Portrait of the Nigerian politician

The average Nigerian politician cuts an interesting picture.

First, he sounds religious and regularly brings up the name of God in his discourse, but deep down; he is very superstitious, in fact, quite fetish. The faith he professes does not matter, his confidence is actually in the juju and the charms of his spiritual contractors. He feels everybody is against him and has to join a cult group to seek protection from his foes. He does not subscribe to the axiom of a person’s word being his bond, but would rather subject his associates to the rigour of oath taking at shrines in order to extract commitments from them. Because of his faith in voodoo, the Nigerian politician has scant respect for science and technology, the antithesis of superstition, and does little to promote them.

Then, he is visionless. He lacks the ability to look beyond the moment. He lives for the present; he does not believe in preparing for the future. The good book talks of a good man leaving an inheritance for his children’s children but that is not the concern of the Nigerian politician. The only thing he is eager to bequeath to the coming generation is piled debts. The debts owed by some states and the country as a whole are so much that many Nigerians who understand the workings of economies are beginning to doubt the viability of the country.

It has been said that there is the likelihood of the Nigerian oil wells running dry in less than 50 years even as the nation faces the problem of dwindling resources occasioned by unstable oil prices. Some more forward-looking countries have engaged in using the proceeds from oil to develop new income-generating ventures as it has been done in the United Arab Emirate, where Dubai was developed as the new world centre for commerce and tourism with proceeds from oil. But the slogan here is ‘share and spend the money.’ All earnings must be spent, no part of it is considered fit for investment, forgetting that the nation that spends all it earns will always be at the mercy of the one that saves part of its earnings.

He is also not sportsmanlike. He must always win or else all hell would be let loose. When he wins an election, the process is fair, but when he loses, there must have been a manipulation of the process. He does not mind destroying the system to have his way. He does not believe in fair play. For him, election is war, and in war, all is fair. He deploys all means to win an election. He will rig, he will corrupt election umpires, he will bribe voters, he will steal ballot boxes, he will harass opponents with law enforcement agents, he will even maim and kill his opponents and the people he supposedly wants to serve, just to get into office. If he does all of these and the result of the election glaringly shows that the people do not want him, then he resorts to the courts to thwart the decision of the people. The Nigerian politician does not believe the people have the final say on who should serve them, he believes since he has expressed the desire to serve, his wish must be accomplished willy-nilly.

He is self-serving and not altruistic. The Nigerian politician is not interested in anybody’s welfare but his. Though Nigeria’s federal legislators are said to be among the highest paid in the world, they have vehemently resisted any attempt to slash their emoluments despite the financial difficulty the country is currently embroiled in. Despite running a part-time system, each of the lawmakers’ take home, on a monthly basis, is more than what some senior civil servants earn in over 10 years.

In spite of the Minimum Wage Act, which stipulates that the least paid Nigerian workers should earn N30,000, some governors have slashed their workers’ salaries, blaming it on paucity of funds. Some states also blame paucity of funds for non-payment of workers’ salaries and delay in the payment of pensions. However, paucity of funds has not forced the governors to reduce their security vote, neither has it compelled them to slash their own salaries and allowance or cut down the number of vehicles in their convoy. What this shows is that what matters to the people is of little significance to the Nigerian politician. Despite what he professes, he does not work for the people, he uses the people for his own benefit.

Now, it is the political class that produces the nation’s political leaders. But when it is a fetish, visionless, un-sportsmanly and self-serving leadership that is foisted on a state, how can the result be anything but catastrophic?

That, unfortunately, is the narrative of the Nigerian state.



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