One thing must be clear, a tree will always bear fruit after it’s kind. It is very unusual for you to find an orange fruit on an apple tree. Make the tree good and its fruit would be good was the advice of Jesus Christ.
While some people believe that politics is a game, some think it as a business and some see it as a means to an end. It is therefore very unlikely for you to find any politician who lacks motive (right or wrong) in politics. The point is, no one accidentally becomes a politician, people in politics are men and women of motives, ambitions and strategic intentions. For a joy set ahead of them they opt for a public life. That joy ranges from fame to wealth, power and opportunity. The word ‘opportunity’ there means different things, depending on who is involved. To a good person, it could mean opportunity to serve the people, while a bad or morally bankrupt person could see it as an opportunity to steal or indulge himself while in office.
From America to Asia and to Europe, Politicians are strategic people; however, due to the strength of their institutions of law and order, their tendencies are put under checks and balances. In Africa, the situation is quite different, for while Politicians have tendencies to take advantage of the opportunities to indulge themselves and even embezzle public funds, institutions of law and order are so weak that they themselves are under the whims and caprices of the corrupt elements in government.
Among other things, I have discovered three reasons (which in my opinion are very germane) why Nigerian Politicians are more corrupt than their peers abroad:
1.) NIGERIANS DON’T DEMAND INTEGRITY FROM PUBLIC OFFICE HOLDERS
Perhaps you think am wrong, pause a little bit and reflect on your past experiences as a child growing up in the village or town of your birth; how much demand was placed on your integrity? Did anyone give you the impression that your words and your works must be same? Were you always expected to say the truth in all circumstances? Growing up, many of us had to learn how to say a thing and really mean it outside our cultures and societies. We were taught to think only about ourselves and try every possible way to survive. With this kind of attitude, Nigerians often believe that things will be alright, without having any plan on how to make things alright. People come back home from only God knows where, and we don’t question how they got the money they are spending. We give titles to people who made money from questionable means and yet expect the coming generations to follow the slow (but sure) path to the top. It our lack of interest in integrity that really fuels corruption in government across the arms and the tiers.
2.) NIGERIANS DON’T APPRECIATE ACT OF SERVICE
Some days ago, I was trekking through a pedestrian path somewhere in Maitama in Abuja; and then I saw a woman in early 50s or late 40s sweeping the path. As soon as I got to her side, I said, “Well done Ma!” While that greeting may seem random, the question is, “How many Nigerians appreciate men and women who serve them?” Usually, when the thought of showing appreciation comes to our minds, we often respond with, aren’t they paid to do the jobs? While they may be paid, but still require appreciation from us if they must do their duty wholeheartedly.
Nigerian Politicians who feel that their people never truly or sincerely say well done; wouldn’t want to give his life or her life for the cause of the people. When we show our appreciation to those who serve, then we are telling them to fire on. From the villages to the cities of power, we must show appreciation. If somebody is giving his or her to a cause bigger than himself or herself, such a person must be shown that we do appreciate him or her. If we appreciate our Politicians more, they will have lesser will or incentives to steal from us.
3.) NIGERIANS DON’T CELEBRATE EXCELLENCE AND HARD WORK IN SERVICE
I have come to realize that the only thing that makes a thing to be repeated is if the thing is celebrated. Whatever you want a man to do again and again, you must celebrate it when done – even at the first time. The question is, “Who do we celebrate in Nigeria today?” “Who are our celebrities?” We celebrate the make money quick activities, we sponsor reality shows that makes someone a millionaire in weeks of living in a house (E.g. Big Brother Naija). We celebrate people who became millionaires by signing documents, changing figures. In fact, our refusal to honour and celebrate people of character, competence and sacrifices have eroded our political space of good men and women. We now have dancers, bouncers and weed smokers in public offices. The question is, how long we will put up with these anomalies in public governance?
I wish Nigerians (including myself) a quick recovery of our National sense of service, probity and excellence. God bless Nigeria, God bless you!
President, Centre for New Dimension Leadership, Abuja.