Our Own Worst Enemy: The Iniquities of a People

Image: Watchsmart via Flickr

To be your own worst enemy: to cause most of your problems or most of the bad things that happen to you yourself, because of your character.

A few years ago, I wrote an article entitled “A People Beyond Redemption”. Four years later, the psyche of my people remains the same, and I realised again that we are our own worst enemy.
Of course I don’t expect my writing to change 160 million people. (Who am I?)

Image: Watchsmart via Flickr
Image: Watchsmart via Flickr

I love my people. I want the best for them. I want their country, their environment to be that which other countries in the world will envy. I want them to live good and comfortable lives as in Europe and America, and even more. I want electricity to work; a decent healthcare system, good roads and rail networks; orderliness, food security and safety; potable water; be able to buy anything they want with their hard earned money; security of lives and properties, no fears of the dark and its lurking dangers because the roads and alleys are well lit and patrolled by efficient and effective police. I want my people’s welfare to be fully taken care of from when they were born till they die at very good old age.

I want my people to enjoy the dividends of democracy, the system they have strived for and opted for thinking they own the government and the government (and the people they elected into government) will do their bidding to make their lives better. I want my people to enjoy the wealth of their country.

In short, I want the best in life, in humanity for my people. Since there is no way I can provide all these for them, I expect people we entrust with power and our common wealth to do what they have to do to actualise these without dishonesty, selfishness, greed and self-aggrandisement. Yes, that is what we expect.

But on the other hand, I cannot stand my people. They are their own worst enemy; they want and yearn for the good things in life, but yet are not prepared to work to get them. They chose their leaders haphazardly and carelessly, ending up some of the worst people in the world to lead them. Or they allow this ilk of bad rulers to rule them. We do not admonish these bad rulers and leaders. In fact my people do not see anything wrong in having bad leaders, simply because my people, in their primordially and primitive cultural beliefs are so suffused with religious biases, tribal bigotry and dubious political partisanship that they just ignore the calamity about to befall them.

We complain about our leaders’ corruption, greed and selfishness, but we scurry back to our homes, churches, mosques, schools, places of work, markets and do exactly what we complain about, about the incompetent people we elected or allowed to get near political power. We actively engage in all the vices; in fact we encourage these leaders in continuously perpetuating their crimes on us. They hurt us, but we just shrug, go to churches and mosques and pray for the same people hurting and killing us. We ask God to take care of things for us, then we go back to these bad and cruel leaders, shower more praises on them, defend their actions or inactions, they give us some crumbs and we are happy little children again; some of us are even prepared to kill on their behalf.

These incompetent bunches of inconsiderate humanity called rulers ask us to pray for them; we never ask them, “Why? For you to continue to lord it over us? For you to continue to be successful in plundering our treasury, while neglecting us and abdicating your oath of office to serve us faithfully and conscientiously?” We treat these servants, both civil and elected, like gods, when it should be the other way round. We kowtow to authority too much, forgetting or not realising that these same holders of authority derive their authority and power from us. We need to educate and re-orientate our people. Nothing is working for us because we are not making things work for ourselves, ignorantly, unwittingly or by deliberate commission and self-sabotage. Serves us right!

When there is a patent lack of qualitative leadership, a lack of worthy leaders, what you have is massive corruption, which leads to injustice and inequality, and with a lack of unity of the people, the situation we find ourselves in is even worse, because unscrupulous politicians exploit our religious and ethnic variances for their own selfish ends. My people, there is Unity in Diversity!

Like the saying goes; a people deserve the type of leaders they get. And why not? The leaders we routinely elect (or allow to rig or force themselves) into power are products of the society. If the society is ethical and good, what you get will be good, honest, sincere, hard-working, selfless and compassionate leaders. No matter what bias you have, America and Europe are good societies, and hence their good leaders and conducive societies. If the society is bad and depraved like ours, you get the type of leaders we are getting now. This phenomenon will not change until the society changes. It is simple. Politics is to serve the people not some people’s families and pockets. Our brands of politicians rarely go into politics and government for altruistic and ethical reasons.

