BusinessDay
NigeriaDecides2023

Try hard as we might, the system defeats the individual

The most emotionally poignant thing I have ever watched in my life was a Japanese anime called ‘Clannad,’ which I saw in 2009. It tells the story of Tomoya Okazaki, a disaffected high school boy who is considered an outcast at school because of his delinquent single father’s behaviour.

Tomoya has no desire other than to leave the town someday, forget all about it and start a new life somewhere else. For all of his life, Tomoya has never had any friends until he runs into a fragile schoolmate called Nagisa Furukawa.

Afflicted with poor health and crippling social anxiety, Nagisa unexpectedly becomes Tomoya’s sole anchor, as he finds himself drawing close to her.

The only variable is the price they required to compromise and how long it took them, not the act of compromise itself

They become each other’s most important friends and eventually begin dating. Upon graduating from high school and finding stable jobs, Tomoya and Nagisa get married. Finally, Tomoya has the companionship and belonging his heart has always yearned for. Even better, Nagisa gets pregnant and soon they will have a lovely little family of 3.

Instead, Nagisa dies during childbirth and Tomoya is so heartbroken that he cannot even look at his newborn daughter. He leaves the baby with her grandparents and he drifts away into life as a broken, disaffected loner once again. He also loses his job. No matter what he does it seems, there is a force greater than him that ensures that he always ends up alone, miserable and invisible.

Individual ethics in hostile environments – how sustainable?

In my time as a journalist, I have come across more than a few offers to do things that some would consider to be unethical if not outright illegal. I have been offered 7-figure cash sums to kill or delete stories. I have been offered opportunities to monetise my work by profiting from what is essentially blackmail. I have been offered all expense paid trips to anywhere I wish in the world to collect brown envelopes from wealthy individuals who have been the subject of my investigations.

Every single time I have said no, not because there is any logical reason for saying no in a society like Nigeria. As I was told pointedly by one such individual earlier this year, “We have seen your type before, and they all fizzled out. Let’s see how long you will last.” He wasn’t lying either.

The story of Nigeria over the past 40 years is littered with the reputational carcasses of people who once held themselves to high moral and ethical standards only to end up compromising eventually. The only variable is the price they required to compromise and how long it took them, not the act of compromise itself.

This year alone, I am told, I have penned 3 investigations worth a combined 9-figure naira sum if I had chosen to sell my silence instead of publishing them for the world to read. I have always been able to rationalise this by virtue of the puritanical Jehovah Witness ideals I was raised with, as well as the fact that large sums of money in and of themselves are not things that makes my heart race.

What I find myself increasingly unable to rationalise, however, is the seeming pointlessness of it all after the stories go out into the world, are read by millions of people, and then absolutely nothing happens afterward. And it just happened again.

The empire strikes back – and wins. Again

By the time you are reading this, William Ruto would probably have been declared winner of Kenya’s presidential election. This decision would have been met with much champagne-glass clinking in several boardrooms across Nigeria, but not because of the sight of yet another major African democracy after Ghana in 2020, carrying out largely peaceful and generally credible elections.

The celebration in this case, comes from the fact that Ruto’s entry into State House in Nairobi will almost certainly mean that Flutterwave’s legal troubles in Kenya will come to a quick and unceremonious end.

For those who are not aware, William Ruto’s daughter, June Ruto, is married to Nigerian tech businessman Alexander Ezenagu, whose name appears multiple times on the documents presented in the Kenyan money laundering court case against Flutterwave.

Read also: Nigerians and electoral decisions: The struggle to prove Lugard right

If the Kenyan prosecution goes ahead successfully, the president’s son-in-law would basically be convicted by a Kenyan court for money laundering. Africa being Africa, there is more chance of William Ruto voluntarily resigning from office than of this scenario taking place, so what happens next is clear.

In this instance yet again, one is forced to wonder what the point of any of it is anyway. Why put so much individual energy and personal resources into the pursuit of personal convictions in an environment where such things mean nothing.

Why even depend on a foreign government’s judicial integrity when Nigeria has a judiciary of its own in the first place? If Nigeria is actually far behind Kenya on such issues – unsatisfactory as the Kenyan outcome will likely be – then do individuals even have any business reprising Tomoya Okazaki’s best efforts to achieve an ideal result, only to end up with his outcome?

In the anime by the way, Tomoya eventually lays eyes on his daughter Ushio, 5 years later during a trip organised by her grandparents. Following a terse period of carefully feeling each other out, 5 year-old Ushio and Tomoya tearfully bond with each other, and Tomoya decides to take Ushio back home with him to make yet another attempt at living for something. A few months into his sojourn as a single father, Ushio and Tomoya are living happily together, honouring Nagisa’s memory by creating as much happiness together as they can.

Ushio then falls ill and dies.

And Tomoya is once again left alone, broken and defeated

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