Nigeria: The Anthropology Of Abysmally Low Governance Expectations By Jesse Adeniji

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“Loyalty to the country always. Loyalty to the government when it deserves it.” ~ Mark Twain

Recently, Olusegun Obasanjo, a former military ruler, a retired General, a former civilian President, all of Nigeria wrote a public letter to the present President – Goodluck Jonathan.

In the said letter, he highlighted a collection of age-old Nigeria state problems. Corruption, unbridled stealing, sectionalism, use of state military and police resources against the citizens, self-perpetuation in power, and a general state of anomie regarding the economic well-being of Nigerians.

Obasanjo made a major meal of the situation by launching a stinging attack on the person of the president, a person whom, by acts of commission or omission of the man nicknamed Obasanjo, himself foisted on Nigerians in a political and economic power game which has ensured that Nigeria kept at war with itself, effectively stymieing any effort at collective self expression on the global stage.

In plain words, the constant conflicts witnessed have signposted the inability of the endowed country to project beyond the state of its potential. 

But that isn’t where I want this discussion to lead. That would be a moot point because every Nigerian I know, understand the problem of Nigeria. Even a newborn can tell that electricity is a stranger and that tinnitus-inflicting noises from Chinese portable generators are a part of the equation.

My focus shall be on the reactions of the hapless Nigerians to the debacle of leadership confronting us.

There are two camps in the whole brouhaha. It’s the most basic of camps you get in any debate, people naturally taking sides depending on their perspective, experience, culture and current reality.

1. The first camp sides with the current President, Goodluck Jonathan. Their reason goes from the mundane to the sublime. 

Some are questioning why the letter was made public. Some are making it out as an attempt to disrupt the ‘transformational agenda’ of the regime. And some with serious and legitimate posers for the writer – who they reckon hijacked the party and foisted Jonathan Goodluck on the ruling Peoples’ Democratic Party, PDP despite having a corruption allegation by the government crime agency, EFCC {Economic and Financial Crimes Commission} to become a running candidate to the now deceased former President Umaru Y’aradua.

They also reckon the case of unexplained deaths {read assassinations} to senior political figures and critics of the then Obasanjo administration is still a burning national question especially in the case of a sitting Attorney General of the nation.

Among other things, they pointed to the billions of Dollars spent on electricity which never was, the selective use of the EFCC to hound political opponents and above all, his unconstitutional quest for a third term as the President of Nigeria.

2. The second camp has their thoughts marshalled as well. Although many of them do not really dig the personality of Obasanjo, they can relate to the points he has made. Therefore they are open to taking the message and discarding the messenger.

They point out the debauchery going on inside the roofs of President Goodluck Jonathan himself. A billion Naira allocated for food and cutleries every year, at least 7 Jets maintained at humongous costs, profligacy of his wife appropriating state funds for personal pet projects – all of which have fuelled a culture of impunity of Olympian proportions across the very length and breadth of his kitchen cabinet and PDP members. That is quite an unprecedented feat in the annals of a serially corrupt political class, at a time when unemployment and belt tightening policies are hitting the average Nigerian so hard.

To be honest, scandals have come hard and fast on the heels of GEJ’s ascension to the highfalutin thrones of Aso Rock.

There’s no visible and outlined method to delivering the so-called ‘Transformational Agenda’. So the whole country has become one Oompa Loompa experimental laboratory. 

The defence of the national coastal waters have been contracted out to an ‘Ijaw’ warrior named Tompolo at the detriment of the Nigerian Navy and Coastguards.

The Central Bank governor has written another open letter to tell the President that $50 billion wasn’t remitted to the Federation accounts as stipulated by the constitution.

That came on the heel of major disasters in the Nigerian airspace. The official saddled with keeping it safe and improving services forgot about her official role and instead bought herself massively inflated bullet proof cars. 

Mujahid Asari Dokubo, a self-styled ‘Ijaw freedom fighter’ became a close ally of the President and the resultant ‘transformation’ was phenomenal. He became a billionaire wealthy enough to buy a private jet and founded a University in the Republic of Benin. Mr. Dokubo at various times have become the unofficial spokesperson of Mr. Goodluck.

To cap it all, the President, after very lukewarm response to the bombing campaigns of the Boko Haram terror group, initiated a military response which have been largely ineffective and posing a real question to the preparedness of the Nigerian military. {The French army mentioned something like that when we decided to join the peace-keeping operations in Mali}.

