Magazine article New African

Is Nigeria the Most Corrupt Country in the World? We Must Be Wary of How the outside World Defines Us, or What They Prescribe for Us. (Frankly Speaking)

Magazine article New African

Is Nigeria the Most Corrupt Country in the World? We Must Be Wary of How the outside World Defines Us, or What They Prescribe for Us. (Frankly Speaking)

Article excerpt

Last October, President Obasanjo had mud splashed on his face from an unexpected quarter. Transparency International (TI), based in Germany, released its worldwide corruption index, which voted Nigeria as the most corrupt country in the world. Interestingly, a few years ago, Obasanjo was the chairman of the governing board of Transparency International. And TI was one of the international organisations that helped burnish Obasanjo's international image as a statesman.

Nigerians recall that Obasanjo used the platform of such organisations as TI to scathingly criticise the regimes of Generals Babangida and Abacha.

But that is beside the point. The label of "most corrupt country in the world" can easily pass as a deserved verdict. Yes we have advanced fee fraud (aka 419), hard drugs trafficking and the scandalous looting of the treasury by public officials.

The scandals rocking Nigeria's new Legislature and the Executive could also justify TI's label. Obasanjo himself has not been in the good books of many Nigerians, not because he is corrupt, but for other political reasons. It was, therefore, not unexpected that some Nigerians naively celebrated TI's damning verdict as if it was a personal indictment of Obasanjo. I say naively because there are more to TI's verdict than meet the eye, and Obasanjo questioned some of those things.

The TI survey covered the period between 1998 and 2000. And in those years, TI carried out only four surveys in Nigeria to arrive at its verdict. It carried out more surveys in other countries. The last time, under Abacha's cruel and thieving dictatorship, Nigeria was rated 27th on the corruption index. Of the years covered by the current survey, only one belongs to Obasanjo. So how do we know to whose era the verdict belongs?

Since Obasanjo came to power, he has made the fight against corruption the cornerstone of his administration. A bill has been passed to that effect, and an anti-corruption commission has been set up to try offenders. Some ministers suspected of malfeasance have been removed.

Obasanjo is certainly not everybody's favourite, simply because he insists, even if a bit dictatorially, that his government is not one of business as usual. The question TI has to answer is what else has happened between Abacha's regime when Nigeria was rated 27th, and Obasanjo's time when Nigeria has sunk to the bottom of the table?

Is it possible that TI, an organisation Obasanjo chaired, is not aware of his anti-corruption drive? Or is it that TI is simply not impressed? Or could there be other motives?

Some recent events should make us take TI's verdict with a pinch of salt. For sure, no one is saying that there is no corruption in Nigeria. Corruption is a legacy left us by the military. We did not need TI's index to appreciate the enormity. But it seems to me that assessments that do not adhere to any uniform standards could be used as a deadly weapon against the confidence of African nations. It could even be part of the new enslavement. Take the mind of a man, and you've had him!

Richard Nixon, in his 1980 book, The Real War, wrote that the next war has no fronts and no frontiers. It is a war waged against the willpower of nations. …

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