The convocation lecture of any university carries a burden which I hope I would be able to discharge today. I sincerely thank the Achievers University, Owo, for nominating me to deliver this year’s convocation lecture at this aptly named citadel of higher learning in Nigeria.
What has the Chairman of an anti-corruption agency got to tell our young graduands and those receiving honorary degrees?
Regrettably, I will disappoint most of those who are expecting me to regale them with the now titillating commentaries of humongous amounts of stolen money or recovered stolen assets that adorn our news media. These have become our international branding that has brought shame to us as a nation. I stand here today to discuss how we can change the corruption narrative to anti-corruption, how we can change from using public resources for private gain to public gain. Can your set change Nigeria? Yes you can.
Will some of you graduating today, end your public or private sector career, as prisons inmates either in Nigeria or foreign country? You remind me of my final year Political Science Class at the University of Ibadan in 1977. My set, made up of only sixteen students, was interviewed by the Federal Civil Service Commission on our campus. Some of us were interviewed for recruitment as Administrative Officers into the main Civil Service, as Foreign Affairs Officers, as Police Officers, as Immigration Officers, as Research Officers, etc.
Only one of us opted to be interviewed for the Prison Service and he became the butt of all jokes in the class the day after the interview. He silenced us all with a sarcastic retort, “Some of you will be arrested by the police or other Law Enforcement Agencies for one reason or the other and I will be there in the Prisons Service to welcome you as a former classmate.” That statement was so profound that we still remember it when we meet decades later.
My classmate’s prophetic statement came to pass because one of my classmates became a Deputy Inspector General of Police before retiring. Another became the Comptroller-General of the Immigration Service before retiring. Yet another became the Director-General of the National Intelligence Agency. I am currently serving as the Chairman of an Anti-corruption Agency. To crown it all, the prophetic gentleman who went into the Prison Service eventually became the Comptroller-General of the Prisons Service. Happily for us he never welcomed any of his classmates except those who graduated from other departments and other universities .
My lecture today will be worthwhile if at the end of your careers no graduate from this set, or other sets, from Achievers University will be incarcerated in prison custody for acts of corruption or other acts of criminality.
I recall the incident of a young graduate who made a first class from one of the private universities in Ibadan. He was jailed in Lagos in 2014 as an accomplice in a N1.9 million internet love scam. It is my sincere prayer that those of you graduating today will go to prison with respect either as Prison Officers, Chief Judges, Religious leaders or social workers to bring succour to prisoners. Use your talent to become achievers of international and national note and bring honour to God, your families, university, nation and mankind.
You are graduating from the Achievers University today having been found worthy in character and learning. Your learning can only take you as far as your characterwill permit. No matter how learned you are, one slip in character will destroy all you have achieved and put a huge moral or legal pressure on your future. You don’t have to be branded as a thief before you lose your right to certain positions of trust in society. Note that some ethical indiscretions might weigh more than some acts of corruption in the choice of who you become.
A young graduate who lacks integrity cannot be entrusted to work in any national or international organisation or business that requires strong ethical and moral values even where they don’t commit any criminal offence. Banking, aviation and health sectors are examples of such places that cannot compromise on ethical values because of the disastrous outcomes.
Those of you who are still students in this university should note that your conduct or misconduct will precede you all your life because your peers have sharpmemories. Those who seek to occupy certain positions in Nigeria are required to go through security and background vetting which extend right back to your primary school days. Apart from those caught in the web of criminal negligence or foolhardiness, most of the persons investigated and prosecuted by ICPC have a common strain running through them. They are generally ethically deficit and morally bankrupt and had manifested some of these attributes as teenagers in school or at home.
Our environment shapes us. This means that society and government must pay serious attention and consciously manipulate our environment for positive outcomes. I do know that my ethical standard was the product of pre-determined circumstances. I grew up as the son of a Prisons Officer and the son-in-law of a Police Officer. To make matters worse or better, depending on your interpretation, my mother was a very strict teacher who ran our home on a strong dose of ethical and moral conduct garnished with severe sanctions.
Attending famous missionary-run secondary schools like Loyola College, Ibadan, and Hope Waddel Training Institute, Calabar, as a boarding student and later on the University of Ibadan of the seventies reinforced my ethical content. That is not to say that others who probably had the same background like me have not or cannot run into ethical dilemmas. The difference is how I imbibed and interpreted the benefits and consequences.
