A country that allows its rulers to revel with impunity and reckless abandon in the worst form of corruption and misrule, cannot hope to be blessed with the grace of light. – Late Chief Obafemi Awolowo.
Another period of increased political activities is about to begin and there is a need to remind Nigerians that good conditions do not come about through wrong or unjust decisions and actions. Nigerians have suffered enough in silence and there is a strong need to reverse the situation through some honest policies, choices and changes. In the Holy Book of Islam we are told that “tumult and oppression are worse than slaughter” (Sura II: 217). We have had enough of slaughter in the past 50 years arising from tumult and oppression, but let there be a change now.
A situation whereby politics becomes an act of promoting tumult, oppression and corrupt practices which lead to slaughter, because of poor management of the nation’s resources, should change for the better. Should over seventy percent of Nigerians continue to groan in agony while less than twenty percent of the population live in obscene opulence? Should politics not be practiced with good conscience and goodwill? Let there be a change now.
Does patriotism consist in enjoying government patronage and holding one sinecure after another from one regime to another? Are there not “patriotic” Nigerians lavishing the nation’s wealth in an unmerciful manner that can make the heart bleed? Must politics be reduced to a hide-and-seek activity whereby self-interest defines patriotism?
Patriotism is defined in terms of how much that an individual benefits from a prevailing patronage system. In this unique political system, honesty is not the best policy in statecraft, neither is prudence the best policy in economic matters. Talking about the Nigerian political situation, late Francis Ellah said: “Once imbalance is installed in a system or the framework of a state becomes lop-sided in favour of a visible majority ethnic group against all other groups combined, then the political air is ominously fouled up and the hell of tribal hostility is let loose on all fronts upon the state and the nation.”
One major reason which fuels and perpetuates corruption in Nigeria is the lop-sidedness of the Nigerian political structure, which also makes it difficult for genuine patriotism to become a national sentiment. A situation where some sections of the country have some feeling of estrangement (which is noticeably so) then there is no way that hostility would not rear its head. This lop-sided system manifests in several ways including patronage and sinecure, which are obvious corruption.
Corruption does not always involve monetary deals, but to install unproductive, unnecessary, duplicated administrative structures so as to provide jobs for political loyalists, can be called corruption also. A situation where everyone thinks himself sufficiently qualified for the task of governance solely on cash-and-carry basis, then that would not be a viable political culture. Politics should be about patriotism, sacrifice and service, rather than a business of sharing available resources. We have largely self-seeking adventurers who see politics as a gold-mine, even though a dangerous venture.
It is evident that oil politics is the driving force in governance, which has succeeded in producing the ugliest dare-devil and pig-headed adventures that this country has ever had. There is hardly anything else we hear about in the Nigerian polity than cases of large-scale frauds and corruption and one begins to wonder how the country is able to survive, considering the amounts of money involved in such cases. Even in the investigation and prosecution of the many corruption cases that have come to light, there is evidently the Nigerian factor at work which makes the anti-corruption crusade a mere travesty.
Whether we are aware of it or not, nation-building is a serious task which demands not just commitment, conviction and sacrifice, but more importantly nobility of soul. Late Chief Obafemi Awolowo would remind us that only the deep can call to the deep, meaning that nation-building is not a task that can be accomplished by interior and corrupt minds. In view of the scandals, frauds and corruption often associated with the Nigerian political class and regimes it would be difficult to say that the nation would have the blessing and grace of the light in our endeavours.
Let us recognize the fact that no matter what we do in secret and how clever we may be in our exploits, time usually unfolds what plighted cunning hides. If we are serious about the project of restructuring, there would be the need to provide a safe-landing for those who have looted the wealth and resources of this country in the past 50 years, otherwise they will sabotage every effort that would expose and penalise them.
Dr. Amirize is a retired lecturer, Rivers State University, Port Harcourt.