The Children Are Watching

Posted: March 25, 2013 in Uncategorized

By Ochereome Nnanna

AN old adage says when the mother goat chews the cud her kids always watch. They know that one day soon they will no longer be fed on mother’s milk.

To survive as goats they will have to forage and chew the cud. Leaders in Nigeria either do not know or care whether they are being watched by us followers. They think we are fools or can be fooled forever.

Even a fool soon gets wise when fooled several times. As Dr. Michael Okpara would say: “First fool no be fool. Na second fool be proper foolish”.

I used to live in a small estate of eighteen apartments. The landlord was old and retired to his hometown, Abeokuta. Majority of the tenants fell into the stupid habit of refusing to pay their monthly maintenance fees.

Because of this, the security guards (mai gad) were always owed their wages. Many of them left without notice. One day, the mai gad of the day boldly walked up to us in one of our monthly compound meetings and started a high-pitched torrent of abuse in Pidgin spiced with Hausa because he was being owed for two months.

He blasted us for owing him his paltry salary while most of us owned two to three cars all parked inside the compound. Then he angrily walked away. I applauded. Needless to say, most of the chronic debtors never attended our meetings.

It is not uncommon to see federal legislators spending hundreds of millions of naira on “giving back” projects in their constituencies, which appears to justify the perception that the “stealing” is still going on. Otherwise, where do they get the money from?

They simply fed off the sacrifices of the few responsible tenants. This mai gad could have been a fearless writer or social critic if he were educated. The following day he left, but not before deflating the tyres of all vehicles belonging to the chronic debtors!

Last week we read the story of one Garba Sani, a mai gad who was not as charitable. He was paid N12,000 a month to guard a car dealership facility in Lagos worth millions of naira. Being of criminal mindset, he invited some accomplices at night and they carted away goods worth N28 million! When he was caught and paraded at the Lagos Police Command headquarters, Ikeja, Garba said the very thing that made me write this piece. A newspaper quoted him as saying:

“I’m not an armed robber. I was on duty and I called them (other suspects) and we took the goods. We did not carry guns. We have a lot of senators looting and we also need money. There are many thieves in Nigeria and most of us are jobless youths, we have nothing. I earn N12, 000 a month which is too small. We are all criminals in Nigeria and we have criminal blood in our body so nobody should pretend.”

A smartypant, eh?

But look at that drivel about all Nigerians being criminals, with senators taking a direct hit. Criminals also watch television and read newspapers, so they are watching the leaders. They have moral alibis to justify their life of crime, but it does not stop the fact that Garba and his accomplices will say goodbye to their freedom for a long time to come, while the “senators” (leaders) he refers to may yet have their own day of reckoning to atone for their sins against society.

Corruption in Nigeria is gradually
assuming the proportions that Mobutu Sese Seko Kuku Ngbendu Wa Za Banga took it to in former Zaire (now Democratic Republic of Congo). According to Martin Meredith in his book: The Fate of Africa, A History of Fifty Years of Independence, “Mobutu himself relied on corruption to hold the system together and to keep himself in power. Moreover, he publicly condoned it. “If you steal do not steal too much at a time, you may be arrested”, he told party delegates. “Yibana mayele – steal cleverly, little by little”.

Even though the brazen corruption in the National Assembly during the Olusegun Obasanjo years (often fuelled by frequent briberies from the Presidency) has apparently dropped, the legislators are still seen as the flagship of bribery and corruption. It is not uncommon to see federal legislators spending hundreds of millions of naira on “giving back” projects in their constituencies, which appears to justify the perception that the “stealing” is still going on. Otherwise, where do they get the money from? At the same time, I believe that there is a lot more corruption in the Executive and the Judiciary than the Legislature, and the awareness of this is responsible for the volatility in society manifesting in terrorism, kidnapping, violent robberies, oil thievery, pipeline vandalism, killings for money rituals and cultism among the youth.

We need someone who will restore confidence in leadership. Singapore legendary leader, Lee Kuan Yew says: “if I have to choose one word to explain why Singapore succeeded, it is CONFIDENCE”. We need someone who will know that the people are watching his every step and listening to everything he says to know whether we should resume investing our hopes in the system and the country at large. Not people who will leave some of us loudly proclaiming that we are all criminals and no one should pretend. We ALL aren’t anything of the sort.

We need leaders who will know that paying a worker a minimum wage of N18,000 per month amounts to encouraging him to steal, since that amount is probably not enough to take him to work and home, let alone paying other necessary bills. Social injustice, whereby the system is built to benefit those at the top while trampling underfoot the weak and helpless only breeds the violent crimes we see everywhere we look.

Why would the system allow some slimy criminals in public offices to dip their dirty fingers into the till where the pension of our policemen and women is kept and steal them in billions? They are now beyond the Mobutu mantra of yibana mayele.

We need to learn from those who have succeeded in transforming their societies. Yew made it clear all you need for a society to be stable for development is fairness. Never offend a society’s sense of fairness. In Nigeria, everybody is complaining about real or imagined marginalisation. When the civil war ended the country levied marginalisation against the Igbo people. Now, everybody else is crying and hurting.

Who will heal this country?

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