Signed by  Dr. H. Assisi Asobie, President, Transparency In Nigeria.

 In the fight against corruption in Nigeria, the role of the
 President of the Republic is important. Prompt executive
 action against persons, especially, ?big fishes? caught in
 the act is helpful. Therefore, in the Federal Ministry of
 Education/National Assembly bribery scandal, as President,
 Chief Olusegun Obasanjo was right in dismissing Professor
 Fabian Osuji, his appointee, with ignominy; that action is
 commendable. But that is really beside the point. The
 critical issues in this matter are different.

 The first issue is the nature of corruption in Nigeria vis
a vis the current method of tackling it. In contemporary
 Nigeria, corruption is not an occasional ailment affecting
 a few, isolated, public officers. It is an endemic epidemic
 that erodes the fabric of the entire socio-economic
 formation. The malady is not individuated and rarified;
 rather it is systemic and pervasive. Therefore, the cure
 must be systemic and systematic, not selective and ad hoc,
 or episodic and asymmetrical. Corruption in Nigeria is a
 huge problem that demands a national strategic plan,
 formulated and owned by Nigerians, and implemented by a
 rationalized set of public anti-corruption watch-dog
 agencies working in symbiotic sync with like-minded civil
 society organizations and private sector agencies.

 The second issue that arises in the current
 education-sector corruption scandal is the identification
 of the critical driver of the anti-corruption locomotive.
 The driver or the catalyst of the movement for transparency
 and accountability is not, and cannot be a President that
 preaches and punishes, but sets no personal examples and
 makes no personal sacrifices. It is not even any formal
 element of the executive arm of government, including the
 activist Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC).
 Rather, it is the whistle blower, located either in civil
 society, the private sector, or within any part of the
 public sector. In the Federal Ministry of
 Education/National Assembly bribery scandal, the heroes,
 for us in Transparency In Nigeria, are the small group of
 determined members of the House of Representatives who have
 courageously fought to expose their corrupt colleagues in
 the Education Committees of both the House and the Senate
 in the National Assemble. We know what they have been going
 through in terms of persecution, blackmail, and even
 attempts to remove them from the National Assembly. Their
 travail comes not just from the legislature but from the
 executive arm as well. We salute their courage. The matter
 that requires public policy and pubic support is the
 passage into law of the Whistle Blowers Protection Bill,
 proposed by Transparency In Nigeria, and received by the
 President of the Senate since 2001.
 The third issue is openness in governance. Corruption is
 perpetrated in secret, and thrives in an atmosphere of
 opaqueness. Openness in governance, especially, freedom of
 public access to information is the cure. It is not just a
 matter of the executive arm publishing certain figures
 about the finances of the federation. It is, more
 crucially, about the right of the Nigerian people having
 the right to demand and freely obtain information about
 those who serve them as legislators, Ministers, Governors,
 or Presidents, including information about their assets,
 before, during and after holding public office. Osuji?s
 assets, like Babalola Borishade?s, or Wabara?s and
 Enwerem?s, or Obasanjo?s and Atiku?s , before, during and
 after public office should be freely accessible to us. The
 story was told publicly, on December 9, 2004, at Rock View
 hotel, Abuja, by Sidi Alli, a former member of the
 Governing Council of Nnamdi Azikiwe University, of how he
 had to resign from that council when the former Minister of
 Education, Babalola Borishade demanded and received the sum
 of N50million bribe from the council for helping the
 University secure a special grant of about N500 million. If
 it is true, Borishade should not still be a Minister. We
 ought to have access to the assets of such public officers.
  The President of the Republic himself should set an
 example by making public his own assets, before and after
 1999. So should all public officers who are mentioned in
 Part II of the Fifth Schedule of the constitution. Equally
 important, the President should immediately declare his
 support for the Freedom to Access to Information Bill which
 has been in the National Assemble for passage into law
 since 1999.

 The fourth issue is the sustainability of an off-shore
 driven anti-corruption crusade. We are very sad that
 Nigerian politicians, including the President are
 contemptuous of the Nigerian electorate. Our demands for
 transparency and accountability really mean little to them.
 They respond much more readily to the offer of carrot and
 the wielding of sticks by the members of the international
 community who claim to be our external creditors. There is
 no doubt that the incentive to act strongly against Osuji
 and the other public officers of the Federal Ministry of
 Education, as well as Wabara and his partners in the
 National Assembly came from the events that  took place in
 Berlin and London in mid-March 2005. The prospects of debt
 relief for Nigeria, which even an organ of the Western
 neo-conservatives, The Economist of London has now
 supported in an editorial, and the chances of a
 Transparency award later in the year to some members of
 Obasanjo?s ?dream team?(to use the words of a CNN
 correspondent), appear to have weighed more heavily on the
 mind of the President than the deepest wishes of our
 country men. That is sad, very sad. For we cannot build a
 sustainable programme of transparency and accountability on
 a platform of the demands of the international community.
 Such a programme can only be built on the platform of the
 fear of domestic electoral punishment. Nigerians have not
 yet been able to instill this fear in our politicians.
 Those who rig elections with impunity and have no mass
 uprising to fear can not sincerely and consistently serve
 as the vanguard of an anti-corruption movement. This is the
 explanation for the contradiction between the soft handling
 of the two corrupt Christians and the humiliation of the
 flailing Fabian, all of the south-east zone.

 The fifth and final issue is the federal budget for
 education. It is a supreme irony that persons who failed to
 support the struggle of the Academic Staff Union of
 Universities for the implementation of the FGN/ASUU
 agreement of 2001 for the allocation of 26% of the national
 budget to education, on the ground that ASUU?s open
 strategy is wrong have been rubbished by their preferred
 secret lobbying. Nigerians should not miss the lesson in
 this scandal. Kenya allocates 30% of its national budget to
 education. South Africa allocates between 20% and 30%
  Nigeria sets aside about 5%. Apparently, public officials
 in the Federal Ministry of Education believed that ASUU was
 right, but did not have the courage to tell the President
 so. As for members of the Education Committees of the
 National Assembly, their interest lay more in making
 private gains out of the situation, than in restoring
 education to its pristine quality and standard. Corruption
 does indeed under-develop  Nigeria, as President Obasanjo
 said in his broadcast, but so does under-funding of
 education, as ASUU has always argued.