What is Ethics?
This is a set of societal rules which have international acceptance in terms of permissible behaviour or actions which promote good human values: honesty (e.g. accountability and transparency), justice, chivalry, respect for others, patriotism, etc. It guides conduct on the basis of do what I say and do and not what I say and do not do. An absence or low supply of ethical values leads to a deficit in moral well-being and limits the deficiency-prone individual in the delivery of good governance and promotes corruption. Societies have tended to address and maintain ethical balances through naming and shaming, self-regulating conduct and sanctions.
An erudite professor or lecturer or senior non-academic staff, who is engaged in ethically or morally reprehensible behaviour like sexual harassment or extortion for personal favour and or money for marks, cannot be said to be promoting good human values. They are destroying the future.
Quite a number of my 1977 Political Science set at the University of Ibadan ended up in law enforcement because we had lecturers who inspired us not only by their intellectual prowess but by their high ethical and professional standards. We are eternally grateful to the likes of the late Professors Billy Dudley, Essien Essien-Udom and Bade Onimode, late Comrade Ola Oni and Professors Omafume Onoge, Peter Ekeh, Bolaji Akinyemi, Ladipo Adamolekun, to mention a few for moulding our young impressionable character and firing our imagination to stand up for our rights. Cherish and honour your good lecturers for they have baked you for stardom.
Conversely, we are aware that a high dosage of ethical values can also attract resentment for an upright individual operating within a morally bankrupt and corrupt society. The University staff who is known to be a sticker for ethical and moral uprightness and academic discipline is sometimes discriminated against for being heartless and for not “letting my people go.” Students and colleagues would not like to have them as their Project Supervisors or Heads of Departments or Deans as the case may be. However, time will tell when men and women of integrity are needed.
Corruption and Ethical Deficits
Corruption is the subverting of public institutions, processes and goods for the benefit of a few persons or their associates. The substructures that fuel corruption indicate that it thrives where there is a high percentage of ethical and moral deficit in the populace. Societies with high inflation rates, lack of social safety nets, poor infrastructure, poor access to good quality health and educational services, high unemployment rates amongst the youth provide fertile grounds for corruption. Corrupt and ethically deficit civil servants and public office holders and business outfits will tend to exploit these situations in order to provide personal safety-nets and eventually become rabidly greedy to the point of narcissistic opulence.
How do we fix our ethical deficits? ICPC has produced a draft National Policy on Ethics and Integrity under its preventive mandate awaiting consideration and approval by the Government. We want to engage the citizens and allocate shares to them as owners of the change. We need to identify and stay with Core Nigerian Values. Can Christians, Muslims and adherents of traditional religions in Nigeria share the same ethical values? Do they have different reactions to “dishonesty”? The culmination and acceptance of shared values become Core Values and over time become a basis for negotiating acceptable laws for all persons in the society.
Do We Need Constitutional Guarantees for Ethics? Yes we do and it has been provided for under Chapter II of the Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria (2011) dealing with Fundamental Objectives and Directive Principles of State Policy. According to it, national ethics is necessary for “the purpose of promoting the good government and the welfare of all persons in our country on the principles of freedom, equality and justice, and for the purpose of consolidating the Unity of our people.” Do Nigerians need Servicom and Social Charters to be scrawled all over the walls before public officers serve with integrity and honesty?
What are human rights if we do not have respect for human dignity and the sanctity of the human person especially when other human societies have stringent rules for treating animals well? Wherever you come from, or whatever your religious belief is, which of you would like to see your children or relations die in hospitals because they were administered with fake drugs? Why did we allow impunity to hijack our country and watch helplessly as our social values, institutions and infrastructures collapse?
In its second year of commencement, the Transparency International (TI) through its Corruption Perception Report ranked Nigeria as the most corrupt country in the world in 1996 with a corruption perception index (cpi) of 0.69. Indeed, we retained the record in 1997 (cpi 1.76) and 2000 (cpi 0.16) and placed second from 2001 to 2003. Our worst rating remains 2000 when we had a cpi of 0.16 at the bottom of 90 nations surveyed.
Note: The Corruption Perceptions Index (cpi) is an indicator of perceptions of public sector corruption, i.e. administrative and political corruption. The indicator values are determined by using information from surveys and assessments of corruption, collected by a variety of reputable institutions.
