DEFEATING IRRATIONALITY FOR SUSTAINABILITY IN FIGHTING CORRUPTION
by Mahmud Tim Kargbo
Humans are irrational. This is something I have known and even liked about the human condition; our irrationality makes life unpredictable, and there are things about others and even ourselves that evade logical explanation. This can be fascinating; irrationality adds an uncertainty to our lives that can be charming. It can, however, also lead us to develop destructive habits, where we become irrationally comfortable doing things that hurt us, and the habit defies the logical need to change these destructive tendencies.
This phenomenon manifests itself in so many ways, from people comparing themselves unhealthily to others to people dwelling on problems without being able to approach them positively. While irrational emotional responses are common all around us, I would like to discuss today a far-reaching irrationality that I believe is overlooked, albeit important: our irrational approach to the fight against corruption. There is so much we do that adds to encouraging corruption to sustain its destruction in Sierra Leone, from politicising the fight against corruption to selecting people we prosecute for prosecution offences. The patriotic movement of most of our educated elites still represents a minority viewpoint, and I question constantly why it remains that way when the risks are so high to the general economic development of our country. Many are saying corruption must take a top-to-bottom approach. Yes, I respect their views, but that doesn’t excuse the fact that these people must also understand that the fight against corruption is a process that paves the way for the Anticorruption Commissioner to learn and design robust and appropriate strategies as he gets along with the process.
Non-sequiturs aside, many criticising the Anticorruption Commissioner said something of infinite wisdom.
The way Sierra Leone is, positive people with a nationalistic sense of purpose will not keep working for long, ignoring the quick gains of the Anticorruption Commissioner and referring to his naming and shaming action of teachers who admitted guilt of aiding school-going pupils to cheat in public exams as “jungle justice.” In a society where the Judiciary is fantastically corrupt, this is dangerous in all fronts for our contraption. Am sure these people need to ask themselves when last our judiciary reached a verdict in matters charged to court by the Anticorruption Commission? Are those currently banging the drums of criticism unaware of the saying “Justice delayed is justice denied”? Had this been a film about old sages in the time of Jesus, people with a bear-like look of seriousness would have glowed to the rhythmic strains of a lute.
Something the commissioner has to give.
And it is true. The existence of national destruction via corruption makes me angry about how we, as rationally minded nationals, act irresponsibly in combating this corruption that’s now a national crisis. Despite all rational indicators that we should increase the fight against corruption on all fronts, we cannot. Certainly, so much of the problem is systemic. Look at Sierra Leone, for example: the failure that our Parliament cannot protect tax payers monies with their so-called oversight committees;that the judiciary is always very willing to dish out injustice to the suffering majority; and the wretched styles the main political parties are using to gain votes by turning blind eyes to the laws of the land. From these discrete pieces of evidence, one can understand how corruption exploitation becomes a necessity and how developing a robust corruption strategy for the benefit of all becomes difficult for the Anticorruption Commission.
Personally, I despair at these systemic problems. They suggest that a top-down change is necessary and emphasises the powerlessness of individual impact. It causes us to think of the short-term, insurmountable difficulties of confronting the corruption problem. In the short run, these difficulties are high while the costs are low. What we lack, however, is the ability to look rationally into the long run, where net outcomes are bound to be terrible for most of the potential human resources if we do not change our current habits.
Individuals bonding together, however, can change a system. In the past few years, I have talked to various people impassioned by the need for robust change in fighting corruption and who are working to change the way institutions work.
What makes me feel even more hopeful is the fact that corruption consciousness can be mobilised into action outside of these very corrupt critics that keep on benefiting from corruption.
The few changes made by the Anticorruption Commissioner I witness around me make me feel motivated to change my behaviour patterns. I will recycle more and encourage many to understand that corruption only benefits the selected few, while the majority remains poor. This, however, is far from a conclusion; I am just beginning to open a can of worms and learning about shifting individual action to a group- or system-level change to better the fight against corruption for a better Sierra Leone for the good of all nationals. How can one fix national myopia for combating corruption? How can we make people act more rationally and responsibly? These are questions I am just beginning to muddle through, and I am wondering if those demonising the Anticorruption Commissioner’s naming and shaming strategy could answer.