Let’s embrace, not resist, corruption, it’s something we do well, home and abroad

When I heard that yet another international company has been distributing “chicken” to win contracts with Government agencies, I had what Americans call the “aha” moment.

Well, that sounds like the effort of one clearing the throat after getting some chunky meat down the windpipe, the sort of thing that happens when there is too much on the plate, and one ends up behaving like the dog that dumps its bone in the river to pick the one caught in the reflection of the water.

But I was not imagining eating the chicken, certainly not the American chicken that’s fed with steroids to grow to gigantic size, diminishing its taste and appeal. That’s not to say the bribes reportedly distributed to different State agencies – a perfect example of devolution at work – were not as tasty. I hear the sums are quite staggering, running into tens of millions of shillings, and that this was a pan-African initiative spread across Kenya and Angola.

Which is understandable; since tyres are about travelling, the American marketers of Goodyear tyres tried to live up to their name by picking orders worth a lot more than their tokens of “chicken”. In other words, they were not sleeping hungry.

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But to the “aha” moment: it’s commonly used in scholarship for the moment of recognition when students, for instance, grasp the meaning of some abstract concept that had eluded them for long.

And so it finally dawned on me that rather than resisting corruption by fighting it, as we have collectively been doing for so long, perhaps we should embrace it for a change and promote it. After all, since we are so good at it, why should we seek to undercut our own capacity instead of utilising our gift to the fullest?

Evidently, corruption is a growth area, and with the slump in tourism, I suspect it has been elevated to the highest foreign exchange earner. So if those reaping dividends from far and wide were to pay taxes on their loot, I think that would put the country on sound financial footing.

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But my proposition is also grounded in some practical social and political reasoning. First off, it would remove the bureaucratic tape that couches many public offices.

So rather than being taken in rounds, depleting the meagre resources at the disposal of job seekers, for instance, one would offer a one-off bribe and settle the matter once and for all, instead of tarmacking around the year, straining relations with relatives grumbling about sharing resources that are hardly enough to go round.

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Put in another way, the country would achieve a lot more by fast-tracking corruptly procured jobs to those who have some money to spare so that youth can deploy their energies elsewhere, especially since the job will ultimately go to the highest bidder.

The other reason for advocating corruption as a national ethos is that the enormous efforts deployed to anti-graft endeavors have not found traction with the public.

The evidence in hand is too compelling to dismiss: traffic policemen who allow unroadworthy buses on our roads; judges and magistrates who allow criminals to roam free, college graduates who cannot correctly spell their names, ostensibly because their diplomas, to use the expression in vogue, were sexually transmitted.

The crowning glory in this campaign to legitimise corruption is that it will lead to a more stable, just, democratic and open society. Since the true extent of the vice is often estimated, Kenyans will have a chance to accurately project the sector’s contribution to the national GDP, which is useful in fiscal planning.

Moreover, the trickle-down effect of corruption will mean there will be something for everyone, irrespective of their station in this wide world. Corruption is certainly a more effective strategy in providing a level playing field for faster national development that should help democratise Kenya. That’s definitely an experiment worth trying and securing participants should pose no challenge whatsoever.

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