Periscoping the Nigerian Mentality

by Tunde Ali

Oswald Mitshali, in his poetry Lest We Should Be The Last, published in The Anthology of West African Poetry, articulated the frustration and disappointment suffered by the early converts of Christianity. He painstakingly described how the converts’ hope and expectations were dashed by the erstwhile highly placed Missionaries who rather than living by example, denigrated to what could best be described as “do as I say, not as I do”. In similar tradition, the leadership in Nigeria society has fallen short of expectations. Most political, traditional and spiritual leaders have betrayed the confidence reposed in them. They have consciencelessly mortgaged the destiny of the people and compromised the oath of their office. To them “office” has no synonym with responsibility. It is a status symbol, an avenue to showcase affluence, and an instrument to disregard laws and oppress the common man with impunity.

Leadership in the pre-democratic era, is almost “sacrosanct”. It was held in high esteem. Traditional leadership were vested in those who are have contributed significantly to the socio-economic development of the community. Mode of selections were guarded and spiritual. It was leadership by merit. Such contributions were recognized and appreciated with chieftain titles. The people that were appointed to these position of honor see it as rare opportunity to further prove their mettle and remains progressively committed to the development of the society albeit humanity. However, the advent of democracy introduced new equation. New set of leaderships emerged through the ballot box (whether such leadership are truly the choice of the people is another issue). Political leaders who are not traditional chiefs became title conscious, they sought for and explore religion to achieve their titler ambition. Those of them who are Muslims made pilgrimage to Mecca and became “Alhaj” or “Alhaja”, Others who are Christians visited Jerusalem in the land of Israel, and became Jerusalem Priest (JP). This mad rush into title acquisition became contagious and every Tom, Dick, and Harry looked for and explored any available avenue to be labeled. Even those who can not afford the financial requirements still adopted the religious title of “Alhaj”, “Alhaja”, “Elder”, “Evangelist”, “Apostle” etc to satisfy their ego.

The communal expectations of the political leaders were not met because political leaders failed to fulfill their election campaign promises to improve the welfare of the common man. Consequently, poverty continues to spread across the board. Survival became imminent and tasky. Traditional rulers who are at the pinnacle of the cultural heritage became complacent; and some of them started selling chieftain titles to whoever is willing and able to “pay to play” without regard to the source of their wealth. Regrettably, many individuals with questionable integrity were offered chieftain titles and they began to parade themselves as elder statesmen, when it is obvious that their wealth is ill-gotten and the source is questionable.

Bad governance and corrupt leadership that is irresponsive of the general needs of the people led to monumental increase in poverty. This down-turn in social status cushioned the collective conscience of the people. Nobody is willing to stand tall and question the source of the wealth of the overnight and emergency money-bags who are now being heralded with different greetings, accolades and chieftaincy titles. The demise of the traditional policing system is not helpful either as it paved way for the rat race of massive wealth acquisition, – a situation whereby everybody looks for any means to become rich. It is therefore not impossible to see a person who was hardly able to afford two meals per day suddenly become landlord of multi-million value mansion with a fleet of luxury cars, and being bestowed with multiple chieftaincy titles . Money, all of a sudden became the medium of respect, path-way to the hall of fame, and criterion for recognition and social acceptance. The change in the communal psyche via “money worshiping” created a new sense of urgency in the mind of everybody to do all that is unwittingly but cunningly possible to be rich. Facilitated by unimaginable graduate unemployment and underemployment, inaccessible or inexistent social services and benefits created subcultures with negative value system whereby people developed schemes to obtain money or other material benefits by false pretense (popularly called 419, as depicted in Section 419 of the Nigeria Criminal Act), some engaged in nefarious activities such as drug trafficking, armed robbery, stealing and forgeries in the financial and money market, some involved in defrauding business partners locally and across the boarder; and few others who were employed by the government or elected into political office explores every opportunity to loot the nation’s treasury.

