YALI Voices: Raising the Standard of Integrity for Public Officials

Author: Izuchukwu Michael Offiaeli

Nigerians were shocked by the results of the 2017 National Corruption Survey by the National Bureau of Statistics (NBS). It revealed that over 400 billion naira (equivalent of $4.6 billion) in purchasing power parity (PPP) was paid in bribes involving public officials in a year. Simply put, in the selfish and insatiable quest for acquisition of money, corrupt public officials enjoy institutionalized lavish lifestyles with impunity. As a result, communities are deprived of their most basic needs and social services. Also not surprising, Nigeria surpassed India in May 2018 as the country with the highest number of people below the international poverty line — at 87 million. #UtterlyAvoidable

Raising Integrity for Public Officials in Nigeria
2017 MWF Izuchukwu Michael Offiaeli and OIFoN members discuss public service dilemmas

Committed to breaking this vicious spiral by leading the change that I want to see, I founded ONE Integrity Forum, Nigeria (OIFoN). This movement of young public officials (both elected and bureaucrats) works to raise the bar for transparency, accountability, and good governance in government institutions and agencies. With concrete outcomes and numerous commendations, our initiative targets young public officials like myself (between the ages of 18 and 38) as they progress into higher positions of authority in public service. OIFoN members network and exchange ideas, inspire and support each other, and undertake targeted activities aimed at building and developing values-systems, work ethics, and technical capacities. Members also work on their peer-reviewed leadership plans, with access to results-based mentoring by reputable public officials from around the world. The goal is to enable us to develop as individuals that value and promote ethical behaviors.

Raising Integrity for Public Officials in Nigeria
OIFoN members network, promoting public service accountability and leadership

Our approach is to always reflect and call upon our four core values. These values ultimately serve as the four-way test to the things we think, say, and do. They also form the basis of our support to members who wish to run for public office. These values are integrity, legacy, commitment to the people and community, and creativity and diversity. We strongly believe that these values and more should serve as a basis on which the general public decides whom to elect or appoint to public office, as Nigeria draws nearer to the 2019 general elections. #9jaVotes2019

I imagine the vast development that the resources stolen in 2017 and each year before that could have brought to our poverty-stricken communities. Nevertheless, an ideal Nigeria is one with values-based public officials who are honest and committed to serving the public’s needs and preferences. This ultimately boils down to the urgency for the actualization of the people’s power by which they would make educated choices free of religious or tribal sentiments and affiliations, and instead focused on the essential values that make sustainable development attainable.

“It always seem impossible until it’s done oo!” Join #9jaVotes2019 at yali.state.gov/naijavotes

Biography
Izuchukwu Michael Offiaeli’s work in Nigeria’s public sector has been on designing and implementing innovative, proven, village-based public health and nutrition approaches (delivered at scale) to rapidly improve outcomes for the population. Deeply committed to public sector transparency and accountability, Izuchukwu founded ONE Integrity Forum, Nigeria (OIFoN), where he leads a growing movement of new-generation, character-driven public officials. As a 2017 Mandela Washington Fellow and an active YALI Network member, he has collaborated with other youth change agents across the African continent to address various cross-cutting and peculiar challenges.

The views and opinions expressed here belong to the author and do not necessarily reflect those of the YALI Network or the U.S. government. YALI Voices is a series of podcasts, videos and blogs contributed by members of the YALI Network.

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