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Information

Uproot Corruption: Control Information

A Few Outstandingly Bad Eggs

We are faced with monumental levels of corruption in Nigeria today.  In the armed-forces, the civil service, the judiciary, legislature, and even the private sector, corrupt practises are rife.  People that are remunerated to defend the interests of institutions and organisations turn around to undermine, and in some cases, destroy the very offices that granted them leverage and a livelihood.  In the Badeh case, one is amazed, and galled, at just how easily one person could corrupt and fleece the air force, and by extension Nigeria, of so much, and for so long! But he is just one among many others like Dasuki et al.

 

Reducing Corrupt Practises in Government by Controlling Information

Some years ago, my family and I were driving past Hyde Park Corner in London.  Suddenly we spotted three outriders and a Jaguar approaching. As the small entourage sped past, we spotted the Prince of Wales (Charles Windsor) in the back seat of the Jaguar – and he waved at us!  We did not know they were due to pass by, neither did we notice their approach. But his security detail would have seen us, long before we saw the prince, and they would have made preparations for most outcomes of any encounter. Much more valuable than the limited armoury on the Jaguar and the small weapons of the outriders and escorts, was the information about the route and likely risks.  This informational vantage-point afforded the prince and his entourage the confidence to travel with a lightweight security detail.  Without it, they would need a battery.

Break Corruption Chain

 

The Nigerian, the World

Now, one would be remiss to imagine that there is something egregious about the Nigerian psyche. Allow me to illustrate.  Sometime last year, residents of St Albans discovered a caveat in parking laws. They quickly took advantage of it, causing chaos in the city centre. The point here is that Nigerians are not any worse off than humans in other parts of the world.  The residents of this city, like other human beings, spotting a lacuna in law, enforcement, or justice, elevate personal interest over the public weal.  These folk acted, as Nigerians, or other humans would when authority is absent.  The focus here though is not on law, enforcement, or justice.  Rather it is the means whereby signals and constraints can be visibly availed to personal interest, and thereby to prevent and preempt a conflict with the greater good, and the law.

Let us take a look at information and how it is abused at the lowest levels of society.  Special focus is given to the public service, where much of the corrupt practises in Nigeria today is engineered.  In almost every institution of government, the citizen accesses services provided by an authority, physically and by submitting and/or receiving documents.  However, having initiated the dialogue by handing in said documents, both the citizen and the authority become disconnected from an intermediary, and often frustrating, process.  The citizen has to plead or pay corrupt officers to glean so much as an update on the current status of the process.  The authority, whether by omission or commission, remains unaware, and perhaps, justifiably aloof, to the process and the pending documents.  In the time that plays out, the citizen is frustrated and fleeced, and the perception of the authority suffers damage.

Document Management

This does not have to be so!  Technology that can be deployed to short-circuit this routine hijacking of information by scurrilous middlemen.  In this case, something as simple as a document management system (DMS).  This allows for the electronic management of all documents passing through an institution or organisation.  Where properly implemented, this would free citizens from having to be physically present to interact with an authority.  The system provides continued visibility for citizens and the authority, after the document(s) have been submitted to the process.

One immediate side-effect should be increased activity.  Since a lot of time is saved from each transaction, there is opportunity to invest those savings in other transactions with government or an organisation. An astute government could also proviso access on availability of tax identification for validation. The auditing function within the institution could thereafter leverage historical records.  The performance of systems, as well as those responsible for delivering services can be analysed to gauge the perception, accessibility.

Beyond technology though, is motivation and goal.  It would be credulous to read this and immediately jump out to hire a technology firm to advise and implement.  Equally unwise would be to buy some DMS software and do-it-yourself.  If those advising and/or implementing the solution have divergent motivations, or their objectives do not match those of the leadership, even a noble initiative such as this will fail. That would be a tragedy.  Leadership that desires to see better service delivery, must entrust the introduction of enabling technology to partners that share same motivation.

Caveat

Having chosen like-minded partners who, for whatever reasons, share the vision of the institution or organisation, there will still be work to do, during and after the implementation.  Technology by itself is not enough, it must be evolved, and audited from time to time to ensure that it is still functional and satisfactory. Medieval castles of were not sufficient to keep out invaders or keep prisoners in.  Likewise, information management systems will be subject to assault from those that have lost revenue due to its introduction, or those that stand to gain from its demise.  That should never be a disincentive though.

If institutions such as the CIA, KGB, Mossad, and organisations such as Microsoft, Google, EBay, Apple, etc are still standing today despite the attacks that they face daily, any institution or organisation should have hope.  Attackers usually measure the assault to fit the calibre of the target.  As long as those with the vision invest a little more time, effort and resource than those seeking to undermine the system, all should be well.

