by Chibueze Ebii
I visited Europe recently, Berlin to be precise. It was a lovely city, organized, well planned. I have to tell you; I was impressed. Every evening, I would take a very long stroll along the street just to see the city and get a feeling of what Berlin is like – the city life, the people, and the culture.
Every time I took these strolls, I could not help but to take my thoughts back home, comparing conditions back at home with what I was seeing here in this lovely city. Yes I know – an unfair comparison. But that was all I could think of while I spent time in this city; as I rode the buses, took the subway trains and walked the streets. I could not help to notice how different things were back at home compared to this city.
Another thought troubled me while I was there. I kept thinking: why is my country not this way? Why can’t we have well-structured roads, proper transportation system, steady power supply? Why can’t we have cities like Berlin in Nigeria? These kinds of questions bugled my mind. I wondered how come Germany is able to build such a great city that is so accessible to most levels of the social class.
I stayed in a friends place. His name is luis – great guy. He is a single father, who worked at a shop that sold vinyl records. Every now and then he would do small gigs on the side to meet up with his bills. For me, luis represented the average Berlin resident who did not have a great income but had just enough to get by.
I remember asking him about how he was able to meet up with the rent of his beautiful apartment that was situated in the center of the city. I would never forget his reply.
He said “the rent here is very affordable, it is not a problem”. That struck a chord inside me because back at home a decent accommodation is a luxury that most people cannot afford. And again I asked myself why…why is my country not like this?
After the Second World War, Germany suffered one of the worst recessions that any country could endure, and yet, with no oil, they still rose to become one of the most powerful and richest country in Europe. I could not help but wonder how this country was able to rise from economic hardship to becoming a prosperous country with a thriving economy. How did they build this country?
How much money was spent on these superb infrastructures? How did they build beautiful cities that are accessible to all? This is a country without commercial quantity of oil, no precious minerals and a very terrible weather condition. How did these guys do it?
These questions bothered me so much until, one day, I witnessed something amazing. What I witnessed that day was as shocking as it was impressive. This experience helped me to begin to understand why Germany, probably, is the way it is and why it may be very difficult for a country like Nigeria to achieve the same feat as this great country.
It was a sunny afternoon, the rain had just stopped and the cool breeze began to ease in slowly. We had just finished a small meeting with the President of our organisation. I have worked with this organisation for over 2 years now and today, all the project coordinators from over 30 countries, where we have offices, had gathered at the headquarters to be addressed by our overall Boss, the President of the organization-worldwide.
After the meeting we all assembled outside, waiting for the rest to come out so that, together, we can all head back to the hotel as a group. While we waited outside, out came our President, who was obviously done for the day and ready to go home. As she waved us goodbye, she walked over to where bicycles were parked, unchained a bike from the metal rail, mounted her bike and off she went, cycling her way home.
I could not believe my eyes; our global President, the overall Boss of our organization could be humble enough to ride a bike on the streets of Berlin. She did not have a Bentley with a chauffeur waiting for her outside – of which she could comfortably afford; she did not have an endless chain of personal assistants at her beck and call. In fact earlier that day she had lined up with the rest of us at the buffet, during lunch, to get food like everyone else. In my thirty something years of life on this earth, I have never seen such humility. But later I will come to understand that this kind of attitude exhibited by the President of my organization is one that resonates amongst the political leadership in Germany.
I was made to understand that the Political leadership in Germany is guided by an ideology that encourages conservation and condemns execces. The leaders here believe that democracy is about fairness and equal opportunity, and that development must be accessible to all and not just a privileged few. In this country as a public office holder you are forbidden to make financial profits with government money and projects.
And to these people, this is not just another law but a code they live by. It’s kind of like the way ‘true’ religious people in Nigeria will view stealing money from the church – an unforgivable abomination.
Now I began to understand why this country, perhaps, is the way it is. Then I thought about my own country and it dawned on me, as well, why Nigeria is so different from Germany and why true change in Nigeria is still far-fetched.
You see, the people in this country had unconsciously taught me about what democracy means and how it can be an effective tool for development. I understood the true ideals of democracy and the significant role ideology plays in either building or destroying a nation.
People often say our leaders do not have ideology and I say that is not true. Its just that most of the political leaders in our country do not have the right ideologies, the only kind of ideology that exists amongst most of them is how to stay in power for as long as possible and accumulate as much wealth as possible.
Of course I do not expect Nigerian leaders to ride bicycles to exhibit there humility (although it would be an impressive sight) but the average Nigerian leader is so intoxicated with the urge to gather as much wealth as possible that 50% of his thinking process is about personal financial benefits while the other 50% is how to retain his political position. This is what inspires his activities during his four years tenure in office.
When these people get into public office, they spend the next four years devising strategies and plans to battle political opponents who want to take their place in the next election. And because election in Nigeria is not majorly determined by the ballot box, very little of their plans and strategies would involve real development options that will be accessible to all.
So the only developments we get to see are petty interventions like constructing a few kilometer of road, distribution of a few motorbikes to potential thugs, sharing bags of rice and a few cash at political rallies.
Bulk of the money is spent on issues and people that really matter to them; the so called God Fathers, thugs and any other person with enough influence to keep them in power for another four years.
Although they say that they care for the people but in the ideal sense, they actually do not care for the people because the people do not have the power to keep them in office.
So all that money meant for building schools, roads, transport system (all the money that could have helped build cities like berlin) is spent on themselves and on the people that ‘really matter to them’.
Why should they spend all that money on the people when the people do not have the power to keep them in office? That – my friends – is the ideology of the average Nigerian politician.
Op–ed pieces and contributions are the opinions of the writers only and do not represent the opinions of Y!/YNaija
Chibueze Ebii is a development communications expert in Abuja.