King’s College, Lagos student, Ihejirika Jonathan Ikechukwu, emerges 3rd in the 12th Mike Okonkwo Annual Essay Competition

This was his entry that really got me inspired…

THE NIGERIAN POLITICAL CLASS AND THE CITIZENS QUEST FOR GOOD GOVERNANCE

I was not too interested in politics until a few days before the 2015 Nigerian General Elections. My elder brother asked my dad if he knew any natural disaster peculiar to Nigeria; of course, as expected, my dad’s reply was negative. My brother laughed loud and said his name should therefore be in the Guinness Book of Record for discovering Nigeria’s natural disasters. Curious, shocked and inquisitive, I exclaimed, “What?!” He looked me in the eyes and told me, “We are our own natural disaster – our leaders especially”.

A Nigerian child I am, born in a time of corruption, cultism, tribalism, nepotism, vandalism and violence; a child born into a time where he can do very little or nothing about the Lost Glory of his country but wait until he can step into the big shoes of the likes of Nnamdi Azikiwe, Tafawa Balewa and Obafemi Awolowo to liberate his country from the fangs of the evil ones.

Having been exposed only to the “Nigerian environment”, I can only but write confidently about the standard of living of Nigerians and how the political class greatly influences this. Ask any reasonable adult around you what Nigerian politics is like, he will tell you, “Politics is a dirty game; a very dangerous one at that.” Ask an unreasonable youth, he will tell you, “Politics is the fastest way to get rich; play the game well or lose”. My parents have taught me to always listen to the reasonable ones in the society. Yes, that is the right thing to do. However, it is also important to hear the words of the unreasonable ones and compare them with those of the reasonable; the two classes see politics as a game. A game!!! Really?

It is a game that has no rules or probably the rules exist but have been pushed aside by the “players” to introduce rules that suit them better. A game where there is no “bad”, everything is referred to as “strategy” – strategy to winning the “game”. In short, Nigeria has been turned into a chessboard but a chessboard with a difference. A chessboard where all the game pieces can be pushed all at once at any convenient time; remember, no rules. Unfortunately, the game pieces are the lives of innocent Nigerians. Wait a minute, did I just say innocent Nigerians? Of course not. We are no longer worthy before the eyes of the international community to be called innocent for we have fallen short of the generally accepted standard. Pathetic!

The Nigerian political class can best be called “the Ruling Class”, for as far as Nigeria is concerned, they control everything, directly or indirectly; I mean everything – from how much a parent should give his child to school to how many meals a citizen should have a day and even how many times a citizen should use the toilet, probably twice a week, because there is little or no food available for a large population of the country. As funny as it sounds, it is so true.

In the short time that I have come to accept the love, fun and thrill of Nigerian politics, I can say that we practice a mixture of autocracy, democracy and ‘un-democracy’ beautifully fused into one and professionally coated with the paints of democracy; a nation where politicians are “elected” winners even before the polls; one where every possible means is found possible to ensure that political parties beat their counterparts before the polls, bribing, harassing and threatening INEC staff, recruiting and hiring thugs to disrupt electioneering processes, organizing campaigns and rallies just to exchange words with their opponents and give hate speeches, and in worst cases, kidnap and kill their opponents or their family members. What a game!

The election period in Nigeria seems to be the only time that business activities seem to come to a halt; people become afraid to invest their monies in innovative business ideas at that time for fear of I-really-do-not-know-exactly. It is the period when there seems to be no money, yet all the money is felt around us. We see the numerous posters of politicians on the streets, on people’s vehicles, on the ground, and on the walls of many compounds such that if you look from afar, you will think the walls have been painted with several colours of green, red, blue, white, brown but only to come close to see the faces of the good-looking politicians. And you see youths gathered around discussing the next rallies to attend in order that they get some money or souvenirs. You switch on the television and all you see and hear is how many billions of naira the political parties spend, and so numerous jingles that I begin to wonder where all the money hides for three years before the fourth year (election year).

It is during this period that some unemployed irresponsible youth fight and kill one another with weapons of several kinds over money being shared or simply belonging to rival parties. I am also pretty sure that it is at such a time that the general hospitals receive lots of cadavers. Well, good for medical doctors, they get to practise on them. Sometimes I wonder whether these youths who get themselves killed even know that they do not exist in the eyes of the politicians for whom they fight.

