If our historical records are not blown out of proportions, former Vice President Atiku Abubakar was the most audacious civilian that has ever occupied that office. Audacious not only in his guts to rebel against his boss’ excesses when the going got tough, but also for almost creating a sort of mini government to stand his ground to Obasanjo’s victimisation in his efforts to succeed his equally ambitious boss. Despite being in the league of that breed of politicians one could dubiously label “veterans”, his strategies always failed to demolish the fences built around him by loyalists of his former boss. Surviving those political checkpoints at all, from charges of corruption to those of insubordination, owes a debt of gratitude to the clout he established, especially his touted discipleship to the late Shehu Musa Yaradua, which was ever extolled to assert his supremacy in that dirtiest of engagements: political antagonism.
But it’s not the politician behind the name that attracts my attention this time, it’s the philanthropist he aspires to be and this becomes news in gauging the reactions of Nigerians to his proposed scholarship scheme where a single candidate will be chosen in an essay contest open for about 50 million youth. Disappointment is the least to expect from a section of Nigerians on Twitter to whom the scholarship scheme is either a publicity stunt or a cruelly stingy sharing of “looted funds”. These Nigerians have no conscience, even where they pretend to exhibit that, as their excuse ends up as grumblings of the needy. Some were just angry because the politician’s money is not enough to go round. And I ask, To what end?
I think it’s a wrong idea to encourage politicians, especially those still active, to fund or even set up a private cause. Doing so does not only legitimise their loots, for those who see every politician as thief, but makes politicking more expensive such that when contenders for political office finally get elected, their primary concern becomes to recover all they wasted on mere parasites who lose their senses when distracted by easy cash. Prebendalism has done enough damage to us already, so we must let politics be strictly for those who can manage public funds and trust, those ready to bring us desired changes. Politicians aren’t fools, they don’t pluck money from trees. The more you task them with sponsoring your PRIVATE projects, the more PUBLIC funds disappear from the treasury. But this is just the situation the Nigerian elite create to keep the masses needy and also to justify their thefts of the common wealth.
Politics in Nigeria is so expensive that whoever manages to scale past the demands of the sycophantic lots only strategises to recoup his finances on being elected. With interest, in quantum. This is the same thing with every political appointment, seen by needy masses as an opportunity by “one of our own” to bring back “our” share of the nation’s resources. And the psychological unrest of the appointees whose houses become tribal convergence centres inspire them to use public funds to settle their friends and tribesmen who are always around to receive the aforementioned share of the dividends.
It is, however, needless to pity the politicians and appointees as many actually convert such patronages to their strengths; the ceaseless stipends doled out earn them the trust and political solidarity of the needy masses who find nothing wrong in, say, a Minister of Education, using funds budgeted for national projects for personal issues. This is the Nigeria the public servants prefer really, a Nigeria of economically dependent masses, a Nigeria where our sycophancy affects policy implementation.
Unless we ally as citizens to demand for a nation of fishermen, not distracted fish-eaters, fishermen who know the boundaries of their rights, this tradition would remain a drawback. There is no hope that we would realise this Nigeria if such dangerous responsibilities are placed on politicians such that they compromise on a functional Nigeria. Unless we recognise that we lose our right to bully our politicians to work as expected when we see them as our private ATMs, we’re forever chained to the feet of elitism. Unless we recognise that we don’t need a kobo from Atiku or any politician to support private causes, there will be no free democracy, and no sympathy for our sufferings. May God save us from us!
Blueprint Newspaper (16/08/2013)
@gimbakakanda (On Twitter)