Of Citizens, Accountability, and Democracy
By Ayokunle Ayk Fowosire
Our society is not only the one bounded by longitudes 3 and 15° east of the Meridian and latitudes 4 and 14° north of the Equator; the one with the Rivers Niger and Benue, and them meeting at its centre, or nearly so; the onetime giant of Africa. It is the one in which one must be praised for doing his job, for doing work that he is paid to do, for doing work that he vied for, begged for and swore for, and even called the monkey his uncle for; after all, he may as well not do his job, may very well loot our treasury while at it, may very well not do anything– as we do. And that is our problem.
No, that is not our problem. We fail to properly prosecute officials who fail to fulfill their mandate; who embezzle funds rather than execute worthwhile projects; who turn themselves into multimillion-naira projects that they themselves approve and swiftly execute; who buy bulletproof cars with our money, or swallow our subsidies, or not quite, since we can’t we find our money in their shit, or no longer can; who pride themselves as the lion of the jungle, our jungle, and do not treat us as pride, with pride, as being in the (same) pride with them. And that is our problem.
But that is not our problem. We fail to cry out when a public official refuses to do the work we voted him to do, to do the work we pay him to do; refuses to respect us, our existence and our intelligence; refuses to hearken to us, to hear us, to vote the way we believe, to say the things we want: to not support child marriage, to not condone arrant nonsense in the name of corruption, to not mock our intelligence and call corruption thievery, and call dog, monkey. We fail to cry out when he is not prosecuted, when he dares us with impunity, when he stares us down. And that is our problem.
But that is not our problem. We shout down whoever, whenever, wants to expose the corruption and hypocrisy in our midst. We vilify him, accuse him of sanctimony, and may very well blackmail him. And when these do not work, or seem to, we threaten him, intimidate him, go after his family, or very well send his family after him. We rally about our sullied politician, crumbs in hand bearing witness of his theft, and make televised protests on grounds of ethnic solidarity; and crucify the innocent whistle-blower, force him out of employment and powerlessly watch him become effortlessly the royalty that he always was. And that is our problem.
But that is not our problem. We are a hypocritical lot, always hiding our yansh from others, stinking, yet dousing cologne after cologne, suffering and smiling, and approving of vain glory. And whenever the stench from our inferior orifice surpasses the scent we apply, we would rather blame the company than blame ourselves the manufacturer of stench, than have our asses looked at; and when we eventually do, we must do so overseas, in Germany. We would rather die of hunger than ask for help; we would rather die of kwashiorkor, showing off meat, yet eating our garri with alligator pepper, till the meat spoils and the dogs freshen off it. And that is our problem.
But that is not our problem. We stopped asking questions. And when we did, we stopped craving answers. And when we did, we stopped listening to the response, to verify its veracity, to vacate the villain’s vicinity and vote against his vicious vanity. It is as though the Colonialists took our best minds away to run their affairs for them, and took our commonsense as they left us independent of their presence, but not of their interests, their politics, their gluttony. And that is our problem. That is why we are right here where we are, stagnant, or not quite, stagnating, and jolly well stagnated, the deathly grip of Vested Interests voiding us of air, of life, of sheer progress.
But that is not our problem. We stopped being true to ourselves. We stopped standing for what is right. We stopped being sincere. We cower. We fade. We run. We faint. So much that evil now reigns in the land. Since, as we have come to see, ‘Evil triumph in any society when good men do nothing, and wise men suffer the rules of idiots if they do not struggle for power; bona fide citizens become slaves, when idiots seize the centre stage.’ So that we now find ourselves relegated to the circumference while the politician takes centre stage, and loots us off the stage, in our very sight, unabashed!
And all this while we fold our arms in deference to him, or clap our hands in reverence of him. We watch, arms akimbo, as he takes our money abroad, dumping our wealth overseas, and perhaps some of it beneath seas– anywhere he is certain we can’t know, or reach, or check; anywhere he is certain his bosses the World Powers will not (readily) allow us to go to, citing flimsy excuses as tangible reasons to not approve our Visas, and telling us we are getting better after all.
So that he ruins our economy, humiliates our naira, and insists on being paid in Dollars. He frustrates us so much, so much that those who escape from amongst us have to tarnish our collective image to survive beyond the seas, have to do despicable things, anything, to not be sent back, to not be sent home, to not be denied the better life there where things actually do work.
Yet we vote him back each time. And when his two tenures are over, we vote his kin, and then his kith. We abhor the honest man that will serve us, but not necessary serve us stolen money, or feed us dirty rice, sweet lies, golden lice, or whatever the politician deems us deserving of, even kerosene.
We have sold our souls, our birthright, our foresight. Now we thrive on nothing-goes-for-nothing. We sell our votes for tangible, transient, dividends; we trade our future for ephemeral satisfaction. We do anything to stay alive; anything to save our bodies, save living for the future, living with future generations in mind, living for what is right. And that is our problem, and will continue to be till 2015– but not a moment afterwards.
For it is not over. Nay, there is yet hope. Like Galileo, “I do not feel obliged to believe that the same God who has endowed us with sense, reason, and intellect has intended us to forgo their use.” I feel obliged that we can make things change, and by opening our eyes; and that come 2015 we must, like the crab, safeguard our heads with the proper use of our eyes.
Come 2015, we shall say no to pressure, say no to temperature, say no to explosions, say no to rigging. If they will not kill all of us; then they must let us decide who leads us, who sits for us, who speaks for us. We will not vote the same ones who increase fees and lock up our schools; we will not vote the same ones who sack our doctors yet fly abroad for healthcare; we will not vote the same ones who call off strikes without consulting us, without explaining to us why we must at this time, what our options are, and if we will be doing ourselves the best by calling off our strike.
We will not, come 2015, vote religious people, or holy ones, or perfect ones; lest they start frequenting churches and mosques, kneeling down to be blessed, telling us they are the best thing that has happened to us in like forever. WE are the best thing that has happened to us, we are the only ones who have our own best interests at heart, we are the ones in charge.
And this time, perfection is not the point. We have tried it for 50 years, and it has failed us. If we wanted perfection again, we would confine ourselves to churches and mosques and shrines and plead with God/gods to take over our public institutions, or at the very least send us tried-and-tested angels and spirits to rescue us from these giant holes.
Come 2015, we shall be voting for us.
‘In my opinion what we should be looking for in our public officials is passion, competence, a reputation for integrity and an ability to speak the truth to power, even from the inside.’ Someone who can tell us what we need to hear, and not what (he feels) we want to hear; who can tell us the truth to our goddamn face; who can taunt us, hunt us, spite us with the truth, and nothing but.
Come 2015, we shall have found him, and we shall vote for him. Come 2015. If the World Powers do not break us up by then, if the military do not usurp us by then, if the presidency does not slave us off by then. If the Hypocrite will leave next year, leave forever, leave and forever hold his peace. Then we shall have good citizens, accountable politicians, and a sustainable democracy.
And we shall, come 2015.
#Youths, Save Nigeria. It’s our turn.
Ayk Fowosire (c/o #Ayk_EDIT),
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