Men behaving badly
Just when you thought our country could not sink lower into the abyss of moral depravity and official recklessness, our national psyche was once again battered by the revelations of the bizarre ‘roasting’ of millions of naira. Although Nigeria has been rightly described as a nation where absurdities reign, who would have thought of this redefinition of elitist greed, a concept that has brought Nigeria to its knees. Here I am referring to how ‘Honourable’ Sam Edem literally burnt N270 million and spent a total of N800 million in order to neutralize his perceived enemies. Without prejudging this case, I am more concerned with the sub-text of this allegation – the depletion of ethics in national affairs.
Observing the antics of our so-called leaders, one is befuddled by the optimism of average Nigerians. Ironically, Nigeria champions the call for good governance and democratic values at the continental level but these values are evidently absent in our society. When people criticize the electoral debauchery in Zimbabwe and Kenya, Nigerians silently muse over the presence of worse situations back home. The flagrant disregard for ethics in public and private spheres remains the greatest obstacle to national development. The Niger Delta quagmire, electricity crisis, decayed infrastructure and entrenched poverty all stem from the unbridled penchant for pilfering the national patrimony by a select few. Nigeria has been (mis) ruled for years as if there are no people inhabiting the territorial space. Through decades of official deconstruction of morals, the society has been conditioned to approve the obscene and penkelemes.
Instead of ostracism, our society gallantly rewards questionable acts. Churches open their doors and pockets to contributions from these individuals, traditional rulers confer them with titles, communities shower them with honours and to crown it all, national honours are bestowed on them. Ethics has come to be equated with stupidity and lack of imagination, an abstract concept which has no place in the societal order. Very few of our ‘state men’ and ‘leaders of thought’ would be walking free in saner climes. Little wonder why the yahoo-yahoo phenomenon is embedded in the national fabric. Even externally, Nigerians are derided as fraudsters, thieves and mischief makers. The green passport automatically attracts curious gestures and sometimes, humiliation. Our nation has indeed lost its bearing.
Shall we continue to wallow in empty optimism without confronting head on the question of moral regeneration? It is this same attitude that allows us to accept the barest minimum from the ‘lords in Abuja’. When elections are rigged, the society immediately conforms to a ‘yes mode’. Usurpers are clothed with legitimacy and business continues as usual. Even the victims of electoral chicanery hurriedly jump ship by shamelessly seeking appointments from the perpetrators. One was initially hopeful about judicial activism in election matters, some even called it an organic process of reorganizing the lopsided electoral landscape but recent events have proved otherwise. It seems that those that are bent on entrenching the status quo are having the upper hand. But for how long will this continue? For how long will the people be denied of all strand of humanity? In a society where stolen patrimony is flagrantly displayed by public officials, the people are bound to react someday. The violence in the Niger Delta is a testament. One just hopes that it does not become a national trademark.
There is an urgent need for a paradigm shift in the conception of leadership. The idea of a ‘servant leader’ as espoused by our president must be translated into practice at all levels of governance. There should not be any place for flamboyance in statecraft. Societies flourish because leaders make a conscious effort to desist from enlightened self interest and pursue the common good. Why should leaders be more interested in buying châteaux in Europe at the expense of improved infrastructure? Apart from the obvious signs of greed, the state of mind of these officials should also be questioned.
Until our leaders are prepared to make a sacrifice for the common good, our country will continue to falter and will remain unable to attain its full potential.
By Babatunde Fagbayibo
Babatunde Fagbayibo writes from Pretoria, South Africa.