In the ‘Modern World’ people say, “Power Creates Wealth.” This I think is what we generally refer to as “Power Corrupts.” If we may go further, borrowing from the English Historian, Lord Acton, we say “Absolute Power Corrupts Absolutely.”
Jonathan administration has now endorsed some bag eggs among the Nigeria public officials that have gone international with their scornful skills to disgrace their State, their people, and Nigeria. The fact that ex-Governor, Chief Diepreye Solomon Peter Alamieyeseigha, in 2005, was arrested in London, detained, charged with laundering £1.8m ($3.2m) found in cash and bank accounts, granted bail, jumped bail, fled UK forged his documents, dressed like a woman, took train on Friday, November 18, 2005, at Waterloo station in London to Paris and boarded an Air France flight to Douala, Cameroon from where he took a boat to Amassoma, his hometown on Sunday, November 20, 2005. What a lousy Security lapses all over the world, from London to Paris, to Douala, and Nigeria.
What ‘Madam’ DSP did was dishonorable, shameful, and scandalous. Such acts qualified him for the State pardon. The next judgement is for Nigeria to pardon him for the disgraceful acts and atrocities he committed while in office, which led to his impeachment, arrest, conviction, and now a free man.
As a matter of fact, the part of the truth Lord Acton did not realize when stating “power corrupts” is that the corrupted seek power, especially in Nigeria, based on the events in Nigeria. For instance only people not able to grow tall from their efforts and achievements seek to subdue their fellow Nigerians; only people not being able to find comfort in their own mind, seek to silence others; those who are unable to produce their own wealth confiscate the wealth of other Nigerians. Power does really corrupt, but it is as true that corrupt people seek power in Nigeria.
Most Nigerian leaders forgot that one day, after leaving the seat of power, the poor masses would not want to give them any respect, or even care about them, based on their performances while in Power. Whereas, while in office they have access to things that could make life better for the people, but for their selfish ends, they REFUSED to do that. The high level security, fleets of cars to take them around, including everything they needed while in office were provided for by the Government. They were treated with Royalties, like the special breed, and would not be allowed to do anything by themselves.
Power, definitely gives birth to wealth as a result of their connections and networking, while in Power. People get rich ‘overnight’ when they are in power. It is not only in Nigeria that Power builds wealth, or people in power abuse their positions. It happens all over the world. However, we could say in Africa, especially Nigeria, that the absolute power Nigerian leaders arrogate to themselves, corrupt them, absolutely.
Webster’s Dictionary defines Power as “possession of control, authority, or influence over others.” The American Heritage Dictionary defines Power as; “The ability or capacity to act or perform effectively,” and, “the ability to, or, official capacity to exercise control, authority”.
Definitely, Power Corrupts! The history of man is a history of rule or ambition to rule. It is not, as Karl Marx claimed, a history of constant class struggle between bourgeoisie and proletariat, even though class struggle may be derived from the fundamental division of society into “rulers” and “ruled.” An important part of this history is the continuous “race to the top” among self-centered power seekers, trying to gather as large a number of subjects as possible to rule in Nigeria.
Could we then define power as “the capacity to produce effects on others or the potential to influence others?” In other words, Power is a function of Leader, Followers, and Situation. The only direction of power we practice in Nigeria flows from the Leaders. How many Nigerian leaders could lay claim to what Abraham Lincoln said that “I claim not to have controlled events, but confess plainly that events have controlled me.” How many of them have been driven by the poverty level of their followers and embark on such programs to bail them out from their poor state of life?
We could look at power to be either, or combination of Referent, Legitimate, Reward, Coercive, or Expert in nature. Referent Power flows from the strength of the relationship between the leader and the followers. In other words, Referent power refers to the potential influence one has due to the strength of the relationship between the leader and the followers. When people admire a leader and see them as a role model, we say the leader has referent power. How many Nigerian leaders of today might like to be referred to as positive role models? No good human being would want his children to use “Thieving Leaders” as role models. Referent power takes time to develop. The relationship is often reciprocal, giving power to the followers and could have a downside in some instances. Donald T. Regan, Chief of Staff during the Reagan administration, once said that “You’ve got to give loyalty down, if you want loyalty up.” This is a big challenge to Nigerian leaders. We should remember the difference between a boss and a leader as well: a boss says “Go!” -a leader says, “Let’s go!”
