To those of us surviving below the poverty margin in the midst of plenty, in a country blessed with abundant human and natural resources tapped and untapped, we have every reason to thank our Creator for our contentment in the situation that was artificially created for us.
We are proud of our status as off springs of the cheated poor, although not the most wretched but with good moral upbringing, discipline and foresight. One must commend the training and retraining imbibed by our guardians when we were growing up to face challenges of life. We remain proud of them. May their souls, continue to Rest- in-Peace.
In our Nigeria of today, being a former British colony that had the political misfortune of being bequeathed with a public administrative system that was based on Migrated Social Structure; and, it could not have been otherwise. After all, it’s the only systemic public administration structure known to the British. Consequently, and right from the outset, the tools of public engagement at all levels, in particular, struggled with the norms and values of Nigerians.
Absent the domestication of the intrinsic norms, ethics and usage of the colonial administrative system over a period of time, the emergent system acquired a life of its own; deformed, or, at best, a compromised caricature. And, despite intermittent and laborious attempts at reforming its bureaucracy, this compromised system and its attendant systemic anomalies have only continued to advance exponentially at the expense of the professed developmental agenda of Nigeria’s founding fathers.
Put differently, although the gamut of the extant government machinery is said to exist to serve the public, in reality, it provides services for only the privileged class and the well connected members of society through the determined pace, mercy and direction of the public and civil servants.
Against this background, democracy as a form of government will still have to be interpreted and powered by the State’s bureaucracy as it deems fit. Beyond the definition of the concept of democracy, its interpretive understanding and the political orientation of the power elite, political gladiators and the power-brokers are the motivational factors driving government performance.
As things stand in Nigeria, our democracy cannot but reveal certain and peculiar tendencies. For instance, though we identify our bureaucratic structure as a democracy, it doesn’t have to conform to what obtains elsewhere. Here in Nigeria, democracy is a huge lucrative flourishing business; and only the rich and the well-connected contest elections to critical public offices. Extant laws against excessive funding and spending notwithstanding, stupendous amount of money is always expended by politicians and political office seekers on the four-year routine exercise.
To exemplify the point, look at how those jostling to occupy leadership positions in the 10th National Assembly are splashing crispy naira notes and dollars on their colleagues and party chieftains just to be endorsed for the position even if it’s against the requirements of the exalted positions.
It is rumored that one the contestants for the House of Representatives Speakership position, is busy doling out humongous amounts ranging from $20,000.00 to each of his would-be voter aside other largesse systematically extended. What does he stand to illegally extort from that position? Does he have the requirements of the office? Can he stand the challenges of the office for the good of Nigeria? And what does Nigeria stand to gain from such a money spinning ‘Speaker’ if he is mistakenly endorsed? Your guess is as good as mine!
While composed contestants the likes of Ahmed idris Wase are only occupied with visits to eminent personalities across the country to ask for prayers, endorsement and compare notes, others are there busy splashing money in these hard times whose source remains questionable to corner the exalted position for subsequent abuse.
Political participation is now made more attractive and possible through money, and only those money bags with questionable sources of wealth are the ‘authentic’ players on the turf. This is reinforced by the whet and insatiable appetite of political jobbers and greedy party officials who are always out for pecuniary rewards not minding the source. The masses easily and hurriedly respond more eagerly to money and not manifestos, ideas, or political ideology. Yet, we call the system, ‘democratic’ even when a system which selectively disenfranchises participants cannot be said to be truly democratic. The major snag is that the so-called democratic institutions that are supposed to correct these anomalies are also part of the problem if not more. So, who is fooling and deceiving who? Who then is the clown and who is the rogue?
