Recently, I read a piece by Professor Charles Adisa, which attested to the incorruptibility of Mallam Aminu Kano. In response, someone rhetorically asked thus: Do we still have men like this anymore in our society?
I quickly replied thus: YES! We do; however, it is very difficult for them to find their way near the fringes of the corridors of power.
Further reactions from members of the chat group inspired me to write this story of Enoch, my bosom friend since childhood. Over the years, Enoch has been denied numerous appointments because he is considered too truthful to be trusted. Perhaps, within the paradox of this title lies the reason patriots are not found at the corridors of power in Nigeria. For decency, I shall obfuscate certain details here.
Enoch is of the generation that was awarded post secondary scholarship in the immediate post civil war years and charged by the Governor of his State to “go get the Golden Fleece and come home to build the State” Properly primed with the passion of patriotism, Enoch got the Golden Fleece in record time, rejected many employment offers in the US and rushed home. This is his story, so far.
Stepping out of the youth corps camp in 1980, Enoch became the arrowhead of organised youths of his community who peacefully but effectively paralyzed the operations of a corporate citizen of his community and extracted concessions to the point the community was adjudged “the most infrastructurally developed…in rural Nigeria.”
Consequently, he was invited by a legendary patriot and they formed a multi-state association that pressured the Federal Government into establishing an interventionist agency for the development of communities whose environment and means of livelihood had been decimated by multibillion dollar economic activities.
In May 2001, Enoch was invited to present the sole paper at the maiden stakeholders’ interactive session organised by the interventionist agency of this narrative. Given the dismal performance of the agency as a result of brazen and unbridled corruption, the kernel of Enoch’s paper was thus: “if we are desirous to develop [this area], then we should ensure that [the agency] is not turned into a private pot of gold for the functionaries of the [agency] and the operators of the Nigerian political system.”
That statement generated thunderous applause and the participants insisted that Enoch should repeat it three times; he did. Incidentally, the Special Guest of Honour agreed with Enoch and anchored his speech on that statement.
In 2002, Enoch was appointed Chairman of his local government. As a result of rife rumours of corruption by LGA chairmen, the Speaker of the State legislature summoned the chairmen to come to the State capital with their books. Following extensive and rigorous scrutiny of the books by a team of auditors, accountants and administrators, the Speaker declared thus: “From what is before me, every local government chairman should be sacked, except [Enoch].”
A few years later, the Special Guest of Honuor in this narrative became the President of the Federal Republic of Nigeria and the headship of the agency became vacant. Interestingly, the position was zoned to Enoch’s State and also zeroed to his LGA. Naturally, Enoch applied. Thereafter, he rushed to a senator and business mogul from his LGA for assistance. The senator told him thus: “they will never let you get there because they know that it won’t be business as usual.”
Subsequently, information filtered out that the President presented Enoch’s candidacy to his kitchen cabinet but was told thus: “he is the best candidate but no one can get him to play ball; election is coming.”
Again, the Speaker who by the earlier-cited averment declared Enoch the only financially transparent chairman of LGA in the State, became the governor of the State and vehemently opposed Enoch’s candidature saying thus; “I do not want a person I will answer ‘Sir’ in that position.” At the end of the process, someone said that Enoch’s candidature was “sacrificed on the altar of compromise and corruption.”
Nepotism, cronyism, tribalism, amoral familism and all the negative “isms” that blight the affairs of this prodigiously endowed nation are rooted in authority figures planting malleable individuals into positions of public trust. This is the reason chief executives are able to raid public treasuries with impunity, an act that requires the connivance of other officers in the system.
The elite consider the State of Nigeria a private pot of gold and are holding Nigerians hostage by invoking primordial sentiments towards perpetuating their hegemony and overwhelming majority of the populace falls for the farce.
Being endlessly bombarded with one unbelievable corruption scandal after another, the nation relapses into a state of collective amnesia as a psychological safety net. Having woven a watertight conspiracy of silence, the elite throw no stones since they all live in glass houses. Here is the reason politicians found guilty of corruption are pardoned and given national award shortly thereafter while those in the bureaucracy are reinstated and promoted.
This is the tragedy of Nigeria, a nation so prodigiously blessed yet the people are so scandalously wretched.
Osai writes from Rivers State University, Port Harcourt.