Legitimate power can be thought of as one’s formal or official authority. Individuals with legitimate power exert influence by virtue of their rank or position. The boss assigns projects. The coach decides who plays. The teacher assigns homework and grades assignments. The legitimate power accorded Nigerian leaders have been misused, assigning and dictating to the Accountant General, Commissioner for Finance to release ex-number of Naira from the State Treasury for some phony projects, and for the House Speaker to ‘legitimize’ it by passing laws to back up the ‘phony’ Projects. If any Speaker is indifference to what the Governor wants, he is impeached IMMEDIATELY, as witnessed in Nigeria from 1999-2003.
While Reward Power has the potential to influence others due to one’s control over desired resources, which in the case of our discussion, the power to give CONTRACTS. The award of Government contracts could be discriminatory in its implementation, talkless about what is legitimately or naturally belongs to the people. In most cases, it favors the incumbent political supporters. Some Nigerian leaders have failed to make effective use of reward power requirements of determining what programs are available; what programs their citizens’ value; and establishing equitable and consistent program procedures. What some Nigerian leaders are practicing is not what Dwight D. Eisenhower advised that, “You do not lead by hitting people over the head – that’s assault, not leadership.” What a food for thought for Nigerian leaders.
Coercive Power leads to assassinations or attempted assassinations in the current Democratic practice in Nigeria. Coercive power is the potential to influence others through negative sanctions or punishments. Thomas Jefferson said “An honest man can feel no pleasure in the exercise of power over his fellow citizens.” One of the most common forms of coercive power is simply a superior’s temperamental outbursts that lead to intimidation, victimization, sanctions, punishment, and with the new word for it in Nigeria, marginalization of the citizens.
We see the combination of the above mentioned sources applied by most of the current Nigerian leaders. Should that be the case? Little did they realize that their positions are transitory, but their names would remain for ever? We hope that Nigerian leaders would take a moment after each day’s work to reflect on their activities and imagine what becomes of them when they vacate that POWER HOUSE they are occupying today.
We usually think of power as belonging to the leader. Nevertheless, it is actually a function of the leader, the followers, and the situation. Leaders have the potential to influence followers’ behaviors and attitudes, but followers can also affect the leaders’ behaviors and attitudes. In some circumstances, the situation itself can have an impact on the followers’ and leader’s behavior and attitudes. Hence, the jubilation at the return of DSP after jumping bail in London, and the Presidential pardon, was a reaction to the way Alamieyeseigha have impacted their thinking faculties.
In Nigeria we have followers who are ‘brain dead’ that could not see the difference between what is right or wrong, or, they pretend not to understand, for the ‘manner’ that would be coming from Alamieyeseigha’s heaven. The citizens have been mentally blindfolded by their leaders, while they are busy trapping upon their mental capability.
According to Francis Bacon, “Knowledge is Power.” When you block that knowledge, the followers’ power is gone. Experts can influence others due to their expertise in a particular area. Doctors, lawyers, and even car mechanics wield expert power. While expert power often flows from knowledge. It can also be based on experience. It is entirely possible for followers to have considerably more expert power than leaders in certain situations. The effective leader will use expert followers as a resource to increase the leader’s power base. Unfortunately, it has been the opposite in Nigeria.
The National Assembly has been crippled with their thoughts mortgaged on how to handle issues facing corruption in Nigeria. Most of the States’ Houses of Assembly are filled with Rubber Stamp legislators. That independency is not there. The Executive controls their budget, which makes the legislative branch under the tutelage of the Executive. In President Jonathan’s Bayelsa State, their former Governor jumped bail and falsified his documents to travel back to Nigeria. He was arrested in London.
