Nigeria, as a state, has faced numerous challenges on its path to development. Among these challenges, the actions of political and economic elites have often come under scrutiny. The recent statement credited to honourable Rotimi Amaechi as reported by the Sahara Reporters that “unlike Ghana, Kenya nationals, Nigerians tolerate bad leaders; they say don’t worry, it is only four years”.
Everyone keeps mute and life continues as usual, believing that ‘tough times never last but tough people do’ as was rightly written by Robert Schuler as consolation to trudge on with vicissitude of life since our successive rulers at both Federal, State, and Local Government have betrayed the social contract they signed with the Nigerians in all sphere of lives. While I totally agreed with his submission that Nigerians tolerate their leaders to the point of death, However, our political experience has shown that no amount of radical arms revolution, be it military or civilian-induced, could address our diverse political inclinations. We are all victims of the military revolutionary intervention; the ripple effect of the 1966 coup is evergreen and still echoing in our rational thought and national discourse. It is an interesting conversation laze with mixed feelings that refuse to die.
For twenty-four years, the Rivers State indigenes and Nigerians endured and tolerated Rotimi Amaechi’s political metamorphoses as Speaker of the River State House of Assembly for eight years, Executive Governor of Rivers State for eight years, and Federal Minister of Transport for eight years. Amaechi, however, admitted that none of them who participated in governance could claim to be saints or not to have stolen. By virtue of his statement and admittance of stealing public money, one is tempted to label them as “smooth criminals,” but it is important to recognize that the situation is far more complex. This article aims to explore the actions of Nigeria’s political and economic elites, shedding light on both their negative and positive contributions to the nation.
In a recent paper by Femi Falana SAN, titled “Catalogue of Corruption in Nigeria: How Corruption under the PDP became a Child’s Play under the APC”, the exposition therein dented the image of President Muhammadu Buhari (PMB) beyond repairable. Knowing the level of atrocities committed by those he employed to assist him in running the government, in his last hour in office, he categorically told them that nobody should refer to him when they are called to give an account of their stewardship by the incoming government. Such is the level of corruption under his fiddle eye shadow.
One cannot deny the presence of corruption and exploitation within Nigeria’s elite circles. Cases of embezzlement, bribery, and abuse of power have tarnished the country’s reputation and hindered its progress. This behaviour has resulted in the misappropriation of public funds, inadequate infrastructure, and a growing wealth gap. These actions undoubtedly paint a grim picture of some Nigerian elites’ moral compass. From the federal to the state level, where governors are the emperor, and the local government level, where chairpersons are just mere political stooges, the stories are the same. It is large-scale, unmitigated looting and corruption. It is harrowing that traditional rulers and religious leaders celebrate corruption and looting indirectly by praying or conferring their so-called illustrious sons and daughters with chieftaincy titles. Even our ivory towers are not left out in this frenzy.
There are no saints among them from those who established a proxy companies to generate taxes or services, to the one who invested state money on his family business or a business where he has interest; or those who sold public properties to themselves and their friends and finally turned around to claim ignorance, apologising and pretending to be sorry about their sordid past; and those who borrowed money from banks with inclination not to pay back the loans; or those who used their offices to award themselves license to operate private universities while still in power; or those who smartly double cross the business bidding of his friend to upend him; or those whose personal project has been surreptitiously finance with federal government money and a host of others who ditched their hand into public money to line their pockets, or those who sponsored terrorism against State for political advantage. The lists are legion, and they cut across all the strata of the Nigerian elites. They are what Michael Jackson, of blessed memory, called the “smooth criminals”.
One of the key challenges in Nigeria’s political and economic landscape has been the lack of accountability among its elites. The absence of proper checks and balances has allowed for the perpetuation of corrupt practices and the misuse of power. This has not only eroded trust in the system but also hindered the nation’s overall development. The cancerous element of corruption has spread beyond the fulcrum and spectrum of elites’ circles to all nooks and crannies of the Nigerian system. Even the youth, as the custodians of the future generation, are eminently warming up and waiting patiently for their own turn to loot as well.