Ending Senility In Nigeria’s Political Terrain, By Olurotimi Osha
…we should do something fast about moribund cultures being exploited to prop incompetent politicians and players in government. We do not need to wait to see 93-year old senators, presidents and “chairmen.” They will not take us to the promised land that flows with milk and honey. There was only one Moses, and he was not Nigerian.
Recently, my childhood friend and I were contemplating how the prevalent culture of sycophancy could be eradicated in Nigeria. The culture that neither voices its ire nor raises fury when a near senile 85-year-old still holds on to power. (What new things was the 93-year-old Mugabe going to do for Zimbabwe?) I am just throwing a random number out there, and not talking about a specific 85-year-old ruling in Nigeria (I don’t know of any).
Nigeria is our precious and lovely jewel. And continuing with the metaphor of youth, beauty and femininity, whoever saw a beautiful nubile woman, who wanted to be in a romance with a nonagenarian, when there are young bucks around? She would literally be in bondage: and Nigeria is in bondage to these oppressive aged men, whose best days are long gone. They have literally become an albatross on youthful Nigeria’s neck.
Many of these aged men holding on to power neither groom nor mentor energetic younger men and women to smoothly transition into power, like President Boris Yeltsin did with Vladimir Putin—then in his 40s—in Russia. George Washington surrounded himself with able younger men, like Thomas Jefferson and Alexander Hamilton, who would direct the future affairs of the fledgling United States.
In fact, many of the aged and clearly not so competent political actors in Nigeria, often came into power as young men. Consider the era of coup plotters: General Gowon became head of state before he was 33 years old. General Obasanjo assumed power before he was 40 years old; both Generals Buhari and Babangida seized power before they were 45 years old. And the cycle is almost complete: Military dictator Obasanjo, military dictator Buhari, military dictator Babangida… Civilian President Obasanjo, civilian President Buhari… Civilian President Babangida? And then Nigerians are free at last?
These same players directed the affairs of the nation, which led to its decline. Yet, they still wish to feature in the governance of the nation? Reasonable folks do not ask people who messed things up, as they “paid themselves” (an egregious euphemism for embezzlement) to return to fix what they messed up, while they are paid again. On the part of these aged political players recycling themselves, is it not rather conceited, if not a tad megalomaniacal, for them to assume they are indispensable to Nigeria’s fortunes? Perhaps it is time Nigerians took precautionary steps to forestall the uncheckered reign of near-megalomaniacal players on its political landscape. We must learn from history that megalomaniacs become Hitlers and Mussolinis. Besides, Nigeria has already had its own Sani Abacha and we suffered enough under him.
…is the premise that there are no young men or women, who are at least as competent as these recycled actors? Experience is overrated in their case: You do not want to perpetuate specialists in failure. These aged men have been shown to be pawns of external elements that are inimical to Nigeria’s progress and unity.
So, is the premise that there are no young men or women, who are at least as competent as these recycled actors? Experience is overrated in their case: You do not want to perpetuate specialists in failure. These aged men have been shown to be pawns of external elements that are inimical to Nigeria’s progress and unity. That is the sum of their experience: as puppets of external elements committed to siphoning off Nigeria’s wealth, and undermining its development.
Furthermore, these aged men are also instruments of exploitation for their incompetent, often elitist, kids and younger family, who use the “daddies” as means of continued access to Nigeria’s goodies: government contracts, the prestige, glamour and pomp of families in power.
Now, back to the issue of culture. My friend and I are both Yorubas. Our culture once revered seasoned (older) folks and assigned an automatic status of respect for them on the account of their having been around for long. We show deference and prostrate, kneel or bow to our elders for just being older, etc. Perpetually. Does this promote a culture of complicity with sycophancy?
My Yoruba friend, who is also a British citizen and who has lived in the UK longer than he has in Nigeria, acknowledged our instinctive Yoruba traits of deferring to our elders, and how it makes it near impossible to challenge their authority – even when it is clearly undeserved/unwarranted. He says even in the UK, it is still reflexive for him to slightly bow, when in the presence of an older Yoruba person. I admit that I do this too.
However, we should do something fast about moribund cultures being exploited to prop incompetent politicians and players in government. We do not need to wait to see 93-year old senators, presidents and “chairmen.” They will not take us to the promised land that flows with milk and honey. There was only one Moses, and he was not Nigerian.
Olurotimi Osha, a doctor of law (JD) candidate at George Washington University Law School, in Washington, DC, has been an investment banker and financial services consultant.