Editorial (fwd)

Mike Gurstein (mikeg@NYWORK2.UNDP.ORG)
Sat, 15 Oct 1994 11:55:07 -0400

I think the following from a list managed by Transparency
International--an anticorruption NGO deserves wider circulation--a
la Art McGee.

---------- Forwarded message ---------- Date: 12 Oct 94
15:54:05 -0400 From: Administrator <administrator@kabissa.com>
Subject: Editorial

To Multiple Recipients

The following letter was sent to the Financial Times by General Obasanjo,
Chairman, Africa Leadership Forum and TI Advisory Council member, on 11 October

The Editor
11 October 1994
Financial Times
Fax 00-44-71-873-5938

Dear Sir:

Michael Holman's incisive piece on global
corruption and the work of Transparency
International (30 September) is wholly commendable.
So, too, is Peter Norman (4 October), commenting on
the rift in Madrid and that industrialised
countries need to respond to the growing economic
importance of developing countries as these become
increasingly integrated in the world economy. That
they need a "proper understanding" of the
developing world. That "ideological differences"
that used to divide North and South have largely

There is one particular "ideological difference"
that needs a much better appreciation in the
industrialised world before it will disappear.
This concerns the myth subscribed to in the North
that a traditional culture of appreciation and
hospitality is one which fosters and encourages
corrupt practices.

I can only speak for Africa, the continent I know
best. But I have reason to believe that what holds
true in my own continent also applies, at least to
some degree, in other parts of the developing
world. Personally, I shudder at how an integral
part of my continent's culture can ever be taken as
a basis for rationalising otherwise despicable
behaviour. In the African concept of appreciation
and hospitality, a gift is usually a token; it is
not demanded; and the value is in the spirit of
the giving rather than the material worth.
Moreover, the gift is made in the open for all to
see, never in secret. And where a gift is
excessive it becomes an embarrassment, and is

If anything corruption - as practised by exporters
from the North as well as by officials in the South
- has perverted positive aspects of this age-old

It is suggested, too, that African society has a
way of corrupting the public office holder by
placing excessive demands and expectations on the
"big chief"; that he is expected to have infinite
resources to dish out freely to all and sundry, if
only to help his kith and kin escape the throes of
poverty. Again, such an argument bears little
relationship to reality and is merely the escape
route of the corrupt public officer.

Finally, it is said that corruption on the African
continent - and elsewhere - is the product of
poverty. Poverty may play a part, but it can
hardly be the root cause. Witness the sharp
practices that have characterised the banking
industry in Nigeria in recent years. Most bank
officials were more than well paid, yet their
fraudulent and corrupt practices have been
outrageous. Contrast these with otherofficials,
much less well paid, who have maintained their
integrity and incorruptibility throughout.

Let us all strip away excuses and explanations.
In no society - North, South or East - is it
acceptable to the people for their leaders to
feather their own nests at public expense. Once
this simple truth is widely accepted, more
meaningful social and economic development will

Olusegun Obasanjo
Chairman, Africa Leadership