By Tochukwu Ezukanma
A one time United States of American Secretary of State, Warren Christopher, once referred to Nigeria as the poorest oil rich nation in the world. What an oxymoron? How can a country be oil rich and yet, extremely poor? This is because her wealth is looted by conscienceless power elite given to stealing everything within reach. They steal public funds with the impunity and ruthlessness that will stir the conscience of even the most dangerous armed robber.
Paradoxically, they pretend to be sentinels of the public good and paragons of moral rectitude. In their hypocrisy, they ignore their own moral problems and make believe that they have the moral authority to lecture Nigerians on morality and to enforce the laws of the land.
In his denunciation of hypocrisy, Jesus Christ urged the hypocrite to first cast out the beam out of thine eyes before offering to â€œpull out the mote out of thine (brother’s) eye.
The import of that admonition was that if the hypocrite can first remove the beam in his own eyes, he will see clearly, and consequently, realize that there was really nothing in his brother’s eye. He thought there was a mote in his brother’s eye because what was in his own eyes was obstructing his vision, and therefore, distorting his perception.
The Nigerian power elite, through their underpaid and unappreciated band of ill-motivated and lethargic men and women (Nigerian Police Force), are fighting crime in Nigeria. But they need to awaken to the incontrovertible reality that there is really no crime to fight in the Nigerian society. What they perceive as the crimes of the Nigerian society are only reflections of the criminality of the Nigerian power elite.
It is the ruling class, and not the masses, that are in desperate need of reformation. If they can vigorously assault their own issues of lechery and lawlessness, greed and graft, cupidity and corruption, cruelty and cold heartedness and dishonesty and downright thievery, they will come to a consternating realization that the Nigerian people have no problem. Thus, that the evils they, all along, attributed to the people are actually only a mirror image of the ills of the ruling class.
Children, without knowing it, behave like their parents. The parents influence on their children is so pervading and profound that even when the children are away from home, it continues to define them. It defines the kind of students they are, their attitude towards work, money, romance, and essentially, everything. It is only when parents fail in their roles as parents that they find psychological refuge in blaming their children for what is, in effect, the failures of the parents.
Similarly, the masses, subliminally, behave like their rulers. Rulers by their actions shape the behavior of the masses. Over the years, Nigeria became a very lawless country because our rulers, by their every act, trampled the law and undermined the moral standards and ethical ideals of the Nigerian society. From their deeds, the society learnt that hard work, honesty and respect for the law do not pay. That it is only the weak and stupid that play by the rules. The astute and privileged disregard the law and acquire enormous wealth from corruption, fraud and outright stealing. In other words, that fraud, theft and all forms of lawlessness are not punished but rewarded, especially in the powerful and prominent circles.
Taking a cue from them, Nigerian society degenerated into a vast anarchistic system riddled with crooks, ritual killers, thieves, fraudsters, drug dealers, etc. The problem of Nigeria is a failure in leadership. For their failure, our rulers found psychological refuge in hectoring and harassing the masses in the name of law enforcement.
For example, I remember some legislators pontificating on the need to severely punish drug dealers with up to 15 years imprisonment. But are those of them in the corridors of power any better than a drug dealer. In my view, a drug dealer is a more decent person than a corrupt and stealing Honorable or Excellency.
Drug dealing is illegal. On the other hand, it may not be immoral. After all, it is a business transaction between two consenting adults. There is no theft, falsehood, deceit, fraud or betrayal of trust. Secondly, there is no hypocrisy, as the drug dealer does not pretend to be a model of probity or the personification of honor and excellence. He does not strut around posturing as the excellent and the honorable.
On the other hand, stealing is both illegal and immoral. So, stealing is worse than drug dealing. Secondly, stealing by the power elite is associated with deceit and betrayal of trust because they fastidiously cling to sanctimonious titles, like the Excellency and the Honorable. They posture as disciplined, responsible and financially honest men and women; not susceptible to monetary inducement and other sirens of life. They pretend to personify the best of the society and can therefore be entrusted with the resources of the country and the fate of the entire populace. But then, they prove themselves to be irresponsible, corrupt and thieves of public funds. Which is, in effect, manifest falsehood and patent hypocrisy.
In the words of Sir Robert Thompson, a nation draws its will principally from the examples of its leaders. Therefore, any genuine moral and ethical revolution in Nigeria must be spearheaded by the personal examples of our leaders. That is, the revolution must start from the top and filter down to the bottom.
It will do Nigeria a lot of good if these hypocrites that populate the Nigerian corridors of power will reform their evil ways. Such a reformation will be momentous because it will filter down to all facets of the Nigerian society. It will restore the respect for the law in the Nigerian society. It will tremendously lower the level of corruption and bring about a moral and ethical elevation in Nigeria. It is so uplifting to think of what respect for the rule of law, curb on corruption and elevated moral and ethical standards can do for Nigeria. It will unrecognizably transform the country. It will inexorably nudge Nigeria towards a renaissance that will herald her joining the ranks of the civilized and prosperous countries of the world.