Former Minister of Finance, Dr.Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala, has declared that corruption is a global problem and not peculiar to Nigeria. Dr. Okonjo-Iweala made the declaration on Monday in Washington DC at an event preceding the signing of the book, ‘Fighting Corruption is Dangerous: The Story Behind the Headlines’.
“I don’t think corruption is an African problem. It is not in our culture, it is not peculiar to us.
"In this book, there are few pages about Nigeria and one of the things I say is that majority of Nigerians are honest, hardworking people, who just want the government to provide basic services and then get out of the way and they will do the rest. And that is what it is.
"The majority of Nigerians are honest, hardworking people just like anywhere, but we do have sometimes corrupt and kleptocratic elites that have captured the heart of governance and so in essence we were held hostage and it is the same in many countries, but in Africa our institutions are not strong enough," she said.
She cited the examples of South Korea, where a former president was jailed for e 24 years, and Brazil, where there was hoopla about the Car Wash scandal as indications that corruption is rife in emerging markets. She also cited Venezuela, Mexico, Peru and Malaysia as examples of emerging market countries where corruption-related discussions are going on.
As a development economist, you know this is something central to the work we do, something we worry about. And we just talked about fighting corruption and trying to make sure that resources that should go to eradicating poverty, providing services for poor people are not hijacked by those in society who would do that,” she explained.
Mrs. Okonjo-Iweala argued that the best way to fight corruption is from inside not outside. She contended that outsiders to the system cannot fight corruption, but can help.
"Donors, country partners and others have a role to play, but they can only play a supporting role.
"They have to find partners from inside, who know exactly how the place works and how it can be fought.
"You can’t also fight alone, you need coalitions of supportand it is not one person.
"People tend to say Okonjo-Iweala fought corruption, no. There were teams, there were members, and you need coalitions. I had people on my ministry, I had people in the economic team, and I had others," said the former minister.
In addition, she said, there is a need to indicate, through communication that corruption is not the right way. She equally stated that those fighting corruption need help to function optimally
“I had people who supported, I had a place to go. I am very grateful to the international community for the support they gave and for those within the continent who also reached out. "There were several heads of state that were supportive.
"But what if no one knows you? What if you don’t have a track record outside? What if you had nowhere to go? This is what the development community must think about. If you want people to fight corruption they need to feel the support and they need safety nets, they need to be able to come out if necessary and have a place to go to and resources to support them," she said.
She called on institutions and foundations to think about starting a fund to support those fighting corruption.
She urged Nigerian youths to take active part in the fight against corruption, saying outsiders are not going to help build Nigeria.
“I could have just stayed where I was. I had a perfectly wonderful job that I love. There was nothing driving me and I wasn’t going there to steal, so there was no reason for me to go. I went because I love my country and no matter what, Nigeria is probably one of the most difficult and complex countries to manage but it is also one of the most interesting and I love it. And that will not change. And if you love it you will want to do something to contribute," she said.