Monday 10 December 2007

The Nigerian Lighthouse Anti-Corruption initiative

Another laudable initiative

The Nigerian Lighthouse organised a write-in campaign for Nigerians to suggest how the scourge of corruption can dealt with for the improvement and advancement of Nigeria.

The Nigerian Lighthouse Anti Corruption Day initiative.

I went through the whole list of ideas, suggestions, comments and postulations and decided maybe an analysis of these ideas might be an interesting exercise - I have been quite indulgent in commenting on this material and I would be addressing every kind of issue about campaigns, entries, publications and conclusions.

Organising a campaign

I was invited to participate in this campaign and I immediately crafted a note about my ideas which were duly emailed to the address provided, however, I did not pass the email on as a chain-letter to other friends, I did not think that was proper.

The instructions for contribution were quite clear and easy to understand, I do not think anyone would have missed the very basic instruction which appeared twice - the contribution was supposed to be 50 words or less - I expected the moderators and contributors to follow that guidance but at least 15 out of 37 entries failed that basic test including mine.

I thought the email submission system was a bit cumbersome, why have we adopted a blogging forum for the dissemination of information and then resorted to an asynchronous communication system to gather the inputs?

Because of that, I wrote a long email introducing myself and then quoted my contribution (48 words) within a - Text Begin/End caption - all that finesse was ignored and a lot more information than I intended was published.

Thot against corruption: Facilitate easy access to the means of expression that people can use to air their views.

Following instructions

Beyond that, the first fight against corruption should really be about finding out what is right to do and sticking to that rule, some took more than their fair share and the moderators did not cut them down to size.

I know that in forums like BBC Have your Say and CCN Viewer Comments, the contributions are moderated to get straight to the ideas - I know we Nigerians like to ramble on, we have something to say and like to be heard above everyone else.

If most of the contributions were sets of ideas and instructions, over 40% have already fallen short of the standard required - if a campaign demands being precise, that is what it requires, all others that do not follow that guideline should have been edited or left off.

More so, there are others who would have liked to say a lot more but followed those guidelines only to find that fellow contributors were allowed more space, the rules were then relaxed probably unconsciously which might have caused resentment from others. No sacred cows said one contributor.

I had a lot to say on this topic and I wrote a separate blog to air those views.

Thot against corruption: If rules have to be followed they need to be enforced impartially and those who flout those rules should be advised, corrected or even sanctioned.

We are all against corruption

All contributors were clearly in support of a war or crusade against corruption but the means to that end differed. I think I read that a majority want our anti-corruption agencies to be strengthened to tackle corrupt elements.

People however also need to be able to access that justice or redress system there should also be check and balances to prevent these institutions from being used as tools of menace.

I do not think granting a corruption amnesty for stolen sums of money and peddling unwarranted influence would begin address the matters of corruption the system is so ingrained, if people think the corrupt elements would get away with it, whilst a temporary feeling of satisfaction would be earned for the returns, the criminals would think the amnesty equates absolution.

Thot against corruption: Let the full course of the law and justice be followed and executed before considerations for clemency are entertained.

Adequate punishment

Indeed, these corrupt elements in society have given our country a bad name, there probably should be a crime for bringing the name of Nigeria into shame, disgrace and derision - I do not think we need a law along the lines of insulting Nigeria-ness as we have with Turkey. Maybe this is a kind of patriotism.

Some have suggested the forfeiture of assets; I think that should go alongside punitive fines and possible incarceration - the premise of innocent until proven guilty should be upheld but it should not be an occasion to run legal rings round the system.

Some have suggested the death penalty, grave as the matter might be where sub-standard drugs appear in our teaching hospitals, buildings are built with attention to quality and other corrupt activities that might lead to loss of life. I do not think returning to the barbarity of putting people to death in whatever humane means we garner is the best way to entrench democracy.

In fact, the punishment might even make the offenders more hardened, violent and unscrupulous in getting their way.

Thot against corruption: Allow a certain balance of crime and punishment that should be punitive but not terminal or so severe that the quality of justice gets questioned.

Virtues and principles

Many including myself raised the issue of values and virtues as honesty, contentment, fairness and so on.

Whilst there might be a religious basis for being principled, I do not think our religious organisations and leaders have really been the moral beacons of society that we hope they would be.

Rather, they have adapted their message to the way the society thinks, I once wrote about a church where the priest asked some of his congregation to stand up for a blessing equal to a certain amount.

The religious message has also be hijacked by an inordinate quest for wealth - the love of money being the root of all evil.

We should in and of ourselves to principled, honest and fair, our religious affiliation should not be the defining quality for virtues, rather, that should be complementary to what we already are.

In fact, we should immediately be suspect of people who call God as their witness to deeds they have not been able to truthfully and convincingly explain - we should rubbish the claims and refuse to be cajoled by an affiliation to God - too many people try to drag God's name down into the mud to save their skins.

Thot against corruption: People who need God to confirm their honesty need to be probed the more to ascertain exactly what their core values are regardless of religious affiliation. Do not "Church-going" and "God-fearing" us into submission when we need clear answers.

Slow, determined and realisable

Many appreciate that the war against corruption would require a change in the mindset of the people, probably one person at a time.

Education is important, meritocracy has to gain ascendancy, the culture of sycophancy, nepotism and gaining pecuniary advantage needs to become a thing of the past.

There is a string leadership element to this issue, I just wonder if the implementation of these initiatives do not begin to look like the War Against Indiscipline campaign of over 2 decades ago that made the country look like it was going down the slippery slope to socialism.

This education should also start with the children highlighting civic duties, social responsibility and desire to always do what is right, the children also have to see their parents do the right thing or all that education and schooling is lost.

Maybe it is time to really make the Nigerian Pledge means exactly what it says - to be faithful, loyal and honest being the key phrase.

Thot against corruption: Education and understanding social responsibility are key.

Thanks to the Nigerian Lighthouse

There is much more that can be gleaned out of the suggestions proffered, I leave that to others to give a perspective of their reading.

I also want to thank the trustees of the Nigerian Lighthouse for spearheading another community initiative for the betterment of Nigeria - Keep up the really good work.

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