion en­joys among our peo­ple. To do that, I sug­gested us­ing pic­tures (movies) and Nol­ly­wood. Stupid idea, isn’t it? Yes, that’s ex­actly what ev­ery­one thought of me and my idea.

Sim­ply put, the form­ing of a per­cep­tion or idea of cor­rup­tion be­gins with a con­text. At­tack it now, it di­min­ishes in value. At­tack it later, it grows and sticks. But at­tack that per­cep­tion now or later and use other meth­ods if you like. Mine is with the use of im­ages of a di­dac­tic na­ture and theme. Send pic­tures of that mes­sage right through the rung of our so­ci­ety – our cities and vil­lages, our schools and in­sti­tu­tions, and our pub­lic and pri­vate es­tab­lish­ments.

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