By Abuchi Obiora
Today, we shall be discussing three vexed issues of contemporary Nigeria, starting with the examination of the first human instinct.
Most people will tell you that they were driven by patriotism to dabble into the unsolicited assignment of commenting on national issues or even involving in politics. I can’t make this claim because I know that I was not so driven, giving if the true and factual meaning of the word, ‘patriotism’ is anything to go by.
What actually excited my interest in national politics once again as happened during the June 12 annulment days is the fact that I suddenly found my quiet life and the quiet life of many Nigerians around me disrupted beyond our capacities to handle in our usual quiet ways. While many Nigerians are being socially and economically decimated, the people whose actions have brought about these woes on the quiet peace-loving Nigerians are going about in a manner that suggests that all is well.
I will therefore say that I was called by myself into commenting on national politics, once again, far fear of extinction, that is, for self preservation, and you may as well add, for humanistic reasons on behalf of many silent Nigerians in my physical and social environments who have been numbed by extreme poverty, who also will not be able to reach the public in the manner that I can.
It is a fallacy when people claim they were called into politics by patriotism. Self preservation, it is said, is the first instinct of every man, so, let us find out the true meaning of ‘patriotism’
In a work titled “Swan-song of Unity”, Published in the REFLECTION column of “The Guardian on Sunday”, of October 10, 1993, I identified self interest in the speech delivered to Nigerians by Ibrahim Badamasi Babangida. Giving his own account and reason why he decided to “step aside”, the then Military President lamented the unpleasant experiences of his immediate family members as a result of the political impasse.
Being a very strong emotion, self interest (sometimes, it can be negative and egotistic) can cause people to take some daring moves such as abandoning a plush Presidential seat as the then Military President did. Self interest is the most powerful drive for patriotism (forget what the politicians may want us to believe), and sometimes can attain the nihilist level if not tempered with reason and common sense. The egotistic, sadistic and nihilist expressions of self interest may be variously expressed as in the actions of dictators. It can also be expressed as presently happen when people cannot meet up with the demands of their self interest and commit suicide or sell their children for the same reason of self interest. These sundry expressions are already features of contemporary Nigeria.
One of the positive expressions of self interest is the urge in man to seek to be protected, rightly positioned, and positively involved, with the burning desire to derive benefits for himself and for the people under his care, from all activities that rub on him.
This is not selfishness. If it was selfishness, all men from the ages past including the holy men of God who waged bloody wars to protect their followers and their teachings, and all the patriotic statesmen and ‘stateswomen’ in history whose daring actions in self defense earned them the appellation of ‘patriots’ have been selfish. The principle of self interest, as I call it, is of the commonest sense, and is already recognized as “eye-wey-see” in Nigerian local pidgin English parlance.
What am I saying, you may ask? I am saying that it is a grievous sin against self, one’s dependants and God who created one as a Nigerian where God has deposited different types and high volumes of natural resources, to die a poor man in Nigeria. It will also be stupid to tell God that you died poor because you allowed some people to appropriate to themselves, either by trick or by force, your common patrimony.
Patriotism should be the destination of all, yet, it is difficult to be patriotic or even feign patriotism with an empty stomach especially when you can’t feed your children or pay their school fees. It is even worst when you have the misfortune to watch them die of simple treatable ailments as malaria and typhoid fever because you lack the money to fetch proper medical attention for them, though you worked hard! Unfortunately, this is the bad luck and tales of woes of many families in contemporary Nigeria
It is a sin for this to happen in a country where some of her citizens are stocking unearned tons of pounds, dollars and naira in septic tanks, uncompleted houses, bushes and other secret places. It is a sin to die poor in a country where trillions of naira are either swallowed by wild animals in human habitats, or simply disappear from the vaults of the CBN under watch by people who can be identified. The high level of official pillage in Nigeria has made necessary the now popular revenue-sharing formula proposed by many Nigerians – “share the moi-moi” – distribute the national cake amongst Nigerian citizens, everybody for himself and his household, before the ‘kleptocrats’ steal all.
Nigeria is treating official corruption with kid gloves. Nigerians must rise up to defend themselves against economic oppression as a result of serial ‘kleptocracy’ by successive governments. (Reference: “Case Against Kleptocracy”, written by me and published in the REFLECTION column of “The Guardian on Sunday of May 8, 1994).
It worries me that today, I still find myself writing on the same issues in nigeria that I wrote about some twenty-five to thirty years ago. What is happening to my country? Something needs be done now before the country collapses on our heads as a result of ineptitude and official corruption.
RIGHTS OF CITIZENS IN A DEMOCRATIC DISPENSATION
We need also talk about the rights of citizens in a democratic dispensation. It looks very elementary to write on this, but the unfolding saga of events in Nigeria demands that I write on an issue all of us – the leadership and the fellowship – are supposed to be conversant with.
We were taught in primary schools that “democracy is government of the people, for the people, and by the people”.
Democracy, the most important single contributing factor to peace and stability in the world today has become synonymous with rule of law, and the general acceptance of democracy the world-over is as a result of the fact that it protects the rights and privileges of both the leadership and the fellowership.
In our secondary schools, we were also taught in the subject called ‘Government’ that ‘government’ is a social contract between the leadership and the followership entered into via the ballot box. Both the leadership and the followership derive their powers from the constitution and the electoral laws. These documents – the constitution and the electoral laws – stipulate the rules of engagement for this social contract.
The foremost rights of citizens under democratic dispensations include, but are not limited to, right to life, right to religious worship, right to freedom of expression, right to free association, right to free movement, etc.
As a matter of fact, these rights are expressly articulated in the Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria.
To be continued