COUNTERPOINT By Femi Akintunde-Johnson
It is pretty difficult to remain positive when you look at life and living in Nigeria, especially when you consider the litany of inadequacies, inequalities and vaulting corruption – both seen and unseen. Though your country has been credited with immense resources, natural and human, and there have been stories of incredible feats in diverse fields and societies all over the world, you are nonetheless regularly confronted with situations and circumstances that numb the senses. People simply look for ways to make sense out of their reality.
Anyone who has been mentally and physically agile from the 1970s, and is still functional in these times, the tendency to see any glorious future in the politics and prospects of Nigeria is largely opaque. It is pretty difficult to retain a reasonable level of optimism in the hackneyed pidgin ‘amulet’, “Nigeria go better”…without a knowing wink that it was merely a government-sponsored malarkey!
Thus, virtually everyone in Nigeria has to design structures and concepts that can help in making living and prospering become somehow attainable. Some are more successful than others in deploying effective strategies that attempt to keep them above the flotsam of the Nigerian experience. In these circumstances, morality and ethics have a problem instilling any semblance of discipline or sanction – as the streets wisely counsel: “Na who morality/ethic epp?”
We have profiled ten of many ways intelligent and inventive Nigerians are scooping quality living and survival tools (not necessarily loot) out of the massive dunghill Nigeria is drifting towards. This is not a sanctimonious condemnation of anyone’s understanding of survival tactics, nor is it a liberal glorification of subterfuge. In a jungle of life, prudish gentility is suicidal, and the lion-hearted often live fat and long.
Number one, and the most lucrative: Join Politics. The practice, process and principles of politics in Nigeria are notoriously vague. Most politicians are really not politicians – they have no interest in the welfare or safety of the people; rather, any thing outside of their self-interest has no attraction for them. Their private interactions and public deliberations clearly show they hate the people, except the few they need in pursuit of expanding their self-interest.
To rise in Nigerian politics, you really don’t need any serious academic or practice-skilled background…you don’t have to be competent, hardworking or industrious. Such skills are largely useless, and in fact counterproductive. If you’re blessed with thick skin and a cold heart, impervious to shame, condescension and insults, you will rise swiftly to high offices. Persons with any sense of importance based on actual professional or academic substance are usually dismissed and overlooked – to their endless frustration – while the robustly idiotic, the empty charlatans, the freakiest chorus-leaders with capacity to laugh heartily at the leader’s lamentable jokes, are some of the most significant!
Whatever your discomfort at the current state of the nation, the political jobbers are well and truly successful…reminding you rather grotesquely with their shimmering automobiles, gorgeous courtesans and lavish mansions…that politics of hubris and insignificance is the life source for millions in this country – be thankful to God – and the reasons we still have a country.
Political Thuggery. Tribal activism. Of course, the next best thing to joining politics is fronting for politicians on the field of violence and intimidation – especially if you are young, stubborn and thoughtless. Those who assume political thugs are usually groomed at the motor-parks and artisans’ workshops miss it a little. Many of the most effective thugs, though mostly short-lived, are mined from tertiary institutions all over the country – deep in the recesses of proscribed yet thriving cult groups.
Some of those who survived the bloodshed – forget rustication and suspension – of secret cults and students unionism, find roles that suit their temperaments with the politicians. Unfortunately, their successes after graduation into realpolitik, enables them to re-create greater conflagration back in their cult-hoods, especially with ‘poli-dollars’ and hard drugs flowing through the veins of axe-wielding miseducated thugs.
The few who survive the terrors and torment of political thuggery, are now metamorphosing into champions of the territorial rights of their native lands. Suffused with ‘poli-cash’ and cow-headed ideology from blighted and irredeemably corrupt politicians, the former thugs now slide into yawning gaps left by you-know-who, to lead genuine agitations of their people who have been grossly neglected, dehumanised and sometimes extinguished. Are we shocked when past masters and ex labour prefects clash in the village square?
The third level of survivalists share some kinship to the two above. Rabble-Rousers hosting vitriolic shrines in multimedia channels. When they lose their exalted political or economic positions (gained in the first place, mostly by nepotism, godfatherism and other disgusting ‘isms’), they will then assail the air with loud and sometime unclear condemnation of current political champions. They mostly shout against what they used to accommodate or even flaunt. Every scheme of their former friends or old opponents attracts vicious gutter-snipes laced with absolutely no reasonable solutions. And poor Nigerians, knocked down by unfortunate acts and missteps of governments, are willing hearers, readers and watchers of the Rabble Rousers. Yet, unknown to most of their “followers” and co-critics, the major babblers find opportunity and visitations, in the dead of nights and in shallow villas, to oil their waning stash of filthy lucre.
We all condemn criminality and banditry, don’t we? Don’t be quick to answer yes. There are folks out there who make a fine distinction between a common criminal and another alleged criminal who happens to come from a peculiar tribe or association. We have had situations where allegations were made against a particular set of criminals – for the umpteenth time – who seemed to indulge in nefarious activities like kidnapping for hefty ransom, killings, abductions, banditry…and powers-that-be rush to defend their safety, innocence and sanctity. And this in the face of tears, casualties and scorched farmlands of indigenous victims.
Have we not witnessed bandits and violent wayfarers being feted at government houses…over a round-table of brotherhood to discuss amnesty protocols, and logistical support to aid their reintegration into normalcy? And the beasts in human form turn around to use government largesse to perpetuate more gruesome acts. Sometimes, government makes sensible, law-abiding people wonder if those who govern us understand loyalty to the constitution (even in its troubled state)…or the true meaning of egalitarianism – the spirit that treats every person the same way, bestowing equal rights, opportunities and privileges on all, without let.
And finally, for the moment, the fifth channel: The Street Mobilizer. A nation in a flux will inevitably be in need of redeemers, messiahs and interlocutors. Such complexities that regularly provoke divisions, apprehension and suspicion within the polity, require that there shall always be jobs for field coordinators, ‘line ‘inspirators’ and agent provocateurs who can rail and agitate against one mishap or foolhardy position of a government beset by premium variant of a victim complex. Do you still wonder why we have more faux activists than genuine protesters?
We continue next week…in this jungle we love to call home.