By Eze Onyekpere
Nigerians want to be respected and accorded the same treatment as other rational, reasonable and civilised people and human beings. But when it comes to applying the rules and due process which are the hallmark of a civilised people, we plead a special case, to be allowed to depart from the rules and to do something abnormal in the eyes of the world. There is this idea of the Nigerian factor that justifies and rationalises insane conducts and failure to use the faculties endowed to humans of the Nigerian species by creation.
The fundamental aphorism that will be asserted in this discourse is that there are no special and attenuating circumstances to justify the madness in the land and the refusal to follow reason and good conscience. And madness does not only consist of when a person removes his dress and enters the market place.
But when abnormality is taken to replace the normal, the situation is just one of pure insanity. If as a people, we (the majority) insist on abnormality, then we should not expect the respect, recognition and goodwill of men and women of good conscience from other lands. We should be content with their contempt and derision for whatever is Nigerian.
In all civilised climes, from Africa, Asia to Europe, there is a general odium attached to corruption and corrupt practices; that odium also attaches to the mismanagement of public resources under any guise – whether it is called stealing, corruption, misappropriation, criminal breach of trust or just give it any technical name as lawyers would do. Anyone accused of or having serious allegations hanging over one’s head, founded on this desecration of public morality, if already in office, resigns to clear one’s name. Just imagine this scenario: According to Wikipedia; “On February 17, 2012, Christian Wulff resigned as President of Germany, facing the prospect of prosecution for allegations of corruption relating to his prior service as Prime Minister of Lower Saxony. Wulff was accused of favouritism and unethical behaviour. On February 27, 2014, two years after his resignation, Christian Wulff was acquitted of all corruption charges by the Hanover Regional Court”. But he had resigned to save the dignity and integrity of the high office he occupied! Is this possible in Nigeria?
For anyone who is outside the corridors of power and aspiring to go in, their ambition awaits their clearance of any misdeeds through the courts or the appropriate administrative panels. Yes, in those countries, citizens have the constitutional presumption of innocence as part of their right to fair hearing. But they do not flaunt it in the face of the civil law, clear cases of breach of public morality and relevant criminal laws especially where a prima facie case has been made out against an accused persons or a suspect. Even if for any reason, the person(s) insist on contesting public office, no political party will dare nominate him; he is treated as a pariah and given an ignoble seat which he rightly deserves. If in any event, he scales through the hurdle of nomination, the electorate will overwhelmingly reject him and the party will suffer for its refusal to follow the law and public morality. The right to be voted for to control the destiny of others has implicit assumptions. One fundamental assumption is that the person standing for election must be a man or woman of good repute, competence and conduct and is so recognised by law, morals and right thinking men and women. Participation as a person to be voted for implies that you have no history of converting what rightly belongs to the public to personal use.
This is not so in Nigeria as our rules of democratic engagement are exempt from universal notions of wrong and right. We have a special brand of democracy that takes cognisance of our special circumstances – the circumstances of mad men and women masquerading as normal human beings. We go ahead and elect anyone not minding their records and backgrounds, all in the name of stomach infrastructure even when they ran against persons with fairly decent and clean records. And a challenge to this state of affairs in a law court is met with serious beatings to the person of a distinguished judge presiding over the case and mayhem unleashed in the hallowed chambers of justice by thugs directed by the beneficiary of this abnormality. And we have an electorate that claim a right to vote without reason and the entrenchment of a “popular will” that negates the very essence of popular interest, accountability and good governance. Very well, it is a popular saying that as a man sows shall he reap; he who sows (by voting) for a violent man, accused of looting state resources should have no right to complain when he gets his fair returns from the “popular choice”. The same man who desecrates the courts still expects the chief judge of the state to swear him in as the duly elected governor of a state.
In our Nigeria, we have a President who distinguishes between stealing and corruption and goes ahead to declare that we are blowing the little stealing being done here out of proportion and context. We have public officers who have “declared” their assets yet the contents of their “declaration” are unknown to the public. Our government discovers over 50,000 “ghost” workers who have been paid over a billion dollars, then enters a celebratory mood for the discovery and refuses to investigate and bring the thieves who stole the money to justice. The same government hires senior lawyers to defend a suit filed by a non-governmental organisation to unravel the truth about the “ghost” workers to compel it to prosecute the offenders. So, the treasury suffers double jeopardy. The first jeopardy arises from the big sum stolen by the perpetrators of the scam whilst the second arises from the fat fees being paid to the big lawyers. Head or tail, the people are the losers and the fat cats are the winners. The states copy from the Federal Government; for instance, an audit on Benue State local government workers reveals that out of 29,000 workers, 14,000 are “ghosts” and only 15,000 are real. In the same fashion, the thieves are given a pat on the back and allowed to “carry go”.
Again, the Nigerian complains about a government whether at the federal, state or local government level that has failed to live up to expectations on all indicators of governance. And you expect the complainants to vote out the government at the next election. No, you are dead wrong. The vote has nothing to do with the performance of the government. It has all to do with whether the candidate is Ijaw, Efik, Igbo Yoruba, Hausa or Fulani or whether he is a Christian or Muslim. He is either returned with a landslide by the voting public or he returns himself through any means at his disposal. Suddenly, the angry complainant loses his anger and even ridicules those who point out his folly to him. He embraces his oppressor with open arms. The Nigerian awaits the next six months to join the rounds of new grumbling. This is simply insane and we cannot continue with this insanity!
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