By Anthony A. Kila
What do you think is the main problem facing Nigeria? Yes, you are not the only that think so.
Go to any part of Nigeria or meet any group of Nigerians even outside their country and ask the people you meet what they think are the main problems facing their country. I have done it and I can assure you that for an overwhelming majority of Nigerians and indeed even non-Nigerians studying or dealing with Nigeria “corruption” is at the very top of their list.
Alas, I do not belong to this overwhelming majority; in my splendid isolation I am convinced that our main problem is not corruption but competence. That is however a topic for another day. Please watch this space.
The idea of corruption being the biggest problem of the country is so accepted that people don’t even examine it anymore. We sort of just know it is there and we all sort of just understand it and we think about it only when it directly affects us like when we are asked for or about to be asked for a bribe or when we see someone get an unmerited privilege. A bit like the clouds in the sky we all talk about before and after the rain.
Let’s face it, by virtue of the privileges they enjoy, holders of public offices maybe immune to the reality of the average citizens; after all they rarely pay for the petrol in their cars or the diesel in their generators and they rarely endure the traffic most Nigerians face. They don’t even really painstakingly save for their house rents or for the deposit for a mortgage. Nor do they feel the pain of decline in our educational system since most of them send their children to private schools or even abroad. These same office holders were however not born in public offices. They were politicians and even ordinary citizens before they became public office holders and as such they should have a memory and a taste of the evil of corruption and other tribulations in the country.
Let me assure you that they have the taste and memory of everything bad with Nigeria. The question then is why are they not passing laws and regulations aimed at solving these problems? The simple short answer is that they cannot solve these problems. They cannot solve these problems because without these problems they will not exist the way they do today.
In every democratic country in the world, it is strictly prohibited for anyone running for office to give out gift, money or promise any kind of favor to voters, be these citizens or delegates. The ideas behind such prohibition are mainly that voters should be convinced not bought and that if buying is allowed then only the rich will be able to buy. To that list add the fear of the ambitious poor politician resorting to steal in order to buy or pay for bought votes.
A simple law that says anybody caught attempting to buy votes either through gift, money or promise any kind of favor will be jailed will solve a lot of problems but which of these politicians will propose such law and worse still how many fellow legislators or governor will support him or her?
Voters and even politicians themselves live with the tangible fear of elections being rigged against their side. A simple law that states that anyone caught rigging any kind of election will be sent to jail and barred from holding public office for say twenty years will rid us of many intruders. Yet, which of these politicians do you think will propose such law? When it comes to elections the cleanest elected politician in the Nigeria of today is a leper.
In their sober moments, a lot of politicians have lamented about the pressures of party demands, godfatherism, and have justified their nimbleness in switching parties or joining and running on platforms of parties on which they have more than a few reservations by saying there is lack of internal democracy in their former party and that there is no real ideological differences between the parties. In their very sober moment they also justify their communion with strange bedfellows by saying they need a structure to run on. Voters in turn just tend to vote for the lesser evil. Things do not need to be this way.
All we need is a law that allows and even enable independent candidacy. Which legislator or governor will promote such law without incurring the wrath of his or her own party?
In this list as you might have noticed I have not included a law against looting of public funds, abusing of public powers. Do our public office holders really need to block public roads when travelling? Do they really need to make those that voted them into power and on whose behalf they claim to act wait whilst they pass with their convoy? I have heard a lot of rubbish about security, their security alas, we hear too little about citizen’s security. If politicians do not feel safe amongst their own people then let them privately and quietly protect themselves. Let them pray as they ask the people to do. If that is not enough then let go out in disguise. It is not difficult to pass and enforce a law that says only ambulances, not even hearses, should be allowed to use sirens. Who would promote such law though? Who will support such law in parliament?
These are very simple things that can easily be done if we have the right people where it matters. To progress, this country needs statesmen (and women) with principles and ideas; we need people that can live for politics but not of politics. Who can you see on the scene that fits the bill? Join me if you can on twitter @anthonykila
*Prof. Kila is Centre Director,
www.ciaps.org. Centre for International Advanced and Professional Studies