I felt we should deal with some of the contentious issues facing us today especially the new bold steps that our nation is adopting to promote growth, stability, development and democracy. We all have our fears, biases, ideas, and ideals about government, the custodians of state power, government policies, and the future of our great nation. We are all agreed also that things have not gone too well in the direction that we all would wish or want. In fact, leadership has failed us very badly and followership has become trivialized, commoditized, contaminated and corrupted. The challenge today is for all of us to join hands in finding democratic solutions to the failures of the past and the challenges of the present.
What is so interesting about our country and its peoples is that we all demand the good things of life: from good governance to basic human needs. There is nothing wrong with this. However, we demand these benefits from government forgetting that directly and indirectly we are all part of what is called “government.” More importantly, when it comes to expressing the necessary requirements to make the country capable of delivering on basic human needs, we tend to prevaricate, procrastinate, fractionalize our loyalty, find excuses, evade responsibilities, and privatize our participation in the national objective.
Of course, we all know that good governance is the ultimate answer to insecurity, human rights abuses, the suffocation of civil society, social injustice, unemployment and the marginalization of non-bourgeois communities and constituencies. Whether citizens are patriotic, hardworking, and empowered or not would depend on the context of government policy, the strength of the private sector, the nature of the educational system, the quality of governance, and the depth of sensitivity to the plight of marginalized members of the society. Before we look at the issues , let us make a brief excursion down memory lane into our recent history. After all, if you do not know your history, you are not likely to appreciate the world around you much less have a holistic strategy for engaging the challenges of life.
If our enemies are the political profiteers, swindlers, the men in high and low places who seek bribes and demand ten percent, those that seek to keep the country divided permanently so that they can remain in office as ministers and VIPs of waste, the tribalists, the nepotists, then I have a few questions for you bright and educated professionals today: Are the political profiteers gone from the Nigerian society? Are the bribe takers gone? Do they demand ten percent or more today? Are those that seek to keep
In many instances we have encouraged and protected these characters and this attitude has emboldened them to take more risks in perpetuating their dubious agenda. Today, we are all paying very dearly for the indiscipline, irresponsibility, arrogance, limited vision, wickedness and greed of this group. Unfortunately, their pathological fixation on irresponsibility, nepotism, corruption, waste, and other lucrative but unproductive and not really helpful ventures have percolated to the lowest ebbs of our society to such an extent that even ordinary people now mimic the decadent elite with some sort of silly arrogance. This is very unfortunate for a creative and hardworking people.
I want to make bold to say that the roots of the problems of our country can be found at five major levels: The nature of our history, historical experience and the consequences of that experience; The nature and character of the Nigerian postcolonial state ;The character, hegemony and accumulative base of the Nigerian governing (as against ruling) class; The nature of contestations and engagements within and between social classes; and The location and role of the Nigerian social formation in the global divisions of labor and power. It is the coalitions, contradictions, distortions and disarticulations arising from these factors and forces that shape the content and context of our politics and society. It is the inability of the state to emerge as a relatively autonomous force; the inability of the governing class to build hegemony and emerge as a ruling class; the contradictions of production and exchange relations; and the continuing marginal location and role of the social formation in the global power balances that have created the foundations for political rascality or indiscipline in Nigeria.
The consequences have been gargantuan. Cynicism and general distrust of government; susceptibility to manipulation; low capacity to understand and support good public policies; in fact, a general dedication, especially by the urban based elite, bureaucrats, politicians, and the so-called middle class to subverting public policies has become the norm. Thus, rather than build structures, ideologies, relationships, networks, and enabling environments to build a nation-state (if not a nation) out of the contending diverse interests, identities and nationalities that occupy our political landscape, the opportunistic politics of the power elite has rather, congealed alternative sites of loyalty and power. It has enthroned and reified norm-less politics, alienated significant communities that continue to survive and operate outside the hegemony of the state, and promoted a culture of criminality and shameless reliance on extra-legal processes and actions that now guide relations between the people on the one hand and the state and its custodians on the other. It is not an accident therefore that informality and informal relations continue to reign supreme whether it is to get a job, scholarship, admission, contracts, relate to public institutions and officers or whatever, Nigerians consider first an informal approach before or alongside a formal one.
