• Tuesday, November 28, 2023
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Nigeria: In need of ‘shock therapy’ (2)


  We read of court judgments that defy any form of logic, natural or otherwise, yet we insist that the executive is the only problem. We have a certain legislator reportedly caught on tape soliciting and collecting bribe, yet neither his conscience nor his colleagues/constituents have compelled him to resign and face trial. We abuse a local government chairman who can’t build several houses for himself while in office; we call him a stingy guy who wasted the opportunity he got. We fail to give chieftaincy titles to those who refuse to give the village chief some bribe. We view government as a lottery organisation where you go to get free money.

We do not have any form of responsibility towards our positions in government establishments. A permanent secretary in a ministry who also doubles as the treasurer of his village council of chiefs will lavishly spend government money in his position but will not touch a kobo of the money from his village. We are quick to call the politicians corrupt, but fail to judge ourselves by same standard. You want government to stop corruption? Then the best way to fight corruption is for the ordinary citizens to stop being corrupt. If the ordinary citizens insist on a “NO”, the politician can’t have his way. We the people deserve a good dose of this shock therapy.

Nigeria is the only country where you see a jobless youth who really believes that he can wake up the next day to become a proud owner of, say, a brand new Range Rover without any scientific, empirical or economic explanation for his sudden wealth. We serve a “miracle-working God”, abi? We are a people propelled by hope, however baseless. We bask in the hope for vanity and get frustrated when we don’t see it happen as we desire. We approach our work with this mindset, and so we are filled with unattainable ambitions. The clerk with WASC believes that one day he’ll process a file and demand a “cut” from the contractor and become rich over night. The contractor believes his friend will be appointed a commissioner so he’ll be doing all the projects in the ministry. The commissioner believes his godfather will impose him on the governor to make him commissioner undeservingly. The governor believes he’ll use his office and the party apparatchiks to rig the election and get re-elected. Sadly, this is the kind of people we are fast becoming. Our hope is buoyed on lustful machinations and the quest for vanity, with no corresponding work done. This is a major catalyst for corruption. Corruption starts from the people. We suffer from sudden (unexplained) wealth syndrome! We the people are in need of a large dose of shock therapy!

I’m sure when Al Gore described the internet as the information superhighway, he didn’t envisage that it’d also be a tool that could catalyse the overthrow of governments. The Arab Spring has demonstrated just how powerful the internet could be in the hands of a determined people. While this all-important tool has been used profitably across the world (including Nigeria), there is a growing number of information bandits and stray youths with skewed polarity who use this tool for utterly selfish and parochial purposes.

We live in an era where blames are brandished at every corner. We have youths who choke up the cyberspace hauling abuses at any government action. It’s particularly disturbing because these abuses have become mainstream and brandished indiscriminately, either deservingly or not. They have volunteered themselves, albeit unknowingly in some cases, as willing tools of opposition politicians. They attack just about any action of the government. One minute they privately acknowledge that they are experiencing improved power supply, the next minute they are publicly abusing the government for poor electricity. One minute they accuse the government of not prosecuting corrupt officials, the next minute they cry foul that government is witch-hunting perceived enemies. When they are arguing in academic circles, they tell you that government has no business in business; when they get on twitter, they reverse the argument to justify continuous fuel subsidy. One minute they tell you that government is too corrupt, the next minute they say the same “corrupt” government should continue to administer subsidy. We live in an era where you get more followers on social network if you abuse government. Unknown to them, there is a great danger in criticising blindly just about anything. The downside is that you’ll one day sound like a broken record and the people won’t take you seriously even when you criticise the real wrong actions of government. We must learn to criticise constructively and not join the band of arrogantly blind critics seeking cheap popularity. We need a shock therapy!

Don’t get me wrong. Across the board, the governments, by my assessment, have not lived up to expectation in certain areas, and it’s our duty as responsible citizens to call them to order. I criticise government as well, but I do it objectively. I don’t criticise government as a politician (because I am not one), 

 I do it as a private citizen demanding good governance and accountability. Although there are some shortcomings in government, we can, however, give the present government some credit for not suppressing information like previous administrations. Never in our history has so much information been available in the public domain. Before now we never knew how much was budgeted for feeding the presidency. Nobody knew what was spent by the families of Obasanjo, Abacha, Babangida, etc while they were in charge at Aso Rock. In fact, the immediate past administration that some accidental activists now deify refused to assent to the Freedom of Information Bill. Before now, subsidy payments were not broken down and left available to the public domain. But we now know what a disaster subsidy has been. We now know the companies that have been “chopping” our money recklessly. Now that we have this information at our disposal, we as citizens can act on it and demand good governance and accountability without necessarily being a tool in the hands of some malicious politicians 



Sibe writes from Port Harcourt


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