Our people are too easily played by politicians and some of us are trying to understand why. Should we ascribe being led by the nose by political demagogues who exploit our individual stations in life because they know that our complacency is a by-product of our weak expectations of them and of the political process? And is this why we have become accustomed to making excuses for inexcusable political scorecards being paraded by Nigerian politicians?
On a certain day I was travelling from point A to point B. Most of us who use that terminal for moving from point A to point B are already assured of the ability of the terminal to convey us from points ABC to point DEF, and it is in the assurance that we would be conveyed from point ABC to point DEF in relative ease and comfort that we part with our hard-earned monies. But in determining to use that particular terminal for moving from points ABC to point DEF what we seek as a matter of fact is not only the ability of the terminal and its managers to convey us from points ABC to DEF. We seek service as well – that to mean that in conveying us from those points earlier mentioned and the inevitability of a flat tyre occurs, we are rest assured that simple tasks like changing a flat tyre would not leave us emotionally and physically drained. But in most cases like the one I recently experienced when the vehicle broke down on the way, not only would you find out that the chap at the driving seat is not physically and mentally balanced to change a tyre, you would find out as well that it is either that the coach does not have a spare or that the one it has is worn and threadbare. When that happens, you might just find out that at that terminal of nearly 100 persons, you would be the only one complaining and upset – one, that the vehicle took off without a spare tyre, two that the man who is supposed to effect the change is not the right person to do so, and three that the terminal and its managers have not made any provisions for you like a nice cup of tea and a blanket if you would have to spend the night on the way as a result of the negligence of the terminal and its managers. The remaining 99 commuters are likely to condemn you for raising your voice to complain. They are likely to begin to make excuses for these inexcusable risks to which people we entrust our lives put us. You are likely to hear such aberrations as, ‘We thank God for this flat tyre o…how are we sure that this is not a blessing in disguise?’ Or you might hear this quaint quip – ‘Nigerians…why are we this impatient. Can’t you see that the driver is trying his best?’ With this predilection to rationalizing inefficiency, I have as my personal favourite the penchant of the rationalizer to use certain aphorisms and apothegms to justify and put paid to any further discussion of the matter. They are – ‘be patient my friend, for a patient dog ears the fattest bone’, and ‘half a loaf is better than none’.
But I find these aphorisms annoying and utterly deprecating. Even though I understand the semantic implications of those clichés, I have never seen myself in the imagery of a dog so uncouched and so coldly left outside in the dead of the harmattan – that of servitude and subordination that should only eat the crumbs that fall off the table of a master. But most Nigerians see themselves as the dogs so referred to in that aphorism – we see our elected and selected officials as lords and masters who deserve to be served first and leave us the bones after they have had their fills. I have also not been able to defer to the meaning of ‘patience’ as used in that context of that cliché – does ‘patience’ as used in that context mean that I should fold my hands and siddon dey look or begin to pray over a situation that I could influence for change if I could? Is there good patience and bad patience? Why should a dog be ‘patient’ if all the other ‘impatient’ dogs have impatiently eaten all the meat only to leave the bones and crumbs for the ‘patient’ dog?
Another one of those deprecating aphorisms that our people hold dear in their apology for half measurements on the scorecards of demagogues and political populists is this quip – ‘after all, half a loaf is better than none’. And again, I do not understand why I should accept half a loaf if what should satisfy me is a full loaf of bread. Let me explain – against the hullabaloo and the highfalutin generated from the ‘performance’ of a certain public official in a certain state in the South-South, I took the time out to see these indexes of performance for myself when I travelled to the capital city of that state. But I was disappointed to say the very least – of course there were several terrible roads in that ancient city that had been refurbished and garnished with street lights but that was all that there was to the highfalutinous brouhaha. The capital city is the dirtiest I’ve ever seen it, and ante-roads are in their deplorable best. When I therefore went ahead to express my surprise at this less than average performance of the governor that everyone is singing his praise, that quip – ‘after all, half loaf is better than nothing’, popped up. The fellows supported their praise of the governor with a comparative analysis of his predecessor who stole the state dead and left a legacy of dilapidation.
Three things account for my utter disappointment with the ‘development’ that has taken place in that state. One, our people equate the erection of physical infrastructure with development. That shouldn’t do – development is only sustainable when the development of physical infrastructure is at par with human development – I didn’t see anyone employed to sweep and keep the ‘new’ roads clean. Two, the basis for the comparison of the ‘performance’ of the incumbent with the non-performing predecessor does not really arise. The said state has had several non-performing governors like Ewerekumo Yeri, Tunde Ogheha, Jeremiah Useni and Chief Odigie Oyegun. If we are undertaking an analysis of performance, I thought that we should compare the achievements of the man on ground against the achievements of those who have indeed worked and executed the mandate for which public officials are often judged. Three, the state in question is easily one of the most physically endowed in Nigeria – it has a rich soil that supports the growth and cultivation of rubber and palm oil trees, together with a people who once produced textile materials famous throughout Sub-Saharan Africa. Where are these industries today, and how has the man on ground used the monies that he collects monthly from Abuja for the real development of his people. Fourth and finally, it would be good for our people to refrain from celebrating half measures, and using aphorisms used by colonialists to keep us in check. We have come too far and have suffered too much at the hands of politicians to continue to accept half measures and eat the bones left for us by public officials. As a matter of fact, we behave pretty much like the 99 percent of the commuters in a coach who need to move from point ABC to DEF and are commuting on a coach without a spare tyre and without key personnel who should be mentally and physically positioned to change a tyre if the inevitable were to happen. What makes matters worse is that rationalization for these half measures come from us. This penchant for rationalization of half measures often outweighs our ability to examine certain key indexes of our ‘development’ as a people.