Thursday, May 10, 2012

A Man of the People 2.

Once again, it is scandal season in Nigeria- the revelation of one government scandal after the other has become a yearly event-. I can safely say that Nigeria has witnessed all manners of government corruption that possibly exists. In case you missed it, the latest scandals are the capital market probe, pension fraud and fuel subsidy scam. We can also add Boko Haram to the list as it is now clear it is a political issue and not a Muslim North vs Christian North issue.

This segues to the second lesson of a Man of the People- the problem of leadership. The story of Chief Nanga is a story of Nigerian leaders and politicians. It is a story of the greed and corruption that follows their assumption of power. By leaders I mean elected/selected officials, technocrats in government and political appointees- anyone responsible for public decision-making. It seems that because there are no structured institutions and systems, Nigerian leaders have an “everyman for himself” mentality. Odili in 1966 blames this on the fact that Nigeria is a newly minted country where levels of wealth had not yet risen.

 As Odili states: "We ignore man's basic nature if we say, as some critics do, that because a man like Nanga has risen overnight from poverty and insignificance to his present opulence he could be persuaded without much trouble to give it up again and return to his original state.  A man who has just come in from the rain and dried his body and put on dry clothes is more reluctant to go out again than another who has been indoors the whole time.  The trouble with our new nation as I saw it then lying on that bed was that none of us had been indoors long enough to be able to say, to hell with it.  We had all been in the rain together until yesterday." 

However, Nigeria’s recycled leaders and their cronies have been out of the rain for so long that it is really time for them to say “to hell with it” and do something concrete like getting other citizens out of the rain. One cliché the OWS protest is “one day the poor would have nothing to eat but the rich”. Well, because Nigerians are not falling into levels of poverty and discontent at the same rate (i.e some people are well off than others and really have no reason to complain), a revolution may not literally occur but as we are already witnesses to, we are gradually declining into a state of anarchy and those out of the rain are no longer safe.
One would think that the avoidable deaths of government officials like Abdulkarim Adisa, Ishaya Aku, and President Yar’Adua due to  road accidents and lack of healthcare facilities would be a wake up call to others in their shoes. Surprisingly this is not the case. May be our leaders think they are invincible. If you know someone that knows someone that is in government tell them to make their time count and do what is right because no condition is permanent. Let them ask people others who “were in charge” yesterday. They can start with the those ousted in the 2011 elections.

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