Is there an alternative to 10 per cent?

Many Nigerians who are caught up in various acts of official corruption unfortunately have grown into such a system and actually do not know that there is an alternative.

I received a lot of interesting feedback on my article from last week on ‘Is 10 per cent Corruption,’ and it sounded like the question on most people’s lips was – “What is the alternative?” Many Nigerians who are caught up in various acts of official corruption unfortunately have grown into such a system and actually do not know that there is an alternative. The reasons, not far-fetched: we are in a society where as Atedo Peterside explained at the Kings College Old Boys Association Dinner in Abuja only 2 per cent of the country’s population spends the entire re-current expenditure budget – a country with an over-bloated public service (including elected officials and political appointees), that perpetuate a system of continuous patronage in the public service to completely spend the recurrent budget and get their hands on as much of the capital budget for themselves and their ever-so willing co-conspirators in the private sector.

So, one clear alternative to the culture of 10 per cent will be firstly to trim down the monster of our Federal and state public service, leaving fewer public servants to run the government with less resources at their disposal and more work to do. There are two dimensions to the over-bloated public service: first is the fact that we run an expensive presidential system, and if that is not bad enough we have a bicameral legislature at the Federal Level and unfortunately Houses of Assembly across each of the 36 states of the federation, wherein the most important act of legislature year-in-year-out for most of them is to pass the state government budget, which is almost entirely based on allocations from the Federal Government (considering that most of the states are not self-sustaining). With this one crucial act, the “trumpet is sounded” for another year of kickback and kick-fronts that have become the culture of our people and the bane of our national development.

The second level of this problem is just the sheer number of government agencies and their large headcounts as well as the heavy government involvement in many activities that a responsible government should not be interested. Over the years, recruitment into the Federal Public Service as well as the various state and local government administrations have become a means of “job creation”. So, when politicians think they need to create jobs, they just carry out massive recruitment exercises where candidates are asked to “settle” to get a job; or they come with “notes” from their all powerful legislators or traditional monarchs – setting the stage for further acts of corruption and nepotism when they start work. Once, I was told by a Human Resources Director in what I used to think was one of the most serious Agencies of Government that they needed a trainer to keep the 200 new staff who they had just employed “busy” because the new staff who were forced on them by the “powers that be” really had no work to do. The first solution therefore is to “De-Government”! Now I hear my readers say – so, if you cut down jobs in the public service, what will the two million youth graduating each year from our higher institution do?

They will join the millions that will be released out of their miserable and corrupt lifestyle in the public service to drive the creativity and innovation required to transform our country. If there is anywhere that should be over-bloated in Nigeria it is the private sector. Like drinking good water, you can never have too much of a vibrant private sector that is not narrowly focused on chasing oil and mineral mining rights and their share of the national cake offered by the Government, but will be actively involved in creatively deploying their talent and resources to developing products and services to meet the needs of the largest country on the continent and one of the fastest growing societies in the world. In a nutshell, the real alternative to the culture of 10 per cent is the culture of innovation – the culture that has transformed societies like Malaysia, Brazil, India, Singapore, Botswana, UAE amongst others.

They say “necessity is the mother of invention”, however faced with this burning necessity at times of similarly grave economic recession in the past (1983,1997 and 2009), Nigerians have rather than responded with the creativity and innovation required, have buried their heads in the sand for a few years, waited on the recession to be over, and continued in their brazen acts of corruption that reached a crescendo in the years leading up to the last elections and still persists till this moment.

My fervent prayer is that we choose to address these fundamental anomalies in our system and culture, and embrace creativity and innovation as an alternative to corruption. That our young school leavers will be trained to be innovative; that our leaner public service will be trained to be more innovative; and that an army of entrepreneurs and innovators will take our country by storm creating products and services that will meet our needs and satisfy the needs of other countries who are not blessed with the sheer population that we have.

So, don’t wonder what you can do if you stop taking and giving 10 percent – you can be innovative and join the army of transformational change in the new private sector that is based on “de-Government”.

Barrow is a teacher of values-based leadership at the Abuja based Learning Impact NG

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