To ensure that the new technology is accommodated, changes may be required to legislation, rules, or code of conduct.  The case of card readers and the 2015 general elections is a lesson to all.  When we dare to fight corruption, the corrupt fight back. Beyond fighting corruption though these changes offer other benefits.  The flip-side of this brass coin is pure gold.  Information may be power but information can also be very valuable!  But that is a story for another day.  We should take control of the information that drives our public services to reduce corrupt practises, improve our services, and perhaps generate some revenue along the way.

 

Yes We Can

The problems of our present conundrum are not intractable, we however need imagination, resilience and more belief in our own selves to solve our own problems.  Together we can.
May God bless Nigeria; amen.
Viva New Nigeria!

Oyewole, Olanrewaju J (Mr.)
Secretary General
Nigeria Abroad
No 66
London SE18 3PD
+44 [0] 793 920 3120
Twitter: @NewNigerian
Email: postmaster@nigeriaabroad.org

Mr Oyewole is a social and political commentator, blogger. He is a technology consultant with significant experience in the UK security sector. He has participated in key IT initiatives for the UK police and army.

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News

Nigeria Think!

 

Ever since the controversial launch of Hubert Ogunde’s production, “Yoruba Ronu”, which was banned in the western region at the time (1964), Yorubas have continually engaged or yearned for reassessment and realignment, and so, “Yoruba Ronu” has become variously, an exhortation or an indictment of self; a voice that comes and goes, but cannot be completely put down, or comfortably ignored.  Reading through a rather lengthy 2012 report of the Bill Gates foundation though, I feel compelled to say that the challenge is apt for Nigeria as well.


The report states that “There are now just three countries that have never eliminated polio: Nigeria, Pakistan, and Afghanistan“.  Many years ago in Unilag, the first semester results came out and in one of my courses, I think it was African Government and Politics, I scored 8 out of a possible 20 marks.  Now for someone who was aiming for a 2:1, that was not good, especially as we had almighty June in those days, in which I would need to score about 60 out of 80 to keep on course, and that, in the faculty of social sciences, was a rarity.  Never mind who else scored less than 10/20, discount the fact that I had somehow overslept and only made it to the exam hall for less than half the alloted time; what was clear to me was that I was in bad company.  For my aspirations, I had no business being in the cohort of the scored-less-than-50%.  I knew I had to change, and work hard to somehow make up the deficit, even against all odds.  I thank God, that I did succeed in making up the lost ground.

 

Today, our country finds itself in very bad company.  We are counted amongst the last three countries that cannot, or have not, overcome a simple disease, and in spite of considerable assistance from outsiders.  We find ourselves numbered with Pakistan, a country under the grip of powerful religious extremists, and at constant war-by-proxy; in the tribal areas, in Afghanistan, and in Kashmir.  Nigeria is numbered with Afghanistan, a quasi-nation; a loose assembly of tribal, ethnic, religious and political affiliates, dispersed over a thousand hills in the deserts of mid-Asia.  How indeed are the mighty fallen; how are the weapons of our nationality and identity so easily and shamelessly stripped off of our being?

 

Some years ago, I warned of a death of our nation; not so much in its disintegration as in the loss of her identity and soul, so much so, that those who recognise the country would say to themselves: “Is this that Nigeria? The one that we heard so much of, whose renown straddled the African continent like a colossus; the one whose peoples strutted the earth like peacocks!”.  The same would shake their heads, and the wise would make a mark of it, that where they have been, others should not follow.  Are those days not now upon us?  We rank amongst the weakest and the worst on most global development indices, and the most frightening part is that the leadership of the country believes that we are making progress even as all standards are sliding.

 

Nigeria think!  Nigerians think!  Let us all think now, let us start the process of reassessment and realignment, let us pull out our fingers from our pockets and our bossoms and put it to the plough.  For the generation of our parents, time is past, many or most of them will die without seeing that New Nigeria; for our generation, time flies.  We need to act now if we are to avoid the pain of ending our lives still pondering “The problem that is Nigeria”.  As 2015 approaches, I urge one and all to respond to that exhortation first put out by John F. Kennedy, let us not think of what Nigeria can do for us today, but let us think of what we together can do for Nigeria.  The reality is that there is no government in Nigeria today, what we have is a cabal of robbers and violent extortionists who have hijacked the instruments of government, but that does not excuse us from responsibility.  Our falure to act and to participate in government opened up a vacum that they have stepped into; it is time to make amends and set a course for an acceptable future.

 

Let each person set time apart to think of what they can do, together with other like-minded citizens, to reclaim Nigeria for her people.  No effort is too great, no contribution/input is too small, and now is a great time to start repairing Nigeria and making her great again.

God bless Nigeria; amen.