The truth is bitter, they say. Certainly, it may be, or may not be, depending on the perspective(s) deployed in analysing, interpreting and projecting what is, or what is not, the Truth. Consequently, what is, or what is not, the Truth? Wole Soyinka quoted a Malian sage – Tierno Bokar Saalif Tall (1875–1939) – also known as the Sage of Bandiagara, who preached that TRUTH is threefold: there is my truth, there is your truth, and there is the truth. Soyinka, nonetheless, went ahead to add that “.…… there is of course also the possibility of a fourth, which is that there is no truth at all, an anarchic condition that leaves the world floundering in a moral void…….” This, in our opinion, is a challenge to all, mainly the truth-seekers, whose preoccupation is the sincere search for, and reportage of, the truth. We will leave these opinionated positions at this level of discussion for now while we proceed by engaging in another, concerning some observations in our society that, if so considered, may be agreed to be true. As public commentators, we have been criticised for, and confronted with questions relating to, holding ONLY people in government responsible for Nigeria’s challenges. It is some people’s opinion, and rightly so, that the challenges encountered, today, by our country have the active contributions of the followers.
What are the arguments of those who, rightly, believe that the followers are part of the country’s problem? Firstly, and perhaps the core, is that political leaders – many of whom, formerly, were followers before attaining ‘leadership’ status – are from the same society as their followers. This is largely correct even as the processes of transiting from followership to political leadership, in our clime, are fraught with many contradictions. To simply say it in plain words: We have in abundance not ‘real’ leaders but ‘dealers’ emanating, based on some warped value systems, from the people! Of course, much should be unexpected from these ‘dealers’ as they will definitely end up scamming the people! This is really a national predicament. These arguments did not end there. They were further advanced by asking some questions like: Is it people in government that cheat consumers by selling inferior products for the price of higher quality ones in our markets? What about those tampering with measuring devices in order to cheat buyers? After selling eight ‘cups’ of grains as ten, what moral right do such person have to criticise government? What of the artisans whose intention is to cheat their clients in all transactions?
When those saddled with the responsibility of preventing fake or substandard products from getting into the country connive with importers to flood the markets with these same products, how do we explain this? When civil servants refuse to do their job, and/or decide to hide files, in order to be bribed, what do we call this? The civil servants who steal, and aid politicians in stealing, public resources, cannot be said to be morally upright. After leaving ‘service’, they suggest solutions. Why, as ‘physicians’, did they not heal themselves while in ‘service’? Yes, we always see those law-breaking ‘dealers’, every time, in their dark-tinted vehicles accompanied by their brigand-like, heavily-weaponised, ‘koboko’-wielding security escorts that dangerously force us off the road (sometimes causing fatal auto crashes) for them to drive past. Nevertheless, what make you, their followers – who regularly drive against traffic or do not obey traffic lights – different from these law-breakers that call themselves your leaders? How do we distinguish between contractors and those ‘dealers’ in government; when the former delivers non or inferior goods/services as against what was originally quoted and payment received for while the latter renege on all their campaign promises once ‘elected’ into office? Simply, both of them are scammers!
What about political thugs, vote sellers, under-aged voters? What did they think they were doing? After being paid peanuts for doing the bidding(s) of their master(s), they come out afterwards, when things go awry, as programmed, to shout that the government is not performing well. Are these people in good moral standing to criticise the government they illicitly put in place? Some Nigerians also connive with these ‘dealers’ to rig elections from the pooling booths to collation centres and they later come out to shamelessly lament about bad governance. What were they expecting from the people they helped in rigging into power? It appears they did not think deep enough to know that their leaders (dealers) are in business, so they must recoup their investment! Did any ‘dealer’ or political party openly come out in defence of the person recently accused of election fraud in Akwa Ibom State, arraigned in a court of law, tried, convicted and sentenced to three years imprisonment? We are not, in any way, pointing accusing finger at any political party, here, as we have been able to come to the conclusion, earlier and now, that the difference existing among these parties – as one commentator said on a radio station – is the same!
Cheating is cheating, either in examinations, admission into schools, or employment/appointments that are not necessarily based on merit but solely on crude primordial considerations. Once a society is seriously afflicted with the highlighted and other unmentioned socio-political ills, it may be difficult to criticise the government resulting from such milieu. The ‘dealers’, now ravenously looting our common patrimony, are fairly linked to their followers in terms of immorality. Yes, these links exist because if all had done things morally right, in individual’s varied corners, we are much likely not to have experienced this unfortunate socio-political decadence in our country today. The family settings, within which morals and correct value system are taught, appear to have either broken down or no more efficient, as in the past, for this purpose. Political position – in this country, Nigeria, at this current epoch – is now seen as a ‘jungle’ or ‘no-man’s-land’ where politicians move into, from their families/clans/tribes, to exploit and plunder. This is the mindset of these ‘dealers’ and other potential ones in the current political space, plus others that are still sandwiched within the mass of followers. Criticising government in power only for the purpose of getting into power and not to add any value to governance is now the order of the day.
The country appears to be suppressed and repressed to the level of not having the capability of knowing where and how to choose its leaders! This is calamitous to a developing country! The foregoing may give an impression that Nigerian government perfectly reflects the society. No, it really does not, as the country has in abundance morally-upright and brilliant minds not currently put to use for national development. We agree that leadership is to give correct direction especially in Nigeria where there is the availability of some of the most obedient followers when the right conditions are enabled. However, the challenge, in Nigeria and many parts of Africa, has been that the dregs of society are the ones whose hands the responsibility of ‘leadership’ falls into, and to worsen issues, when they make appointments, they cascade mediocrity by appointing bootlickers and people inferior to them in terms of competence. We have many of them, even at the lower rung of the societal ladder, with poverty – of the mind, of morals, of ideas, of identity, of clear principle. Those who can add value to governance are not allowed to. Therefore, what are we expecting from these charlatans? All the same, failure in leadership in Nigeria should serve as a wake-up call to all. We cannot afford to be stuck at this stage of political development.
This failure in leadership should encourage intensified enlightenment and re-orientation of our people particularly the ‘common man’. This is of high-priority because the shrewd political class, collectively, has devised seemingly sustainable means of keeping the ‘common man’ at a level where he/she will always be at their (political class’) beck and call, in perpetuity. This is part of the reasons why the ‘common man’ asks for pittance (as small as some grains of rice) during electoral processes. We cannot continue like this! These ‘hawks’ must be challenged and asked questions! Our rights must be demanded but this can only be done, and results achieved, when we all come together to fight the ills that have been enabled and sustained, for long, by the followers. This is because, according to the maxim, “he who comes into equity must come with clean hands”. The followers, most especially the ‘common man’, in collaboration with the almost non-existing middle class, should endeavour to rescue this country from these ‘hawks’ that are more of shylock ‘dealers’ than leaders. Lurking in the alley for your own time to eat from the current ‘soured meal’ may appear as a short-cut but it is not! One may think he/she will not partake in receiving negative consequences of the rot, being contributed to, now, but Mother Nature has her ways of getting back at all of us. This fact is irrespective of whether we believe, and/or like, it or not.
Andrew A. Erakhrumen, PhD
Department of Forest Resources and Wildlife Management, University of Benin, Benin City, Nigeria