In recent lectures, interviews, and essays, I have suggested consistently that our struggle for Nigeria has shifted to the psychology of the Nigerian. I have claimed that even more than corruption, the psychology of the Nigerian is Nigeria’s deadliest enemy. Rewire that wrongly-wired psychology and all other things shall be added. What I have thus far failed to address in this line of thinking is the role of location in the actuations of this wrong psychological wiring.
While not justifying or excusing manifestations of wrong psychological wiring in a large number of Nigerians based at home, I daresay it is largely understandable. If he is fifty years old and below and has never left the shores of Nigeria, no matter how educated, cosmopolitan, urbane, polished, and refined he is, you must remember that he has never ever experienced responsible and accountable governance for one second of his life. He has never experienced the humility and ordinariness of power.
He has never experienced anything outside of the arrogance, rudeness, corruption, crudeness, and utter stupidity of Nigerian government officials. He has never experienced anything other than the unbridled irresponsibility of power in Nigeria. He is not in possession of any alternative realities and experiences that would make him know that it is wrong for soldiers and mobile police men to dehumanize and whip him off roads built with his tax money just because Goodluck or Patience Jonathan is coming to town. When he sees pictures of David Cameron riding the London tube or of the Canadian Prime Minister quietly waiting in a queue behind ordinary civilians for his own coffee, he thinks there is something stage-managed about all that for he has never seen even a mere local government chairman wait for his turn behind ordinary Nigerians. When he hears that some world leaders have no official planes, travel light, and stay in average hotels to cut costs and save money for their countries, he marvels for the only world he knows is one in which irresponsible government officials commute in private jets or helicopters, ride only bulletproof jeeps and limos, stay in the world’s most expensive hotels, ordering caviar and choice champagne like there is no tomorrow. He does not know that this is crass, galling impunity; that these bacchanalian boys and girls in government in Abuja have no right to do any of these things on the public dime. How could he possibly know?
I could go on and on. You’ll be amazed at the things that this ordinary and well-meaning Nigerian does not know simply because he has never experienced responsible and accountable governance in a genuinely democratic setting and is therefore unable to project mentally into a universe of different realities. When I wrote about Colonel Texas Chukwu, the idiot who stormed the Guardian’s office in Jos with his men to arrest a civilian for publishing a story he did not like, I was surprised by the large number of emails I received from ordinary Nigerians all over the country. They were thanking me for that piece of civic education. They simply did not know and had never imagined that soldiers have no powers of arrest in a democracy. They can be forgiven.
Considering Nigeria’s terrible postcolonial romance with impunity, how is a Nigerian who has never left the shores of that country supposed to know that soldiers flogging and arresting civilians in our streets are breaking the law and ought to be court-martialled and dismissed from service? How is this Nigerian supposed to know that police men who bark, “open ya boot!” without a search warrant signed by a competent judge are breaking the law? How is he supposed to know that the soldier and the policeman have no right to do any of these things in Nigeria? They do only because the masses hardly know better and the oppressors in power ensure that there are no consequences for they themselves are guiltier of impunity than the soldier and the policeman.
It is this lack of a lived experience of the real thing, of the real deal, that sometimes transforms the Nigerian regular Joe into the most vociferous defender of his own oppression. If you know better and you hit the airwaves and the public sphere with tales of alternatives, the wrongly wired Nigerian could become your deadliest foe. He is going to come after you with all he’s got. He is going to defend with his last breath the same irresponsible government officials who are raping his present and mortgaging his future. If you look at things closely, this is to be expected. You are rocking the boat of the only world he knows. You are talking scornfully about the only experience of the world he can boast of. You are saying that his world is inadequate, corrupt, hopeless, unacceptable, and indefensible. You are saying that the only national space he knows is inferior to the paleolithic age. He will fight you. He will abuse you. This is what makes him the most reliable weapon in the hands of folks like Doyin Okupe, Reuben Abati, Reno Omokri, Ahmed Gulak and all those who make a living by retailing lies, deceit, and illusion on behalf of Nigeria’s corruption and impunity. The wrongly wired Nigerian is their greatest asset. Here, they have an army of volunteers ready to be used in the schemes of their own very oppression. They will defend the status quo and the shitstem. They will defend the sadists who sell lies on behalf of the status quo. They will tell you to bugger off.
But you must not bugger off. You must understand that you owe it to Nigeria to persist and to insist. You owe the wrongly wired Nigerian, no matter how much he screams and abuses you. You owe him empathy, sympathy, compassion, and understanding. You owe him a great deal of patience. You owe it to Nigeria not to abandon him in the hands of the government sadists for whom his wrong wiring and lack of civic awareness are assets worth more than their weight in gold. You have to understand that the rapists of Nigeria rely on his wrong wiring to be able to continue and sustain their successful rape of that country. And the way to do that is to under-educate or mal-educate him, keep him permanently in a state of blissful civic unawareness, fool him into believing that he is being patriotic by defending them in the name of religion and ethnicity. You need a lot of patience to cut through five decades of deliberate psychological miswiring of this Nigerian by the oppressor he is defending. Look up Stockholm syndrome in the dictionary and you will understand why this Nigerian deserves your patience.
