Temie Giwa: No good men (YNaija FrontPage)

Nigeria needs no hero. We have no use for the Farouks, the El Rufais or the Buharis. What Nigeria needs is an empowered followership…

 Consider this: “Every system is perfectly designed to achieve exactly the results that it achieves.”

DM Berwick introduced this idea in 1998 and I have been struck by its profound simplicity ever since.

If you agree with Dr. Berwick then one can apply the same concept to the Nigerian governance system. Ergo, Nigeria was created and designed perfectly to achieve terrorism, high cases of maternal and child mortality, atrocious educational system, 70% living below the poverty line, massive unemployment and efficient corruption.

We spend massive amount of intellectual fuel thinking and writing about ways to find just a few good men and women that will save Nigeria from herself. Blogs are dedicated to it. FrontPage and Back Page writers expound and lament the dearth of good leadership every week. If one spends time on social media, and I do, one is subjected to a barrage of tweets and facebook posts dedicated to the very same concept. I cannot count the amount of time I have read statements to the tune of “Nigeria’s problem is lack of leadership.” It is however obvious that Nigeria’s problem is not leadership nor is it the government. The Nigerian government is efficient in what it was created to deliver, which is to give to the elite all power and resources and to find clever ways to pacify the majority of Nigerians who aren’t so lucky. Government after governments, civilian administrations and military administrations, the progressives and the incompetent, they all do this well. The powerful elite share the cake and the rest of us make do with crumbs, suffering and moving on, albeit with sporadic show of dissent when our backs get pushed too far to the wall.

Corruption is easy. The Nigerian system makes it easier still. No one man can resist the siren call of private jets, Swiss bank accounts, and holidays at the Riviera. Before a Farouk Lawan happens, there would have been very many small bribes that slipped into the blood stream and before he knows it he is driving to his disgrace. My favorite Chinua Achebe book is “No longer at ease” and Obi Okonkwo is all of us. He is all the men who ever collected a bribe, ordinary men with too many expenses and too little resources.  Even the beautiful ones must swim in the pigsty in Nigeria. 

So what works?

Nigeria needs no hero. We have no use for the Farouks, the El Rufais or the Buharis. What Nigeria needs is an empowered followership; this is what has worked all over the world. Every system led by people who are not terrified of the will of the collective ends up corrupt. Leaders need to be scared of the led and this is the only incentive and guarantee of good governance. There are signs all over the place that the elite simply do not care what we all think. The president allegedly took with him to the Rio20 conference in Brazil 116 people. This dismissal of public opinion shows that they are not scared of us. The government needs to be if anything will change in Nigeria.

We must leave the leaders and government alone, because they are doing efficiently what they were designed to do. If we want to change Nigeria, we must not look for heroes or good men, but we must empower and give 160 million people an incentive to be active citizens. You can bribe any man or woman, but you cannot bribe 160 million people.

Our challenge here is to find efficient strategies to irrevocably connect the purses of 160 million people to good governance. We have to force the government’s hand to do what is in our best interest and the only way is to make them scared of us. Direct cash transfer of resources to citizens is the way to do this. India, Ghana, and Mexico have shown that it is doable.  

Editor’s note: Op-ed pieces and contributions are the opinions of the writers only and do not represent the opinions of Y!/YNaija.


Comments (11)

  1. Temie, Thanks for the response. Your idea and other ideas out there will make a difference if implemented, but these ideas fail to take human nature into consideration. What incentive does a Nigerian leader have to share the proceeds of the sale of natural resources with all citizens? That, my friend, is where the issue lies. Nigeria's problem is not a lack of ideas; the problem is accountability and good, old human nature.

    From my brief sojourn in this world, I have learned not to be optimistic about a struggle against nature, hence my pessimism. Overcoming a struggle against nature requires a conscious, directed effort to confront ourselves, steep personal sacrifices that run counter to the norms, and a collective, unified effort by parties that identify with the struggle. I don't see such unified effort happening and that is why things will most likely never change.