ICPC was established in 2000 to principally address the abuse of public office for private gain, bribery, etc. that plagued the public service. In 2004 we were the 3rd most corrupt country and this led to the establishment of the EFCC to tackle emerging criminal tendencies of money laundering and terrorist financing following the upsurge of what became popularly known “419” internet-based scams. When Nigerians became notorious for cross-border drugs trafficking the National Drugs Law Enforcement Agency (NDLEA) was established as far back as 1990. Similarly, the National Agency for the Prohibition of Traffic in Persons and Other related Matters (NAPTIP) came into being in 2003 to address the trafficking in human beings for prostitution and other related offences.
In spite of our self-criticisms Nigeria’s ranking has moved up considerably to place 136 out of 176 surveyed nations by 2016. We have maintained this ranking for the last three years: 2014, 2015 and 2016. In Africa, under the 2016 TI rankings, at least twenty-seven countries ranked higher than Nigeria, out of which twenty-four are in sub-Saharan Africa. Botswana is ranked as the least corrupt and has held that position unbeaten for several years. Botswana is also ahead of a number of European Countries. Nigeria can and must shake itself out of its current position. I am confident that with the right mix of political will, ethical values, uncompromising sanctions, sustainable preventive measures, economic liberalism and support of enlightened citizens we can achieve what we deserve in the comity of nations.
What Intervention/Preventive Activities have we done in ICPC? A few examples will suffice. In order to correct the ethical defict at the primary and secondary education levels, ICPC introduced a National Values Curriculum (NVC) in 2007. This was done in collaboration with the National Educational Research and Development Council (NERDC) and was approved by the Council of States on Education. The NVC Curriculum has 12 thematic areas viz; Honesty, Right Attitude to Work, Justice, Discipline, Citizen’s Rights, Contentment, Courage, National Consciousness, Regard and Concern for Interest of Others, Role of the family, Role of Religion & Nigerian Values.
ICPC is currently seeking to make Civics, Ethics and National Values compulsory examination subjects alongside Mathematics and English Language at the Senior Secondary School Certificate Examinations. In 2013 ICPC launched a Teacher’s Guide for the teaching of an expanded scope of the National Values Curriculum (NVC) and supported training workshops for Train-the-Trainer programmes for selected teachers.
In furtherance of its anticorruption objectives, ICPC collaborates with the National Association of Proprietors of Private Schools (NAPPS), Conference of Heads of Public School Heads of Nigeria (COPSHON), National Association of Parents, Teachers Association of Nigeria (NAPTAN), examinations Ethics Project, etc. to develop children-friendly school environment which promote learning.
Why must we set traps for our children by not having good fully-equipped learning environments to challenge and engage young minds? When they resort to self-help by cheating we unleash law enforcement officials on them.
The monies we use in paying for enforcement every year would actually equip these schools to be functional.
I challenge the Faculty of Education in this university to carry out research to validate this problem I am posing and proffer solutions with empirical data.
Senior Citizens as Integrity Mentors
As Chairman of ICPC I visited my primary School, St. Anthony’s Catholic Primary School, Molete, Ibadan in 2012 after 47 years. It was a great day for the children and full of nostalgia for me as we spent substantial time with the pupils and teachers.
I was the School’s Head Boy in 1965 and I met the current Head Girl and the young pupil who sat where I used to sit in Primary six. Both of them were as excited as I was and both of them can be seen standing with me in one of the picture below. I requested both of them to strive very hard and make their mark in Nigeria too.
I will also share a similar experience I had with a young pupil in the model Nursery/ Primary School I founded in 2001at Uyo. My family took over the sponsorship of this pupil because his old poor grandmother could not cope maintaining him in the school but refused to send him to a free public primary school. He was always unkempt but we could see that it was due to poverty and not because he wanted to appear so. My mother took over the procurement of his uniforms and books. In his final year he came to me and said “Uncle, I want to be a lawyer like you but no one will pay for my university education.” Out of pity and to encourage him, I quickly offered to take on that responsibility if ONLY he was admitted to read law. The young chap completed his secondary school education courtesy of the free education policy of the Akwa Ibom State Government then.
