Some Indecent Proposals for a Decent Future

By A A Kila

In Nigeria, there is a small minority of people who, through their activities and fauxpas, have succeeded in completely destroying almost the whole country mentally and materially. We doubt if it is through conscious action, but it is clear that this handful of people have twisted themselves into, and have been crooked into, the stumbling blocks that stand between the large majority and a decent future. The most pitiful thing is that these few people who are responsible for the perpetration of the evils that torment millions of hapless Nigerian citizens, are commonly known and their misdeeds are apparent to all, but their very many victims are too scared and too subdued to retort, too disillusioned to dare, too hungry and too weak to challenge and too confused to plan and react to their malaise.  Many innocent, oppressed and defrauded fellow citizens therefore think that there is nothing else they can do, but to conform to the whims of their oppressors and prostrate to them for crumbs for survival.

Ordinary people have begun to believe that their only option may be to try and imitate these indecent people, so that they too can get a taste of the action; thus they try to be like them, get into power, know the people in power and enjoy their privileges. Most people now take it for granted, that to have a decent life in Nigeria one must be linked to this indecent power structure. The concepts of merit and competency, vision, public interests and plans have almost completely disappeared from everyday lives and quests. What matters is power; to get a decent life, people indecently search for power through their religions, communities and establishments, and they become Alahaji, Chiefs, Drs., Honourable Pastors and make themselves the friends, associates, errand boys and courtesans of those who have power.

It is now an open secret that most of our people search for power and vie for public office not to serve their fellow citizens, but rather to occupy and use their posts to loot and oppress. Many demand and are unfairly granted state offices as rewards for their loyalty to specific groups and /or individuals.  In this way, power remains in the hands of those individuals and their cohorts, whose lives and deeds clearly and actively hinder majority of Nigerians from getting a decent life, and they therefore continue in their ways unchecked. They have become masters at manipulating their roles, position and power to restrain rather than to uplift the country; all for their own benefit. This minority are typically loud and overfed, whilst the majority of people they are supposed to serve are sick and hungry; they drive luxurious cars in cities full of damaged roads; their answer to the lack of basic amenities is to buy big generators for their personal use, because the nation has no reliable power supply; they go abroad for medical treatment since local hospitals are not up to standard; they build and occupy fenced mansions at prices that most of those, if not non of those, living in Nigeria can ever acquire through pure, constant, hard and honest work.

As we approach the proverbial 2007 crossroad, the ordinary, obvious, simple, straightforward and effective solution for a normal country will be to try to change the way things have been done to date. The people should come together and identify the basic needs of the country, they should search for a group of competent and committed people to lead and manage the country's resources and problems, through necessary transformations. Many Nigerians however, don't believe that Nigeria is a normal country. Even when most people agree on the problems facing the country, and agree on the kind of individuals (and even the names of the individuals) who can solve the problems, there is still a general belief that it will be impossible to get the right people into the right positions.

A lot of Nigerians seem to have an unfathomable, albeit bizarre, perception of politics and power.  When faced with the problems of and solutions for, the country, the general comments are "yes but Nigeria is a different place, it is peculiar, one has to be realistic, this is or that candidate is excellent and qualified but has he or she got money?, it is not possible to change things in this country, that is grammar sir, they will not allow him or her to do good things, he or she is not part of the system he can't win, he or she has no structure, the queue is long, you don't know how much people have invested and stolen to keep themselves in power?". Some well meaning people are now advising their loved ones to stay clear of anything public, because those that lust for power in Nigeria have become like lepers whose hands cannot improve but only damage things.

For those in power (or trying to fight their way into power) for whatever ignoble reasons, any serious talk of transformation or national development agendas is discernibly considered a tedious waste of time; for their victims it is sadly considered mere wishful thinking. Regrettably, most of the decent people tend to give up, because they consider the whole situation too indecent to get involved in. Some radical thinkers are now proposing that since the people causing all the havoc and misery are in fact just a handful, Nigerians should just list them, line them up and get rid of them a la Rawlings!

Maybe we can come to an agreement to find some understanding and reach a settlement, so that we can turn back the reigning destructive fatalism and avoid the prospected ghoulish projects for Nigeria. After all, even those who wreck our country or seek to loot it can be amiable people and have people who love them.

To help find some solutions, I have gone out of my way to raise my level of understanding of Nigerian politics and its realism, done some intensive courses in the home based and foreign established institutions which are our Bukas and Beer parlours, where serious and informed opinions are formed over bowls of pepper soup and cold bottles of beer, and explained by experienced and well-versed elites and socialites. These visitations have been enlightening and fruitful; it has helped me in my search for solutions and I have therefore come up with some indecent proposals which I think might save us time, horror, money and perhaps might allow us manage our resources for the benefit of a decent future.

