By Joel Popoola
Here’s irony for you: Nigerian politics has a better reputation with international experts than it does with Nigerians.
We all know that when it comes to reputation, the Nigerian government can be its own worst enemy.
Whether it’s accidentally appointing dead men to government commissions, or copying entire laws off the internet like a naughty schoolboy, our political class has kept us laughing for longer than Papa Ajasco!
That’s why many Nigerians will be surprised to hear of research from the University of Edinburgh Global Integrity’s Anti-Corruption Evidence (ACE) programme, which shows how much better Nigeria is getting at tackling corruption.
The study reports that the prosecution of high-level corruption cases in Nigeria has noticeably improved in recent years with “key legislative reforms, as well as innovations and pragmatic adaptations undertaken by prosecutors and investigators (underpinning) much of this progress”.
The international academic observers even describe the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) as “a robust and effective agency”.
The report concludes:
“By looking at evidence of what is actually happening, rather than relying on apocryphal accounts or worn-out stereotypes; policymakers, practitioners, civil society and international partners can work together more effectively to support effective anti-corruption law enforcement practice in Nigeria.”
The President Muhammadu Buhari-led administration obviously understand how important these changes are to the government’s national and international reputation and performance. It is therefore, believed that the government will prioritised these changes in the coming days.
Sadly, Nigerians themselves are not as impressed with the progress being made.
The Pew Research centre reports that more than seven-in-ten Nigerians (72%) believe the statement “most politicians are corrupt” describes our country well, and six-in-ten say it describes Nigeria “very well.”
Just 39% of Nigerians are satisfied with the way democracy is working in our country – with 60% not satisfied – and 57% stating their belief that no matter who wins an election, things do not change very much for Nigerians.
And as Nigerians, we have to face facts; there’s a reason people feel this way. The international Corruption Perception Index (CPI) still ranks us 146 out of 180 countries, making us the 34th most corrupt country on Earth. One online poll even suggested that 80% of Nigerians think that placing is deserved.
As the Acting Chairman, EFCC, Mr. Ibrahim Magu, stated recently that: “Corruption is a huge burden to our nation. It has spread to insecurity, poverty, unemployment, falling standard of education, weak access to affordable health care, falling infrastructure and so many others.”
What is to be done?
Well, the ACE study recommends that Nigeria’s main anti-corruption agencies; the EFCC, ICPC, and CCB should “increase transparency as well as intensify collaboration and information sharing with other government agencies and non-governmental partners”.
I believe that this recommendation should be followed throughout Nigerian government. And that’s where technology comes in.
Nigerians need to see the progress that is being made. And in the twenty-first century, people increasingly find information they get from their peers to be the most credible. But to many Nigerians, the political class feels far away and irrelevant. It doesn’t have to be that way. The power to change is in our hands. Literally!
26 million Nigerians voted in the last presidential election. 24 million have social media accounts.
39% of Nigerians voted in the last presidential election. 46% have a Facebook account.
Online and on handheld devices, are increasingly where connections are made in modern Nigeria.
My Digital Democracy project was established to make electors and elected true peers, connecting people with their elected officials via their phones using our free Rate Your Leader app. The app also allows leaders to explain direct to the people they serve– without any sort of spin or fake news distortion – what decisions they have made, why they have made them, and how it affects local people.
This in turn leads to greater levels of trust in a political class that the voters can see are working for them, and accountable to them.
Another survey reported that almost half of Nigerians believe that corruption cannot be defeated.
It can, but not before our political class takes important steps to improve its image through greater accountability and transparency.
But thanks to smartphone technology, that can be done from the comfort of their homes, with the touch of a button.
Joel Popoola is a Nigerian tech entrepreneur, digital democracy campaigner and creator of the Rate Your Leader app.