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‘Absence of market discipline driving corruption in Nigeria’


strong>The newly elected President and Chairman of Council, Nigerian Institute of Management, Professor Olukunle Iyanda, in this interview with GLORIA EHIAGHE, spoke on how adoption of market discipline in the public sector can tame corruption in the country amongst other ethical and national issues. Excerpts:

How can government fight corruption in Nigeria?

Corruption is a consequence of certain dysfunctional systems. The best way to cure it is to look at those conditions that produced corruption. If you don’t remove the root, it’ll continue to linger.

The TSA for example is solving the situation where people generate money and they don’t remit it into the pool.


The EFCC and ICPC, if they work well and are able to identify people who are corrupt, they charge them to court and the court system itself is sanitized, such that you remove the bad eggs.

It is a sad case in this country that the highest level of the bench is now standing trials for allegations of corruption.

That is a sad story for our country. That is the highest level of the judicial system; they should be absolutely impeccable so that they should know that whatever comes out of them is in accordance with the law.

But we now have judges who are keeping large billions of naira in the homes; they cannot put the money in the public space because the source is tainted. If the judiciary is tainted, no matter how other security agencies work, nothing will work.

How would you rate corporate governance in Nigeria and how can it be used to tackle corruption?

Corporate governance in the private sector, I will say the market is a moderator of behaviour in the private sector.

If you take your corporate resources and you misapply them or you steal them, you are not able to produce at the cost others are producing or you do not produce quality product, the market would sanction you and in no time, you are likely to be out of business or your corporate stand will begin to decline.

It is that absence of market discipline that is not in the public sector and that is why corporate governance in the public sector is adulterous, resources are wasted, and people don’t account for other resources they get.

The magnitude of those resources makes people feel that it doesn’t really affecting the performance because they feel that it is so much so they can steal.

The discipline of the market makes it imperative for the private sector corporate bodies to ensure an efficient use of their resources that they stick to the mission and vision of their corporate bodies.

In the public sector, there is no accountability. The majority of our people are not informed and they don’t even know the implications of simple act of voting.

In other counties, you will see the process, the way they grill people to know your background, and your track record and they decide on whom they vote for. You cannot buy votes.

Until we are able to do that, we will not get better governance. Until you know whether your governance system barely feeds majority of the people or not and therefore, you take your decision in accordance to that and not in accordance to somebody who gave you stomach infrastructure.

Those who are beneficiaries of the corrupt system, of bad governance are the one who can’t effect the change and so we get into a lacuna. If you are a beneficiary of a system and we want you to change the system, what motivation would you have to change?

Those who can change things are the beneficiary of the inefficient system and therefore, they are not likely to change and implement them.

Until we are able to get strong institutions, where institutions would have their own teeth to bite, until we have people who are built by their own standard of ethics, the country will not make progress. This country has everything it requires to make the average citizen comfortable.

What are your plans for the institute in the next two years you will be in office?

We would strengthen our advocacy programme. What we intend to do is to base our recommendations or critic of public governance in Nigeria on research.

We will commission people who are specifically knowledgeable in various areas we have outlined such as power (electricity), industrialization, infrastructure, transportation, education, security and agriculture (animal/agronomy husbandry). These are management issues.

We have the problem of structure of the economy, we have politicised that debate. People now see it as a political discourse; it is a management discourse because structure is a way of organizing an entity in a way that it can be most effective and efficient in achieving the goals or objective of that organization. We must structure our organization in such a way that the overall objective would be able to meet the aspirations of the people.

We will undertake discourse on structure and see what is the best structure that can make this country function cohesively and most productively. We would commission studies into these challenges and we would make purely objective recommendations based on research.

We will put these research findings out there in public space, we will come up with agreed solutions and we would market these solutions to the various stakeholders and those who can implement the decisions.

As an Institute, we cannot implement our public governance decisions but we will play our part by providing objective research based solutions to some of Nigeria’s problems and we will try and sell those ideas and solutions to those who have the authority and the responsibility to implement them.
That is what I think is the limit of our own role to reduce the areas of inefficiency in the country.

