Remarks By Mr. Oseloka Henry Obaze, MD/CEO Selonnes Consult Ltd. And Anambra State Governorship Aspirant At the 2017 Political Science Leadership Summit, Convened by the National Association of Political Science Students (NAPSS), Chukwuemeka Odumegwu Ojukwu University Wednesday, 10th May, 2017
I am delighted to be at the Chukwuemeka Odumegwu Ojukwu University, courtesy of the National Association of Political Science Students (NAPSS). I thank Mr. Richard Ngwu, President of NAPSS and Mr. Valentine Akajiofor, the Secretary of NAPSS for the kind invitation extended to me.
Being a Political Scientist myself, I certainly could not resist the temptation to honour the invitation to present the keynote address at 2017 Political Science Leadership Summit. I consider the topic assigned to me, “Corruption and Economic Recession: the role of Political Scientists” as topical, considering our prevailing national circumstances.
Corruption and recession – two negatives with evident nexus – continue to task present day Nigeria. Some consider both an albatross that undermines good governance in our country.
Tackling both also pose a great challenge to policymakers and by extension, to political scientists, whose role is to “evaluate the effects of policies and laws on government, businesses and people; and to monitor current events, policy decisions and other issues relevant to their work.” Beyond analyzing, evaluating and critiquing governance policies, political scientists belong to the cadre of Nigeria’s attentive public. Their role is thus, dual-tracked.
By the narrowest definition, corruption is “dishonest or fraudulent conduct by those in power, typically involving bribery.” But there are other variants of unethical conducts, such as double-dealing, budget padding, contract splitting, embezzlement, graft and general malfeasance. Corruption inevitably, “involves the abuse of entrusted power for personal gain.”
Also in its narrowest definition, recession translates to an identifiable “period of temporary economic decline during which trade and industrial activity are reduced, generally identified by a fall in GDP in two successive quarters.” In the layman terms or the motor park economist’s jargon, recession is when disposable income dries up and purchasing power is diminished.
So what is the role of the political scientist in tackling these two governance and public service challenges? While political science is not an exact science with definitive conclusions, I believe that the solution to any problem is first to diagnose that problem correctly.
In this context, political scientists within and outside the orbit of governance, retain the obligation to assess all public policies constructively and to offer advice appropriately. This may require ruffling some feathers, more so, when evaluating public policies requires speaking truth to power, with unvarnished comments and observations.
Put simply, we have an obligation to call ‘a spade a spade’; but beyond that we must also recommend salutary and workable panaceas, not just solutions that are self-serving or those driven by transactional rather than public interests.
So what are our present corruption challenges? First, as a nation, our ranking on the Corruption Perception Index (CPI) remains embarrassingly high. “Nigeria is the 136 least corrupt nation out of 175 countries, according to the 2106 Corruption Perception Index.”
The lowest we have ranked was 52 in 1997 and the highest 152 in 2005. We must begin to address the perception that Nigerians are collectively corrupt. Yet we must also not make the mistake of fighting corruption selectively.
As I see it, fighting corruption is a matter of law and order. Still in a democracy like ours, constitutional dictates remain supreme and we must ensure that while fighting corruption, civil liberties and human rights are duly respected.
RESPECT FOR ORDERED LIBERTIES
Accordingly, we ought to be deeply concerned about the prevailing fixation with fighting corruption in Nigeria by any means possible, including the subjugation of the rule of law to such whims even when ordered liberties are violated. Such conducts, if unchecked are profoundly dangerous.
The greater danger lies not in arbitrary raids, arrests or prosecutions, but in the implications of insinuating rogue precedents into our law enforcement modalities: precedents, which if unchallenged will certainly undermine ordered liberties.
As I have said elsewhere, there’s a time to be silent, and a time to speak. It’s time for Nigerians speak up. Those who downplay the mishandling of anti-corruption cases; the disrespect for court orders, including bails and subpoenas, erode the rule of law and thus endanger our democracy. Rule of law is sacrosanct and all about upholding and deepening of democratic ethos.
So as political scientists, we must be advocates, for the governed and the government. It is thus our individual and collective role to ensure and insist that every Nigerian citizen is protected from arbitrary arrests, unlawful search and seizure, has the right to counsel, enjoys presumption of innocence, as well as the right against self-incrimination.
We must also stand up against the arbitrary use of executive fiats and extra-judicial powers. we must insist on due process and join CSO and NGOs to challenges any governmental abuses in the name if fighting corruption.
Such challenges, when they go unquestioned, tarnish the level of trust the public has for government and its institutions.