Big Men, Strongmen and Prostrate Institutions, By Adegbenro Adebanjo

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We are making mountains out of molehills and neglecting the serious business of governance for inanities. Crass opportunists have deliberately elevated trivialities to the level of national discourse. The narrative is no longer about proffering solution to the myriads of problem assailing the country.

Nigerians love big men. They defer to them and treat them as untouchables. And when the big men are those who are tenants in the corridors of power, they are treated like demi-gods who can get away with virtually anything including murder, heist and other heinous crimes. And big men love Nigerians too. They know they are easy to please with little palliatives here and there while they, the big men, live life to the hilt. They corner and enjoy the many advantages of the commonwealth, while neglecting the common good. For where in the world would they be allowed to get away with most of the things, including shenanigans of the grotesque variety, they get away with in Nigeria. They come to Nigerians during electioneering campaigns, bait them with a few bags of rice, bread and some cash and promise them Eldorado. After the elections they turn their back on the voters and barricade themselves in prison like fortresses and concentrate only on their own welfare and wellbeing. During reelection, they come calling again and the “simple Nigerians” welcome them with open arms after collecting the regular pittance on offer. They are never taken to task on their past failed promises and glaring records of maladministration.

And the big men have devised unassailable ways to remain in control of the destiny of the country. Through the manipulations of successive big men in the corridors of power, we now have strongmen bestriding the landscape like lords of the manor. The institutions that should keep them in check have been dealt fatal blows and they now pine away allowing the big men to get away with just anything. Unlike in order civilised climes, the country gives preference to big men and strongmen and treats institutions with absolute disdain. The institutions that should give meaning to and strengthen democracy and good governance are being deliberately battered and rendered impotent.

In other climes, established institutions would have resolved the matter of who wears what uniform, who graduates from which university and who deserves to be appointed as the anti-corruption Czar effortlessly. Here such decisions are the exclusive preserve of the big men and strongmen. We are making mountains out of molehills and neglecting the serious business of governance for inanities. Crass opportunists have deliberately elevated trivialities to the level of national discourse. The narrative is no longer about proffering solution to the myriads of problem assailing the country. It is no longer about how to give a semblance of the good life and provide the common necessities to the citizens.

The plight of the inhabitants of Otodo-Gbame on Lagos Island, who are being uprooted from their homestead by the sheer force of some big men, is not eliciting any meaningful response from the strongmen. The near bungling of the registration process for the 2017 Joint Admissions Examination and the fact that in real terms more eligible candidates, than in previous years, will not find a place in the system has become a footnote. And more Nigerians are electing to seek for greener pastures through the ruinous Mediterranean Sea. Recently even from the admission of a top Nigerian government official, there were 128 Nigerians among the 576 migrants from West Africa who perished in the sea while attempting to force their way to Europe to seek the better life via Libya. The big men and the strong men do not see this as a tragedy worthy of their deliberation or immediate action.

And the growing spate of suicides, kidnapping and bloodletting by the ‘technically’ defeated remnants of boko haram and rampaging armed marauders/herdsmen are being treated as normal as the sheer savagery of the perpetrators of the crime no longer shock our rulers. Deliberately obfuscating the real images of the economic recession which has further pauperised millions of Nigerians has become so easy via their many ego trips and contrived disagreements. Governance has been reduced to a contest of ego, self-aggrandisement and rat race to get the bigger pie from the treasury.

While they are fiddling the country is burning: The economic quagmire has now gone so bad that depression has taken over the land and some Nigerians are electing suicide as escape route from the crippling situation. And a worse evil than boko haram is afoot. The rampaging herdsmen who are sacking villages, maiming and killing helpless and innocent civilians do not get the same attention as our rulers give their personal war and contest of supremacy, which have become the new narratives in the land.

The first overriding duty of government at whatever level is to ensure the security of the lives of the inhabitants of a given region, state or federation. It is the duty of all responsible and responsive governments to ensure that their citizens are safe and are able to perform their lawful duties and chores without any let or hindrance in any part of that given region. It is then followed by providing the enabling environment for self-actualisation and economic survival. On this two scores, given the current trend, we cannot say that government has lived up to these all important roles. Everyday citizens are mowed down by rampaging militias of various hues. And eking out a living has become almost impossible for the ordinary man on the streets. While we are daily treated with the grotesque drama of the absurd about a man wearing or not wearing uniform and the sanctity of certificates of one of the men in the corridors of power, Nigeria continues its dance on the precipice.

The narrative can only change when institutions, rather than big men and strongmen, dictate the course of governance.

Adegbenro Adebanjo sent this piece via obanijesu@yahoo.com.

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