WHO IS THE GOVERNMENT?
Pastor Nosa Idahosa
In the lyrics of the song of a famous musician; “The man in the mirror”. He wrote;
I’m gonna make a change
For once in my life
It’s gonna feel real good
Gonna make a difference
Gonna make it right
I’m starting with the man in the mirror
I’m asking him to change his ways
And no message could’ve been any clearer
If they wanna make the world a better place
Take a look at yourself and then make a change
So, who is the government? When I worked in the Oil and Gas environment in Delta State of Nigeria, there was one fellow called government. Anyhow, there was nothing government about this person except the name itself. He never commanded any authority, neither did the people look to him for anything but we knew his name was government.
As you travel around Africa, you come across very corrupt governments. In fact, corruption is so endemic in Africa that you almost think the various governments are competing to outperform one another on the corruption scale. (Apology to a very few that are trying to make a difference). Then, you hear the citizens of the various countries complaining against the governments. And the most popular statement is; ‘the government is corrupt’.
Who in Africa is called ‘government’ who is so corrupt? Indeed, it is so true that the system is mired in corruption, which is reflected in the reality that the continent appears to be going nowhere or perhaps even regressing with echoes of its colonized past repeating itself. For instance, a contract to construct a road is awarded multiple times in different years for thousands of dollars and the road is still never constructed or completed. The governors of certain States in Nigeria for instance, only ruled for eight years but have retirement benefits that are almost equal to the budget of some other states. While civil servants who perhaps worked for over 25 years are entitled to peanuts which are many times not paid. This retirement benefits, the governors fixed for themselves with the help of aids and cronies in the state houses of assembly. It is an open secret that the Nigerian legislators are the highest paid in the world, in a country where the minimum monthly wage is about 50 US dollars.
As a kid, I thought that ‘security vote’ was an allowance for the governors and presidents, until I found my way to the Western world where I found out that it still needs to be accounted for. And that they are funds available to leaders in case of an emergency so that legislative bottleneck is skipped. In Nigeria, it appears the governors just keep it as part of their monthly allowance and they do not have to be accounted for. If I dedicate this blog entirely to the corrupt practices of African leaders, I am sure I will have more than enough to make sufficient paragraphs.
However, one thing we have failed to realize is that the governors and presidents are chosen from amongst us and that the daily practices of stealing and malpractices are what we promote or upgrade into the higher stages when we become governors. For instance, it is close to pure foolishness to think that you will walk into an office in Nigeria to get something done and someone will not expect to be bribed, especially at the government offices.
In 2019, I went into the passport office in Abuja to renew my Nigeria passport and I requested for a certain number of pages. The cost of this passports was written all over the internet in black and white but the officials quoted a different price to me and it was higher than that stated on the internet. When I hesitated and mentioned to them that it was not the advertised cost, I was at the verge of been left to attend to others when I quickly ‘respected myself’ and paid their demanded cost.
Corruption in Nigeria is institutionalized and it could be on an individual or corporate basis but it has become a part of the culture such that if you do not practice it, you are looked upon as strange. For instance, a friend asked an artisan to do a job for him and the artisan swindled him of about a million Naira. When my friend found out, the swindler said ‘Oga, na where man dey work, na there him dey chop’. In other words, I simply took my dues.
The authorities in Nigeria privatized electricity like it is done in many climes of the world. However, that of Nigeria swiftly became a monopoly, riddled with thievery and corruption. So, homes are given bills in Nigeria when they are not even connected to the grid, you may apply for electricity meter and you are told that the meters are free just like bail is free in the police stations, that is if you can wait. If you do not want to wait, you may have to pay some exorbitant amount for the meters. Those who choose to wait, will wait in vain and in darkness as no meters will be supplied because in Nigeria THE PATIENT DOG EATS NO BONE.
The parents aid their children to buy question papers for high school examinations and teachers are bribed to look away when the students are cheating or they even aid the students to answer the questions. The students have even gone ‘high tech’ by using cell phones to receive answers to question during the examinations. All these, paid for by their parents.
If you are voted into or get a government position, your friends, well-wishers and kinsmen, expect to obtain favors and money from you. You are therefore invited to fund-raising ceremonies and made the chief donor. God help you if your donation is not substantial. Also, if you are a member of a church or mosque, you are automatically made the chairman of the building committee. This is because the people expect to profit from the largesse of thievery which you are expected to engage in. And if you do not meet their expectation, you are viewed as a failure. So, in order not to ‘fail’, you have to steal.
So, as the Police official is corrupt, the teacher is corrupt. As the road safety official is corrupt, the local government official is corrupt. As the lecturer is corrupt, the students are corrupt. As the bricklayer is corrupt, the painter is corrupt. As the house maid is corrupt, the driver is corrupt, As the father is corrupt, the mother is corrupt. As the school principal or Vice Chancellor is corrupt, the trader is corrupt. As the doctor is corrupt, the patient is corrupt. So, we are in a society where corruption is the culture and from that society our leaders are elected.
At the end of it all, we all blame the government without looking at the man in the mirror. The man we give the job or we vote for in the elections is from our society of teachers, local government officials, policemen, etc. We therefore should not expect a non-corrupt government to emanate from a corrupt society.
Who exactly is this corrupt person? He looks like a phantom character, but he is not because, you see him or her always as you look at the mirror. So, if you are so eager to see the person who is corrupt, please go to the mirror.
As we approach 2023 and the elections are drawing near, check yourself. For every bribe you take to vote for a candidate, you are the man in the mirror and you are the government. For every loaf of bread you give, so you could be voted for, you are the man in the mirror and therefore the government. You will therefore quickly find out that
WE ARE ALL THE GOVERNMENT.