By Joel Popoola
Good news at last! New research shows that almost nine in ten Nigerians – 88% – believe our national fight against corruption can be won.
Unfortunately, there is yet more bad news contained within the same study.
A three-year project by the Akin Fadeyi Foundation (AFF), which surveyed nearly 40,000 Nigerians, reveals that 51% believe that all public officials are corrupt.
Not some public officials. All public officials.
42% of those surveyed even believe that all Nigerians are corrupt!
Not some Nigerians. All Nigerians.
And who can blame them. Our nation is, after all, ranked 149th out of 179 countries on the most recent international Corruption Perception Index. We have allowed corruption to become an everyday part of Nigerian life.
If those figures weren’t bad enough, pressure group YIAGA Africa this week suggested that an astonishing $582bn has been lost to corruption in our nation since independence.
Think of what we could have done with that money, equivalent to $2bn for every living Nigerian.
The Index of African Governance has previously scored Nigeria a humiliating 26/100 for corruption in state institutions and 25/100 for corruption in public procurement.
But there is hope in that first statistic. The people of Nigerian have not given up. An overwhelming majority still believe that positive change is possible – in the face of significant evidence to the contrary.
But how do we get that change?
As YIAGA Programme Manager, Cynthia Mbamalu has said:
“It has become important to engage young Nigerians on how to fight corruption and enshrine integrity, accountability, and transparency into the fabric of our society, and in our public and private sectors.
“As the group that suffers most from the effects of corruption, young people can be instrumental in the fight against corruption in Nigeria and using peer influence to spread values of transparency and accountability.”
That engagement has to begin digitally – and involve political leaders from senior generations.
Official figures show that at least 60% of young Nigerians have given a bribe – usually to obtain or speed up a government service.
Then there’s our youth unemployment and under-employment epidemic. How many of our young people are paying bribes just to start their careers? And do we want to live in a country where the only young people with a future are those who can afford to pay backhanders just to get a first start?
We are allowing a generation to grow up thinking – with good reason – that bribery is the only way to get things done in Nigeria. Don’t we want our young to grow up instead believing that the key to success is hard work and ingenuity? We need to break this cycle and change the conversation.
My message to those leaders is quite clear – you need to be part of this conversation.
Which is why the digital democracy campaign I lead has created Rate Your Leader, a free mobile app connecting electors and elected.
The Rate Your Leader app puts verified voters in touch with the elected officials who represent them – providing them with the access previously only enjoyed by patrons and donors.
The app opens direct lines of communication between politicians and the people they serve.
This is a two way flow of information to, allowing political officials to provide their communities with credible, verifiable and valuable information, and to better understand the needs and opinions of the people they serve.
Rate Your Leader allows voters to contact their local representatives person-to-person at the touch of button, opening dialogue, driving collaboration, sharing ideas and building trust.
We all know personal relationships are the most worthwhile, the most fruitful and the most trustworthy – so Rate Your leader also lets users score their local representatives for accessibility, accountability and transparency, using peer influence to highlight to friends, family, contacts and acquaintances the very best of our political class.
I am one of the 90% of Nigerians who truly believe that the fight against corruption is a fight that can be won.
But that fight will only be victorious through a national effort in which all Nigerians are united by a common purpose – facilitated by the digital technology that builds connections with the touch of a screen or button and puts change very literally in the palm of our hands.
It’s time to unite our dear country!
Joel Popoola is a Nigerian tech entrepreneur and political commentator, digital democracy campaigner and the creator of the Rate Your Leader app. Follow Joel on Twitter @JOPOPOOLA