We used to say civilians are corrupt, let us try the military. Then Abacha happened! We used to say let him rule, he was an honest, disciplined and retired military man, then BVAS, IRev and Yakubu happened.
Now we are being told to have Renewed Hope because the City Boy is capable of turning everything (no matter how hopeless) into gold since he has his famous magic wand. Others are hoping against hope that the Supreme Court can reverse the choice of INEC and usher in a new era of transparency and accountability as promised by Peter Obi. But is Peter Obi the promised messiah? Even though I support Obi, I am now better educated and experienced enough to avoid the abominable and blasphemous temptation of considering him to be a messiah. No he is not! I repeat that Peter Obi is not Nigeria’s messiah! And the following quotation from Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn summarizes my position.
“If only it were all so simple! If only there were evil people somewhere insidiously committing evil deeds, and it were necessary only to separate them from the rest of us and destroy them. But the line dividing good and evil cuts through the heart of every human being. And who is willing to destroy a piece of his own heart?” ― Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn, The Gulag Archipelago 1918–1956
The foregoing is a restatement of the Christian doctrine of original sin: All have fallen short of the glory of God. It also mirrors Lord Acton’s famous observations that Power tends to corrupt and absolute power corrupts absolutely. Great men are almost always bad men, even when they exercise influence and not authority: still more when you super add the tendency or the certainty of corruption by authority.
The checks and balances built into the democratic system of governance were put there specifically because the founding fathers of the American democratic experiment wanted to forestall the effects of the basic human tendency toward corruption. It is a basic human tendency to be selfish, greedy and corrupt. Hence the well known leadership maxim: Always trust but verify always! Nigerians often naively betray an unwavering trust in the impeccability of their self-proclaimed messiahs, especially their so-called Men of God (MOG).
During Buhari’s first term, Bukola Saraki was blamed for the lack of progress in the implementation of his administration’s transformation agenda. Under Saraki, the Nigerian Senate was not an executive rubber stamp. When during Buhari’s second term, Saraki was removed and the Nigerian Senate was now effectively under the tutelage of the executive, did the quality of executive oversight improve? No! It actually worsened and led to an era of executive impunity.
What many do not realize is that a compromised democratic system without separation of powers and effective autonomy of the independent arms of government is one of the worst forms of government. For those who think Nigeria can move forward without transparency and the enthronement of the rule of law, please mark my words: It is impossible! Human beings have not changed since the dawn of creation. They will always align themselves to the incentive structure they see around them. That is why Nigerians thrive outside of Nigeria, just like Indians and Chinese when they were poor third world countries. It was when India and China started adopting incentive structures that favoured productivity that their diaspora citizens started coming back to grow their economy.
BAT and PO are both equally Nigerians with different historical, ethical and social trajectories. But they are an iconic mirror of who we are as Nigerians. As Nigerians we are an ambivalent lot! We are capable of outright depravity and amazing heroism. Like someone cynically remarked, many Nigerians don’t hate bad leaders. They just want the bad leader to be from their family, religion or tribe. The current state of affairs in our polity gives ample testimony to the foregoing assertion. But another adage also equally holds true: you can’t eat your cake and have it. If we are not ready to stick our heads out for good governance, then we should be content with the results we are getting.
Thank you President Muhammadu Buhari, you have taught me a very important lesson: Never believe in Messiahs!
Nyambi writes from Lagos