Rwanda President Paul Kagame on Tuesday arrived in Abuja, the capital of Nigeria to begin his two-day visit.
He gave a Keynote address alongside President Muhammadu Buhari at the National Democracy Day Anti-Corruption Summit.
President Buhari welcomed President Kagame to Abuja and to the National Democracy Day.
“Warm congratulations for President Buhari on his re-election and best wishes for the entire Nigerian people on the road ahead,” Kagame said in his turn.
“I also want to mention that President Buhari is African Union champion in the fight against corruption.”
Kagame said the diversity, creativity and ambition of Nigerians represent Africa noting that the achievements of Nigeria’s sons and daughters here at home and in global diaspora make the continent proud.
He said Nigeria has always shown common cause with Africa’s progress and prosperity and this does not go unnoticed.
“This country is truly the engine of Africa’s potential. This is how we see Nigeria. I hope you know that. We stand in solidarity with your efforts to build on all the assets with which this country has been blessed and we are invested in your success.”
Kagame said in order to succeed in the ultimate goal, Africa must keep the broader context in mind. “That is why I suggest we reframe the fight against corruption in positive terms: As a struggle for transparency, public integrity and accountability.”
“There is one of your own who wrote a book titled; Fight Against Corruption Is Dangerous. She gave me the book and I reminded her that she needs to write another book to state that not fighting corruption is even more dangerous.”
Kagame said this is a campaign that can be won. Tolerating corruption is a choice not an inevitability.
“It is within our power to end it. That is the most important starting point. Otherwise, it would be a waste of time for us to keep talking about it.”
He said the primary responsibility to act lies with leaders at every level. Where corruption has become the norm, a way of life, it is because leaders have made it that way.
“We tend to focus on the petty corruption of everyday life while turning a blind eye to the more consequential forms that people only whisper about, because the rich and powerful are the main beneficiaries.”
President Kagame shared a personal story of facing corruption: “One time I was travelling and made a stop at one African airport. While refuelling, I walked around to stretch and there happened to be policemen and one approached me asking for something. He kept pointing to my chest and I didn’t realise I had a pen in my pocket. When I showed it to him he confirmed that is what he wanted. I understood what he wanted. I went back in to ask if anyone had money and gave the policeman money plus the pen.”
Kagame said he told his cabinet members the story and reminded them that the policeman’s story meant that maybe making too many demands on this policeman.
“We are not paying the policemen well and they have to keep going around begging and later on if you don’t give him the money he may use his gun to hurt you.”
“Even though as a country we don’t have much, we can share the little resources we have equitably so that even the policeman feels like they are being taken care of. This was to inform ourselves of the complexities we have to carry out and the multifaceted issues we have to deal with.”
He said corruption needs to be tackled from the top down. This is not only the fairest approach, it is also the most effective, because it empowers the public to join the fight and hold leaders accountable, through elections and other means.