No persons in human history have been so tolerated, exalted, reverenced and deified than the Nigerian elite. Especially the political elite. The Nigerian elite is a spoilt brat. He was the one who took the reins from the feudal British overlords on that fateful October 1, 1960. Ever since, he has turned the screw against his own constituents. Whereas the white master chastised our forebears with whips, the contemporary Nigerian political elite has upped the pain.
Like an inebriated baboon under the schizophrenic influence of bourbon, our new task master, the one who bestrides the public space, has been acting recklessly. The more he drinks from the broth of power, the more the nation sinks deeper into the abyss of extreme poverty. And the more intoxicated he becomes, the more his actions creates more colonies and dynasties of poverty. He has succeeded in giving the nation a trophy. A prize of infamy; a diadem that drips with inverted values. Nigeria is currently the poverty capital of the world, all thanks to the ruinous misrule of her leaders.
In plain language, the Nigerian ruling elite, military and civilian, is the same. Their difference is in their uniform. Such morphological diversity does not in any way affect their physiology. Their DNA never mutates; never changes. They are a bunch of rogues; a clan of thieves. A garrison of evil men. They rule the roost with aristocratic hubris. They rake the muck to create the rot. Truly, this house has fallen. The system is rotten. None ponders the fate of the poor. None spares a thought for the rabble. Each regime creates its own variant of mass poverty. Each regime, in creating poverty, creates a clique of billionaires without virtue.
Cast your mind back as far as you can recall in post-Independence Nigeria. Military goons namely Olusegun Obasanjo, Muhammadu Buhari, Ibrahim Babangida, Sani Abacha, Abdulsalam Abubakar. And then another cyclic ensemble of ‘democrats’ starting again with Obasanjo, Umaru Yar’Adua, Goodluck Jonathan and now Buhari. These men, it has to be said, have failed and are still failing the nation. They have entrenched a culture of ineptitude in leadership that has made Nigeria a laughing stock.
Year after year, dispensation after dispensation, they recycle themselves; swapping their cronies with their in-laws. Feeding fat on our national patrimony. They are the biggest beneficiaries of the benevolence of the nation. They have grabbed primitively. They never gave back, and never will. Estates in Dubai, holidays in Hawaii, medical tourism in London, fat bank accounts in Swiss banks. These are their trophies for misruling a nation. They are agents of mass plunder, bakers of the bread of sorrow. Such is the epaulet of the ruling elite.
But in their banal questing for illicit pleasure, they forget that a hungry man is the most dangerous being. In their madcap plunder of the popular till, they fail to notice the grumbling from the streets. They ignore the chants of the beleaguered masses of the people. They look away from the furrows that drape the faces of the suffering rabble. In a country badly governed, insecurity takes the stage. Every bourgeois is a suspected enemy of the people. In a country badly governed, no one is safe.
Both the rich and the poor are hemmed in their various cocoons: the one suspects the other. The rich are insecure in their marbled homes and high-wall fences. The insecurity of the poor is in their famished bellies. Hunger has no ethnic group, no religion. The inside of all hungry men no matter their race, religion or tribe is the same: pain. This is why the hungry man is not only angry but a very dangerous being. The Nigerian ruling class has in their post-Independence era of maladministration bred millions of hungry men across the nation. They have bred generations of deprived youths whose fate is the perfect portrait of a failing state. Unloved at home, denied opportunities in their fatherland, some have marched, hotfoot, to Europe, to Asia and to the uttermost parts of the earth. Some, not so lucky, perish in the scorching sand dunes of Sahara Desert. Some die in the Mediterranean. Only the African youth, especially Nigerian youth says ‘I would rather die in the sea than remain suffering at home’. They simply want out because Africa is a misgoverned patch of earth.
Now, the hungry and deprived legion of Nigerians have gathered in the streets. They are in the streets of Lagos, Kano, Europe, America, everywhere. They are angry at the Nigerian ruling class. They are raging from street corners. They are ranting on social media. They are venting their indignation from every space, at every moment. Arresting them for expressing their anger is not the solution. Trying to hush them with bayonets and batons does little to assuage their rage. Their rank is growing per second and if throwing them into jail is the government’s therapy, then we need to build more prisons because the rank of the angry mob is growing.
It doesn’t matter what name they call it. RevolutionNow, protest, social discontent, citizen unrest. They are expressions of anger at failed leadership. No responsible government should try to muzzle the noise from the streets. Whether it is some misguided men pelting a former Nigerian Deputy Senate President, Ike Ekweremadu (he does not deserve such ordeal anyway), with eggs in Nuremberg, Germany or the case of Ukrainian politician Vitaly Zhuravsky who was thrown into a bin by a mob in 2014, or Mr Arvind Kejriwal, the Delhi chief minister who ranks as the most publicly abused politician in India (he has been pelted with eggs, slapped and left with a swollen eye among other ill-treatments from angry Indians), you cannot stop citizen anger against perceived misrule. It’s like trying to stop people from breathing. Not possible.
How many Nigerian leaders can move freely among their constituents? Many governors, past and present, cannot move around in their states without a platoon of armed bodyguards. How many Nigerian lawmakers can do same, or even local government chairmen? They have fouled up the air and the stink is high so they must build high walls for shield.
The solution to citizen discontent is good governance. It is not using agents of state to arrest, badger and harangue the people. Nigerian leaders at all levels must begin to offer good governance. They must serve the people not their bellies. They must show capacity to lead and the will not to loot. Past governments have shown no lustre for good leadership. It’s worse even now. The direct consequence of the failure of leadership is the high level of insecurity that virulently barbs the soul of the nation.
When top security chiefs are kidnapped, robbed or murdered without let; when robbers would attack the convoy of a deputy governor, kill three cops and flee to rob another day; when Army Generals avoid the highways for fear of kidnappers and bandits, what further evidence do we need to know that leadership has failed. But leadership must be humble to admit its failure. Only then will it begin to atone for such grand failure by re-inventing itself. I see no such thing here. The implication is that Nigeria is still on a long bumpy ride in a dark alley.