Talking about deep pockets, there is no element of doubt that they possess the power to create their own pattern; and that pattern in the public domain is called ‘entitlement syndrome’. For example, those recent delegates who were made overnight ‘accidental millionaires’ for just exercising their franchise as party members in the conventions, might have learnt some lessons about the ‘juicy’ side of politics to the extent that if there’s going to be another round of party congress to elect gubernatorial and other elective positions or convention for a presidential candidate, the operational code will have been horned, since some participant-delegates already know how lucrative it is to be a delegate. So, chances are that selection of delegates in 2027 will be a battle to the finish.
Then again, the piper payers who, have surreptitiously established and are oiling-the syndrome will jerk up the rate at the next available opportunity. It is normal with human beings!
Be that as it may, the beneficiaries of the largesse are not likely to see it as if somebody has done, or is doing them a favor, but more of what they are entitled to. So, this creates a pattern which makes it difficult to have good governance, because the money expected to be channeled to promoting it is already frittered away on other issues of no substance. Of course, once this is created, it has the means of creating a pattern; and, once that pattern is created, the society will only be left shouting! That is what led to vote-buying! So, when the electorates, start accusing government of poor performance or negligence or incapacity, the core reasons, in part are as adduced above. The electorates have sold their conscience and right for a bowl of porridge to the highest bidder right from the onset.
In development, one of the first things to look at is pattern formation. Has Nigeria been a serious country, the pattern of development she’s had was enough for development? Should anyone want to draw a chart, or compare stuffs about dear fatherland? All one has to do is to interrogate the pattern with a view to drawing informed conclusions. For example, successive military coups had come with their promises to curb the excesses as well as right the wrongs of the politicians. Looking back, how many of those wrongs were righted? How many among those their promises were thwarted and how many of those excesses remain with us till date? As if the gods are angry, successive leaders merely succeeded in scratching the wrongs on the surface, nobody uprooted anything. And that’s why we are where we are today.
Events, as they unfold with each passing day have shown that, in a compromised democracy, corruption is a necessity. Once the system is no longer working the very way it should, corruption becomes the needed oxygen for its survival.
Therefore, the likelihood of even those seen as Rights Activists easily, succumb to the dirt of the system due to pecuniary and other primordial interests and intense heat from the fire abject poverty that comes very high.
So, to think that those who have spent their life savings or borrowings on political positions will not, on getting to political office, strive at recouping their expenses is to embrace the philosophy of the idiots. How can they truly afford to develop the society without recouping their expenses through abuse of the office they ‘bought’ at high cost?
Besides, it has never been in their objective interest to develop the society, because if they do, corruption will start waning, and when it does, their businesses can’t thrive again!
After all, sustaining an amorphous system demands oiling the machine, and oiling the machine means accommodating more corrupt practices. When a system works as it should, fraudsters will be out of job.
But interestingly, the fraudsters have already taken over. So, corruption has taken a sunken taproot. And, in order to sustain that corruption, one needs more money and connection. Since those who are corrupt are also conscious that there will one day be a huge STOP to it, they can’t but be aggressively in a hurry to make all the filthy money before they are caught and disgraced.
Think about policy options that have turned the Nigerian state into a series of sociopolitical accidents and one will find out that the kind of leadership a country gets will determine how far it can go! It is also said that leadership in this part of the world has become more like a cult; a game for every Dick, Tom and Harry. If not, how can a person with low education, without exposure, discipline and with poor moral upbringing spiced with pomposity and illiteracy combined attempt to contest the governorship position of Bauchi state because he bulldozed his way in 2019 to the exiting senate? The pompous guy thought money could buy him the entire conscience of the electorates. He was not only defeated as a lesson, but disgraced even by his ancestral local community whom he underrated all along.
Ours is now politics of cliques and nuclear families. I doubt if any of us can be qualified to be amongst the extended relatives. We are where we are because our system allows the emergence of certain and preferred leadership to manage the affairs of the country.
Again, that the Nigerian society has ebbed to the point of a home-grown anomie is no longer news. Hence the only way to arrest it is to truthfully arrest it; and by that, we mean a total overhaul, which starts even from the family.
Muhammad is a commentator on national issues