However, you must understand that the Nigerian who is wrongly wired at home has a formidable ally abroad. This foreign-based ally of the home-based defender of the status quo is one of Nigeria’s most dangerous enemies. Unlike his partner at home, he does not possess the valuable excuse of ignorance. He has lived long enough in Britain, France, Germany, Belgium, Ireland, Scandinavia, Australia, Canada, and the United States to understand the real meaning of responsible and accountable leadership. He has lived long enough in those places to understand that what obtains in Nigeria does not even vaguely resemble what the rest of the civilized world calls governance. From what he has experienced abroad, he understands perfectly that Nigeria is a coalition of 170 million people ruled by crass impunity and unbridled, unaccountable irresponsibility.
Yet, our friend has perfected the art of experiencing his world in Euro-America with one set of standards and Nigeria with a different, lower, inferior set of standards. Whatever it is he would never accept or tolerate as a member of the civic community in Euro-America he joins up with career rationalizers of mediocrity on the ground in Nigeria to praise to high heavens. That which he rejects for his base in London he justifies and rationalizes for his fatherland in Nigeria. In the unusual circumstance that a snowstorm disrupts power to his neighbourhood in America, Canada, or Europe, if power isn’t restored within hours, he is on the phone screaming, “this is not acceptable at all” at a poor customer service representative who is assuring him that “we are doing everything to restore power sir”. But when he hears that an entire city has not had power for two weeks in Nigeria, the career rationalizer of mediocrity for Nigeria in him takes over. He joins forces with his local teammates to shout at and abuse the collective children of anger for complaining about power failure. He takes over Facebook and Twitter, preaching patience. While flipping channels between baseball and basketball in his New York living room, he tells Nigerians coping with darkness that Rome was not built in a day. He churns out constipated data about how many electrics poles Goodluck Jonathan erected last year all over the country and urges the people to be grateful to their President.
Yet, in all the donkey years he has spent in America, Canada, or Europe, he has never encountered that strange beast called gratitude to government officials and public servants by members of the public for doing the job they are supposed to do with tax payers’ money in the first place. He has never opened the Guardian of London, New York Times, Toronto Star and encountered members of the public taking centrespread ads to thank the Mayors and officials of those cities for tarring roads, clearing snow, providing electricity to neighbourhoods, building and renovating classrooms in public schools. It’s their freaking job! Yet, when his sycophantic and obsequious team mates in Nigeria want to thank a Governor, a Minister, a Senator, or President Jonathan for awarding the contract (same contract previously awarded by Presidents Obasanjo and Yar’Adua) for the construction of an expressway, they may even ask our friend abroad to contribute to the cost of buying advertisement space in ThisDay. Joro jara joro, our friend will rush to Western Union in London, Washington or Toronto to contribute money to the “worthy cause” of buying newspaper advertisement space to thank a government official for doing his job in Nigeria.
Take the behaviour of this fellow during the recent controversy surrounding President Jonathan’s pilgrimage to Jerusalem – accompanied by the obligatory bloated entourage. Now, in all of this guy’s years abroad, he has never encountered such galling impunity as a public official dipping his hands into the treasury to sponsor a personal religious obligation. It cannot happen and will not happen where he lives. Of course we all know that President Jonathan and the members of his huge entourage are well within their constitutional rights to undertake a religious pilgrimage. I have even written in a social media statement that were President Jonathan be inclined to renounce Christianity in favour of Candomble, I will support his right to go on pilgrimage to the Orixa shrines of Salvadore de Bahia in Brazil, em…em, so long as he is paying his way to Brazil out of his personal earnings. Simply put, as the head of a secular state, he has no right to dip his hands into the public till to sponsor his religious pilgrimage. That’s impunity. The President was breaking the law. That his Moslem predecessors have been doing it is no justification for his own act. Just like him, his Moslem predecessors were breaking the law.
Some of the idiotic rationalizations we encountered for this brazen impunity can only happen in a mad country like Nigeria where it is culturally okay to cite yesterday’s crime as justification for today’s crime; where it is always somebody’s legitimate turn to be a criminal on the basis of his or her ethnicity or religion. President Yar’Adua also went on pilgrimage using public resources so that justifies the re-enactment of that crime by President Jonathan. Impunity, breaking the law, is now the turn of southern Christians. You’d of course expect a Nigerian with lived experience of the behaviour of governance in genuinely secular dispensations to understand these issues and help with the urgent task of public instruction. For where?
The Nigerian abroad, blinded by Christian partisanship, became the arrowhead of woolly-headed rationalizations. Our friend, who would be the first to scream blue murder were Angela Merkel or David Cameron to fund personal religious obligations with public funds, joined forces with his teammates at home to chant “go on s’oun” to President Jonathan and the bunch of corrupt clowns who accompanied him to Jerusalem at the expense of the Nigerian tax payer. Now, what does one owe this species of Nigerian in Euro-America? Certainly not the compassion, patience, and understanding one owes his teammates in Nigeria. I believe that one owes him only contempt and disdain for he is wicked at heart and there is no truth in him. One must treat him like an Orisha who chances on your destiny and does not improve it. You tell such an unfavourable Orisha to leave your destiny alone jeje as e meet am and not worsen it for you. The time has come for boda Nigeria to tell this foreign-based career rationalizer of mediocrity: wish me what you live abroad or get thee behind me, buddy!