One day out of the blues, I got an excited call from the young man. He informed me that he had been admitted to read law at the University of Uyo and reminded me of my promise as we walked along the school corridor, five years earlier, to sponsor him. Today he is in his fourth year and I have picked up all his fees and associated cost. I know Law School is waiting for me but I feel fulfilled that I could live up to the promises I made to this young man. When our governments, politicians, parents and persons in authority make electoral or corporate promises their words should be their bond. These are the building blocks of ethics and integrity necessary to encourage citizens to believe in good governance.
I want to use this forum to encourage our eminent senior citizens gathered here today to offer themselves as mentors, if you want to share your good religious, ethical and moral values. Physically visit your alma mater or neighbourhood schools,especially at the primary school levels. As role models, don’t just send money.Let them interact by seeing and touching you physically.
As a young pupil in Ibadan, I used to peep with great awe over the dwarf fence of the family house of the legendary late Chief Obafemi Awolowo because we were told he was the one behind the free education and daily free meals we enjoyed. Just imagine how much more inspiring a direct contact, or the opportunity to interact with a greeting, albeit from a distance, would have been to me.
When senior citizens adopt their alma mater or neighbourhood schools they would be in a strong position to speak up against corrupt practices either on the side of the school management or from government. When I saw the deplorable state of affairs in my former primary school in Ibadan, I had the opportunity of discussing it with the Local Government Chairman and Governor Ajimobi of Oyo State. This exercise is so spiritually and physically rewarding. The good feelings will add more quality to your life and hopefully reduce or eliminate medical trips to India.
Student Excursions/Advocacy Visits To ICPC
We encourage student excursions/advocacy visits to ICPC in addition to establishing Anti-corruption and Integrity Clubs in secondary schools and tertiary institutions across the country. At the tertiary level ICPC’s intervention is not limited to reactive investigation of received petitions and the arrest and prosecution of officials who are involved in corrupt acts.
When we realised that the University system was generating too many disruptive petitions we instituted a University Systems Study and Review (USSR) Study in line with Section 6 (b)–(d) of our Act. The Act empowers ICPC to carry out a system study and review of any government agency to eliminate corruption-prone processes, procedures and practices. And thereafter, to instruct or direct such bodies on reforms and new ways of carrying out those activities. Three universities were randomly selected to represent Federal, State, geopolitical spread and Private Ownership for the pilot study.
The USSR Team consisted of eminent university scholars like Prof. Olu Aina who was on the ICPC Board, Prof. Sola Akinrinade from NUC; and seasoned Investigators, Lawyers and Education Department staff from ICPC. It was headed by Prof. Peter Okebukola: a former Executive Secretary of the National Universities Commission and a University Pro-Chancellor.
At the end of the exercise they produced a 3-volume Report as follows:
• Vol.1- Report of the Pilot Study of the Three Selected Universities
• Vol.2 – Template for the Conduct of University System Study and Review
• Vol.3 – Template of Preventive Actions to Be Taken By Stakeholders
All three Reports are available to interested universities to study and apply in order to reduce incidents of systemic corruption that lead to criminal infractions. Non adherence will always attract the not so palatable attention of Anticorruption Agencies.
A. Volume 1- Infractions were classified under the following key areas/ broad:
• Admissions, enrolment and registration of courses.
• Examination administration, award of degrees and graduation of students
• Teaching and learning services and facilities.
• Appointments, promotion and discipline of staff.
• Departmental administration and faculty governance.
• Contracts awards.
• Management of funds.
• Research and research administration
Associated Corrupt Practices by universities:
• Non-adherence to the carrying capacity set by NUC.
• Non-adherence to rules and regulations guiding admission and recruitments set up by the universities and other related public service requirements.
• Some external interference in the admission process by some proprietors.
• Inadequate funding which encourages Universities to engage in over-enrolment of students and other unethical practices. (Some use free student labour to run on-campus businesses as “punishment” in order to boost internally generated revenue)
B. Vol.3 provided a template of preventive actions to be taken bystakeholders and specifically highlighted some of the preventive actions to be undertaken by the universities as follows:
• Strict adherence to approved NUC carrying capacity.
• Staff selection processes should ensure only people of integrity are appointed to handle admission processes.
• Admission of students should be based on merit only established by the institutions.
• Provision and/or expansion of infrastructure to cater for admitted students.
…To be continued