Every year, Transparency International (TI) ranks over 180 countries all over the world based on their perceived levels of public sector corruption according to experts and business individuals. These nations are ranked from zero to 100, in which a score of zero indicates that such nation is extremely corrupt and 100 shows a very clean nation.

It is therefore no longer surprising that anytime TI releases these annual rankings on Corruption Perceptions Index (CPI), countries within sub Saharan Africa seem to form a dark cloud at the worst end of the rating. Though public perception of corruption within the countries in review, form the basis of this assessment, the implication of its outcome is far reaching.

For these African countries, the question of how other countries with lower perception of corruption ranking are able to keep this index low among its populations should be a food for thought for them. Other questions they need to worry about are; what are these other countries getting right that they are not doing right? What is the impact of this ranking on their national prospect for growth and development?

In the most recent score for 2017 that was released on 21 February 2018, it became glaring that countries within sub Saharan Africa scored lowest with an average of 32 as it concerns the trust index among its citizens. It is critically embarrassing to note that for a country like Nigeria, year in and out, states like Ghana, Benin, Togo and Mali have consistently bested her in these ratings amidst claims of being the largest economy in Africa. Despite this seemingly prosperous GDP economic positioning of the nation, there are factors that have created a major trust gap between the government and its citizens, which has consistently perpetuated the nation within the red zone of the Transparency International CPI rating.

Top on the list of issues that has made Nigeria notorious in the bad books of TI, is the manner and level to which the nation’s politicians have elevated corruption, such that it has gone beyond mere mouthing to now being deified. It is currently being worshipped by the low and the mighty. It is one issue both the literate and illiterate classes are deeply involved in. Conduct a poll today asking why Nigeria is yet to have stable electricity and I can assure you that 98% will point at this deified malfeasance. It now looks as if graft has become a problem that has no physical solution but one that may need some supplication to spiritual alternatives. The challenge this poses to the nation is that of an awaiting critical crisis in future if this consciousness is not corrected by the aspiring youthful population whose minds may have been conditioned to believing that being in TI’s red zone is now the rule rather than the exception.
Taking an in-depth look at the ‘anti-corruption’ war in Nigeria and in comparison to what is obtainable in other climes, one would easily understand why the country has perpetually remained in TI’s bad books. Other nations have put in place proactive measures to tackle graft in deference to that popular slogan of prevention being better than cure. Apart from the fact that their legal frame works have extensively defined consequences of breach of such established processes and exceeding required approval limits in all facets of their National lives, their systems ensure that processes are consistently improved upon to minimize such instances where people cheat for pecuniary gains.

Initiatives like the Integrated Payroll and Personnel Information
(IPPS), Bank Verification Number (BVN), Nigeria Uniform Bank Account Number (NUBAN) and the Treasury Single Account (TSA), took the nation’s ranking from 25 in 2013 to 27 in 2014, after which the Corruption rhetoric of politicians dropped it to 26 in the heat of the 2015 election. A glimmer of hope that came in 2016 occasioned by the earlier successful handover of power from one civilian administration to another in 2015, pushed the nation’s ranking up to 28 only for the shenanigan of the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) through the instrumentality of ‘recovered’ whistle-blown orphaned monies, claimed to have been busted by them and the inaction of government to allegations of corruption leveled against men manipulating the levers of power within President Mohammadu Buhari’s inner circle, brought us down to our current score of 27. Yes! 27th most corrupt nation on earth according to her citizens’ perceptions!

To improve on this negative, government must be seen to be taking steps to contain breach of processes through the creation and enforcement of appropriate legislative framework, robust financial technologies and advancement of transparency. Rather than spend time running after alleged corrupt individuals and spending so much of state resources in going through endless prosecutions and orchestrated media jamborees that tend to put the entire nation in bad light, the anti-graft agency should channel its energies toward working on and perfecting our government’s day to day processes with a view to reducing avenues by which individuals, heads of government and corporate entities can short change the system. The legal framework just like you find in Singapore at its extreme and in the United Kingdom at its best will ensure that once a case of deliberate act of circumventing the system is established, appropriate punishment is swiftly guaranteed.

The 2019 Election is just by the corner and you can rest, assured that the barrage of accusations of corruption and counter allegations in a bid to bring down political opponents and score biscuit political points would be legion and the overwhelming implication of this is a further downward slide on TI’s tracker. For the international community, this sour hymn of corruption coming from every citizens’ mouth without the concomitant convictions, only serves to fence out the Foreign Direct Investment (FDI) the nation so much desires. It signposts a country that takes this vice at face value and plays little host to the much needed elements of trust and integrity.

Using the South Korean narrative as a case study, an alleged act of corruption was leveled against a sitting President, Parke Geun-hye and because such societies understand the life in such a word as corruption; the matter was taken as serious as the allegation, sending a signal that there are consequences for corruption. Here in Africa, South Africa just scored another high with the resignation of her former president, Jacob Zuma, on alleged act of corruption; certainly this will impact positively on the score of that nation in TI’s 2018 index.

The point is that because it is ‘merely’ a perceptions based survey, there’s the tendency for us to discount its impact on the nations image and belittle the attendant national losses. If this is were not so, why would the nations president at the spur of every opportunity in his tour around the world, inform people wearing same shoes as his, that his people are highly corrupt and would receive loud ovation from his cheer leaders. These are comments made in international circles and they evoke some perceptions in international business communities where it reverberate, same goes for the tourism sector, foreign aides and strategic partnership initiatives. In practical terms, a high risk to FDIs.

Corruption can be defeated, it is a ‘process based’ problem that can be fixed and does not require any form of ethereal divination.
The next time a politician comes waving the banner of corruption allegation against an opponent at you, do not be deceived; it is their usual political joker card that always most constantly becomes an albatross for national growth.