By Yerima Kini Nsom
Despite the anti-corruption drumbeats, the scourge has remained resilient and ubiquitous in Cameroon. The ubiquity of corruption can better be expressed with the slogan of one of the telephone companies, “everywhere you go”.
For one thing, it is a hydra-headed ill that has all kinds of names at different levels. It is usually dressed up in all sorts of convenient euphemisms to disguise its nefarious effects. Acts of corruption have different names like kolanuts, motivation, gombo, brown envelope, transport, drink, appreciation and so on.
Many more names have come up ever since the monster hit our ethical and moral universe and shook it off its moorings. A senior government official who takes bribes to influence the award of a contract to a particular company simply calls it “understanding”.
A Mayor who awards a contract to an enterprise he has surreptitiously created using another person’s name, is simply described as being smart. … This explains why corruption is the first among the battery of foes pushing Cameroon down the abyss of permanent underdevelopment. Besides facing acts of corruption daily, the various reports of the National Anti-Corruption Commission known by its French acronym as CONAC reveal the omnipresence of the ill in every sphere of national life. It is rampant and ostensibly untamable for the single reason that we are all willing and unwilling collaborators of corrupt officials.
As citizens, we ought to bray at the sinners who sustain brazen acts of corruption, yet, we are guilty of tacit and overt approval of corruption. We abet and help corruption with our complicity of silence, and inaction. Even those who should have the moral authority to fight corruption are found wanting. In many cases, they are the ones running the rackets of overbilling, payment of ghost contracts and other shady deals that enable them to line their products unduly from the public till. Besides other forms of administrative corruption, accumulationism stands tall. For, it does not breed corruption but feeds permanently on it.
The monster of corruption has equally descended on the academic domain with the rage. Until you test his ability, it is no longer prudent for any employer to take a degree holder and even a PhD holder for granted. Only the ability to deliver the expected goods should tell if an academic certificate is anything to write about.
Even the judiciary that is supposed to sanction acts of corruption through fair trials has not been spared by the scourge. Are we surprised that many judgments our courts deliver are virtually miscarriages of the law and travesties of justice? Due to corruption, what some judges dish out to the public is a full dose of injustice. That is why President Biya cried out against the rampaging waves of corruption in the judiciary.
The legislature that is expected to check the corruption excesses of the executive is helpless. Apart from a few morally upright ones, the majority of parliamentarians are into shady deals with some members of government. Can an MP and a member of the Finance Committee who is begging for a contract from the Finance Minister, fight corruption? Can the MPs who connive to share the capital approbation of the parliament as if it were war booty, have the moral authority to fight corruption? It is not enough for us to create anti-corruption institutions.
For, corruption is like a pack of hyenas that cannot be simply shooed away with a walking stick. We need to have a strong political will to fight the ill. Otherwise, all the noise about fighting corruption will amount to playing to the gallery.
After commemorating the International Anti-Corruption Day last December 9, stakeholders should now be charting different ways of fighting the scourge. Those who call the shots should strive to preach by example. At one time, a certain Minister changed the list of successful candidates into the Buea Medical School to put his candidates.
A few years ago, the same Minister did the same thing at the International Relations Institute, IRIC, in Yaounde. The meritorious candidates were bloodied out of the list of successful candidates and replaced with the names of children with ‘godfathers’ in the system, or those who bribed. Can such a Minister carry on an anti-corruption campaign and be taken seriously?
At the macro-political level, can an MP, Mayor, President or any other official who rode to power on a bouquet of rigged elections fight corruption? Can someone who brazenly carried out voting-buying fight corruption? If gold can rust what then should iron do in order to successfully fight corruption? We must preach by example: CONAC, ANIF, the anti-corruption units in the Ministries, the National Governance Programme and the Audit Bench of the Supreme Court will not bear the expected jump if there is weak political will.
A good example needs to come from above. Adopting a national anti-corruption law and empowering CONAC to prosecute suspects can be one way out of this predicament. Corruption has been tremendously reduced in Nigeria ever since the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission, EFCC, was crowned with the powers to drag suspects of corruption acts to court.
Right now, CONAC is gradually assuming the status of a toothless bold dog that can only bark but not bite. The outfit remains helpless when some Ministers refuse to collaborate with it. The authorities should put more strategies for checks and balances in place to call corrupt issues by their real names and punish culprits. For, corruption is a foe that has stalled development and killed many Cameroonians. Can we imagine how many Cameroonians died due to lack of oxygen masks because the over FCFA 180 billion of COVID-19 funds was mismanaged? Can we claim to be fighting corruption when those who allegedly mismanaged this money are still enjoying impunity?
It is due to the impunity that a huge chunk of our national budget usually gets into private pockets due to shady acts of corruption. The road infrastructure is hard-hit by the scourge. The bigger chunk of the road network in our country is in rot just because of corruption. There is so much movement without dynamism about development projects in our country just because of corruption. Such projects are never realised on time. The Yaounde-Douala and the Yaounde-Nsimalen dual carriage ways, for instance, are victims of this corruption-inspired inertia and procrastination.