There is something about Africans and corruption that is difficult…
By Arinbomen Star
Corruption is an all-embracing moral concept that describes a lack of moral scruples in disposition and action. It encompasses all forms of improprieties in official positions or formal dealings that cause undue advantage to accrue to a person, a group of persons, or an institution at the expense of another party or parties. Corruption has become an unyielding encumbrance in Africa’s quest for enduring development. The continent has been presented in a bad light time and time again before the international community on grounds of brazen acts of corruption. Nevertheless, the ignominy of these caricatures has not influenced and positive change on the part of Africa’s corrupt public office holders and their cronies; it’s like water off a duck’s back.
After several decades of gaining independence from their colonial masters, most African countries are still as much as ever tied to their ex-masters’ apron strings. This is little wonder, considering the fact that African countries have not ceased to live as hangers-on in their relationship with the West. Africa is at the mercy of every international donor agency one can imagine for the execution of developmental projects and the running of local programs. Most local programs in African countries cannot function effectively without handouts from Western donor agencies. Withdrawal of financial aids by these agencies often sounds the death knell of most local programs in Africa.
Africa’s mundane position in the committee of nations is not consistent with her natural prosperity. A continent endowed with abundant human and natural resources; a continent with clement weather and a climatic condition that is conducive to all forms of agriculture; a continent that serves as a bastion of all forms of industrial raw materials; how can such a continent be said to be poor? This is perhaps the weirdest paradox imaginable. The missing link must be the mindset of the people. Corruption is the major factor that has placed Africa in a position of disadvantage in the committee of nations. Africa’s caucuses of corrupt public office holders and their cronies have colluded to milk the continent dry of its resources while they paint a poor façade of the continent before the international community.
Despite instituting a number of anti-graft agencies by the governments of several African nations, there has been no let-up in the pervasiveness of corruption in the continent. Although corruption in Africa cuts across all walks of life and the different echelons in the society, the crusade against this social anathema has a lopsided dimension. The unscrupulous elements within the lower echelon often have the searchlight of the anti-graft agencies beamed on them; while corrupt bigwigs, especially top brass political figures and their cronies, are treated as sacred cows. Unfortunately, the crippling effects of corruption on Africa come from these sacred cows, who indulge in king-size acts of corruption. While the intractability of corruption in Africa is attributable to several psychical and structural aberrations in African system, this piece expatiates on three key factors that have made success elusive in the crusade against corruption in Africa.
Perhaps the bane of the anti-graft crusade in Africa is the partisanship of the African police. The executive arm of government in Africa literally dictates the do’s and don’ts of the police; and the police pander to their whims and caprices implicitly. The Zimbabwe Independent of June 15, 2001 quoted the erstwhile Commissioner-General of the Zimbabwe Republic Police, Dr. Augustine Chihuri, as saying: “Many people say I am ZANU-PF. Today, I would like to make it public that I support ZANU-PF because it is the ruling party. If another party comes to power, I will resign and let those who support it take over”.
While a political party is at the helm of national affairs in African countries, acts of corruption by political cronies and loyalists are condoned. National and state coffers are converted to personal and political assets; and corrupt public office holders engage in financial looting and laundering spree with impunity. These decadent elements are only held accountable for their improprieties if another political party takes over the reins of power, or if they fall out if grace with their fold. Justice delayed, however, is justice denied.
The current ordeal of Grace Mugabe and her accomplices with respect to her fraudulent acquisition of a Doctor of Philosophy (Ph.D) degree in Sociology from the University of Zimbabwe in 2014, as well as her illegal ivory trade during the heyday of her husband, Robert Mugabe, as Zimbabwe’s president further lends credence to the partisanship of the African police. Also the tale of Jacob Zuma, the former president of South Africa, and his accomplices, the Gupta brothers, is another topical testament to the fact that African police are mere pawns in the hands of the executive.
In Nigeria, the situation is pretty similar. Colonel Sambo Dasuki, former National Security Adviser to the President of Nigeria; Chief Olisa Metuh, former National Publicity Secretary of the Peoples’ Democratic Party (PDP); and Femi Fani-Kayode, former Aviation minister, were all free men relishing the euphoria of the trapping of political office while the PDP-led government reigned supreme. No sooner had the All Progressives Party (APC) toppled the PDP-led government than these men became political scapegoats. This situation begs a very critical question: ‘Were the police oblivious of the alleged crimes as of the time they were committed?’ There is only one logical answer to this question- he who pays the piper calls the tune.
Furthermore, the breakdown of the check and balance between the executive and the legislative arms of government in Africa’s political system is another major factor which has contributed to the intractability of corruption in Africa. The mutual oversight provided by the principle of separation of powers has been compromised in African politics. The executive and the legislature in Africa make an ungodly alliance in order to facilitate each party’s perpetration of sharp practice. The lawmakers turn a blind eye to the improprieties of the executive; while, in return, the executive give the legislature the carte blanche to fill their pockets with state money. They call it quid pro quo.
The last but not least of the three major factors that this piece expatiates on is the unpatriotic proclivity of some law enforcement agents in Africa. The war against corruption is being undermined by the unscrupulous inclination of some bad eggs within the law enforcement agencies. These unconscionable curs collude with corrupt fellows to facilitate the consummation of their illegal acts. In return, they are paid hush money. Granting a safe passage to contraband traffickers at security checkpoints, facilitating the clearance of illegal arms and ammunition at seaports and international borders, and colluding with drug barons to beat the security surveillance system at airports, among others clearly typify a lack of patriotism on the part of some decadent law enforcement agents in Africa.
If African countries must transit from the age-long status of “developing countries” to that of “developed countries”, then Africans as a people must cast their weights behind the war against corruption. Corruption is as offshoot of a barbaric proclivity which must be consigned to the rubble of time. African political leaders and public office holders should serve their countries with unalloyed integrity and impeccable patriotism. African police should no longer be made to function as political puppets; and the executive should no longer hamstring them in the discharge of their constitutional duties. Also the mutual oversight provided by the principle of separation of powers should be re-activated in African politics.
For too long Africa’s place in the committee of nations has been akin to that of a mendicant, who goes cap in hand to their perceived better contemporaries with barefaced disposition; and African leaders seem to be complacent with this mundane existence. African countries must consciously sever themselves from the tangle of indirect colonialism by the West. They must demonstrate to the international community that they are truly independent nations. True independence entails, among other things, a demonstration of a good sense of responsibility. African leaders should take up the responsibility of harnessing Africa’s abundant human and natural resources for the entrenchment of enduring development in the continent. Central to the achievement of this feat is the abolition of corruption in Africa’s social-political setting.
Arinbomen Star writes from Ibadan, he can be reached via Starins4real@yahoo.com