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The Twister: Political lessons from Nigeria

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On Saturday night I was at the usual upmarket bar in the heart of Blantyre where in a conversation over the recent cashgate arrests and prosecution, one inebriated patron remarked: “When the leader is a thief, the fight against corruption becomes either a smokescreen or a joke.”

The drunkard who never minded his tongue alleged that following the collapse of one party systems of government, many African leaders are corrupt.

With some former leaders on the continent facing corruption charges, his allegation cannot just be dismissed.

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Despite their poor score on human rights issues, the first generation of African leaders after independence demonstrated relative patriotism in directing the course of their nation’s socioeconomic development.

Most of them worked hard and created infrastructure, foundations and even hope for a better future and confidence in achieving favourable socio-economic environment in their nations.

The post colonial leaders also oversaw the conception and entrenchment of ethical and moral values from the family level to institutional level in their nations. In those good olden days, most families considered it as a shame when one of their members was arrested, detained or imprisoned for stealing or for any form of crime.

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Exit one party system, enter multiparty era. After years of upholding cornerstones of patriotism, discipline, loyalty, ethics and moral values, the new leaders in multiparty democracies and their overzealous followers suddenly threw the people’s mores and ethos overboard and installed a new social order.

The dawn of multiparty democratic dispensations saw the ushering in of regimes of impunity, corruption and amoral behavioural standards.

With utterances from leaders such as kamachenjera patauni, anyamata a patauni, kutakata, some of the political followers interpret such statements to suit their personal agendas.

In the name kuchenjera patauni and kutakata coupled with the mistaking of political pluralism as a licence to freedom of everything and rights to everything without corresponding responsibilities, looting of the public treasury with reckless abandon has since become the deep-rooted brand name of public office. Corruption has replaced ethical and moral values.

Continued incidents of corruption makes me understand why renowned African writer Chinua Achebe once argued, the trouble with most African countries lies with the failure of leadership. “The problem is the unwillingness or inability of its leaders to rise to the responsibility, to the challenge of personal example which is the hallmark of true leadership” The root causes of challenges facing Africa are political factors.

Africa’s economic and social problems are, in fact, symptoms of a fundamental political failure and not due to loopholes of IT Systems, accounting packages, or computers as we are being lied to.

Many African nations are currently in trouble because of the corrupt leadership at many strata. The corrupt leadership at various strata is so shrewd that when issues of fighting corruption are raised, the corrupt fat cats turn it into a blame-game.

It is now fashionable for African corrupt leaders to quickly blame their predecessors, past regimes, IT systems and even accounting packages as if the computers have hands to steal money, when they are involved in corruption.

It is a pity that in Africa when the small pawns are sacrificed during graft scandals, the most corrupt barons pretend to be righteous-busters of the vice.

Members of the public are hoodwinked into believing that the corrupt leaders are pure in their motives and have the best interests of the nation at heart when the opposite is true.

Like all crooked leaders, the corrupt leaders stand at political podiums and shout loudly that they are fixing the economy, yet they are the great initiators and beneficiaries of corruption.

Perhaps time is ripe we plucked a leaf from Nigeria. Once upon a time it was claimed that corruption in Nigeria could never be fought because the corrupt in that nation were bigger than life.

There was actually perception that corruption in Nigeria was the way of life that whoever attempted to fight it was simply wasting their time.

All that nonsense has now come to an end after President Muhammadu Buhari defined corruption as the greatest form of human rights violation and took the vice head on. Fulfilling his election promises, President Buhari has investigated and arrested very senior officials who in the past were regarded as untouchables.

The long and short of it is that if Nigerian government can fight corruption, what excuse in the fight against corruption should we be making?. It is sad that Malawi is a nation where corrupt government officials have always been in competition to show who the richest is, who has the most expensive house and or the most luxurious vehicle.

Just imagine rumour has it that there is a cashgate township in one of the cities in Malawi. This is the township where most corrupt barons built their houses using cashgate loot.

Time for glorification of corruption is over. This is the time that all those who were stealing government money which they abused by having boozing parties in local and foreign bars should be prosecuted and jailed. The lesson from Nigeria is that political will can make a huge difference in the fight against corruption.

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