By Tabia Princewill
OUR obsession with the drama and intrigue of politics has relegated discourse on policy and national development to the background. We all know what Saraki is accused of but how many of us can detail his agenda as Senate president? What were his plans to reform a body which in the eyes of the average Nigerian, is merely a retirement home for former governors or for privileged, would-be influential Nigerians, all barely present (or awake when they are physically present)?
Yet commentators on social media can list all of the countries where Saraki is rumoured to have a home. They have, in fact, already begun lists of other senators who they suspect of falsifying their asset declaration forms: if their suspicions are true, we really don’t have a Senate or a House of Assembly for that matter, merely a pack of wolves and co-conspirators. No wonder, according to some, Buhari believes he is the only non-corrupt member of the political class.
You might say corruption kills Nigerians so discussing corruption cases is a way for citizens to join in tackling the problem. But the sort of discourse we indulge in, in Nigeria, means that we muddle everything up so that, rather than a real discussion to solve a national problem, what we have is voyeurism, making ourselves into mere observers of the scandals of the rich and famous.
Politically connected persons
I have often mentioned the attack on education and critical thinking which is at hand in this country: many of us remain incapable of logical thinking and basing our opinions on fact rather than on what pastors, emirs or politically connected persons say.
Allegations of fraud and sleaze make them unreliable narrators, not the sort of characters to be admired. Furthermore, nothing prepares the average Nigerian to be a responsible citizen, so, should he be elected to public office one day, his behaviour is guided by those before him and he ends up with the same opinions as them, which he never learnt to question or examine.
Instead of this bleak, infuriating picture, I want to imagine Nigeria in the year 2030, just fifteen years on, after the sheriff’s passage has enabled a new generation of young principled and astute leaders or disciples (they are out there) to emerge.
We live in a country whose founding principles and identity we have remade. We decided to work with our legacy of greed, inequality and ethno-religious hatred to change the Nigerian narrative of oppression, to finally see, like a post-apartheid South-Africa, that ignoring our history cannot make it work for us. We refuse to assert some facts and ignore others: wrong is wrong no matter who does it, we no longer believe there is a statute of limitation on corruption or that getting away with a bad deed in the past, means that it will forever be ignored.
We are educated and intelligent enough to know that a witch-hunt can only exist if indeed plaintiffs are guilty of unlawfulness, so if we want to believe that they are being hunted, it is done for a reason, because they must pay for their crime.
So, no matter who is charged first, charges will eventually extend to all who have broken the law because we now have a society of law and order. We no longer claim to love our youths yet damage their future or to like openness when what we appreciate is the darkness of lies and an uneven playing field.
We are now happy to live together and to go beyond blaming each other for shared wrongs. We accept what we were, a deeply flawed, broken and divided nation because it is key to understanding what we can become.
Not only is the world now aware of the essential part we have to play (and have played), we are so accepting of our ethnically motivated, violence fraught past that this experience has brought us lessons, contributing to who we are by liberating us from the very conditions which enabled all this.
Nigerians now trust each other because there is nothing to gain from using our resourcefulness for evil, beyond jail time (the sheriff’s manner of governance was effective in restoring order and sanity).
Our worship (and those who conduct it) no longer teach us to be afraid of our shadows or to impoverish ourselves so that members of any self-appointed clergy can live in luxury. We have real values. Not just religious ones, but a real code of conduct, an inner moral system that dictates the same rules of behaviour for everyone and not just those who can afford to sit in the front row at church.
Every citizen lives a decent and humane life with all the basics modernity has to offer: a toilet, water, food, sleeping without fear. We pay taxes: public hospitals and schools function. We can buy Nigerian, from our food to our clothing because it is affordable and worth our while. It is possible to work and achieve the most incredible dreams. We are both rigorous and ethical because it now pays to care about your fellow man. Our restructured institutions now fight dehumanising actions rather than protect them. It is a crime to marry a child. Most of all, those with the privilege of being called to serve, do so, not at our expense but to our benefit.
By 2030, all the thieves might not be in jail, but we are educated and enlightened enough not to defend their illegally obtained luxuries. In fact, they are publicity shy and forgotten because journalists now earn a living wage. The few we couldn’t catch or shame into oblivion have reinvested their money into legitimate businesses so that it now serves to employ and empower Nigerians. This is Nigeria in 2030. None of this is impossible if we allow the courts to do their job and refrain from defending those whose actions have been to our detriment. Then, we will have a country again.
UNLIKE his Ekiti State counterpart, Ayo Fayose, he is more restrained in his discourse and is yet to compare any past president to Jesus Christ. However, his utterances at the Oodua People’s Congress (OPC) founder, Dr. Fasehun’s birthday celebration were puzzling. He reportedly said that the Yoruba felt safer being protected by the OPC (an organization outside state control) than the police.
If the OPC is about protecting Yoruba people then what about other ethnic groups? Are they less worthy of protection? Is there a reason why the police, there to serve all Nigerians, can’t be supported and empowered to do its job, to protect every citizen irrespective of ethnic origin? Nigerian public office holders often don’t realize the danger or lack of logic behind some of their statements. Governor Mimiko described Fasehun, the founder of an ethnic militia as “detribalized”.
Why do we need ethnic militias in the first place, if not to wreak havoc, much like the OPC did in Mushin and other Lagos areas by warring with Hausa communities in the early 2000s? But in a gathering that also comprised of Maj. Hamzat Al-Mustapha (retd), former Chief Security Officer (CSO) to Sanni Abacha, one can hardly be surprised that the celebration’s objective, to build bridges between ethnic groups, was both missed and woefully misunderstood.
Disqualification of judges
THE EFCC is apparently seeking the disqualification of a judge (even if it’s just from handling all its future cases) that granted Stella Oduah the equivalent of perpetual immunity from all investigation.
A thief in a village market is stoned to death before regular courts or before the police can even get involved. Such barbaric actions are condemnable (yet nothing is done about them). Instead, some other persons are placed above the law.
In the Nigeria of 2030, all politicians know it is better to clear one’s name in court than to leave a shadow of doubt as to one’s good intentions.
Tabia Princewill is a strategic communications consultant and public policy analyst. She is also the co-host and executive producer of a talk show, WALK THE TALK which airs on Channels TV.