The People Are the Government!

by Akintokunbo Adejumo

“When governments fear the people, there is liberty. When the people fear the government, there is tyranny.”  – Thomas Jefferson

Does the government fear us? Or do we fear the government? When the people fear the government, tyranny has found victory. The Federal Government of Nigeria, the thirty-six (36) States, one (1) Federal Capital Territory and seven hundred and seventy-four (774) Local Governments are our servants, not our masters! The 180 million people of Nigeria are the Masters and are the Governments!

I am not talking about Democracy here! I am not talking about “the government of the people, by the people and for the people” credo or maxim here.

I am talking about any kind of government, military, autocratic, or democratic.

I am not a fan of governments in Nigeria. In most of my 60 plus years as a citizen of Nigeria, we have been let down by successive government, be it military or civilian. And as a matter of fact, in my humble opinion and experience, the civilian governments in Nigeria have been the worst.

I have often come across many Nigerians who are angry, frustrated, discouraged and exasperated by the consistency of poor government and bad governance in Nigeria over the past 60 or so years. Our vituperations include calling our governments (I am not talking about individuals in government) unprintable names. We call them “useless”, among other derogatory nomos.

So, I begin to ask myself, why would citizens of a country be calling or referring to their government as useless? Surely, it must be because of bad governance. It must be because our governments, federal, state and local, are corrupt, are negligent and insensitive to the plight of their citizens.  The governments that will not provide electricity, water, good roads, quality and affordable (if not free) healthcare food, affordable and modest housing, employment, quality and affordable (if not free) education, etc. to its people while members of the governments  are living in affluence and largely free of charge on the citizenry, yet still looting the treasury to deprive the people all the things listed above and many more.

I see the need and reason for the frustration of the citizenry, and I only hope that one day, people in government will not be stoned at sight when we see them on the streets. But then, that is why they are afraid of us and they travel about in armoured vehicles and armed police and military escorts to protect themselves from the people they rule badly and poorly. Yes, the rulers are afraid of the ruled, because of the crimes and sins they daily perpetrate against the us.

Nigerian, and African, politicians will not respect or fear the electorate simply because they, the politicians, spend their [mostly ill-gotten] money on the electorate, rather than the other way round.

If the money that they use comes from properly and strictly regulated funds from the electorate and party members, then the electorate have the upper hand, and can hold the politicians accountable.

That is why on most democratic Western countries, politicians and what they spend on elections, must be accounted for and the people have power over them.

Democracy will not take deep root in Nigeria, and indeed in Africa, if we continue to turn it on its head. Or refuse to play it the way it should be to really be beneficial to us

Apart from the fact that we’ve not adopted, and ADAPTED Democracy to suit our environment and culture, this issue of political funding is another important stumbling block for us, and one of the reasons our politicians do whatever they like with us, and get away with it.

The electorate, the public, party members have to fund political parties and candidates, not the other way round. This will make them answerable to the electorates. We’re giving them too much slack and respect that they don’t deserve”. Nigeria the electorates don’t know their RIGHTS but knows their MOUTH. During campaign, you will see elderly people maybe 50 or 60 years old, locking up their businesses, put on their best clothes and run around with politicians for the whole day and coming back home with just N1000. Politicians owe us NOTHING, because they paid to be voted for.

The Nigerian politician knows MOST average Nigerian is STUPIDLY GREEDY. A governor owing 22 months salaries of civil servants, six months to election pays 3months salaries out of the 22 months owned. Then pays for all the months leading to the election. Then a month to elections he pays another 3months Gam.! The whole civil servants will come out to vote him cos ” he is a caring n listening governor”. After elections no salaries and NLC wants to go on strike, and they want the governor to take them seriously. Does it make any sense? Would the government respect the NLC leadership, who always cosy up to the government to be in its favour, and some of them also receive payments from the government?

What is leadership and service?

The service leadership concept is based on the philosophy of “servant leadership”, a term coined by Robert K. Greenleaf to define a leader who is servant first. “It begins with the natural feeling that one wants to serve, to serve first,” Greenleaf wrote, “Then conscious choice brings one to aspire to lead.” Servant leadership is a philosophy and set of practices that enriches the lives of individuals, builds better organizations, and ultimately creates a more just and caring world.

What does it mean to be of service to others?

