Fall­ing short of the glory of Nige­ria

The Guardian (Nigeria) - - PANORAMA - See the re­main­ing part of this ar­ti­cle on www­guardian.ng for fur­ther read­ing

IF you can find a fed­eral/state civil ser­vant at his desk at 8:00 a.m. then Nige­ria can fight the war on cor­rup­tion. Not be­fore. Most leave their houses for work at 11:00 a.m., if they go to work at all.

A po­lit­i­cal re­cruiter looks at pol­icy com­pat­i­bil­ity, ide­o­log­i­cal com­pat­i­bil­ity, com­pe­tence, and loy­alty. Loy­alty is an es­sen­tial com­mod­ity that doesn’t last long for most Nige­ri­ans. The present gov­ern­ment seems to be los­ing steam be­cause of the peo­ple the pres­i­dent sur­rounds him­self with. Most aren’t loyal. A pres­i­dent who isn’t for­tu­nate to have loyal foot-sol­diers cer­tainly won’t suc­ceed at de­liv­er­ing many pos­i­tive re­sults be­cause their thoughts wouldn’t be po­si­tioned for na­tion­al­ism. Knuckle-pol­i­tics.

I re­call an ar­ti­cle, “A pres­i­dent with­out balls” writ­ten by some­one who later went ahead to work with that same, “pres­i­dent with­out balls.” That hap­pens only in my coun­try. I watched him strug­gle with the job. He was not as flu­ent as he was in his col­umns be­fore he be­came an agent of gov­ern­ment. Many re­leases did not show a healthy re­spect for the op­po­si­tion and crit­ics. Spir­ited crit­i­cism nec­es­sary for na­tion build­ing was seen by him and his team as the hand­i­work of spoilers on a mis­sion to de­stroy the cred­i­bil­ity of his prin­ci­pal and re­spond­ing to crit­ics be­came the ma­jor as­pect of his job de­scrip­tion and he used that chance with­out fail to vent sour grapes.

Nige­ri­ans find it con­ve­nient to work for peo­ple whose poli­cies they don’t subscribe to. How could we ever as­sume that we would en­joy work­ing for peo­ple whose ideas did not in­spire us be­fore we ac­cepted the of­fer? Pseudo cam­paign­ers don’t find it queer to make de­ri­sive state­ments against el­derly es­tab­lish­ment play­ers and run them down to the gut­ter. Th­ese el­ders are branded as self­ish and Quis­lings un­mind­ful of how old most of them are. The lam­poon­ers think they know more than el­derly Nige­ri­ans.

He was a PDP stal­wart, then he moved to ACN, back to PDP, then APC and again PDP. Is that politi­cian still as pow­er­ful now as he was in the re­cent past? In­ter­est-pol­i­tics. How does his move­ment in­spire young­sters want­ing to con­sider pol­i­tics as a pro­fes­sion?

Years ago, I gave lec­tures from time to time on be­half of civil so­ci­ety or­gan­i­sa­tion. We knew the mis­sion state­ment of the NGO. No one coached us on what to say. As ad­vo­cates, we weaved the Nige­rian ta­pes­try into our talk when we were handed top­ics to dis­cuss in a pub­lic fo­rum. But one ex­pe­ri­ence which made me stop vol­un­teer­ing ef­forts was re­ally un­nerv­ing. I started my lec­ture by thank­ing the gov­ern­ment for an ini­tia­tive which was laud­able and the high­est of its kind any­where in Nige­ria. I dwelt on this, “thank you gov­ern­ment” for a while and moved on to ex­plain­ing why the pro­gramme may run into trou­bled wa­ters, if proper plans were not put in place. The “thank you gov­ern­ment” got me into trou­ble. The co­or­di­na­tor (a non-na­tional) at the end, took me to a cor­ner and up­braided me for giv­ing the worst talk ever in close to a year. I asked him what the prob­lem was but he couldn’t an­swer. I looked him in the eye and asked him if his NGO had a hid­den script that con­trib­u­tors on Pro-bono ba­sis must fol­low. He dodged the ques­tion. Sub­se­quently, I gave ex­cuses why I couldn’t at­tend the next meet­ing and the next and they got the hint. No need us­ing me to jus­tify any­one’s meal ticket.

Was his out­fit try­ing to make me an at­tack dog so he could get the heck out of it to win praise from his pay­mas­ters for show­ing that Nige­ri­ans are at the fore­front of solv­ing their prob­lems? Could this be the rea­son I see many peo­ple work­ing for NGOS at­tack­ing gov­ern­ments, start­ing Ken­tish Fire, here and now in the name of ac­tivism?

I ven­tured into a sem­i­nar to learn the ropes on ac­tivism. This was ini­ti­ated by a donor or­gan­i­sa­tion, with zero tol­er­ance for cor­rup­tion. Peo­ple were asked to give strate­gies on how to fight cor­rup­tion. One fel­low sug­gested that an en­tourage of con­cerned cit­i­zens way­lay the lo­cal coun­cil chair­man to de­mand ac­count­abil­ity for var­i­ous projects in his com­mu­nity that had been aban­doned. The chair­man would then be ex­posed as a cor­rupt of­fi­cial. The sug­ges­tion was loudly ap­plauded. I was sur­prised. Way­lay? Know­ing how bru­tal the state is with un­re­solved mur­ders and that one could be shot at with too many rea­sons given to jus­tify death? Way­lay? When chair­men in Nige­ria are es­corted by po­lice of­fi­cers who see their post­ing as a bless­ing from The Heav­en­lies? No­body told the fel­low the mean­ing of per­ceived cor­rup­tion which can’t be proven and ac­tual cor­rup­tion with facts which can be proven.

Now I see why peo­ple shout around me ev­ery­day. I un­der­stand why some peo­ple use bat­ter­ing rams against spe­cific peo­ple and re­gions. I see why some peo­ple de­nounce the state and chal­lenge the gov­ern­ment and the po­lice; and do so know­ing they risk tak­ing a bul­let to ad­vance hu­mane causes. I know why some ac­tivists work with imag­i­nary lines. Abah­sent­this­piece­fromabuja.

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