The ability to accurately define the problem is one of the greatest steps to solving it.
In many African nations, corruption is a cancer. The public money making its way into personal hands is more than all the aid received since independence in some countries. Anti-corruption bodies have been set up but not much has changed. Using Nigeria as a case study, the anti-graft agency works tirelessly but nothing seems to change. The corrupt seem to be faceless people who are never named or shamed. Yet, close to a trillion dollars has been stolen from Nigeria’s public accounts since independence in 1960.
According to The Economist of October 10, 2019, “More than $1 billion seized from Mr Abacha’s bank accounts has been returned. But many African states have not helped their cause, often because thieving politicians are still in charge. When Switzerland returned $500 million of Mr Abacha’s money, most of it disappeared again.”
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What is the problem? If we do not define the problem accurately, we will arrive at a wrong diagnosis and administer the wrong treatment.
Nuhu Ribadu, as former head of the Nigeria Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC), was known for his resolute approach. During his tenure, a serving minister was dismissed from office, and three out of Nigeria’s 36 governors faced impeachment within two years, all due to the EFCC’s influence.
Even the then-police chief, who was Ribadu’s superior, was tried, convicted, and imprisoned. Presently, Ribadu holds the position of National Security Officer for the Nigerian president and collaborates with some individuals he once investigated. Therefore, the question remains: What is the underlying issue here? What is the problem?
Let us look at one of my favourite issues — the youth. They are the majority across Africa and every time armed gangs and drug traffickers are paraded, they are more likely to be youth.
Billions were spent fighting Boko Haram terror group made up of the youth that terrorised the northern part of Nigeria and who made global news by kidnapping schoolgirls.
Why were young people eager to join up? They were poor, educated, unemployed and had no hope for the future. The Boko Haram founder targeted young graduates with a simple argument. He told them that after four or more years of being graduates they still did not have jobs.
The logical conclusion was that western education was not the way forward.
His argument, though flawed, was based on fact. It made sense to the unemployed young people, and it made them a very soft target to recruit and they joined him in their thousands.
Read: Nigeria tightens anti-corruption noose
It is the same reason why at a rally held at 11am on a weekday across the continent, politicians will still gather thousands of young people. It never occurs to them that this is a problem. Instead, they brag about the numbers they are able to attract. If these young people were gainfully employed, would they still have the time?
Could a strengthening of the Judiciary to be totally independent regardless of who is in the Executive arm be a more effective way to address corruption? Could job creation and a well-funded entrepreneurship programme be a more effective way to address the youth unemployment and make it more difficult for them to be recruited into cults and crime?
Before you execute your solution, define the problem first. Query your assumptions. Challenge your prejudices. Be objective. Dissect your hypothesis.
Attack it from different angles. Get people with opposing viewpoints to share theirs. Sift through the emotion and cognitive biases.
Wale Akinyemi is founder of The Street University. Email: [email protected]
Source: The East African