A Compendium of Citizens’ Curses as an Instrument of Oath for Nigerian politicians
By Abimbola Lagunju
Nigeria is a country of oxymorons, paradoxes and outright contradictions, perhaps more so than any other country in the world. It is in Nigeria we find thieving and adulterous pastors, arrogant and corrupt civil servants, bullying and morally corrupt politicians, warped judiciary, wayward legislature, somnolent executive and blabbing followership. It is in Nigeria that thieves and robbers take their victims to court and obtain a perpetual injunction against any criminal proceedings against them; it is here in our nation that thieves caught in the act demand that their arresting officer should wear uniform before speaking with them. It is here in our country that mouths eating our national cake spit with disgust on the owners of the cake. And nothing happens! They eat their cakes and still have it.
Bukola Saraki, Dino Melaye, Andy Uba recently met their nemesis in the investigative journalism of Sahara Reporters. For Dino and Andy, it has been a period of re-certification as First Class frauds. Dino’s Harvard degree has become his Hazard Certificate, LSE diploma is now his Lysis award. His ABU story could be adapted into a play with a title like Abudino and the Forty Lecturers. For Andy Uba, who likes the title of a Dr., a fleeting visit to any place of learning is a degree. And when his tight schedule as an important Nigeria politician does not permit a physical visit, he visits the schools online and earns their degree. Mr. Andy Uba is an online Doctor of Letters. He doctors the letters of certificates. Is there any surprise then that the procedures of the senate were deftly altered by some members of the senate to usher in the current leadership? The senate among its assets has a number of experienced doctors of letters, certificates and procedures. We hope that Sahara Reporters will continue to expose the skeletons of certificates and corruption in the lush wardrobes of our Distinguished and Honorable ones. And what happens next?
Nothing happens when the big ones are caught with their hands deep in the till or when the bigwigs flaunt fake certificates. Nothing happens when fake asset declarations or no declaration of assets are made by those in any position of power. Nothing happens when elections are stolen and the thieves are caught. Nothing happens when judges permanently delay justice when VIPs are involved. Absolutely NOTHING! We hear some noise and soon quiet. Crimes that demand swift punishment are swept under the carpet of technicalities of law and soon everyone forgets the raison d’être of the suit in the first case. The crimes of yesterday, already buried in our collective memory hole soon bring in their wake other waves of scandals and crimes against the people.
The country seems to be operating in a bubble devoid of principles, vision, ideology and morality from the household to the highest pinnacle of governance. And the people suffer the consequences in silent disbelief. The people pay for the crimes and failures of their politicians and leaders with their lives and comfort. Ours is an existential crisis without any hope (forget religious abracadabra). We need a State of Emergency at the followership level outside religious, ethnic and political considerations. We need attitudinal change. We need to reconsider our attitude to the irresponsibility and failures of governance from the local government to national levels. We need to remove the goggles of bigotry when the survival and decent existence of any Nigerian is at stake. We need to understand that our change of attitude to irresponsible governance may turn out to be a learning process that will serve each of the nations comprising Nigeria of today, if ever we decide someday to put a stop to our incongruous co-existence. We should understand that politicians will remain the same in these different nations; they have had a very long time to learn from each other. And we know what they have learnt. We live it. It is now the turn of the Nigerian people to change their attitude and to propose a new approach to how we are governed.
Rousseau in Social Contract says, “Each of us puts his person and all his power in common under the supreme direction of the general will, …… This public person, so formed by the union of all other persons …… is called by its members State when passive. Sovereign when active, and Power when compared with others like itself.” Nigerian people must move from their passive state to sovereignty. We need to become active in our opposition to bad governance, corruption and impunity. Our collective Will must become sovereign.
We need a proactive and not a reactive approach; a preventative vaccine against bad governance and corruption rather than expensive treatment of protests and demonstrations. Protests and demonstrations are useful in functional democracies where elected officials of the state have ears and use them. In the case of Nigeria, our politicians neither use their ears nor their eyes. No politician takes any protest against him seriously. He goes out to rent his own vocal crowd for counterdemonstration. And revolution as is being canvassed by some in the media? Forget this. Revolution will never work in Nigeria. It will quickly be hijacked by the same politicians that it is intended to chase out. Remember Dino’s anti-corruption activism and protests against corruption? And our recent experience has shown that newspaper activists or self-proclaimed revolutionaries are not to be trusted with power or in the corridors of power. We remember them despite their attempts to redeem themselves now that they have left the corridors of power. Theirs is a lesson of betrayal for us.
Our proactive solution should seek to mete out punishment to thieves of our commonwealth and the untrustworthy custodians of justice and our legal system in the African way. Something that will undo them and their generations. Something they cannot do anything about. Something that will be our contribution to democracy. We need to make democracy work (in the absence of any other ideas) and the current imported system of crime and punishment is heavily compromised and non-functional in our country. Something else will work. Something closer home to us and to our politicians.
We need to compile a Book of Curses and make our politicians at all levels swear their oaths of office on this Compendium of Citizens’ Curses. Experience has shown that the oaths of office based on The Bible or The Quran means nothing to them. They have no fear of the God of the Bible or the Allah of the Koran.
We must lay down curses for the looters of our Commonwealth and their unborn generations. A Book of Curses is our own way of making democracy work for us.