Let us start with a proposal for those who just want to cling to power, and think of nothing but just clinging to power. I have been informed and educated by reliable sources that many of them do so because of fear. They cling to their positions because they dread what their successor might discover about them, fearing that after years in the palace of power they might be sent to jail for their misdeeds. Quite understandably, these people will do anything to stay in power, and try to ensure that their power is only ever transferred to incompetent followers who can be relied upon not look into their misdeeds - all at the expense of the advancement of the country, of course. They need not worry, they underestimate Nigerians; we have a lot of resources and can create even more, if only they will allow capable people to take charge of the affairs of the country. There is a way out for those that desperately cling to power: all they need do is to confess their sins, promise not to do so again and stay away from seeking public office for sixty years. After all, "… to err is human and to forgive and forget is African". We can set up a scheme and we can call it the Rulers Repentant Scheme (RRS) and get Alhaji (Dr.) Bukar Abba Ibrahim (FNIQS), to manage the scheme. Many will ask the looters to refund their loot, but I suggest that they need not refund everything they have stolen. We can get somebody (Dele Momodu comes to mind) to help establish how much participants in the Rulers Repentant Scheme (RRS) need to lead a befitting life then they can voluntarily return the rest, which we are sure will still be enough to boost national finances considerably.

Then there are those who want power just as a title to append to their names. They just want to be called Honourable or addressed as your Excellency; they don't have any actual political plans and are too busy with other things to be bothered about any responsibility of governance. No problem at all; they just need to let the country know what title they want and honorary democratic titles will be created and bestowed on them, while competent and committed, democratically elected officers get on with the demanding job of running the country. The honourable title-holders will be invited to cut ribbons and appear in newspapers and glossy magazines and TV programmes of their choice. Some voluntary protocol officers will be needed to manage their outings; suggestions are welcome.

Political power is also deemed a sure and brief route to making money in Nigeria.  Like some religious entrepreneurs, some now invest copious amounts of money into being elected to then reap even larger profits and earn dividends by looting the country, and backing legislations and policies that are manifestly detrimental to the people of the country. For these people I propose we make accessible a pool of financial and business consultants with proven track records that can help them discover other means of making a remarkable amount of money, but with a relatively low risk factor compared to what they might face in politics. These political entrepreneurs need to be reminded that they might lose elections, be impeached, be overthrown, be insulted, derided and disgraced by irreverent intellectuals, cursed by suffering masses and even killed by unknown murders.

There is another group of people, I have been informed, that want power because they think they are just born to rule or that they deserve public and political appointments as compensation for their loyalty to their parents and political godfathers. I am told that these are mostly young people, mainly children or spouses (rarely the first ones) of present and past political and public figures. They feel their greatest assets are their connections and ability to mix with the powerful. They want political and public offices simply because they feel they should be there, and they will support and aid anyone that will get them there, better still, if it is someone that can not decipher or that can live comfortably with their intentions or lack of it. My proposal for these people is to leave the demanding and sensitive arena of political life and focus on using their assets elsewhere in private and social circles. Scholars of the British political system and society will be able to advise on how the scions of that society survive without hampering the wheel of progress.

I have been told that even when capable and committed people get into government, certain vices and factors tend to creep in, to corrupt them and twist them into making harmful decisions at the expense of the country. A very common vice to those in power seems be carnal. The stories I have been told of people like JFK, Bill Clinton, and more recently of David Blunkett and John Prescott indicate that the sex and politics tango appears to be a global feature. The problem with it in Nigeria is the price. Tales abound of mistresses (and now toy-boys I am told) that are bought cars and houses, awarded contracts, and appointed into offices for their bedroom services. This is too expensive! There is a cheaper way to get these services. All the people with access to the Nigerian treasury need do is to declare their tastes, and then an international announcement can be made for volunteers to come and take care of the needs of Nigerians rulers. We can get the Italian porn star Cicciolina to chair the campaign, perhaps she will provide some services herself, she has offered in the past, and I am sure that if the project is well coordinated a lot of people will join her at no cost to the country's treasury.

We must of course not forget the petty Nigerians and their indecent behaviours and activities. The petty Nigerians are the people who, because of hunger, greed and or socio-political myopia sell their decent tomorrow for an indecent price today. They take money from and manifestly abet ill intentioned, incompetent and unscrupulous people to get into power. For many reasons I will discuss elsewhere, the petty Nigerian cannot understand that a person who gives you money because he says he wants to serve you, is simply lying. The petty Nigerian cannot understand that a person who invests so much of his own personal funds into getting into power, will want that money back, and will take it plus interest, at detrimental costs to the country. There will be other occasions to analyse, inform and educate the petty Nigerians; for now, my indecent proposal for them is to take money from whoever offers them money to get into power, but then they must do everything possible to make sure that person stays out of power.

This list of indecent proposals can be extended, and I will be very glad to hear from others that have similar proposals. It will also be great to hear from those that have different kind of proposals that can help restore a decent Nigeria. Nigeria is not made of only the petty and the conformist. I am sure that there are a lot of good people out there who are idealistic, principled, honest and maybe even puritan - and I will not be surprised if after reading these proposals, they frown their faces and feel uncomfortable, because they find these ideas so prosaic and licentious. These good people have however been too silent for too long, their actions are not felt, their positions unknown to most. Nigeria really can't wait much longer, and all I can say to the good people, is to either join us in implementing these indecent proposals or come up with your own decent proposal for a decent future.

Anthony A. Kila