The Minister of Finance, Dr. Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala has said that businessmen support politicians in return for contracts and resources, stressing that financing election campaigns remains one of the root causes of corruption in Nigeria and Africa.
Okonjo-Iweala said that “one of the root causes of corruption in the continent is the way we finance or do not finance elections properly. We have adopted systems that demand that politicians’ campaign. Campaigns cost money. But where does that money come from?”
The minister spoke in London at a TEDx Euston global conference owned by the private non-profit Sapling Foundation, under the slogan “ideas worth spreading”.
She noted that “if we don’t find a legitimate means of supporting campaigns, then all sorts of ways are found to do this. It could be, by engaging business people who support an individual, a system or a party and then later on, they have to be rewarded through contracts or other means that may actually not help but undermine the economy and development.”
“It is also corruption for a business man to support a politician in return for inordinate access to contracts or resources.”
However, she said Nigeria and Africa in particular has not “found an answer to this problem. It means we haven’t begun to have the kind of conversation we should have. If we don’t solve this problem, people will continue to find unorthodox means of financing their elections, of financing the implantation of democracy. And this very means may be the root of some of the corruption we do not want, which may totally affect the way we do business.”
In the case of Nigeria specifically, she said “Yes, we have problems”. Corruption undermines development in Nigeria and the continent at large. It deprives us of resources with which we can fight poverty and create wealth for people.”
According to Okonjo-Iweala, “when a public servant diverts resources from the state budget or national budget and siphons them abroad, removes them from doing the work and any good for the people. This is corruption on the part of the person embezzling public fund at home and also those receiving it abroad.”
“When people steal our mineral wealth, be it crude oil or other natural resources in any of our countries on the continent and they divert and send it abroad; that is corruption on the part of those stealing and receiving” she said.
All of these she said undermines development and the very fabric of our society, and if “we want to deal with some of the root causes of corruption, we have to think of how we can finance that very good that we want. I want us to start a conversation about it.”
To start a conversation, she pointed at a possible source of election campaign financing by suggesting that “a certain percentage of each of our countries’ revenue be dedicated to this purpose and that “people need not run around to look for means and stress themselves to finance political parties or election campaigns, but that it is a legitimate public good that we have said we want in each country we want democracy. Therefore we must find a legitimate way to support this.”
Se noted that “if we can use technology to solve our problems; if we can think and put together knowledge that puts us ahead, why can’t Africa be a leader in thinking and innovating legitimate ways on how to finance election? We have to take responsibility.”