‘When two elephants fight, it’s the grass that suffers’

The hot air generated by the two camps beclouds the ability to realise the true picture of things.  Everyone seems to want to cling to their position without realising there is a third factor.

Us.

Nigerians.

People.

We become inured to the collective sufferings without realising that we have all been given a single lifetime. Reincarnation itself, if you believed in it, is a cosmic lottery. If you came back as a rodent, how would that change the fact that you got the short end of the stick in this one?

My argument is, what is happening in Nigeria isn’t unique. In every civilisation, no matter the form of government, there comes a point in time when the people realises that they have to demand what they want.

Democracy is not a spectator sport. You have to be in it ALWAYS to guarantee your benefit from it.

They have to apply intelligence in getting themselves out of the quagmire they find themselves. So i put the question to a friend – If we get stuck at the point where we do not draw a line and save Nigeria from the obvious descent into perdition, what excuse do we give when the bottom drops out? 

The system we have makes Obasanjo, Jonathan, Tinubu, and all the political class, Oligarchs. In tandem with the business moguls, they are holding Nigeria hostage because the political and economic structure is suitable for getting away with murder.

If you dethrone one today, another will pop up in its place. And they will continue to use the same divisive tactics – ethnicity, religion, impunity, poverty, and ignorance.

A look at the loot distribution will let you know that spoils of corruption are not amenable to the same variables. There’s no ethnic looting. The children of looters meet up at foreign schools outside of the shores of the country and continue to enjoy their privileged life. They are not ignorant so they grow up to continue the stock-in-trade.

This is why i believe that the political structure of the country HAS to be changed. Fiscal Federalism will ensure that people bite what they can chew and deal with their local dictators before they gain National prominence. 

But quite a lot of the people haven’t yet cotton unto this solution, which will eventually happen anyway forced or unforced.

Back to the moment, it is in our interests as citizens to close rank regardless of ethnic, religious divide and demand what we want.

And we can learn a lot from history.

The ancient Athens started like any other civilisation. Groups of farmers eking out a living eventually grow into large collectives. Once they have substantial wealth from their produce, they face wars from the not so fortunate groups from other places looking to become rich by plunder.

As such the more wealthy citizens are able to organise some form of military defence and therefore become leaders and soon, rulers.

The rulers become despots.

And when the time was ripe, they fought among themselves for power and influence. All the while, they continue to use the common people as fodder in their ruthless power game.

It was the rise of ordinary citizens as armies of these elites created a new class of influence and leadership. As such they were able to analyse what was going on and decide that citizen participation in government should not be down to the elite alone.

That was the birth of democracy.

If you have the time, watch the historical detail about the people discovering their power and using it.  

See an excerpt from a scholarly work on the issue.  

“The next significant step in the process of democratization was the constitution of Kleisthenes (508 B.C.). A tyranny had replaced the government created by Solon. The tyrant was removed with Spartan aid. Conflict between two groups of elites resulted in the exile of one (the Alkmeonids), but when the other (lead by Isagoras) attempted to take control of the govern-ment, “the people gathered … [and] had taken control of affairs” (Aristotle, The Constitution of Athens). Kleisthenes, leader of the Alkmeonids, created a new constitution “so that more might share control of the state”. Citizens were organized into demes (political districts) based not on heredity, but on geography. Demes from the three distinct regions; the city, the country, and the coast; were grouped together and organized into ten tribes. The Boule was extended to include 500 (fifty from each tribe). Thus, power was transferred away from family lines and connections. Furthermore, the institution of ostracism was introduced. Ostracisms in Athens were banishments from the polis for ten years (MacDowell, 1978). This gave the citizens the power to expel political leaders who supported unpopular agendas or who were too powerful. Thus, external intervention, conflict between the elite, and class conflict come together to explain the second step in the gradual enfranchisement of the Athenian citizens.”

Note: The Athenians, tired of the ceaseless clash of egos between the elites, joined in the fray to ‘take control of affairs’.

The culture of impunity we see all over Nigeria by leaders or rulers, is occasioned by the surrender of reasoning to the elites. They don’t even need to promise anything anymore, get voted and parade themselves as the messiah of the Nigerian people.

Talk about clouds without rain. How frustrating could that be?

In effect, the people have been so plundered they do not even know their rights nor have a basic expectation of life and how it should be lived, let alone reaching into the future. {Hence the title of this piece}

Conclusion:

History also provides us how to resolve the problems once identified. The lines below is taken from a BBC discussion page. I want you to pay particular attention to the strategy of divide and rule used by the British to conquer colonies.