    Our politicians are not accountable to us because they don't have to. We often forget that politics is a job and people with jobs, especially high paying jobs, "naturally" do things to help them keep those jobs. When a politician wins an election by using money from his godfather to distribute bags of rice and "take care" of key individuals like area champions and local religious leaders, does it not make sense that he will "settle" his godfather and the key individuals that helped him win? How easy is it to get votes with bags of rice when all citizens share the proceeds from natural resources? Is it in the best interest of politicians to improve the economic lot of the masses drastically? After making steep sacrifices to get to the throne of government, why would a politician change the system? When you have families that have been benefiting from the government ever since independence, would some "grand" idea persuade them to give up that power? When you have religious leaders that are treated like gods (because those around them look up to them as the only source of meaning in a world void of hope and meaning), what's the incentive for the religious leaders in seeing the masses have better lives? How many of the suicide bombers are affluent?

    The economic slavery we find ourselves is even worse than the organized transcontinental slavery that ended a few decades ago. At least those slaves identified with each other and could stop work to get the attention of the slave masters. In our case, our masters (politicians and their sponsors) don't need us (like I mentioned in my previous post) and we don't even identify with our colleagues in the struggle because we have amplified our familial, economic, educational, religious and cultural differences. Do you see yourself as being in the same struggle with the market woman, the kid that can't speak "good English", the guy that has holes in his trousers, the 419 scammer, the MEND activist, the Boko Haram bomber?

    I think you are underestimating the history and magnitude of the struggle we find ourselves. These are some of the reasons why we keep getting "bad leaders" and like you alluded to in your article, these are exactly the type of leaders the system is designed to produce.

    1. iCoward, Thank you soo much for this. I will attempt to reply your very insightful comment on saturday. Then we can continue the conversation.

  2. You are on to something. Another aspect to Nigeria's current predicament is that the Nigerian government does not need the people. The Nigerian people are mostly obstacles in the politicians' way of amassing wealth. What use am I as a Nigerian citizen to the Nigerian government? Taxes, elections? The Nigerian government does not get paid off my taxes, Nigerian's wealth is generated from unmanned machinery off the Nigerian coast, and with poverty prevalent in the country, it is very easy to sway elections with "bags of rice".

    Nigeria is doing exactly what it was designed to do, to provide natural resources to the developed world.

    Protests, prayer, activism and such will not work. Most Nigerians have witnessed poverty, and they are waiting their turn to "make real money" so that they can flaunt their wealth like the so-called politicians they claim to despise. Would you rather miss your friend's wedding because of malaria or show up without the wedding colors because you couldn't afford it?

    Nigeria's problem is mostly human nature and partly ignorance on our part. The solution: realize that our generation and the next have already been compromised with the blind glorification of money and search for heroes (like you mentioned). We need to raise children that see money as a tool to get things done and not to pad our egos. We need to tell our children they are capable rather pawns in the hands of daddy, mummy, elders, heavens, and so on. And lastly, we need to let our children know that we are all born equal, but for various reasons like culture, environment, history and geography our challenges and realities will be different and it is their duty to make their reality better for those coming behind them.

    1. Hello iCoward, I agree with the first part of your comment completely. But I am still optimistic for this generation. Of course we have cultural issues we need to have a conversation about… i.e. privilege, materialism and etc. However, on governance, there are solutions that will change the system rapidly and completely. Direct transfer of cash from the sale of natural resources to all citizens is a first and neccessart step. what do you think?

  3. Thanks Levite. I think our only chance to empower the masses is to somehow connect their purse to good governance. Think of the fuel subsidy protest last January, people actually left work and got out on the street to say enough is enough, and this I believe was because they were going to lose money. So suppose every time the government wants to do something, everyone loses some money, that will get us to pay attention and out on the street all the time.

    Do you think this is doable?


  4. Nice article and analysis of our situation. The question still remains though: How do we empower the masses, The 160million ppl that shd be feared by their leader/the present elite? After identifying the problem, what steps need to be taken to work out a solution?

  5. Sounds like an effective paradigm change but also sounds like something that had been foreseen and barred by conscious or unconscious inattentiveness to education.

    1. Dear Buki, I think you are on to something here. Education empowers and Nigeria's elite certainly don't want an empowered citizenry. They like the "siddon and suffer" strategy we've been pushing ever since. But its time to push back, it is so time. Thanks for your insightful comment.

  6. Beautiful. Nicely crafted.

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