Never got love from a government man
Heading downstream till the levee gives in
What can I do to get the money
We ain’t got the money, we ain’t getting out
– Major Lazer ft Amber (Get free)
Last week, as news of former power minister Barth Nnaji’s “resignation” hit the inter-webs, some interesting, seemingly prophetic email conversations I had with a foreigner friend, who was very interested in the power project a while ago immediately came to my mind.
My friend, like many Nigerians was painfully aware of how our power problems were holding back the tides of potential that could easily make us a global economic force. He was also very confident Barth Nnaji was the man to make this happen. I was more skeptical. Like most Nigerians, I was privy to the immense conflict of interest Nnaji dealing in and with the
Power project represented. There was no way that wouldn’t get in the way at one point. “I don’t think the power project will go anywhere.” I would write my friend. “We’ll do a song and dance about it and close to the next elections, he’ll be fired without the process getting completed”. At first it seemed like I was going to be proven wrong. Barth seemed to be working.
“You need to believe in Nigeria a bit more.” my friend would write back. Truth be told I was actually considering it.
Then came the delays. Soon enough, our enthusiasm slid into measured optimism, then prayerful hope; until it slowly but surely hit the rock bottom of bitter skepticism. By late summer, after more than a few major players had dropped their bids, it became apparent to everyone that not only was the power privatization process failed, it was far from fair and balanced.
Last week, after the circumstances around Barth’s exit were released, I sent my friend the news story. The email subject line was “I told you so”. He replied with one line : “How does Nigeria do this to people?”
You see, part of my friend’s belief in the power privatization process was this idea that since Prof Nnaji was an expatriate technocrat, he couldn’t possibly devolve to the corruption. Alas, this proved false, as it often does. Even the data shows, many of our most corrupt politicians have had the luxury of studying and working in more developed, less corrupt countries. So one must wonder, what happens to our repatriated talent between the moment Lagos’ moist and heavy air hits their nostrils at Murtala Mohammed International Airport and government house that transforms decent, idealistic, integrity filled and knowledgeable professionals to dumb, corrupt, scheming politicians?
Now the truth is I really have no idea, but as usual I have a theory. You see, I am increasingly getting the sense that corruption might be motivated as much by incredible greed as it is by a need to create a fantasy world of achievement. Politicians facing systemic failure despite their best intentions, decide instead to bask in the sense of flase achievement stolen funds gives them. To make things worse, our materialistic culture definitely feeds this perception of money as equivalent to success.
As such, many of our corrupt politicians believe the bought chieftaincy titles and awards, phantom Rolls Royce, the banana Island estate, fraudulently funded by the commonwealth, will appropriately fill the deep void left by their public service failures. They believe uncountable naira notes will insulate them from the cold reality of not only having to identify with a failed state but also having to take personal responsibility for its failure.
The thought process is probably “Although, I couldn’t do much as Governor, I did make a lot of money”. For these politicians, the things stolen money can buy have also become a proxy against the harsh reality of their failure. Affording enough fuel to keep large and loud generators constantly on will do where their dreams of giving us constant power failed. Big jeeps will raise them high enough above bad roads that each bump won’t hurt so much inside. A convoy of policemen and loud sirens will make the specter of nationwide insecurity seem less frightening. To put it bluntly, I believe our politicians are so despondent about this country, bilking the treasury is their way of coping with it. You can think of their looting as the equivalent of the common man drowning his sorrows in alomo. Indeed, the real tragedy is that the rest of us are despondent as well, simply waiting our turn till we can get close enough to the treasury to turn our alomo into wine.
Sooner or later, we will all realize champagne won’t work for this pain. The hangover will be infinitely worse.
* Op-ed pieces and contributions are the opinions of the writers only and do not represent the opinions of Y!/YNaija.