The words of my Danish journalist-friend have been rushing back to me lately. Nick was in Nigeria when we started the latest experiment in civil rule to assess the state of things in a country rising from Sani Abacha’s ruinous years with a view to projecting into its future.
I was driving him round Lagos one afternoon when we saw this massive crowd somewhere in Oshodi. We came down and saw it was about the human flesh-eating Clifford Orji’s warehouse. After about 30 minutes in the area, my friend took notes and shook his head vigorously. I don’t know where the matter ended in 20 years as Orji was said to have links with some powerful forces.
After we left Oshodi, there was eerie silence in the car until we reached Ikeja and saw a man peeing right in the middle of the road. Nick looked at me and said: “I am sure you know that the danger that fellow constitutes to your society is not just that he is doing it in the open street. It is that since he cannot see anything wrong with that, he would do so many other things that are wrong and would see them as the right things to do.”
Twenty years after Nick said that to me, the affliction of the man peeing on the road has become a national disease for us as what is abnormal is now becoming the new normal in our society.
It is akin to the broken windows theory, a criminological theory that states that visible signs of crime, anti-social behaviour, and civil disorder create an urban environment that encourages further crime and disorder, including serious crimes. The theory suggests that policing methods that target minor crimes such as vandalism, public drinking, and fare evasion help to create an atmosphere of order and lawfulness, thereby preventing more serious crimes.
The theory was introduced in a 1982 article by social scientists James Q. Wilson and George L. Kelling. It was further popularized in the 1990s by New York City police commissioner William Bratton and Mayor Rudy Giuliani, whose policing policies were influenced by the theory.
Conversely, when they are not dealt with, they become like living in a house where broken windows are not replaced, and it soon gets to a point that doors will fall off and you won’t notice it. I pointed out on this page weeks back that countries die like human beings, the only difference being that while a human can die suddenly, the death of a country is gradual and many of the inhabitants of a dying country would only be able to piece the symptoms of death together post-mortem. This may be due to the preoccupation of daily existence that draws attention away from the fate of one’s environment.
Those who are perceptive enough cannot miss all the symptoms of death all around our country and this column will live up to its promise of regularly calling our attention to them. In the build-up to the last election of principal officials of the National Assembly, there were images of promissory cards of hefty sums of money being flaunted before the lawmakers in the order of Dibo ko se obe (vote and cook soup).
Many people thought it was just some propaganda until the voting day in the House and lawmakers suddenly became photographers, snapping their ballot papers after casting their votes. Not even the announcement by the Clerk that what they were doing was illegal could dissuade them as their heads must have been calculating what they would do with the fat bribes. The results of the polls showed clearly that the snappers were across party lines, confirming the rottenness of our political class, save for a few decent men and women.
Community of conscience
Days after this national scandal went viral, it has been mum from all our security agencies and anti-graft bodies. Even our “community of conscience” has been mute on it. Only in a dying country would such a thing happen and it would not matter to anyone. And the greatest joke from all of that is that leadership that emerged from such a transparently corrupt process is promising us electoral reforms. Only in Nigeria!
Shortly after this demonstration of craze for money on the floor of our National Assembly, Edo State under APC led the way in the gale of abnormality when nine members of the Assembly were inaugurated in the wee hours of the night leaving out 15 members of the House. One of them even came to the event in his shorts. The proclamation of the House by the State governor was published in some national dailies 72 hours after the “inauguration”.
Bauchi State under PDP followed the Edo model by hurriedly using 11 out of a 31-member Assembly to elect a Speaker before the arrival of the remaining 20 members. Apart from the Chairman of APC, Adams Oshomhole, who has been making some feeble talk, there hasn’t been much attention paid to these developments. Even at that, Mr Comrade wants the police to pull down the House in Bauchi while the development in his home state is only an “embarrassment” to him.
While these shenanigans were going on, the new Senate president, Senator Ahmed Lawan, for a moment forgot the circumstances of his emergence and announced Dr Festus Adedayo as his media adviser, a purely professional appointment. The South West APC that has lost out in all bids for strategic appointments in CBN and NNPC without a whimper suddenly got their manhood rising against Adedayo, insisting he had been critical of Buhari as if you would not find harsh words on Buhari from their leaders in the past with just a click on the Internet. The government of Nigeria is now all about one man? What is the definition of elected dictatorship, please?
Within 48 hours, Lawan buckled and reversed the appointment. He could not even develop the testicular fortitude to stick to his decision for a while so the public could take him seriously on his promise that he would not be a rubber stamp. Worse for him, there has been no denial of media reports that he was summoned to the Villa by Vice-President Yemi Osinbajo with a directive to go and reverse himself. The Number Two in an arm of government giving marching orders to the head of another supposed independent arm of government! Which mouth would he have used to dish out such instruction to a Senator Bukola Saraki?
Festus Adedayo is not the man they shot down in this but Senator Lawan whom they reduced to a “Yes sir” man. How can a man who cannot defend his choice of an aide be expected to defend the integrity of the parliament or the rights of Nigerians against executive impunity?
These are penkelemesi(peculiar mess) days in our country!