We proposed that we will establish a management hall of fame which we hope will put in perpetual memory of the nation and the world, men and women who have served this country conscientiously; those who have attempted to apply and use the resources and endowments of this country for the benefit of the ordinary people of this country.

It is going to be quite a very stiff test so that those who emerge to qualify will be named as members of the management hall of fame are people who have kept the code of conduct of this country and of our institute.

They have put service above self; they have themselves found the most efficient and the most scrupulously and honest ways of getting things done.

They are free from any corrupt practices and they have not granted favour or privileges, they have treated people as equal, irrespective of who you are. We don’t have that in this country, we want to do that and also become the think-tank for this country.

We tend to also improve on our examination system. Our professional exam, we will set up management educators to review the curriculum, update it, and make it more rigorous so that by the time you go through it you know that you have gotten something.

We want to encourage our zonal field officers in the six geo-graphical zones in the country where most of the work of NIM is done and we want to use our office to leverage these zones, visit the people, help and support them and also identify what we can do to improve the performance in those areas. We hope to be able to enforce our code of conduct so that we can monitor our members so that anyone who is any office who has been found wanting in terms of our code of conduct.

You must put service above self and find the most scrupulous and the most efficient way of getting it done. I as a professional manager must also be transparent and honest in all my daily decisions; I must be free from every fraudulent or corrupt practice in all my daily affairs and give no special privileges to anyone.

We recite that at every of our meetings. People should reflect it daily and take it as their yardstick in measuring themselves. We intend to monitor our members and make sure that their behaviour conforms to our ethics and when they do not, we sanction them and remove them from our membership.

There are incidences of corporate organisations that have been taken over by government due to management issues and lack of corporate governance.

What is NIM doing to bridge the knowledge-gap?

We do a lot of trainings at the top level but we are just a voluntary organization. We cannot make our training mandatory.

If you offer training and they don’t subscribe, what can you do? And most of our training programmes, the top executive level that we even do with some of the leading universities in the world.
It is generally and mostly in the private sector that people attend trainings, rarely do we have the top managers from the government sector.

Bauchi state government has been proactive in this regard. The last one we did in Manchester, they sent a permanent secretary, commissioner and speaker of the house.

We offer this and market them because these are where you discuss things like ethics and the responsibilities of leadership such that people can have an in-build spirit, but when they do not attend, what can you do? I don’t know whether it’s more of knowledge or greed that is causing corruption in Nigeria. It’s not that people don’t know when they are doing wrong just that many public officials have killed their conscience.

What the society should do is that when you now violate the rule, you are punished and to me that is where we are lagging most.

People are not punished, they are treated with padded gloves; plead bargaining or you confiscate what I’ve stolen and you let me free. I’ve not paid any price because what you took back was not mine.

What I have stolen and what is left, I can still use it to come back. In other countries like Korea and China when you breach the public trust, you are dealt with severely, sometimes capital punishment.

Until we overcome social distance and begin to treat government officials as our servants, we will not make progress.

Part of your objectives is to review the institute’s operations and programmes with a view to bringing back blue chip companies. How do you intend to go about this?

You know in the history of this institute, corporate members founded it. Somehow they have kind of faded from the institute’s activities and as you know as they say that a stream that despises its source shall go dry, so we must go back to our source. We need to look at our heroes.

We intend to do a lot of corporate visits to let them know and to get them back.

The council has approved that we nominated five of them who now will be on our council. Hopefully in council they will begin to get prominent in the governance of the institute.

We intend to carry out a lot of collaborative activities with them and therefore hope to get them back in the governance and operations of the institute.

This is what we plan to do. Not only in Lagos but we will go round the country and visit them and bring them back into the fold.

There is a project that was established four years ago tagged, ‘NIM we care’, which was meant to look at people who have sacrificed their time and talents to build this institute so that we don’t forget them.

We visited some that are still alive so that they know they are remembered and that I think can make people see that it is not how much more you have amassed, you are living a legacy that should be appreciated and that should be a motivation to other people.

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