Why Corrupt Leaders Are Not The Real Problem

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We have been told for years that corruption is killing Africa!

The focus is always on corruption … eliminate corruption and Africa economies will magically grow … eliminate corruption and our students will start building space ships and rockets … eliminate corruption and NEPA will stop taking light (ha ha ha that one is funny).

So when an article is titled Why Corrupt Leaders Are Not The Real Problem people will probably object and say what else could be more costly, more problematic and more troubling than corruption … especially in Africa.

Imagine this scenario, 2 politicians are each given $10,000,000 to carry out various projects in their community over the period of 4 years. Politician 1 from the NCP the No Corruption Party does not steal any money, in fact he is so honest that he goes on annaul holy pilgrimages in one holy land, spends only $1,000,000 and leaves behind over $9,000,000 for his successor.

On the other hand, politician 2 from the tongue twisting SSS the Stealing Some Shit party diverts over $2,000,000 of taxpayers money into a Swiss account and uses another $2,000,000 to build a house in his village backyard. And at the end of the day he leaves nothing behind for his successor …

So my question is this, “Who is the better leader?”

On the surface this is an open and shut case of NCP offering up the better and more honest candidate, in fact said NCP politician would win numerous international awards in honesty . But what if I told you that politician 2 the SSS man could actually be the better leader? From a religious stand point this is ludicrous. But from an economical stand point which is what matters … politician 2 can actually end up being a better economical bet.

opportunity costIn economics we have a term called opportunity cost, which is the cost of the other option that you could have taken but was not. In Naija words, if you have N50.00 and you decide to buy one gala instead of pure water, your opportunity cost is the 10 satchets of N5.00 pure water that you could have gotten instead.

In the same way there is an opportunity cost for the honesty displayed by the NCP politician … who was so honest that he invested only $1,000,000 in his community while saving a whopping $9,000,000 for his successor.

Because the opportunity cost of the $9,000,000 are the potential projects that that money could have been used for such as roads, electricity, water, housing…etc. Plus the cost of the pain and suffering his community people may have gone through in those 4 years simply because he withheld the money for his successor. And the fact that he travelled to the holy land annually on taxpayers money does not help either.

The SSS politician on the other hand may have embezzled $4,000,000 but then again he could have invested the remaining $6,000,000 into his community. At the end of the day he would have invested 6 times more to the economical good of his community than his NCP partner and thus his community might be better off if invested properly.

Now I know that the scenario above shows two unlikely extremes, but I want to use it to drive home a point. At that point is this ….

Nigeria and Africa as a whole are not in need of honest leaders, we are not in need of religious leaders, or straight non-homosexual leaders, or leaders without tattoo’s … what we need are competent leaders, people who know how to get the job done.

Sadly the focus is rarely on the incompetence because incompetence is an opportuntiy cost that is hard to calculate … its an invisible/ignored cost. Unlike corruption which can be tracked in bank accounts, incompetency costs cannot be found in bank accounts rather they are on the streets, in businesses, in delipediated classrooms.

I mean what is the value of not having good roads in a community for 4 years, the cost is high we know, but to compute the actual cost is difficult, we would have to take into account the number of time spent on the bad roads and multiply it by the amount of work each person could have done in that time and then equate it with a dollar value and that’s not even factoring the cost to repair cars damaged by the roads …at the end of the day it is a tough calculation. But if we were able to do the calculation, we would realize that majority of the robbery in Nigeria/Africa does not occur from corruption but rather incompetency.

And as religiously jarring as it is, it is the truth!

twitterWritten By Okechukwu Ofili of ofilispeaks.com
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Words by Okechukwu Ofili of ofilispeaks.com
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8 comments on “Why Corrupt Leaders Are Not The Real Problem

  1. Nnedimma on said:

    *long comment alert*
    I have to disagree here. The problem with this argument for me is in particular, the notion of corruption as an action. Corruption is more of an attitude that gives rise to certain kinds of action or inaction. Therefore, you are correct to say the first leader is worse but it’s not because he’s honest (I know you don’t think honesty is bad, by the way) or even honestly incompetent. It’s because he’s honestly corrupt in his inaction. He is there to get things done as much as is possible with as much as is available. When he doesn’t, he has (at the very least, by omission) done something immoral. And in the end, it’s not honest. It’s like the paradox of honour among thieves.
    Incompetence also can be a result of genuine error due to truly unforeseen/unforseeable circumstances, sheer inability or just a grossly bad attitude towards doing things without a care for accuracy or “correctness” or being meticulous. The first is life- unfortunate. In the end, it can not even be sincerely called incompetence.
    The second is bad and sad. Wrong too. If you’re not able, be honest enough to admit it and step aside for someone who can. The inability/unwillingness to do so is corruption.
    The third and the worst is even more of a problem for us as a people and our “leaders” are part of us. It is evil and more so because of its insidious nature. And that kind of incompetence is corrupt indeed. Corruption, the attitude in all its seemingly harmless and unseen dimensions as well as the more obvious manifestations of it (i.e. misuse and outright stealing), is our problem.

    • Ofili
      Ofili on said:

      @Nnedimma corruption as an attitude or action to me is not as detrimental to Nigeria as incompetence. If you put an honest pastor that steal no money to be Minister of Works in Nigeria and he has no idea what he is doing in that role and achieves nothing. He would have stolen more from the people by his inefficiency in that position. Same as an honest Aviation minister that is honestly lost on the job. That’s all I am driving at. Not to placate corruption but to say that incompetence is a much bigger problem.

    • I agree more with your perspective, Ofili’s debate seems to put the burden on the paradox of the first man’s so called honesty rather than on his failure, which is more wicked in my opinion, to use the funds for what it was actually intended for his pilgrimages nothwithstanding.
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  2. Ofili, corruption is not a large issue to me. It hasn’t been eradicated in the most developed countries in the world. They just have better structures and systems to punish wrong doers.

    Not knowing what to do or what you are doing in a position is worse, because the remedy to that is not punishment, it is education. And the education of a politician is a looong thing, especially in Nigeria.

  3. I’ll be wrong if I don’t share this piece. It’s an inspiring read. Awesome too!….This truth sure resonates with me. The piece of advice I’d gladly give to my younger self is: ditch your parents’ constant yell about ‘you-don’t-know-how-to’ and live your dream. And you won’t be scrapping bottom now. Now I, like most others, have to double the effort to really live my dream. Thanks bro, for this!

  4. I agree with Ofili on this one. I have worked with two types of bosses:
    Boss 1: was totally clueless. All that authority to act, all those eager subordinates under his jurisdiction… But alas such incompetence of gigantic proportions! Nothing ever got done. Mostly because he didn’t know what to do. Everything remained as it was three years after he resumed work.

    Boss 2: Badt guy. Loved to make money. Full of activity. Knew his job. Knew how to cut deals. He’d have the meal but huge chunks of crumbs he would deliberately throw under the table for us. He grew richer and so did we. Badt gan as he was, he was well loved. And not just because he chopped and we chopped but because he got the job done.
    Olivia latest post is Through a plastic cupMy Profile

  5. Arinze on said:

    Although I don’t feel the analogy, I agree with the thought a little. It’s about balance. Most politicians around the world do some embezzlement. But I think they get enough “competent” progress done for the people not to notice or complain too much. They are too blatant and unproductive with it in Naija.

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