Politics and challenges of weak public institutions

By  Andrew A. Erakhrumen


We have repeatedly stated, and still maintain, that the leadership cadre in any society is expected to guide the followers towards ‘proper’ direction that benefits the greater number of the members of that society. That has always been our advocacy. On the other hand, without political will and cooperation, there may be leadership’s inability to accomplish this task. What are we trying to say here? While we believe that most politicians belong to the two sides of same coin, we are also aware that there are exceptions; albeit infinitesimal! Therefore, we want to be on the side of such politicians who sincerely yearn to make a positive difference in the polity. We must, at this point, state that we are not here to make flimsy excuses for any politician but to cite some issues the way they manifest in reality. For instance, politicians may not know the workings of the public institutions, such as the civil service, they want to work with. It will be a tongue in cheek comment if the ongoing massive corruption in the civil service is glossed over. There are positively exuberant politicians who get corrupted by civil (evil) servants whose knowledge of every nook and cranny of public institutions they and their collaborators apply in defrauding the system.

You may ask: why should politicians get involved in the nefarious activities of the organised crime syndicates in the civil service? There is a lot to this than meets the eye! It is always a case of the more you look, the less you see! We cannot exhaustively discuss all the issues in one article. The point here is that Nigerians mostly blame politicians without taking note of an old African adage which states that “the worm (or insect) eating and destroying the vegetable is right on it”. Can you imagine that these civil (evil) servants (also Nigerians) openly criticise politicians as the problem of the country? This is moralless! It is condemnable! All of us (Nigerians) should also be looking at civil servants’ dirty corners instead of only those of the attention-seeking flamboyant politicians who may not even be as “corrupt” as these ‘long-serving’ civil (evil) servants! We know that even if politicians intend to do the correct things, these civil (evil) servants have been known to frustrate and discourage them for evil status quo to be maintained. Vivid examples are available for anyone who cares to know! We are not unaware that those savouring unmerited government consultancies (through these same “evil” servants) will not be comfortable with our opinion here. We ask them: how much, really, is money? Yuval Harari encourages all of us, whatever our beliefs, to question the basic narratives of our world…..and not to be afraid of controversial issues.

Further, the idea “it is our time” by followers, political godfathers and other “decision-makers” may be a serious challenge! Decision-makers exist everywhere but their interest(s) need(s) interrogation! Politicians are not from interstellar space; they (and their followers) are from a society whose shared (cultural) values, collectively, influence their activities. A people usually get the kind of leadership they deserve; as it takes two to tango! That is a reality. It may be disputed but experience has shown that politics is pure self interest (mostly anchored on “self-first and self-alone” ideology) but dressed in silk-woven velvet garb of altruism. This is not only a local phenomenon. International politics also have types of this characteristic. Sponsorships for installation and removal of countries’ regimes have been traced, in many cases, to clandestine hands located far beyond the borders of such countries! As they say “there is no morality in international political affairs”. It is just a game of interest! There is, likely, no crisis in any part of the world that does not have international influences. Therefore, the fear of these powerful interests is the beginning of wisdom for many politicians particularly those in under-developing countries like Nigeria. So, written and unwritten ‘pacts’ are reached with these powerful interests; figuratively, in order for ‘sand’ not to be poured into the politicians’ ‘gaari’ in those under-developing countries! Thus, for the discerning, our politicians are simply comprador bourgeoisies to the powerful foreign interests!

Since it is all a game of interest, it will be difficult to moralise. If you cannot think deeply, someone will do it – to benefit himself/herself – not for you! No one will, willingly, solve your problem for you! These constitute some of the reasons “good” politicians hit brick wall in governance. As said earlier, we are not defending them! Nevertheless, for there to be a meaningful development in Nigeria, a sincere consensus, that things must be correctly done, should be reached; and we should all diligently and tenaciously do follow-up on this agreement – publicly and privately. That is the core of what other developed countries have been able to do for themselves irrespective of the various local and foreign ‘crimes’ they have committed! This life of senseless unproductive deception and planlessness will not help us as a people. The quest for sincere nation-building cannot be achieved only on paper. Nigerians always pay lip service to the idea of building working institutions; however, for institutions to sustainably work, smoothly, there must be a massive organic support devoid of fear or favour! The lack of this type of support has been a major impediment standing against ensuring working institutions in this part of the world. Continuing the current heavy monetisation of Nigeria’s political space will also keep the country where it currently is!

In closing, we will like to ask: does Nigeria really have a well-defined foreign policy in the last twenty years? Well now, we are not oblivious of the possibility of some disagreeing with our opinions expressed here and elsewhere! Hence, we expect sensible rebuttal to engender robust and enlightening intellectual discussion since no one is an island of knowledge. We are not referring to, or expecting, silliness from brainless shallow-thinking internet/web rats that are incapable of stringing sensible coherent lines together! Check your surroundings, these dimwits – many of whom are educated illiterates – like to taunt and insult intellectuals, they are quick at quoting people out of context, dwelling on obscenities and highlighting inanities!  We encounter them, with no reasonable stuff to package as presentable content, online and offline! They have time that we do not have – to waste! Perhaps, some of them are working for their paymaster(s); that is not our headache. It is theirs! The ink in our pen is too precious to be expended on worthlessness! Having said that, it is important to reinforce the fact that this is our country that we must all wish it well!  Consequently, all well-meaning Nigerians and non-Nigerians alike should join the discussion on how to move it positively forward. Positive discussions can never be too much for Nigeria.

*Andrew A. Erakhrumen currently teaches at the Department of Forest Resources and Wildlife Management, University of Benin, Benin City, Nigeria.


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