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Monday 17 September 2018
It Starts with our Children
By Onyinye Ough

Onyinye Ough is the Executive Director of Step up for Social Development and Empowerment in Nigeria, and author of a new book “Emeka’s Money” aimed at raising awareness of corruption amongst children.
Corruption is an enduring problem in Nigeria. For many it has become a way of life. For the older generation it seems to have been accepted as part of our culture and this in turn enables corruption to persist. I believe that we need to stop the younger generation from falling into the same trap. We need to teach them about corruption and its impact on society and offer better ways of doing things. This is the motivation behind my recently released children’s book ‘Emeka’s Money’.


‘Emeka’s Money’- is a modern parable on the impact of corruption targeted at 6-10-year olds. It challenges some of the social norms that drive corruption in Nigeria. It also shows that corruption is not inherent in our DNA, despite what a few Nigerians believe.


To do this, the book starts by recognising something that is often unsaid, that many corrupt people are regarded as good within their communities. Most of them do not recognise that their actions are causing harm to people. To make matters worse, these corrupt persons are praised and celebrated for their corrupt actions by their friends, family and those who directly benefit. All these factors make it difficult to teach children about the harm corruption is having.


Emeka was a good man and tried to do good things for the people he liked. However, he did not realise that his ‘nice actions’ to his friends were causing damage to the growth of his people and community. In one part, Emeka helps a friend secure a road contract from the State Governor. The kick-backs from the corrupt deal are so severe that the roads are not built well, and a woman gets injured in a road accident as a result. The book tries to make direct links between different aspect of corruption and the real harm they cause people. Victims of corruption are often not seen or heard by those who commit the corrupt acts.


We need to get better at explaining the reasons why we should not engage in corrupt activities and make this real and relatable for people. Just saying that people should not be corrupt is not enough. Even corrupt people say that people should not be corrupt. It is more impactful to link corruption to the poor circumstances of the people around us. To prevent future generations from adopting what has become a common practice in Nigeria we need to start shaping the minds of our children. We all need to understand the importance of integrity in public office and delivering services for all. This goes far beyond being likeable and delivering only for our friends and family.


Tackling corruption effectively requires a holistic approach. We need to go beyond the obvious like prosecutions and convictions or even making systems tougher through technology removing Ghost workers from payrolls. If we are going to stamp out corruption in Nigeria, we need to go deeper and change how our society treats corruption.


Fighting corruption needs to start with what we teach our children. Following the launch of Emeka’s Money, Step Up for Social Development & Empowerment in Nigeria, an NGO I established earlier this year, is launching the ‘Catch Them Young Initiative’. It plans to focus on using storytelling to educate young Nigerians on different types of corruption and its impact on society. Our goal is to get as many schools as possible (both public and private schools) to adopt anti-corruption books as a part of their civic education teaching. We will also advocate for anti-corruption education to be included in the curriculum of primary schools. This is still in its early days, and concepts are still being drawn up and partnerships explored. The mission is clear. Without getting the new generation to think in a different way, Nigeria will continue to be a safe haven for corruption.


Transparency International has been fighting corruption around the world for a quarter of a century. As we turn 25 we’re asking what does corruption look like in today’s tumultuous world, and importantly how we can best fight it? For this blog series we’ve canvassed opinion from some of the leading voices in the anti-corruption world and will be sharing those here. Views expressed on this blog do not necessarily reflect those of Transparency International and where possible we encourage robust discussion and debate.


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