The peculiar nature of our present situation as a nation calls for a re-valuation of the Nigerian project-particularly the depiction of our resources as a “national cake” to be furiously eaten. From all indications, one could argue that maybe Nigeria is in shambles because we have leaders and followers whose mind-frame remains that of party-goers who are deeply concerned about the food and drinks to be consumed. Let us grab as much as possible and go home to belch.
While we make a passionate habit of hurling scorn-filled verbal attacks at our leaders, we sometimes gloss over the uncomplimentary fact that most of us are equally guilty of the same obscene mind-set. A mind-set that salivates and dream of a chance to belong to the thieving ruling class who sit together and carve up our resources for their capricious amusement, a mind-frame that is aptly made visible in such bumper stickers that scream “this is my year of financial break-through”. Most of our compatriots moan about the kleptomania that is celebrated in our government activities while openly but secretly wishing to be a part of the orgy.
In sane countries, those in leadership positions see that engagement as a call to duty, a chance to serve the nation. Pictures say it all; pictures of serious leaders taken before they got into positions of authority say a lot about their level of commitment. The Obamas, the David Camerons and many other leaders in well-organized countries appear to age considerably after a few years in power, grey hairs and tired eyes stare back at you. Now, compare this to a picture of any past or present Nigerian leader; you will be confronted with a picture of a somehow bewildered and a not-so-robust individual. A picture of the same character changes over months-a well fed individual stares back! What is the import of this?
Though it is hard to blame our woes as a nation on just one evil, it is my considered view that an attitudinal change will go a long way in helping us solve some of the ills gnawing at the heart of our country. A nation with leaders who see a call to service as an opportunity to binge on our collective wealth will forever remain sickly and under-developed. To say that our leaders remain the major reason why our country is in such bad shape will amount to stating the obvious; we appear to be cursed with a leadership that is solely obsessed with amassing so much wealth while paying lip service to serving the people.
A “national cake” mentality is really destroying our country. This may well explain why we have politicians that murder each other in their bid to force their ways into positions of authority, this may well explain lucidly why we have politicians who will stop at nothing to barge into that proverbial dining hall where our national cake is being served-daily. It is a race that is certainly for the “stout-hearted”; politics in Nigeria is not a dance one dances with his snuff cupped in his palm. It is an enterprise that turns men and women into beasts, whose obsession is with lucre accumulated through the vilest of ways, a race which seems to be the exclusive reserve of individuals with little or no conscience.
A “national cake” mentality is the major affliction that continues to turn our politicians into very curious creatures. In the 36 states of Nigeria [including Abuja], we see men and women who are sinfully known as Legislators but legislate mainly on how best to apportion to themselves, the largest portions of our cake, our “national cake”. My wonderment and shock finds as a fertile ground, the ingenuity that propels the greed that is exhibited by our State Legislators; a putrefying expertise that see Legislators across the 36 States dream up wicked ways and schemes of how best to steal our “national cake”. To say that this is evil will be reducing an obnoxious scenario to the level of comedy, it is pure wickedness for these characters to be feeding fat while the people they claim to serve collapse and die of hunger, malnutrition and numerous preventable diseases.
Our “national cake” mentality is akin to the rules of Geometry-there is progression; the National Assembly sits at the pinnacle of this debacle. It has been argued by well-informed personalities that our democracy gulps so much cash because we have a National Assembly filled with mostly men and women who Pius Adesanmi aptly refers to as “cashivorous” elements. Just like their junior colleagues that wreak havoc on the resources of various States of Nigeria, the chaps at the National Assembly actually take bingeing on our resources to an Olympian height; the money they dash themselves will actually shame the devil.
And we move to a “national cake” scenario where we see the Executive arm of government suffering from the indignity that is an accusation from the National Assembly-no, you gulp more cash than we do. The work of government is thus reduced to a theatre-like scenario where players argue over who steals more rather than who works more for the people. The EFCC and the ICPC regales us with long tales of how much was “mismanaged” by past leaders, international bodies like the World Bank insists on how much is being stolen from Nigeria-by past and present leaders. The gory tales however become too boring when all we see is an orchestrated display of an impotent rage by the EFCC-charge some accused to court, grant them bail, and we go to sleep. Well done, lads.
While those in government make a circus show of quaffing on our “national cake”, the citizens watch in utter amazement from the stands. Made up of mostly hungry and traumatised citizens, the “popular stands” in the stadium that represents Nigeria soon explodes into a cacophony of sounds, each individual wailing in different tongue at the mercilessness that is the looting of our patrimony by a few individuals. The anger, the resentment and the weird seduction that grow from watching the obscene display of stolen wealth begin to find expression in various forms.
Nigeria is now a country where most individuals laugh at those who still insist on asking the serious question, “what do you do for a living?” We are now a nation with a mind-set that suggests that wealth is good irrespective of the source; most of our elders do not ask their children the source of their wealth. Rogue pastors, demented Imams, fraudsters, drug barons, armed robbers, kidnappers, fake products dealers, etc. now compete with each other; it is a race of a different nature where each hopes to breast the tape that is akin to our “national cake”.
The pollution in the river that is Nigeria started from the source-bad leadership breeds bad followership. There is really nothing to write home about Nigeria-when it comes to national pride, we celebrate the individual rather than the State. For many years now, the country Nigeria remains one that produces millionaires and billionaires in government while the citizens wallow in want. It is only in Nigeria that those that somehow get the opportunity to be a part of a government throw lavish parties and “thanks-giving” ceremonies to celebrate “God’s blessing”. Show me that one Nigerian politician that is still poor after a stint in government and I will show you a saint. According to Nuhu Ribadu, former President Obasanjo came out of prison with the modest sum of N20, 000 to his name- see the man Obasanjo now?
President Goodluck Jonathan may have an honest desire to run a decent government but I fear strongly that this might not come to pass; certainly, he is contending with a bunch of men and women who over the years have developed a baffling appetite that continues to gorge on our “national cake”. Such individuals have been known to bare their fangs at the mention of “curb your lust for lucre”; a change in feeding culture will remain a horrifying suggestion to such characters. This is the scenario that is killing our country, a situation so nasty in nature, a culture that nurtures the evil greed of a few individuals who insist that Nigeria remain a “national cake”. We must either force a change in mind-frame in those clowns or starve their greed for our country to grow for the good of all.