__”What is it to gain the whole world and lose your soul?”
As I pointed out last week in the first part of this new series on tackling corruption: Until there is a generation ready to pay the price to end it, corruption will always be around, no matter how much we protest. Paying the price starts with the willingness to walk away from what appears to be great opportunity.
To get us thinking about what this means, let me give you an example of what happened to me once. I had an opportunity to set up a mobile business in a remarkably rich country. I had been invited to form a joint venture with a group from a Nordic country, as well as a state-owned company.
The negotiations on the terms of the agreement were taking place in London. Everyone was sitting at the table going through the documents line by line. We had been circulating copies for several weeks.
Suddenly I noticed a few lines which disturbed me, so I went over to the delegation leader to ask what they meant.
“You have set aside 20% shares for ‘other local partners’ but you have not named them?” I began. “You do appreciate that I will not sign an agreement which includes parties that are unnamed. Neither will our friends. Please let us have the names of these other parties by the time we get final signature copies.”
The government officials huddled together for a few minutes, then one of them took me aside.
“My brother, you know we have made provisions for some top guys. If we don’t cut them in, this deal is dead for sure,” he began. “We can create a structure to conceal it from the documents so our foreign friends don’t see it anymore.”
“What do you suggest?” he asked me.
I reflected on it for a moment, then I said to him: “Leave it with me.”
I could see they were relieved. After all, the “African brother knew how things are done back home…”
I went over to the leader of the Nordic team and asked him if we could take a break. We both left the room and took a walk. I explained to him what I had spotted, and the response of the other side.
The man reacted as though he was seeing a lion heading towards him at full speed!
“This will ruin my life!” He was almost inconsolable with panic and grief.
“In my country, corruption is the highest level of disgrace! We do not allow it!”
He literally turned and ran back into the room. He called his colleagues together, and in a few agitated statements he explained to them the provision in the agreement. Each one of them quickly packed their briefcases and fled from the room!
As for our government friends, they almost physically assaulted me. I think if it had happened in their country, I would have been a dead man that day!
“Who do you think you are?!” they shouted at me.
They even said, “How dare you accuse us of corruption!?”
I packed up my own briefcase as threats of death (if ever I went to their country) rang in my ears, and then I left the room. This was about 15 years ago. I never saw them again.
Someone told me they found other people to do the deal with. I was not interested and I didn’t care. I had saved my own soul, and at the time, that is all that mattered to me.
Sure, I would have made a boatload of money, but Jesus said: “What is to gain the world but lose your soul?”
#1. Did you notice how our Nordic friends reacted? They “fled” from corruption! The very idea of being involved in something corrupt terrified them. This is how you must react when faced with someone seeking a bribe, or proposing something corrupt. It must invoke a deep sense of indignation, like someone is trying to defile you!
#2. We (the ordinary citizens) are the leaders and soldiers in the fight against corruption. We must volunteer ourselves to the fight. If you are waiting for some elected official to fight it, then you may be waiting a long time. We need to suck out the oxygen that feeds corruption. (That oxygen is our silence, fear or sense of indifference!)
__There is a #Price to pay.
I have met ordinary people in Africa who were prepared to pay an extraordinary #Price to resist corruption in their jobs and communities. These are the people who will end corruption.
Thank you to the thousands who wrote me here last week to share your deep concerns. I really appreciated the record number of you who engaged on this critical topic. #SpeakingUp is critically important… Now let’s start talking solutions.
You all have the power to start tackling corruption yourself, even today. Do you know what it is?
To be continued. . .