Service to others, to me, and indeed, many people, means being unselfish, it means doing something for someone else without expecting any reward or gain. Service to others, to me, and to many people, also means helping people out when they cannot complete a task by themselves, e.g. surviving this harsh world by themselves. In the Holy Bible, this is Mark 12:31 “Love your neighbour as yourself”. There is no commandment greater than these. Leviticus 19:13 also said: “Do not defraud or rob your neighbour. Do not hold back the wages of a hired worker overnight”.

This concept of leadership and service leadership have, unfortunately been turned on its head by African leaders. In Nigeria, for example, whether it was under military or civilian forms of government, the people are serving the leaders, and not the other way around. To these pseudo-leaders, the people who elected them or installed them into power, position, and wealth, are nothing but their servants and ignorant vassals. They don’t care if they can’t eat, or if they fall and drop dead on the street due to hunger and poor health. We are their slaves, to be used and tossed around as they deem fit. Our pseudo-leaders are parasites, crass opportunists and they live, grow and feed fat on us, even when they leave office or even die, we continue to serve and slave for them and their families.

To add salt to the injury, they’re not satisfied with our servitude, they then steal and loot the little we have or the little crumbs and pittance they “generously “give us; also steal from us what is our collective common wealth.

Nothing can be more evil and wicked than that, isn’t it?

And you know what? We still continue to celebrate them, adore them, defend them, kill for them, fight among us for them, and treat them like gods.

Serves us right; a people, they say, deserve the type of leaders they get. Our rulers and those we put in power and position are products of a corrupt and depraved society, so what do you expect? A good society will incessantly and recurrently produce good leaders; you can guess the results for a bad society.

Our society needs an infusion of goodness, righteousness, conscience, altruism, sincerity, honesty, love, peaceful co-existence and care for one another, before we can transform into a good and great nation. We are the reason why our society and the leaders we chose, or cheat their way into power, is a poor and bad society. We cannot and must not absolve ourselves of the blame, by pointing fingers always, calling the government and the country, “useless”, a “jungle”, a “zoo”.

What do you expect from a society where their slogan is “Bí wọn bá fún wéré l’ọ́kọ́, a r’oko s’ọ́dọ̀ ara rẹ̀” If a madman is given a hoe, he will make a ridge to his side? What do you expect from a society, where if you served for even four years and because of your faithfulness, honesty and sincerity of service, it is against your moral fibre to steal, as a result, you still board public transport or you still live in a rented apartment, and you hear from your people castigating you saying “Ẹniti o ri ẹsẹ̀ wéré tí kò bù, ní ọjọ́ wo ló má rí ti ọlọ́gbọ́n bù?”? A man that fails to take advantage of a madman, when would he have the chance to take advantage of a wise man?

Not until we change our orientation and the way we think, we may have to continue like this for a very long time.

Unfortunately, this group of people are not just ready to listen to comments of this nature because they believe strongly that this unpleasant state will continue for ever and so don’t care at all. It is unfortunate that the current administration that we thought would hold the bull by the horn and really, truly make a complete U-turn are, after a few years in power, making matters worse using the misdeeds of the past administration as a cover up. However, the ominous signs are here with us that it is either we have a true change or else absolute change would become inevitable.

There is an almost stoical and primeval phenomenon with our people. We do not take ownership, either individually or collectively. Maybe it’s an African trait, or just Nigerian, or both. Yet, we have this mentality that we are entitled to everything, including things we don’t strive or work for. So how can we be entitled to something we do not own, and conversely, how can we own something we’re not entitled to?

Our way of life and everyday living confirms this. We do not feel we own our governments, yet we feel we are entitled to whatever they give us. We do not take ownership of our governments. We do not feel we belong to Nigeria (as some of say, due to ethnic and religious differences), Nigeria ia just a contraption, so not worth belonging to, and hence, not worth being owned. Yet, ironically, we are always clamouring for her commonwealth, her resources; for example, during this Covid-19 pandemic, we wanted palliatives that we did not work for (i.e., people who do not pay taxes or anything towards governance now wants palliatives from government; want the government to start distributing money from the oil wells, because they feel the oil is theirs.

Even people in government do not take ownership of government and the country, and that is why to work for the government, e.g. civil service or political office, becomes an opportunity to take their own share of the loot. This mentality has always been there even before Independence. Nobody wants to work altruistically and honestly for the government to deliver services to the general public; it’s always for themselves and to benefit their individual families. Yet, they expect to retire after 35 years of service and be sent off grandly and collect gratuities and pensions, when they hardly worked and all the time, were stealing from government in time of money, time and efforts.

God Bless Nigeria and Nigerians!!!!


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