By Anote Ajeluorou
It’s an understatement to say Nigeria, Africa and third world countries are thrashing under the throes of corruption. And several scholars and laymen and women alike have proposed several reasons and remedies for fighting corruption. Even draconian laws have often been enacted and outright executions carried out yet the malaise remains to plague society. Every successive government campaign focuses on eradicating society of the menace, but all to no avail.
But a scholar, not the university type always on the look out for political appointment, has come up with an ingenuous diagnosis of corruption and how to tame it. But Jimanze EgoAlowes isn’t your regular university scholar, but in his diagnosis he challenges conventional wisdom about corruption in his new book Corruption in Africa: Resolution through New Diagnosis (The Stone Press, Lagos; 2014).
EgoAlowes goes as far as challenging Chinua Achebe in his proposition that the problem with Nigeria is leadership. EgoAlowes not only faults Achebe’s submission, he gives reasons for such faulty analysis as rooted in poor understanding of society’s foundational make up.
“So why are people corrupt? What is it that centrally defines and fuels corruption?... Or are Nigerians innately more corrupt than other nationals, say Americans or Japanese?” he asks. He then submits, “Our contention is that corruption is wholly and entirely power, not a function of persons or countries. A people are corrupt or corruption-free to the extent, depth, spread in which power is architected and allocated in a society”.
Startlingly, EgoAlowes further argues that the problem of corruption is not in persons but a subversion of system and the way power is configured in any given society to alienate the majority who now try to undermine it by willful acts of sabotage. According to the author, “It is not persons that corrupt; it is the system that co-opt (sic) or precipitously pushes persons, largely innocent otherwise, into corruption. And this co-option is based on the nature, texture and distribution of power in a given society and little else, if any other thing at all.
“So, if you want a corruption free society, worry less about persons, about saints, ogres or monsters, and worry more about the way of architecting the system and allocating power. Corruption is the system; it is the power system. Get that correct and you have cleansed and purified the system… And how do we distribute and allocate power?”
EgoAlowes further argues that it is power and not man or morality that fuels corruption. He gives several instances of such power grab that denies other citizens a fare share or participation in the process of development. As he notes, “So, concentrated power, by its own logic, engenders corruption. And this is not just corruption by kings… but also by the alienated who naturally seek to reverse their impotence and alienation… Plainly put, no man steals, takes, gives or eats bribes against his own estate or interests… It is a power architecture that excludes you from the ownership of any part of the national estate or realms”.
EgoAlowes gives instance of Nigeria’s poor power configuration where the governor of a state is decided from Abuja and the will of the people of that state undermined.
But more centrally is his proposition that scholars, who ought to know, have abdicated their stellar positions and allowed leaders to take the shine. He blames scholars for not being far-sighted enough to think through the corruption conundrum so as to come up with solutions for it. Merely blaming leadership for it, he opines, is fruitless. The central thesis of EgoAlowes is that there should be new thinking to develop new paradigms for reconfiguring a desired Nigerian society.
For the author, Nigeria’s democracy modelled after the one America practices is wrong-footed, as Nigeria’s power architecture or configuration is no way close to that of America. He argues, “Nigeria is built and architected as a unitary power centre; so it cannot be made democratic as its administrative levels except you call in angels to run shop. To upturn this entrenched power architecture must be the central goal of any progressive president if we’re are to develop as a community…
“…Unlike United States of America, nobody may say that Obama has to approve of the party primaries in Texas or just about any state before a ticket is won. America is built from ground up. We have in copying America chosen to erect an America from roof down. And in vain we expect it to stand. America is a federation of states, but a confederation of powers, of individuals. This is important. You can’t just copy the form without the internal logic…
“So, if Nigeria is to be corruption-free… the thing to do is to envision a new architecture of power and achieve it…”
EgoAlowes concedes that perhaps the only person who has successfully devolved power to achieve success is the Minister of Agriculture, Dr. Akinwumi Adesina. Immense strides have been recorded in that sector.
According to the author, while power is concentrated in a few strong men in Nigeria, it is the reverse in America, saying, “How that power is gathered and architected to have the greatest powers granted the greatest numbers, not just the greatest happiness of the greatest numbers, is what makes a country, is what makes an America, the greatest powers on earth”.
EgoAlowes states that merely copying America’s system the way Nigeria did by mere aping without taking into account the internal logic of how America works is fruitless. He states that America, which ought to copy Europe did not at inception; rather, it shunned its kingly courts with their inherent corruption and made every man equal, with equal amount of power unto himself. Nigeria, he contends, must therefore transcend copying America and re-envision a new Nigeria for development to occur.
It is in this project of re-envisioning a new Nigeria that EgoAlowes holds Nigerians scholars responsible for a poorly configure country. He can’t understand why thinkers believe the man in Aso Rock is superior to them and why they servilely pay homage to him when it should be the other way round, noting, “the president’s task is to brace things. The people are the constitutive ends of making America a great nation.
“And the tragedy is that the Nigerian scholar still imagines that drama and pomp of public office is in any way superior to the solitariness and earth-moving insights scholars can mine from solitude. Little wonder they are all abandoning the faculty and emptying themselves into government houses… And if this lesson of the scholar as the superior of Caesar is lost, then the whole purpose of education is gone”.
He further argues that the market place rather than government house or houses are centres of power competition for the best to shine. Among the arguments EgoAlowes deflates are the need for strong institutions, which he says result in cartelization like Senior Advocate of Nigeria (SAN), which he says are centres of monopoly and corruption. America does not have such contraption for lawyers as cartels copied from Britain’s Queen’s Counsel (QC).
EgoAlowes submits, “Corruption is the corrosion of the strength of systems. It is the creeping in of instabilities. That is the genius behind American second amendment. It is power scattered stupid. And the giving and scattering of powers breed and grow yet more innate and inherent powers in constituent citizenry”.
Corruption in Africa: Resolution through New Diagnosis is scholarship at its best. EgoAlowes has delivered a book every Nigerian desiring a reimagined society should read and implement. Clearly, Nigeria has copied the wrong America; this book is a starting point in re-envisioning a new Nigeria. This book should be have been solid reading texts for members of the National Conference. Indeed, every lawmaker and those in Aso Rock and government houses across the country would do well to read it for the punchy insight it delivers.