Monday, July 21, 2008

"All Nigerian politicians are corrupt!"
I know that is a statement/sentiment shared by many Nigerians, but does that mean it is true? The reason why I ask is because of an enlightening conversation I had with a fellow blogger not too long ago. While we discussed Lagos politics, we happened to debate whether every current Lagosian and indeed national politicians are corrupt. Playing the role of 'Devil's Advocate', I argued that not all politicians are corrupt and stressed that there had to be some that did not take bribes, shunned corruption and strove to do their job responsibly.

My fellow blogger then provided a basic analysis of the Nigerian political situation that even I found hard to dismiss. He made two points -
  1. Most Nigerian politicians 'chop' and are therefore corrupt.
  2. For those politicians that do not 'chop', they see others 'chopping' and do little or nothing to stop them and as such are equally corrupt.
After hearing these points, I thought for a few minutes and posed a simple question. I asked him, given how much he knew of me and my ideals, whether it would be fair to consider me corrupt if I were ever to become a politician in Nigeria.

He didn't hesitate, but laughed, probably for my benefit and to lessen the sting of his frank response. He concluded that if I ever became a politician in Nigeria, I would undoubtedly fall into one of the two categories regardless of my intent or whether or not I did a good job "because that is the system."

With much respect to my fellow blogger, I have to state unequivocally that his position is not only troubling but extremely dangerous. The conclusion carries a sense of futility that is detrimental to the hopes and aspirations of all persons regardless of nationality who aspire to create a better existence for themselves and others. Such an attitude, right or wrong, suggests that there is very little reason to work toward a better Nigeria. If one were to take this conclusion a little further then no politician, leader or even person can be trusted to work for their constituents and the nation would never improve.

But even more important is the concept that a person can be 'guilty by association'. Far too often, I see that Nigerians automatically distrust people who are accomplished (either in their career or financially) and suspect them of being corrupt simply by the mere fact of their success. While this is very different from suspecting that a politician is corrupt, especially given the history of corruption in Nigeria, the roots of both sentiments are similar in that the mere category a person falls into (in this case - politics, while in the other case career/financial achievement) determines the level of suspicion that he/she will face at the hands of Nigerians. Isn't that problematic? I learned in my younger days that "Correlation does not mean causation" and to deem everyone the same without taking the time to separate the wheat from the chaff helps no one,least of all the Nigerian public. So, on this issue, I will have to say that although I sincerely respect my fellow blogger's thoughts and hope to learn more from him, I will not submit that all politicians, or anyone else, should be guilty by association. I will consider each person on their individual merit for the accomplishments or failures and encourage them to do better.

I only wish I had asked my friend and fellow blogger if he would have fallen into one of the two categories of Nigerian politicians that he suggested. Now, that would have led to an even better debate!

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8 Curiosities. Add Yours.:

Femi B said...

They also suffocate and frustrate you with false accusations if you do not embezzle money with them, it seems like a loose loose situation, but i refuse to look at it that way. i guess i am an optimist and believe there are still non-corrupt politicians or non corrupt soon to be politicians out

Anon said...

I can't help but think that your friend is right. What a shame...

Anonymous said...

I'd have to go with your friend on this one. I also believe that admitting our starting point is also a great way to make a difference. Approaching the issues confronting our country from a place of innocence almost all the time will result in one getting pimped. Besides the conclusion that you and I could come up with, I believe we have a system set whereby only the corrupt politicians will emerge as winners. That is where you and I are guilty because of our lackadaisical attitude.

Anonymous said...

Same old story, about the same old story from a social historian about our country was intended to highlight the ignorance that has led to you chop, I chop syndrome that seemed to have created the mess in Nigeria. Here is a story. A top civil servant in the early 1960s till mid 80s on retirement moved from a 12 bedroom mansion in Affluent Ikoyi to a small 4 bedroom house in Surulere. That job came with 3 drivers and all the trimmings benefiting the role but left only with his personal car. He did not seek political office simply because he was grateful to serve his country. And refused all the usual chieftancy titles offered due to the strings attached and continues to teach today.

He is not an exception as I have met people in similar positions both at home and abroad. Their achievements are incredible in the fields of Education, Telecoms, Engineering Religion, and Medicine to name a few. The common theme among these supermen/women is that paint brush. Yes, Guilty By Association.

Such attitude does not suggests there is very little reason to work towards a better Nigeria, it is meant to inform and that is the only right worth fighting for. Why should Chinese whisper be the only source of information? Why should media manipulation be allowed to spread misinformation? Those story tellers are our future and debating our future is a worthy cause.

Dimeji Bankole as seen on BBC Hard talk is an example of future politicians that should shout louder if they are indeed clean. We will talk about the issues, we will agree on actions plan and we will go out and get the jobs done. But until the politicians see themselves as servants of the people, their lip service to servitude will be seen as their way of awarding themselves via their cronies, bags of Ghana-must-go cash.

Look around Lagos, and indeed the whole country especially the North of the Niger. How did we spend $1T in oil revenue? Abacha was not the only common theif.

Allied said...

I had the same question for your friend “if he would have fallen into one of the two categories"

I am glad that his point - (very convincing, i might add) did not sway you from your hold on hope. I believe there are politicians that are clean. Until we all start to believe this; Nigeria will not see significant change in the area of corruption.

Anonymous said...

Thanks a lot for giving us an insight into the Nigerian SWF. That's another thing for me to keep a tab on regarding the Nigerian economy.

N.I.M.M.O said...

All politicians are corrupt, not just the Nigerian ones. Pray tell us, what exactly is the job of a politician/office holder?

If you have the right job description, then match it against the person in the job and see if you get a match. Its about the only job on earth without a job description so anything goes and you know what they say....

**** My comments are coming very late but I am just reading this and everything else I missed. Hope you don't mind.

guerreiranigeriana said...

...hmmmnnn...i agree with n.i.m.m.o. that generally speaking, politicians are liars and corrupt...that said, i don't have to fall into either category...i think it begins to beg to ask the question of your willingness to possibly die for what you believe in...i have heard of stories of people, in their attempt to stop the cycle of i chop, you chop, who were killed by those who wanted to, it may very well come to that...interesting post though...i too remain hopeful...i must...

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