Omar Wadud:

“East India Company was formed by British traders to trade with India. They set up godowns to store the goods they traded in. The protection of these godowns served as a good excuse to build forts and maintain armies at such centers.

During this time disorganized kingdoms were fighting amongst themselves. The British took the golden opportunity to benefit from these internal quarrels and helped one king against another. In this bargain the British gained more power and wealth. The British trained Indian soldiers and employed them in their army. This army was far better trained and disciplined than the armies with small Indian kings who were just struggling to survive. Gradually the British succeeded in capturing very large parts of India. They made treaties with kings who accepted the authority of the British. They were kings only in name. The British very cleverly managed to collect huge wealth from the people and the kings.

Likewise, even the weavers of fine cottons and silks were compelled to see their cloth only to British traders at prices decided by them. Anybody found selling his cloth to a trader other than the British was severely punished. Also, no duty was charged on British goods coming to India. On the other hand, Indian exports to Britain were subjected to high imported duty. The India cottage industry also suffered at the hands of the British traders. India had a large handloom industry. But the British by now had started a very big cotton textile mills in England. They needed a lot of cotton for these mills, so cotton was purchased here at a very low price and sent to England and in return huge quantities of cloth was sold in India. The result was that the big weaver class in India became unemployed. People had to buy costlier British cloth. Such were the ways of the British to amass wealth in India to be sent back to England. Thus the Indian farmers, weavers, traders, kings, Nawabs, craftsmen were all unhappy and this discontent led to the mightiest revolts in 1857 which was also joined by Sanyasis, Fakirs, disbanded soldiers and British soldiers too.

The British conquered India with the help of Indian soldiers, but did not treat them properly. They were denied higher positions in spite of their abilities. The Indians were also traded as slaves to other British colonies. The company was indifferent to education and so the old system of education suffered under the British rule. After this revolt the Company’s place was taken by the British government directly which too was very harsh with Indians. In 1857, power was transferred from the East India Company to the British Crown and India became a British colony. India fought a total of 111 wars and with Indian money and troops, British-India finally saw peace.

The British introduced modern technology with the intention to sell manufactured goods like textiles and machines for profit. In the process of trying to make a profit and exploiting India, the British did of course benefit India. They built railways throughout India in order to make everything readily accessible. They established Law Courts, civil services and transport systems. They also established factories, schools and universities to introduce western ideas and to incorporate the idea of democracy. Missionaries came to India and spread Christianity. This was all done in the name of Britain’s economy.”

If Nigeria is to make democracy work, we must take the strategies of the oppressors and turn it on them.

We must use divide-and-rule just like they use it on us. That is what it means to have intelligent populace.

If Obasanjo is offering himself to be instrumental in using the law of the land to bring about a stop to impunity of the present time, it would be intelligent of us to support him in doing that.

After we get a result, we also put the same machinery in motion to get him to answer for the things he did wrong in his government.

The Whites went into America, started trading. They sided with the weak tribes to defeat the stronger tribes. The Red Indians were too blinded with ETHNICITY and HATRED for themselves they did not realise they  are weakening their own stock. They didn’t also contemplate the fact that the new ‘friend’ could replace their worst enemies.

Well that was what happened. It was much easier to plunder and already decimated people.

That is exactly what the political class are doing to the Nigerian people at the moment. Wake up and realise that using ethnicity, religion, propaganda to divide us is working. They are having the best of the earth and most Nigerians the worst of existence.

Yet we all have one lifetime to live.

It is time the intelligent ones close ranks and see this for what it is. It’s a bloody plunder of the people all over Nigeria!

For instance, when we demand for a proper Census to be taken, don’t listen to the glib talk of the politician. They just use the bogus number to grab the resources and then steal it. If you help them stand in the way, you’re in effect cheating yourself, and maybe the unborn kids of yours.

If you know how many you really are, you’re able to demand that the resources of your state be put to good use. You’re able to demand accountability.

I know it’s a long read, if you do not get anything from this at all, understand that there are two classes of citizens in Nigeria.

The plundering {Elite}

And the Plundered {Holloi Polloi}

You someday have to think about yourself. The common people asking, demanding and monitoring every aspect of life to make sure things are done properly.

You also have to realise that no politician is your messiah. You have to save yourself. That’s why God gave us brain to work it out.

Jesse Adeniji is a Brand Strategist. He lives and works in London.

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