The “power game” has reached its peak in Nigeria, while President Goodluck Ebele Jonathan has to give Alemaysia Presidential pardon; it is in everybody’s theoretical reach to gain power over everybody else, indeed making society an eternal struggle between individuals and groups for power. We hope Marx was alive to see the display of “power struggle” today, especially in Nigeria. The modern day Nigerian power seekers are corrupted to the very soul with their pathological quest for power, have in democracy, a foundation from which to enslave their fellow Nigerians.
We may not blame Nigeria leaders for being power drunk and corrupt their positions absolutely, it happens all over the world. The difference is that in Nigeria, once you are the ‘Oga’ you are above the law. In other parts of the world, the law is waiting to correct your wrong doings regardless your status in the society. Nigeria could learn from the events around the world, especially with some corrupt public officials.
In 2005 in the US, corruption scandal threatened Republican control of US Congress. Republican Senate Leader Tom DeLay fought his political life; the Abramoff affair was implicated a couple of Republicans. According to the Wall Street Journal, by early December 2005, there were press reports that at least four Republican legislators and 17 staffers and former staffers were the targets of the Justice Department investigation into the Abramoff affair. The Wall Street Journal named DeLay, Congressman Robert Ney of Ohio, Congressman John Doolittle of California, and Senator Conrad Burns of Montana as targets, as well as several former Bush administration officials. The Washington Post reported that prosecutors had informed Congressman Ney that he was the subject of a bribery investigation and added that the wives of DeLay and Doolittle had also been linked to Abramoff’s influence-peddling schemes.
Rep. Randy “Duke” Cunningham (R-Calif.) 63, resigned from Congress Monday, November 28, 2005 after tearfully confessing to evading taxes and conspiring to pocket $2.4 million in bribes, including a Rolls-Royce, a yacht and a 19th-century Louis-Philippe commode. In 2002, a former representative James A. Traficant (D-Ohio) was convicted of 10 federal charges of racketeering, bribery, and fraud and was sent to prison. The House ousted Rep. Michael “Ozzie” Myers (D-Pa.) in 1980 for accepting money from an FBI agent posing as an Arab sheik.
In the State of Georgia Former Georgia Senate Majority Leader Charles Walker, 58, was sentenced to 10 years in Prison for misusing his position as a lawmaker. He is found guilty of stealing at least $425,000 from a charity he created and bilked newspaper advertisers out of another $200,000, and one month in prison by U.S. District Judge Dudley Bowen, who said he wanted to “make an example” of the 58-year-old Walker as a deterrent to other politicians. There is no parole in the federal system.
In Wisconsin state lawmaker, Brian Burke was sentenced to six months in jail in November 2005, for using state employees to run his political campaign, and also pleaded guilty to a misdemeanor obstruction of justice count for refusing to turn over a subpoenaed document. He was also ordered to pay more than $85,000 in restitution for using state resources to run his failed bid for attorney general in 2002.
Wisconsin former state senator, Gary George, was sentenced in August 2004 to four years in prison for a kickback scheme which prosecutors said involved hundreds of thousands of dollars. George’s bid for governor in 2002 was derailed when an investigation found his nomination papers had too many fraudulent signatures.
James Hlawek, a key figure in a decade-long San Bernardino County political corruption scandal was placed on three years’ probation and ordered to perform 300 hours of community service, without clemency. James Hlawek says “I have great remorse for the mistakes I have made…I do really regret that these mistakes made the public question county officials,…I made a decision in August 1998 to do the right thing, and I have never stopped since then to do that.”
The 35-year-old Michael Scanlon, former press spokesperson for House majority Leader Tom Delay, who was still paying off college loans from his congressional staff salary in 1999, became a millionaire overnight, buying several million dollars in beachfront property in Delaware shortly after going into business for himself. Five years later, even after agreeing to $19 million in restitution to the Indian tribes, according to one press account, he still retains significant personal wealth.
In the Middle East, where we expect them to be fearful of loosing their limbs, in the face of Sharia law, corruption, in 2005 was costing the Arabs $300bn a year. The world economy squanders an estimated $1 trillion each year on bribery with nearly a third of the total, $300 billion (BD113bn), changing hands in Arab countries, according to Nasser Al Sane, Palestinian MP and a board member of the Arab chapter of Gopac Azmi Shuaibi. Most of the corruption in Arab countries takes place in security and Defence contracts which constitute between 25 – 35 per cent of total Arab spending.
