With Africa on the forward march, a United States newspaper has unofficially developed a narrower, more personalized category for African corruption. Whereas Botswana traditionally has a permanent number one spot on the Transparency International (TI) rankings, on the Washington Post’s list, that honor has now gone to Nigeria.
“With only $150,000 in savings, Nigeria’s leader may be the least corrupt in Africa,” reads the headline of the Post in reference to Muhammadu Buhari, the west’s current favorite African leader.
The paper doesn’t rank leaders in the way TI does but its singling out of Buhari for such praise casts aspersions on those it doesn’t name. The only African leader to have so far declared his assets, Buhari has revealed that he owns five homes and two mud houses, as well as farms, an orchard and a ranch with 270 head of cattle, 25 sheep, five horses and a variety of birds, shares in three firms, two undeveloped plots of lands and two cars bought from his savings.
Botswana and Nigeria are quite interesting contrasts. When former Francistown South MP, Joy Phumaphi, tabled the Declaration of Assets and Liabilities Bill, the resistance was so fierce and unrelenting that the bill didn’t go anywhere. All efforts to resuscitate it have not been successful. The rationale for this law is simple: it would be a million times easier to fight corruption if leaders declare their assets and liabilities. Buhari, the leader of what TI says is one of the most corrupt countries in Africa, has embraced this rationale. On the other hand, the parliament of Africa’s least corrupt nation on TI’s index has persistently stiff-armed that rationale.
Buhari’s ascension to the presidency marked that rare moment in African politics when there has been a peaceful transfer of power from the ruling to an opposition party. This has greatly enriched the quality of Nigerian democracy and if this is a standard by which the maturity of a country’s electoral democracy can be measured, Nigeria would, ironically, be far ahead of Botswana which, for decades, was touted as Africa’s ‘shining example of democracy.’ Nobody knows exactly what will happen in Botswana when there has to be such transfer of power but in the dying moments of the 2014 general election campaign, President Ian Khama ominously, cryptically said that if the opposition won, “there would be bloodshed.”