Talking Point

June 9, 2009

Different strokes

By Rotimi Fasan
For reasons well beyond me this column didn’t appear last week: my apologies. I’d written and sent the copy for the week days before and had turned to other matters only to get a call on the afternoon the week’s edition was to go to press that the earlier sent copy couldn’t be accessed and it was rather too late to do anything about it.

And so it was that we’re meeting here again two whole weeks since the last time. Once more, my apologies.

My commentary for the copy that was never to be had been titled, A decade of failed hopes and as you may have guessed it centred on the loud noise that followed the now annual ritual of empty celebration of what the PDP governments that have ruled the country in the last 10 years call “Democracy Day”.

My take is that there is next to nothing to celebrate in the 10 years since Nigeria returned to what we might charitably call civil rule.

The collapse of infrastructure, increasing cost of living, unavailability of resources and their gross under-utilisation where they are available; the unending energy crisis, corruption and the crisis of confidence in the country’s leadership- a crisis now worsened by the hostilities of a country divided against itself in the wake of the war against the so-called militants in the Niger-Delta- all of these and more have conspired to rob Nigerians of the hope that followed the restoration of civil rule in 1999.

The political class has been shown up for what it is: A decadent group whose incompetence daily proclaims it as unfit to lead the mass of the people of this country.

Its specialty, it seems, is feathering its own nest, claiming unearned benefits while the rest of those it claims to serve continue to struggle with nothing but their poverty to show for their exertions. Yet if truth must be told the Nigerian political class is not unique in its rot.

Indeed, the contagious stain from false expenses claims that has taken hold of the British government of Prime Minister Gordon Brown in the last couple of weeks has shown beyond any doubt that the first duty of most politicians is to themselves.

They come first and, most times, last in the scheme of things, no matter their pretensions to the contrary. What separates them is the degree of rottenness.

It is for this reason that members of Brown’s cabinet found to have compromised themselves and lived below their oaths of office have, without waiting to be forced out, taken the honourable course of immediate resignation or standing down from the government without the benefit of presenting themselves for the next elections.

The world has, in the last many months, worried about the effect of the “global financial meltdown”, but what has been happening to Gordon’s cabinet since the expenses scandals broke and only days to local and European elections is a clear case of “executive meltdown”, the cabinet is the equivalent of a sinking ship and everyone is in a hurry to bail out.

In Nigeria that just can’t happen. At the very least the affected politicians’ supporters would have carried placards to register their support for them in the wake of the “undeserved attacks” from their “detractors”.

Worse yet, they could read “tribal” meanings into the attempt to make their principals account for their unbecoming conduct. It is a case of one’s man’s meat being another’s poison.

That may explain why China which last week shut herself away from the rest of the world in order to prevent any discussion of the massacre of her citizens in Tiananmen Square, 21 years ago, would impose a one-child policy on her citizens in her bid to control her population.

Indeed, many Chinese families, obviously guilty of violating the policy, made hurried withdrawals from their banks afraid the government was about to freeze their deposits. But while the Chinese worry about such matters, Russian mothers were being given medals for raising large families in a vastly huge but highly under-populated country.

Several weeks ago, Barack Obama made his tax declarations, detailing his and his wife’s incomes, including royalty from Dreams From My Father, his highly-rated autobiography.

But down here in Lagos, the hard-working Governor of Lagos, Raji Fashola, had to make quick “clarifications” as to whether places of religious worship, churches and mosques etc, as well as clergy people should be taxed.

One of his commissioners had made it clear that clergy people must pay their tax as every other Lagosian before the Governor’s explanation, obviously thought up in order not to anger “God’s people”. I suppose we must judge them by standards other than those set by those they profess to follow.

Jesus Christ paid his tax and rightly enjoined his followers to “give unto Caesar what is Caesar’s”. But our people of God would rather do otherwise. God dey sha!