Chilean authorities indicted former dictator Augusto Pinochet on charges of fraud and corruption which sets a crucial precedent that dictators would be held accountable for their corrupt acts.
None of these sampled cases received Presidential pardon. Ironically, the Nigerian National Assembly members would consider most offences committed from these examples given above as part of the system. Whereas these are ethical questions, on how they have misused their power to acquire wealth, which are actually against their work ethics. Such as contributions to the congressional campaign funds as well as personal gifts, such as Super Bowl tickets, vacation trips, and expensive restaurant meals in exchange for series of official acts, passing legislation, agreeing to put statements into the Congressional Record, contacting federal officials to influence decisions, and awarding contracts.
These people are human beings and they accepted their human failure. Unfortunately, in Nigeria they tend to be stubborn with their loot, while the President turned around and pardon Alamieyeseigha. Nigerian leaders are very proud of their ‘accomplishments’ in inflicting very deadly pain on their citizens. Would Tafa Balogun be pardoned? Alamieyeseigha has now received Presidential pardon as a reward for inflicting hardship on his people.
Great men and women coming to power may use power wisely, and bring peace and prosperity to Nigeria as in the Disney sagas. At least for a very short while in Nigeria the real kings and queens of history have truly been tyrants oppressing the people to gain personally in prestige or wealth. The ones called “the Great” are worse than the other rulers in the subjection and killing of “ordinary” Nigerians; winning many wars does not make a man great; on the contrary, it shows his inability to use his intelligence and to reason.
When a person gains power over other persons – the political power to force other persons to do his bidding when they do not believe it right to do so – it seems inevitable that a moral weakness develops in the person who exercises that power. It may take time for this weakness to become visible. Nigerian leaders, it’s up to them what type of legacy they are leaving behind. Definitely, history will not forgive those that plug Nigeria into an absolute darkness.
Borrowing from Lord Acton, the British historian again, who issued epic warnings that political power is the most serious threat to liberty? “Liberty is not a means to a higher political end. It is itself the highest political end…liberty is the only object which benefits all alike, and provokes no sincere opposition…The danger is not that a particular class is unfit to govern….Every class is unfit to govern…Power tends to corrupt, and absolute power corrupts absolutely.” In his inaugural lecture as Regius Professor of Modern History at Cambridge University, Lord Acton told students: “I exhort you never to debase the moral currency or to lower the standard of rectitude, but to try others by the final maxim that governs your own lives, and to suffer no man and no cause to escape the undying penalty which history has the power to inflict on wrong.”
Lesson from the above examples is that the law is in place in advanced countries to track down corrupt public officials which is absent in Nigeria, especially, the enforcement aspect of the Public services in Nigeria. Rep. Randy “Duke” Cunningham said “I broke the law, concealed my conduct, and disgraced my high office. I know that I will forfeit my freedom, my reputation, my worldly possessions, and most importantly, the trust of my friends and family.”
At the time of the offence, shameless DSP said, “I am indeed a proud, very proud Ijaw man.” Nigerian leaders should realize that “Humans are humans, you can’t keep them in perpetual slavery,” Bishop Mabuza said. “They, at some point or another come to ask, ‘Why are we hungry? Why are we poor?” Absolute power becomes addictive and Nigerian leaders get lost in the process. According to Bertrand Russell “Power is sweet; it is a drug, the desire for which increases with habit.” In support, Dan Mahony states “Addictive substances cause substance addiction.” Nigerian leaders should get out of this filthy game of using the Public to acquire illegitimate wealth.
All Nigerian leaders and the potential ones need a complete re-orientation and some ethical courses, seminars to get Nigeria on the right track of progress.
Femi Ajayi, a Professor of Policy, Management & Conflict Resolution, is head, Political Science and Public Administration Department, Babcock University, Ilishan-Remo, Ogun State