The secret in our politics, By Kenneth Amaeshi
In the end we are simply our politics!
Elections are very revealing, and Nigerians are very predictable. We love our woes – bad leadership, corruption, nepotism, tribalism, poor infrastructure, weak institutions, poverty, et cetera. Social media platforms thrive high on this negative energy. Leaders and politicians get a large chunk of the blame, and the ordinary Nigerian is the victim. This is usually the trend, but how true is this narrative?
It is not in doubt that Nigeria is a country of many conflicting tales. For example, it is said to be one of those countries where one can easily make it big, yet it is tormented by extreme poverty. If luck shines on you, which in this case simply means being in the “right” network with the appropriate social capital, your fortunes can quickly transform from dire poverty to stupendous wealth overnight, irrespective of your educational attainments and work experience. The source of wealth is usually immaterial. What matters is that you have made it and you are made. Any other thing beyond that is irrelevant. You are a hero henceforth and expecting to be recognised (if not worshipped) by society is not out of place.
What is rather out of place is the denigration of education. The Nigerian constitution does not expect much education from our politicians and leaders – although they will eventually end up managing the huge resources and assets of the country and her educational system. This says a lot. Ironically, it seems the politicians are keen to outcompete each other in their lack of and disdain for education, by the rising number of those who have either lost their certificates or possess bogus academic qualifications. But who cares about lost educational certificates and dodgy academic qualifications, as long as votes are won and bought, as the case may be?
However, when you dig deep beneath the conflicting tales, it quickly becomes obvious that the leaders and politicians are products of the same society as those who complain about them. Even the leaders and politicians engage in the same blame game. We are the society we create. We all know the problems as well as the solutions. So, why is nothing changing?
The answer is simple: Indiscipline. We all benefit from this indiscipline, at one point or the other, to our collective disadvantage.
Once you have made it, you can then truly enjoy Nigeria by creating your own private laws and living above the laws of the land. Societal rules and regulations are seen as unnecessary encumbrances. This can range from the procurement of public contracts to the simple act of queuing for public services. You can afford to flout traffic rules, for instance, and when you are called to order by the law enforcement agents, you can easily reach out to their bosses and cancel the orders. That’s exactly what it means to be free and “big” in Nigeria.
But not everyone is that lucky. The unlucky ones just need to wait for their turn, if it ever comes. Whilst they wait, they gnash their teeth, moan, wallow in powerlessness, curse their lot or escape the country. Many emigration decisions are borne out of the avoidable frustrations of the system. Who wouldn’t look for better options – even if it means crossing perilous deserts and seas at the risk of one’s life?
Either way, the one thing both groups have in common is their insatiable quest for shortcuts. At the slightest prompt, the average Nigerian (both rich and poor) is keen to explore shortcuts. The culture of shortcuts is at the heart of the many challenges confronting the country today and reflects what we have inadvertently become. Any attempt to resist it is easily ridiculed and caricatured.
Yet, when Nigerians find themselves in organised climes, they queue and follow laid down rules. Surprisingly, what they often fail to appreciate is that the same rules and regulations they flout in Nigeria are behind the success and progress of the developed economies. The only difference between them and us is that it takes a lot of discipline to create and implement good laws and we are not willing to make such investments and sacrifices. This discipline, in turn, translates to the creation of effective institutions that help societies develop and flourish. Perhaps, this could be the missing link in our developmental trajectory. Instead of investing in systems of discipline, we have cultivated and enhanced systems of indiscipline.
In that regard, to understand our lack of development is to look at our culture of indiscipline and recklessness. This culture reflects in many things we do. From how our roads are marked and used to how our houses are built and inhabited. Our hospitals, schools, and places of work and worship are also often victims of this lack of attention to details. “Manage it!” seems to be the attitude. It is very easy to be labelled as one suffering from the infamous obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD) if one insists that simple things, such as emails and text messages, are well formatted. This lack of attention to details, in itself, is a societal burden.
Attention to details is not an easy ask. It literally tasks your whole being. Think of a well-manicured garden, a well-set dining table or the precision required to land an airplane on a well-marked air tarmac. Great scientific and technological innovations are borne out of studiousness anchored on the culture of collective discipline. Imagine what it takes to land a rocket on the moon or what it takes to drill the bottom of oceans for crude oil. The culture of collective discipline distinguishes successful societies from ineffective societies.
Notwithstanding, attention to details requires a lot of discipline. And in many ways, to act with discipline is basically to swim against nature. It involves a lot of self-restrain and delayed gratification. To excel in indiscipline is to thrive in the chaotic state of nature and lies at the heart of the many ills in societies today. Patience is no longer a virtue. The only thing that works is to be on the fast lane for everything in the name of presumed agility. Things cannot continue this way. Indiscipline needs to be tamed to create livable societies. This is where education comes in.
Education is not an easy task either. It is a struggle against ignorance. Education is also expensive. Those who know its value take the pains to invest in it, no matter the odds. True education disciplines both the mind and the body in the true spirit of culture building. No wonder areas of specialisation are also described as disciplines. It is in the discipline that these disciplines confer on the mind and body that societies are positively and progressively re-created.
Unfortunately, poor education has continued to bedevil many developing economies. Generations are lost and are difficult to recover. If this trend is not halted and the education system is not fixed, our progress will be very much limited. In my view, this should be the key priority of politicians and leaders.
Unfortunately, too, investments in education are not that glamorous. They hardly meet the demands of the optics of politics. Politics is sadly showbiz. Hence, investments in education are likely to be relegated to the background.
Indiscipline is the bane of Nigeria. It is the secret in our politics. However, without good education, we are all doomed! And any politics that neglects this is simply awful. And the choice is ours, because in the end we are simply our politics!