No one believes in justice anymore. Few trust the police. No one deals with the customs without first thinking of how much bribe to pay. We evade taxes but want all public services to be provided by government. Even in dealing with the market, we are so used to free things that we want the price of goods and services that prevailed in the 1980s to prevail today. Why not, it is our money and we are entitled to operate within our own laws! Parents bribe teachers to ensure that their wards are passed in exams or promoted no matter the outcome of exam results. Parents hire persons to write JAMB and GCE and other exams for their wards. The wards, having taken a leaf from their parents, hire others to sit exams for them on campus. Cults reign supreme on campuses not libraries, social clubs, friendship associations, or political groups. It is so bad that in one of our famous (should I say infamous) state universities, cultists picked a young man from an exam hall and killed him in broad daylight! The social fabric of our society has gone to the dogs as merit, service, integrity and loyalty are shamelessly sacrificed on the alter of mediocrity, opportunism, corruption, ineptitude, greed, and socio-political rascality. People play and joke with the present and the future and believe that the stolen funds stashed away in local and foreign banks would save them when things fall apart. Please, take a look at
The rascality that I am talking about is the brand of politics or social engagement that lacks ideological content and context that is short sighted, disorganized, opportunistic, and incapable of building strong, efficient and effective institutions. This brand of politics is generally superficial, alienating, and pedestrian. It is often focused on the capture and deployment of raw power and its mobilization capacity is often limited or superficial. In broad contexts, it is anti-people. This is because issues of gender equality especially women’s rights, the environment, social cultural rights, community rights, minority rights, and popular participation in the making and implementation of decisions are often taken for granted, trivialized or simply ignored. Political rascality is essentially individualistic and is often expressed in the inability of politicians to maintain discipline within their own parties or constituencies. There is an excessive focus on building personality cults, subverting laid down rules, seeking short cuts to power, and using power to marginalize already voiceless and marginal communities and citizens.
Of course, political rascality is also a “strategy” for covering up monumental policy failures on the part of the elite. It shows up as a sort of “shakara” politics where critical issues and discourses are reduced to pedestrian levels and trivialized. Thus rather than present serious minded and focused well-thought out strategies or programs for change, the politicians engage in the politics of personality and diversions. Under this mould of politics, there is often a well-packed strategy of blaming the victims rather than the perpetrators. A steady strategy of depoliticization, defensive radicalism and de-ideologization become the basis of political relations and competition. In sum, it is nothing short of “political 419”. When political rascals get into power at any level, they use state power to visit violence, pain, and poverty on the masses. In the localities, they simply become leaders in the “local axis of evil” created to reproduce an existing unjust system. They use such opportunities to negate the public good and become clogs in the wheels of progress. Thus the state become an instrument of domination, exploitation and marginalization rather than the bastion of human rights, gender equality, social justice, environmental protection, eradication of poverty, and the sanctity of the rule of law.
Allow me to spend a few minutes on the type of elite that is, in large measure, making life impossible for our people today. These are the so-called big men. They are “big” because of stolen funds and because they stepped on the souls of millions of poor voiceless Nigerians to acquire their numerous cars, mansions, foreign accounts, and countless police and private security escorts and guards. What are they scared of? Whose goat did they steal? As Malam Nasir el-Rufai, the former Minister of the
The “big man” is not ashamed to be in charge of an unstable, ramshackle, unsteady, inefficient and corrupt state or corporation in so far as all allocations can go into his private bank account. He insists on being called by all sorts of flamboyant names: “The Great Lion,” “The Big Goat”, “The Huge Lizard,” “The Killer” and “The Teacher”, “The Father of the Nation”, “The Rain Maker” to take a few examples. You know the other prevalent titles in