COUNTERPOINT Femi Akintunde-Johnson
We are told that God Almighty finished the creation spectacle on the sixth day when He finished with the specimen we call man today. I’m afraid we don’t have the knack for such exactitude, nor the opportunity to recline, and watch the mess we have turned the Nigerian creation debacle to. Today, we’ll attempt to exhaust our frustrations on the sixth element we must deal with to emerge as, and maintain a great nation, with people of like visions and goals.
When we lament about our atrocious and conscienceless politics, we often forget that it’s senior comrade is amorphous, systemic and thus infinitely more dangerous to public health; therefore more difficult to pull down. Public Service. And by extension, Infrastructure (provision, maintenance and assault). I will explain.
The recruitment, deployment and promotions of civil servants have for long been shrouded in secrecy. Though we call them civil servants, unfortunately, many we meet in our interactions with government agencies have no streak of civility in them, nor a strain of stewardship. Our tottering bloated system swagger under the self-serving, age-old dictum which insists that the civil service shall remain in the shades plugging away at the wheels of progress and public administration.
This was inculcated into us by the typically tight-lipped British colonial administration. We have now matured into leveraging that cloak of anonymity to pervert and purport all sorts of criminal activities, corrupt agendas, uncivil bastardisation and poorly thought-out policies. Consequently, we have turned the civil service into some sort of shambolic cartel, and diabolic cult of intrigues and immobility.
The structures that were designed to keep the wheels of government in forward motion unobtrusively, while top officials in government may change according times and mandates, have grown massively lecherous, indolent, political, divisive, moored in schemes and counter-schemes that have no bearing on their operational directives.
When some young folks struggle to enter the public service after their one-year national youth service corps programme, in most cases, they are lured, not by passion to be a part of quality and prompt delivery of service; rather they are driven by the prodigious opportunity that public service provides for almost anyone to collect a steady monthly salary, and still scavenge for lucrative businesses which benefit him 100%, and the government may burn for all he cares. They call it ‘side-hustles’.
They see a future where, when well entrenched in the system, they can spend months in the Caribbeans, and still collect salaries and perquisites as if they are “on their seats” doing the nation’s work. They see a future assured of cuts and handouts from desperate contractors and others threatened by one wooly-headed government policy or the other. They see a mountain of opportunities and largesse which, with deft application of banal social nuances – nepotism, tribalism, religiosity and such cancers that have held us down as a nation – can produce mansions, exquisite possessions and such expensive delicacies of living that no civil service salary can explain, and thus must be well hidden from ‘evil’ eyes.
While civil service is largely seen as a corrupt indolent spectacle bedeviling our prospect of a great nationhood, the actions of the civil populace to public Infrastructure are well nigh ungodly and reprehensible. No matter how expensive it is to acquire a particular amenity or structure; how much pain and frustrations the community had endured before the provision of such amenity; and the obvious losses when such amenity fails to work, are you surprised when days after its installation, several parts and main frames of the facility have been yanked off, crushed, or simply stolen! Yet, these looters may be the first comers at the community’s news stands to lament the looting of the national or state treasury by one politician or the other.
We steal everything good and useful; the ones we cannot remove we destroy. There is a spirit tormenting some of our folks who are caught on CCTV removing public lights, traffic lights, alloy railings of bridges, and sidewalks…it’s not just poverty. How does a nation become great when the common man must steal or damage infrastructures erected to alleviate his conditions, and that of others – simply because he feels a need to imitate those in power who steal the funds that have delayed the provision of these infrastructures, or frustrated the provision of better and more widespread infrastructures in good time?
The circle of self-hate and the dogma of snakes feasting on his own kind have led us to this moment where our infrastructures, which are grossly inadequate, are pilfered and vandalized by our compatriots, and we simply shake our heads, and ‘waka pass’. How can you grow, in any area of life, when you ceaselessly swallow your profit, and more, even as you labour day and night to get more sales? A vicious self-devastation.
The seventh element has a number of similarities to the one above. What do we hold as National Ethos? What Values do we deliberately infuse in our children? What informs our Succession dynamics? A nation that runs on auto-pilot, winging its ways through challenges and upheavals, makes an easy candidate for self-combustion.
We build ethos by leveraging on the great works and words of our founding fathers. We solicit the emotional connections with great and redoubtable ancestors, tantalizing the impressionable minds of our children with legends, myths and anecdotes of their great and incredible exploits. Do we even still teach history and civic studies in Nigerian schools? If we don’t, we need our heads examined. If the policy has been reversed, the enablers of that idiotic policy should be in jail.
It starts from the kindergarten experience…to the nursery and primary…the home
environment…the teaching modules and expertise for each grade (whether public or private)…the actions and examples of government functionaries, and other cadres of leadership… Several elements must combine positively to build and flourish with our national ethos that will filter into and form a block of unshakable corpus of beliefs and convictions as our children grow up. Perhaps it’s too late for the much older generations; the opportunity is there, even now, to rededicate our passions and re-evaluate the values we unconsciously subscribe to.
When we find excuses for a pedophile simply because an elaborate scheme was devised to catch him in action as an evidence of his perfidy; and we begin to castigate the victims, and make asinine suggestions imputing extraneous nonsense (it was a romance gone sour; why tempt a man you strongly suspect, the set-up was to destroy his career; and the classic spinelessness – ‘nobody is above mistake’!)
Friends, sexually or sensually violating a seven-year old, even if it didn’t start three years ago, is not a ‘mistake’. It is foolish, uncontrollably, depraved exploitation and violent violation of innocence. It deserves uniformed and severe condemnations, the strictest application of extant laws, and drastic deterrence to others who are in such dastard business, or may contemplate it in future; that this nation abhors reprobate behaviours, and any deviant sympathies should be interrogated sternly.
That is one of countless steps towards building a great nation… Are we really ready? We continue with the seventh element next time.