Parliament Buildings

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Ethical renaissance must begin in class

A top politician, whose entire career has demonstrated a confounding duality between radically progressive idealism in theory and histrionic spectacle on one hand, and diabolical impunity and arrant venality in practice, on the other hand, recently set off his notorious alarm of spurious allegations of graft in government.

The online responses to his spurious sensations have been brutal, with evidence oozing into the public domain that his performativity outrage and criticism of the state are just cynical and performative stratagems motivated by incorrigible conflict of interests in the pursuit of profit for self, kith and kin.

The emergence of this evidence did somehow pollute the putative righteousness of the old war horse’s explosive claims, but it did not altogether create overwhelming doubt as pertains his moral standing to lecture anyone on anti-corruption and integrity, given that he leads a clan that has become a fixture in the niche sector of lucrative politics of outrage.

This outcome is hardly surprising, and only goes to demonstrate how much intolerable corruption we have normalised, and been socialised into accepting as the natural course of things in a well governed republic, or at least, in a sovereign African state.

The confidence with which a political figure can monetise ostensibly principled political positions at every turn and still claim the authority to cacophonously project righteous declamations from our civic Ararat is, in principle, repugnant to all reasonably ethical minds.

Yet, this actor not only monetised his political capital to secure highly profitable business opportunities for his clan, and now purports to deploy threats of scandalous exposure in order to protect these illegitimate concessions. The real scandal is that condemnation of such sharp practice is tempered and minimal in any event.

Last week, an account of how parents are implicated in criminal connivances to procure examination materials for their children to score high grades that do not reflect their ability in any shape or form.

As can be inferred, numerous moving parts must be activated to bring such conspiracies to fruition, and parents, teachers and security agents play decisive roles in inducting children into a career in nepotism and corrupt subversion of public systems.

There is no reasonable cause to assume that the matter ends there, and every reason to suppose that this induction at the school examination room merely inaugurates a life of successively escalating corner-cutting, palm-greasing and pocket-stuffing avarice.

Consequently, it should come as no surprise whatsoever that the corrupt invariably have their dearly beloved as well as other nearest and dearest, as trusted apprentices, associates, partners and accomplices in their execrable syndicates.

This is why corruption cases often implicate multiple members of a nuclear family unit as key perpetrators.

The penchant for reflexive nepotism in pursuit of perilous impunity is widespread and worthy of serious study. To be fair, the erstwhile political icon implicated in the attempt to extort government through corruption allegation is not the only, or the worst of them.

A notoriously transparent feature of our democracy is the practice of abusing parliamentary and oppositional power to hold the executive to account as an avenue to formulate highly beneficial but inherently corrupt understandings.

Despite rigorous grilling and deluge of astonishingly scandalous revelations which emerge during parliamentary investigations, it has been commonly reported that reports are often bland and hardly actionable.

At the same time, certain committees of parliament are alleged to be more lucrative than others, whose members must subsist on the budget. Former parliamentary leaders are reputed to have their relations serving in high positions in the public service, despite being dangerously unqualified.

A category ‘nepo babies' employed through implicit or explicit extortion can be insufferably entitled and unpleasant , and cannot be called to order by their superiors even when they recklessly imperil the public interest, because implacable parents will crucify anyone who offends their lovely scions with glee.

They also stand in as gatekeepers of lucrative opportunities and inside operatives ensuring that the parental elements are unbeatable whenever serious interests are at stake.

Is this a scandal? Not at all. So normalised is this culture than not only is our public sector at once decayed and hollowed out through nepotism, to other gullible or ethically vulnerable citizens, the short-term efficacy of this nepotistic delinquency proves beyond reasonable doubt that ‘connections' are everything for anyone interested in rapid upward social and economic mobility.

Unpunished corruption — the very definition of impunity — is an irresistible advertisement which entices millions to attempt it, and shames those who don’t by proving in the most humiliating terms that their integrity is nothing other than conceited navel-gazing and horribly self-indulgent refusal to be useful to family and friend.

Systemic and entrenched has two elements: the epicentre, which is often the nuclear family, and a robust, antithetical curriculum, which runs parallel with formal teaching and examination. Our ethical renaissance must begin at the classroom, or we are doomed for all time.

- Mr Ngéno is an advocate of the High Court