By Tabia Princewill
Quite a few people requested “further reading” after last week’s article. I recommend To Kill a Mockingbird, by Pulitzer Prize winning author Harper Lee for anyone interested in understanding the rise of Donald Trump, the workings of the South in America, racial (or, in our climes ethnic) politics, economic backwardness, a feudal system where poor Whites blame poor Blacks for their misfortunes while ignoring the White chieftains who uphold a medieval “Rankadede” system whereby patronage and keeping literacy levels low ensures a profitable arrangement goes unchallenged. Politics all over the world is basically the same.
Nigeria is simply on the cruder end of the spectrum. Politics is about sharing resources: who gets what and how much, who feels marginalised or denied a seat at the table, who can incite or manipulate that feeling amongst their poorest constituents, and who benefits particularly in multi-ethnic societies from competition over the allocation of scarce resources. Rankadede might be a Hausa word, but it is a global, timeless phenomenon, which some nations simply manage better than others.
For all our talk about corruption, many of us are not willing to get to its root causes, hence why year in year out, the wrong people get political appointments, people with no idea about governance or public affairs, simply because their instatement placates a zone or an ethnic group.
Nigeria is a singular country: we select our worst eleven to represent us yet we expect to win. How can new thinking, worthwhile policies, development occur when players are there to defend tribal interests (those of either business, political or ethnic cabals)rather than those of the majority?
Many Nigerians would be up in arms wondering why they shouldn’t appoint their brother when they get into power. A recent study by the Social Mobility and Child Poverty commission in the UK attests that “less able, richer children were 35% more likely to become high earners than their brighter, poorer peers”. The statistics in Nigeria would be closer to 80%. If we do not see the injustice behind less capable people hoarding opportunities then there is something seriously wrong and if we cannot see the link between less talented (but obviously well connected) people accessing government jobs for example and our lack of development, then we have no future as a nation.
America is another one of those countries, like the United Kingdom, which is obsessed with social mobility. Every issue is framed around this central theme and it is partly because large sections of the US feel social mobility is inexistent, due to the elite hoarding opportunities for their children, or seemingly, in their eyes, favouring migrants and minorities, that the extreme right is on the rise in Europe and Donald Trump is the Republican front-runner.
Nepotism exists all over the world. However, the UK manages to have good roads, healthcare, and send the majority of its population to school, despite the fact that Lord or Lady whoever in the House of Commons has carefully placed his son or daughter on the board of large corporations or is grooming them for politics.
What the rich do in other countries only begins to matter when it negatively impacts on the lives of the majority. It is time, in Nigeria, for us to stand up to a system that promotes our enslavement to various interests, yet is unable to deliver proper services (simply because those trusted to do so often possess inferior credentials, experience and intentions) and asks us to clap while it does so!
We elected Buhari to fight the system that enables corruption, the clique that uses nepotism and special interests to clip the wings of any reform. The budget saga is only one such example of a mafia that doesn’t want its privileges curbed.
We have no studies in Nigeria to show how wealth perpetuates itself in some quarters simply due to government connections or access and even more damaging, how this stops the rest of Nigeria from getting on, condemning the majority of the population to a life of poverty probably even before they are of school-age.
Brightest and the best
How do parties recruit politicians? How does one become a minister in Nigeria, or the head of a government parastatal? What are the credentials of the numerous special advisers trailing after our governors? What qualifies any of the aforementioned to lead or advise on matters, which affect us all? Most of all, I would like us to reflect on the talent pool from which such people are drawn.
In an ideal world, parties would attract the brightest and the best, then suggest only the best for appointment. But in a country where ethno-religious considerations, zoning and federal character are deemed more important than talent, how can we be surprised that nepotism, ethnic competition are rampant or that year in year out, things seem to remain the same?
What strategies and measures will the government pursue to encourage social mobility? Without merit being rewarded rather than nepotism, the fight against corruption will never be put to rest. Why are people corrupt in Nigeria? Beyond greed, corruption, it seems, has become an act of survival. More on this next week.
Its deputy national publicity secretary, Timi Frank, described Saraki’s trial as “worrisome.” But in truth, it is his statement that gives well-meaning Nigerians cause for concern. Not everyone in the APC seems to be on the same page in regards to fighting corruption.
Not everyone accepts that nobody is above the law and that everyone, in a democracy, is required to prove their innocence in court when summoned by the relevant authorities to do so, rather than attempt to scuttle the trial. Impunity, nepotism’s twin, is one of Nigeria’s biggest issues and it is perplexing that Timi Frank uses the example of some other public figures accused of corruption who were not convicted to seemingly state, therefore, that no future trials should be held despite the prosecution maintaining it has evidence of wrong-doing.
Two wrongs don’t make a right. How does one speak for a party which won elections based on its anti-corruption stance when harbouring such views? Furthermore, the suggestion that APC leaders should intervene rather than watch the Senate president “swim or sink in his trial” is odd given most Nigerians don’t have the benefit of party leaders intervention while on trial.
So what makes this different? Privilege? Status? This shows just how far we have to go in terms of ensuring the best man (or woman) gets the job, in parties or government and that it is those with something to say who get handed the microphone and not the opposite.
A SPEAKER at the Northern Leaders’ Conference made a controversial statement in regards to oil ownership in Nigeria. He said:”There are no oil producing states as the only oil producing state is the Nigerian state itself.” The “oil producing state” tag is a politically motivated denomination based on our desire to afford certain privileges based on ethnic considerations, which ironically only further exacerbate the tension and feelings of marginalisation they were supposed to tackle.
If governors had developed the Niger Delta and the East, if the Niger Delta Development Corporation hadn’t been misused,if past governments hadn’t condoned oil spills for profit, there would be no talk of marginalisation and haggling with other states over Federal allocations. We’d accept that oil, no matter its provenance, belongs to the Federal Government for the development of all.
But, why be rational when there is so much more money to be made (or looted) when governments tacitly encourage ethnic competition through their policies. Bugaje falls into the ethnic trap he attempted to avoid by claiming offshore oil belongs to the North: the North’s landmass, used to calculate how far into adjacent waters a country’s offshore territory expands, does not mean offshore oil belongs to the North. But he started an important conversation; let’s give him that.