Thursday, 17 March 2016

Time to make the corruption crackdowns pay

It was Kenya's graft-buster-in-chief in 2002, John Githongo, who observed that anti-corruption was good politics. And so it proved until he stumbled on the wrong political skeletons in the closet. President Mwai Kibaki did nothing to defend Githongo, who fled abroad. Today, he is back home, promoting grassroots political organisations while his old enemies have faded into the shadows. Just as Githongo was chasing down bribe-givers and takers and assorted contract ten-percenters, Nuhu Ribadu was doing the same in Nigeria and also winning plaudits. He also had to leave the country in a hurry but is now back home with a political career.

One big difference between Nigeria and Kenya is that President Muhammadu Buhari was elected because people thought him honest and tough enough to tackle corruption; few Kenyans saw Uhuru Kenyatta as leading a serious anti-corruption campaign. Now the two presidents' legacy will depend on some success in stopping the rampant criminalisation of the states over which they preside. Buhari still scores highly in opinion polls for tackling corruption but is losing support on other fronts because of fuel and power shortages and the tumbling value of the naira. As the Auditor General in Abuja announces that another US$16 billion is missing from the state oil company's accounts, Buhari's government is under pressure to extract some politically positive news from its crackdown on ill-gotten gains.

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