Oby Ezekwesili: Corruption, national development, the Bar, and the Bench – Part 1

Being the text of a paper presented by Obiageli “Oby” Ezekwesili On August 28, 2012 @ the 2012 Nigeria Bar Association Conference, Abuja, Nigeria.

First I wish to thank the Bar Association for inviting me to their 2012 Annual Conference to speak on a topic very dear to my heart. I pay due respect to the discussants lined up for this topic and I do look forward to a healthy discussion of the topic with the audience of people who have joined us today.

The challenge that corruption poses to national development of countries has long been a matter of academic interest even though such public discussion of it was scarce until the early 90s when the global body, Transparency International (TI) was founded. Together with few friends from across the North and South of the world, I was privileged to be one of the co-founders and a pioneer member of the Board of Directors of TI in Berlin. I then went on in 1994 to bring together eminent citizens that included Justice Kayode Eso, Professor Eme Awa, Dr. Christopher Kolade, and General Ishola Williams to found the Nigerian Chapter of TI in those politically stormy early 90s when it was suicidal to campaign for Democracy and Good Governance. Truth is that as a young professional woman and one of the leaders of The Concerned Professionals in those years of anomie, I trenchantly detested the political, economic and social harm that Corruption which is the Key Symptom of Bad/Poor Governance was doing to our society.

Together with few friends from across the North and South of the world, I was privileged to be one of the co-founders and a pioneer member of the Board of Directors of Transparency International in Berlin.

I passionately detested the cancerous and hence corrosive impact of Corruption on our society so much that I put everything on the line to “let my voice be heard” regardless of the consequences.Those who are well acquainted with my antecedents will attest that since then; and many responsibilities afterward in the private sector, public sector, international development etc. that the same innate despise for corruption continues to drive my choices and actions and that for me therefore “warring against bad governance and its derivative corruption” is not a cliché.  My creative dissatisfaction with bad and aberrant governance of that season generated enough overflowing anger to fuel the years of my youthful advocacy and completely shaped my choices and life pursuit in the decades that have followed. My transmutation from being just a regular Chartered Accountant in private sector bliss to becoming a consummate enthusiast of public policy was borne out of my desire to understand the root causes for the Greatness and Poverty of Nations.  Hence, as I have burrowed into Economic Development research over the last two decades, the overwhelming evidence is that no society of citizens and leaders paralyzed by indifference to their deficit of National Integrity System due to systemic corruption can ever hope to attain economic greatness. Poverty is both a root cause and consequence of Corruption. But even more profound is the evidence based knowledge that Corruption is a mere symptom of a deeper and extremely virulent malaise- and that is, the absence of Good Governance. Where a society lacks the much broader Good Governance on a sustained basis over many decades such a deeper failing starts to form the basis for the ruination of such a people regardless of the enormity of their country’s potentials.

So if our diagnostics show our issue of concern at this event is a mere symptom of a deeper problem it would make physiological sense for us to get deeper in our search for solution. That means that we should rather use this opportunity to attempt a better understanding of the root cause if we are to make any medicinal prescriptions with a chance of lasting efficacy. To that extent therefore our first interest is to fully understand what Governance means, what Good Governance means and hence what the “Absence” of Good Governance being a synonym for Poor/Bad Governance means and finally to dig into the wells of academic research and practical knowledge that exist on corruption- its most malignant symptom. We shall then go on to propound on the consequences of corruption generally but with a special focus on Nigeria and her national development. Finally, we shall lay out a canvass of the tested solutions to rebuilding the strictures or parameters of a National Integrity Infrastructure by a nation bedeviled by corruption and end with an attempt at identifying the roles of the Bar and the Bench in the onerous and extremely costly but necessary vision of tackling poor governance in Nigeria.

So if our diagnostics show our issue of concern at this event is a mere symptom of a deeper problem it would make physiological sense for us to get deeper in our search for solution. That means that we should rather use this opportunity to attempt a better understanding of the root cause if we are to make any medicinal prescriptions with a chance of lasting efficacy.

So, what is Governance? It simply means the act of governing. Governance describes the application of rules and processes through which authority and control are exercised in a society, political decisions are made, the rules for the scope of action of state and society are structured, and resources for economic and social development are administered. It is the process of decision making and the process by which decisions are implemented in furtherance of the role of mostly governments and their departments but even more recently including other corporate entities outside of governments. It relates to decisions that define expectations, grant power, or verify performance. It consists of either a separate process or part of management or leadership processes. Although the specific remit of those in formal positions of authority, it has become an empirical fact that to a large degree citizens determine the quality of governance and the results that matter for their well-being.

A distinction is made between three dimensions of governance, which are intimately connected, namely security governance, political-administrative governance and socioeconomic governance.I found a broad collection of what it would be like I in the Discussion paper of the German GTZ on Promoting Good Governance in Post Conflict Countries and have listed them thus:

Security dimension of governance:

  • Establishing and maintaining the state monopoly of power
  • Granting physical integrity
  • Democratic control of the security sector
  • Reforming the police service at all levels of the state

Political-administrative governance comprises of the following areas:

  • Constitutional reform
  • Division of power and inter-ethnic cooperation
  • Group autonomy and vertical division of power through integrative decentralization
  • Democratization and elections
  • Rule of law and judicial reform
  • Efficient provision of services, combating corruption
  • Promotion of local communities

Socio-economic governance

Suitable entry points for promoting good socio-economic governance include:

  • Macroeconomic stabilization
  • Determining economic structure, delineating roles of public and private sectors and regulating ownership/control
  • Satisfying basic social needs

When taken together, the totality of all these comprise the substantive issues of any modern constitution. Therefore, we can from the very beginning assert our preference for laying down Governance within a context that is consistent and in full alignment with a functioning constitution.

 

This is a 4-part series. Parts 2 and 3 will run tomorrow.

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