Nigeria continues to enjoy pride of place in the global discourse on corruption. A Google search for “Nigeria corruption” brings up more than 53 million entries led by a lengthy Wikipedia article on the subject. Matthew’s bibliography lists over 100 books, monographs, and scholarly articles on corruption in the country which analyze everything from its colonial roots to how and why it is endemic to what can be done to tame it. This blog has ruminated on matters ranging from why the head of the Economic and Financial Crime Commission was replaced to whether the then newly-elected President Muhammadu Buhari was serious about fighting corruption to outgoing First Lady Patience Jonathan’s impatience with the thought something was untoward in her receiving “small gifts” totaling $15 million while her husband held high office.
Two current papers by authors with very different backgrounds, one a former U.S. intelligence analyst, the other a former Nigerian professor and incoming head of the Nigeria’s corrupt practices commission, continue the discussion. Both agree corruption is pervasive and that it has done much harm to the state and its citizens. Not surprisingly perhaps, given who they are and where they sit, they offer quite different assessments of where the country stands in the fight against corruption. In Real Challenges of Fighting Corruption in Nigeria, remarks delivered to the Corruption Hunters Network in June 25, Professor Bolaji Owasanoye, nominated to chair the Independent Corrupt Practices and Other Related Offences Commission, radiated optimism, ticking off a series of reforms that have made a different and predicting more progress is on the horizon. By contrast, the tone of a July monograph for the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace by Matthew Page, the former Nigerian analyst for the U.S. intelligence community, is decidedly pessimistic, implying the problem is almost beyond repair. When it comes to what can be done, he offers nothing beyond a scheme to help policymakers make sense of the dizzying variety of forms corruption in the country takes.
My money is on Owasanoye and not just because I had the opportunity to hear him deliver his talk. My reasons for optimism about Nigeria’s fight against corruption are several. Continue reading