Those of us who have members of the political class, especially the ones in public office, as family members or friends have a responsibility to hold and call them to account. Wives, husbands, children, relatives and other loved ones of public office holders need to talk to them. In case these politicians have shielded themselves from public opinion, their loved ones need to give them a reality check.
In doing that, one way to make the message strike home is by telling their beloved (father or mother or brother or sister) politician that all available positions in ignominy in public office and service have been taken. There is no new record to be made in that respect. Current state governors should be told that they cannot be the first to loot their state treasury or the first to award all the state contracts to fictitious companies set up through proxies to siphon all monthly allocations from the Federation Account. They cannot be the first to commission new roads, new bridges, new hospitals, new industries, new face of this and new face of that only on the pages of newspapers. Neither can they be the first to marry another wife, or other wives, in office nor the first to be associating with shady businesspeople while in office.
Local council administrators and legislators, state and national law-makers, heads of MDAs (ministries, departments and agencies) and civil servants at local, state and federal levels also need to be given the same warning. The ignominious positions of chief kleptomaniac of council funds, most corrupt inspector-general of police ever or his runner-up, biggest looter of donor funds meant for rural projects, chief converter of constituency project funds to ‘family support’ or the runner-up position and chief ‘cronyist’/’nepotist’ in the public service or its runner-up position, have all been taken. There are no more contests for positions that come near to, equal or overtake those awarded to people who played ignoble roles in the national identity card scam, the Halliburton deals, the Nigeria Ports Authority contract scandal, the 2007 electoral fraud, etc.
Public servants should be admonished in clear terms that all those positions have been taken. The only slots we have available, which they should strive for include: the most incorruptible governor ever, the governor that improved the life and fortune of a generation of his people, the public servant that created a new benchmark for public service, the INEC chairman or woman whose record of organising free and fair elections angels cannot better, the chair of the board of a public parastatal that plugged all the loopholes exploited by corrupt officials, the most incorruptible inspector-general of police who curbed crimes to the barest minimum, the most distinguished senator ever (distinguished by distinguishing himself from the self-first-before-the-nation attitude of his colleagues), the most honourable member of the House of Representatives or State Houses of Assembly (most honourable because s/he puts honour and integrity above the dishonourable and selfish interests other members pursue).
For those who missed their chance to position themselves for any of the noble awards when they were in public office, there is a second chance beckoning. No, it may not be a chance to return to their former positions and make amends. But there is an opportunity to make a clean break with the past and come clean about atrocities committed in public office and own up to ignoble roles played in the past, resulting in the return to the public treasury of any and everything stolen. Our records don’t seem to indicate that anyone has ever done that. So hurry up. Be the first to do so and your name will be erased from the list of corrupt ex-public servants in people’s minds and etched in gold not only on people’s minds but also in public records.
You have no idea the domino effect this could create – a long chain of ex-this and ex-that making public repentance and restitution. It could even go beyond there to the grass roots where ordinary people who have defrauded their neighbours or otherwise wronged fellow citizens begin to confess their sins and make restitution. Your bold and courageous action could set off a series of events that will lead to national repentance and renewal.
For those still in public office, it will, no doubt, take a lot of self-sacrifice, akin to dying to self, for them to be able to shun the popular pursuit of using public office to follow in the footsteps of previous occupants who have taken up ‘distinguished’ positions in the Hall of Shame. But the sacrifice will be well worth it, not only in this life but also in that to come. Their example will be a reference point for others and will be used to inspire generations to come.
It is easy for the grass roots to point to the elite as those who need to sacrifice selfish pursuits and fail to see that they too have a part to play. By dying to self, ordinary people will restrain themselves from putting unnecessary pressure on their privileged relative to enrich herself from the common till. Through self-sacrifice, they will find themselves not only shunning attempts by their privileged relative to present them with gifts procured with the proceeds from corruption, but condemning the act and calling their relative to account for her wrongdoings.
The common man should not claim that his dying to self can play no part in nation-building because he thinks his life is of no consequence to the nation. That only seems to be the case when he fails to see how connected and interdependent we all are – with our actions and inactions helping to kick-start, continue, accelerate or otherwise, slowdown or end all manner of cause-and-effect cycles operating in the nation. A partner in the marital union whose only interest is his/her sexual satisfaction without any concern for the spouse whom s/he constantly denigrates and abuses, has not died to self-centred and primordial instincts. S/he may not realise how downright wicked s/he is and how much of a contributor s/he is to the degradation of life in Nigeria. S/he is possibly ignorant that s/he is one of the reasons the spouse and other (indirect) victims and witnesses of his/her actions regret life as a Nigerian.
The same goes to the irresponsible community leader who begins each day in a drunken stupor, the bribe-collecting government official who has mastered the art of kickbacks and ‘ten percents,’ the policeman extorting money from hapless road users and the traditional ruler who specialises in awarding traditional titles to shady characters for filthy lucre. They are probably ignorant of how these vices add up to the dehumanisation of life in the country. Nigeria’s good requires that we give up and die to these vices.
If the members of the IBB (Babangida) administration, alleged to have elevated graft and corruption to state policy, had elected to eschew and die to greed and avarice, Nigeria may have followed a different path probably leading to moral rectitude and integrity in the conduct of state affairs of all the administrations that have come since then. Similarly, if officials of the OBJ (Obasanjo) administration, accused of being the biggest rigger in Nigeria’s electoral history, had died to self and the desire to win at all cost, Nigeria’s last general elections would have been free and fair in the mould of the ‘June 12’ elections and become the benchmark for all future elections.
It is easy for the public to pontificate about how corrupt people in government are destroying Nigeria and fail to see how their own corrupt tendencies at individual, family, group or/and community levels are tearing Nigeria apart and increasing anger and angst in the land. So, in seeking to hold their relatives in public office to account and remind them that there is no new record to be made in ignominy, the public must first talk to themselves. They must tell themselves that they cannot be the first wives, husbands, children, relatives and other loved ones of public office holders to encourage, pressure and goad public servants into doing the unconscionable while in office. But they can choose to be the first, or second or maybe third, to do otherwise.