In as much as the perpetrators are not caught in their act, they gallivant and parade themselves as savvy business intellectuals with the midas touch. They used their wealth to oppress the masses, they bought political offices from corrupt political godfathers to further their stealing agenda. At the corridor of power, they stole from the treasury, siphoned the money that was allocated to their constituencies for developments, they diverted and embezzled the hard earned salaries of the civil servants. They obtained contracts with fictitious business names without execution. This among others are the inadequacies that permeates the Nigeria polity, with nobody willing to stand-tall and challenge the perpetrators. In this token, the virtues of honesty and integrity became foreign and fractured.

All the stolen money were never re-invested back into the Nigeria economy. Often they were shipped and saved in the foreign banks such as in Switzerland, United Kingdom, United States of America, Germany, France and recently South Africa. Many government functionaries are reportedly operating two or more bank accounts in Foreign Countries. The World Bank (IMF) Report on why Nigeria’s debt could not be written-off posited an argument that was supported with the names and amount of stolen money saved in different Foreign Bank Accounts by private Nigerians. It is a reflection of a shameful and ludicrous act. For instance, former president Ibrahim Babangida was a level 15 Military Officer before he became the Military President of Nigeria in 1985, by the time he was shamefully booted out of office after eight years of uneventful maradonic despotism, he had already acquired so much wealth and built massive estate on the rock (hill-top) in Minna, Niger State (the first of its type in the history of Nigeria). Chief Olusegun Obasanjo who providentially escaped death from the notorious General Sanni Abacha was almost bankrupt in his Offa Farming business before he providentially became the President of Nigeria for the second time in 1999. Like IBB, by the time he was disgraced out of Aso-Rock, he had accumulated so much wealth, he revitalized his “OFN” and built massive estate on the rock in Ibara Hill-top GRA, Abeokuta, Ogun State. Governor Diepreye Alamieyeseigha of Bayelsa State was reported by the New York Times of November 29,2005 to have siphoned millions of dollars in cash and bought an oil refinery in Ecuador alongside with several houses in London, California and South Africa. The same Alamieyeseigha jumped bail in London having been apprehended for money laundering (1.3 pound sterling = $3.2 million).

The culture of silence was unconsciously assimilated. The powerless and the poor citizens became overwhelmed, they focused only on survival sustainment. They ignored the misconduct of their leaders, and sometimes sold their conscience for a peanut. Karl Marx once written in his book The Genesis of Capital ; he said: “when the powerless conscience meet with the conscienceless power, the later laugh first, and former laugh last”. Let the corrupt Nigerian

political leaders, the stealing bureaucrats and technocrats rogues know that Nigeria is not a heaven for their deviant behavior neither is it an abode for their insatiable lust for wealth. Those of them who lives as if they are interminable need to realize that all their stolen / ill-gotten wealth can not safe them or prolong their life span with one inch at the instance of mortal call . They will be stripped off their political power and their wealth will become useless. Like the impoverished, their mortal body will be packaged in a coffin and dumped in the mother earth; after all where are the Abachas, the Akinloyes, and the Chuba Okadigbos of yesterday? The people will soon realize the potency of their collective political power and demand accountability from their leaders. Mentality of unpatriotic compromise will disappear. Leadership with the fear of God will emerge, poverty and its caricature will be fought to extinction, era of new day with new hope of prosperity will be pronounced; Nigeria , like a new star will radiate and sing a new song of tranquil.

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1 comment

Paul (USA) April 10, 2009 - 11:05 pm

This is a very good note for our minister for information “Dora” to read. She should start her so-called re-branding project from those thieves that call themselves politicians and have become so big that nobody can touch them. Once these thieves are re-branded, Nigeria will begin to see the light of the day. Re-branding should start from the leaders who are all thieves and are the ones destabilizing the entire country. Why is the minister not talking about probing all those that have stolen Nigerian blind? People like Obasanjo, Atiku, Odili, Ibori, Lucky Igbinadion, IBB, Chief Tony Anenih to mention just a few. Dora should find out how these people became so wealthy and tell Nigerians why they have not been sent to jail to this date.


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