By DAYO ADESULU
In its quest to rid gullible students of corruption, the Independent Corrupt Practices and Related Offences Commission (ICPC), has lent its support to African universities’ undergraduates as they rev up inter-regional advocacy for good governance and accountability in countries of the continent.
The university students and their leaders from over 20 countries converged in Calabar, Cross River State, last week to chart a new course for transparent governance.
The Commission had not only successfully initiated the University System Review exercise with a view to sanitising admissions, contract awards and other administration processes and procedures in tertiary institutions, but also organised the Nigerian University undergraduates’ debate as part of its commitment to building a new generation of intellectually robust and morally upright youths that will lead Nigeria to a promising, value-laden future.
While the Commission’s intervention in Nigerian universities could be likened to a move to re-define the future of the country, its new move to collaborate with African undergraduates as they constructively engage each other in debates on topical issues of corruption, insecurity, accountability and good governance, appears more like taking the ‘gospel’ of transparency and accountability across frontiers by using Nigeria’s anti-graft war templates as a guide to other countries.
Speaking at the event, the convener of the event, Professor Eze Bassey Eze, thanked the Commission f or what he described as its relentless efforts aimed at curbing corruption at all strata of the Nigerian society.
The university don noted that the Commission had demonstrated its resolve to fight corruption at all levels of the society by partnering with institutions and other stakeholders in its various measures, including the Education sector system review and public enlightenment programmes.
”The ICPC should be commended for its efforts to encourage national and continental debates among university students since this will enable the students to discuss issues of governance and also have the potential of enriching their knowledge on governance, transparency and accountability and prepare them to speak out against acts of corruption at all levels of the society”, Eze said.
He pointed out that the ICPC had also taken other measures in furtherance of its mandate and that its partnership with the organisers of the PAUDC by coming to share its views on the debate suggested clearly that the leadership of the Commission understood clearly that youths and students remain vital in government’s efforts to rid the society of corruption.
Also, a leader of Ghanaian universities’ students delegation to the Championship, Dr. Bella Bello Bitugu, said the inter-regional intellectual interactions amongst university undergraduates could go a long way in the fight against corruption in African countries as the students could use the knowledge gained to look more critically into issues of governance and hold their leaders accountable.
According to him, the Championship as the one organised by the ICPC at the national level among Nigerian undergraduates have the potential of giving the youths the power and the people the opportunity to express their opinion without fear of favour and that when the people know that their voice are being heard and leaders know they are being watched and could be challenged, then the anti-graft war will become easier to fight at national level.
Speaking in the same vein, another university don, “Kosi Morumo” from Botswana explained that the debates could build in the youths the consciousness that corruption is a threat to all and embolden them to rise up against leaders that indulge in corrupt practices in the various countries.
Morumo, who is also the current chairman of the Pan African Universities Debating Council, argued that unless concerted efforts were targeted at dealing with all corrupt tendencies in the society, then the desire to achieve broad-based development in African countries would remain a pipe dream.
He said: “Corruption is something that inherently crippling Africa and that is where the problem in leadership has been. I think the best way that we can try and deal with corruption is by challenging it and which is what is missing in Africa.
The reason why it is difficult to challenge a leader is because in our culture, you don’t challenge, it is very difficult to do that. “But with this new breed of young leaders, we are not afraid to challenge each other because we all know we can justify to each other why we are asking questions about governance.
So, I think corruption exist most when people are scared to challenge the system and challenge the authorities”, he added.
One of the students from University of Cape Town, Daniel Konta described the undergraduates’ debates as desirable for building virile, socially active army of youths in the various countries who will form the vanguard of the campaign against corrupt leaders and by so doing, instil transparency and accountability in governance.
On the roles of such Championship in the anti-graft war, Konta said “the first thing it does is that it gets us all into one place where we can talk about our shared views on corruption, the fact that we are all struggling against the same thing as African people.
The second thing that it does is to talk about how well we think we can deal with corruption in our countries, how well we can try to stop corruption from happening in future and then share and compare different ideas that people in different countries have tried.
“The last thing that it does is that, it inspires us to go back to our countries and actually fight corruption, when you realise that there are a lot of people suffering the same thing, a lot people suffering the same way, you are inspired because you believe you are part of a group of people who can make a difference and make your society a better place for all,” he added.
The theme of the Championship is ‘Conflict, Insecurity and Good Governance in Africa’.