I can’t stand my people for the magnitude of their hypocrisy and sycophancy. It is of course a cultural thing, which must be exorcised from their hearts and their mind-set. While several upright and sincere members of our society have come up from time to time, and in fact, we still have many who are good people, what we have are saboteurs, who will continue to ensure things are not working for the rest of the population because of their own private or regional agenda, selfish economic or political interests. All our thoughts are in how to cut corners. It is very frustrating.

Corruption is prevalent in Nigeria society, the reason being that our people don’t believe in honest earnings anymore. No hard graft, but plenty of money. This is reflected in our legislators, governors, ministers, commissioners, civil service, agencies etc. being “chopping jobs” for those “lucky” people there. Those who want to work hard are discouraged and frustrated. Everybody is itching, nay, dying, to “get there and chop their own share of the national free-for-all cake”.

My people love and worship corruption, despite their cries against it. It is the corrupt that we confer with chieftaincy titles; honour in the churches and mosques; give national awards; elect and appoint to political offices. We run after them on the streets begging for largesse and treat them like demi-gods, “baba ke”, “ranka dede”. My people have no room or time for intellectuals and merit, no room for sincerity and honesty; they prefer mediocrity and charlatans.

I will go and return to my place, till they acknowledge their offence, and seek my face: in their affliction they will seek me early. (Hosea 5:15)

If we acknowledge our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins, and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness. If we say that we have not sinned, we make him a liar, and his word is not in us. (1John 1:9-10)

I have selected these passages from both the Old and New Testament, as they capture the essence of our times. Nigeria has become a nation of people that refuse to acknowledge sin as sin, and crime as crime. In fact, for the past three decades, we have watched many long held standards; morality, ethics and traditional values die out like flies in Nigeria.

I am not a hypocrite, and not a virtuous man, but I found over the years hostility and resistance to decency and godliness that I can only describe as vexing and infuriating. No people that excuse their sins and crimes, or put more simply, the vices that debar their progress as a people in a society can find redemption or forgiveness from God, and thereby they will forever not move forward, despite our hypocritical ways or calling on God every time and professing to love the Christian God or Islam Allah even more than those who introduced these religions to us. Even our traditional religions preached certain virtues and values which we have abandoned. The first step is always to acknowledge our sins. When sin is marginalized and condoned, there is no hope for the person or the society.

Many things have been done in the last 30 years while the churches, the mosques and society have been bled out all of its ethics and dedication. We must return to the message of acknowledging our wrongdoings and penitent of them, as well as exorcising them from the general society and our psyche. It is our only hope. If we continue down this road, our society, our nation, our country and hence, our very survival as a people are doomed.

A basic tenet of the Catholic Faith is that there is no sin that you can commit, no matter how horrendous the deed, that it won’t be forgiven if you are truly sorry. God forgives people for their sins as long as they actually *want* to be forgiven. As far as I am concerned, God does not listen to Nigerians anymore; we can pray and go to church and mosque 24/7, convert every building into churches and mosques, He’s not listening anymore. He has given us everything. The rest is left for us.

When it comes to corruption, bribery, fraud (419), fake and forged certificates and meaningless CVs and awards, drug smuggling, fake drugs peddling and selling, armed robbery, and other nefarious activities, everyone knows someone who does it—the corrupt civil servant who whines about the politicians looting the treasury; the man/woman on the street trying to con you out of your money but complaining of bad leadership and bad roads, etc. These people are forever working toward some goal that seems elusive. In fact, their own actions are sabotaging them—they’ve become their own worst enemy.

And that is why I cannot stand my own people. We are our own worst enemy and a people seemingly beyond redemption.

Let the Truth be said always!!!!


Original Image: Watchsmart via Flickr

Written by
Akintokunbo A Adejumo
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