The politicians do the brain work then push their game pieces (the youths) to do the dirty jobs – the fights and killings. Desperate as these politicians are, they get rid of anyone who gets in their way, even if it comes to the level of the extended families as we have seen severally in Nigeria’s history.

To show the extent of their desperation, these politicians hire people to produce clones of the newly introduced Permanent Voter Cards (PVC) but have failed to realize that they only waste time and resources. In fact, every wise thinking Nigerian like myself already knows that the “game players” have already begun to strategize on how to beat the new voting system in the 2019 General Elections.

In spite of all the negatives attributed to the Nigerian political class and the citizens as a whole, there are still a few citizens who have refused to let themselves be washed in the dirty waters of corruption. Some of these people have also refused to venture into politics either for fear of becoming infected with the corruption disease or fear of being intimidated or killed by the “old players”. Let me simply call it “Nigerpoliticophobia” – fear of Nigerian politics. For this set of people, we say thank you O Lord. If only our leaders could see how much Nigerians crave for good governance, if only they knew how much the citizens of this great country want to bring to an end the problems of bribery, erratic supply of electricity, mismanagement of resources, insecurity, truancy, poverty, human trafficking, bunkering and so much more, then and only then would they see the need to set Nigeria on the right path once again.

In our quest for good governance, we should bear in mind that we cannot go back in time to fix the wrongs, but we can prevent the negative events of the past from repeating themselves. Several of us Nigerians have resorted to pointing fingers at others for failures, even those that we contribute to. This in our opinion serves as a palliative.

I have looked at the Nigerian political system and have drawn a conclusion that everything a political party does, including good, is bad in the eyes of other political parties. When an election is won, a rival political party makes sure that the tenure of the ruling party is spent resolving court cases and they (rival party) generate conflicts by careless statements just to show its rival in bad light. A saying goes thus, “Two wrongs do not make a right”, but in the Nigerian political scene, it is “an eye for an eye and a tooth for a tooth” up to the extent that they begin to “count scores”. I wonder if it is when we have lost all our eyes and teeth that we will begin to see and speak of the good of others, our competitors.

It is somewhat true that Nigerians can re-write the biblical book of Lamentations, but it is also true that we have got solutions to proffer. Ever since I was a child, I have been told countless times that children are the leaders of tomorrow. True, but I see on the political scene the faces of the same set of politicians I have been seeing since childhood so much that I begin to wonder when the mantle of leadership will be passed unto my generation. Is it when we become septuagenarians and octogenarians? I wish that the elderly men of our country would retire from the political scene and allow younger, fresher minds to correct their mistakes. It would do Nigeria a great deal of good if the elderly ones would only give useful advice to the younger ones from the background rather than make a mess of themselves to the international community, fighting and exchanging words.

Furthermore, we should begin to correct the impression that the young ones have pertaining to public offices, which is that people should occupy public offices to enrich themselves and fatten their bank accounts. I once asked a classmate of mine what he wanted to become in future; he opened his mouth to reveal how shallow-minded he was. He confidently and happily announced that he would like to become the President of the Federal Republic of Nigeria to siphon money and install his family members at top positions in the country. I looked at him with disgust and saw the dark future of Nigeria if someone like him became President. This clearly shows how deep the corruption mentality has eaten into the society. This has to be corrected.

I wish that the citizens of this great country would begin to take their fellow citizens into consideration in decision-making processes. We should begin to think independently and collectively on how to improve the situation of things in our own immediate environment. Let us stop pointing accusing fingers but look inwards of us to see our own mistakes and correct them. Let us elect leaders who are credible enough to lead us to a higher level and eliminate all traces of religious, racial and ethnical differences in our decision making processes.

Who says it is impossible to be greater than we are? I tell you, nothing is impossible because the word itself is “I’m possible”

I would like to conclude with my brother’s words: “I believe we can change this nation; and if you believe we have what it takes to be like those reigning countries in the globe then do your job diligently, inspire others, be a model to others, and lastly, make a change. The change begins with you.”

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6 thoughts on “King’s College, Lagos student, Ihejirika Jonathan Ikechukwu, emerges 3rd in the 12th Mike Okonkwo Annual Essay Competition

  1. Wow. This is truly awesome. The change truly, really begins with each of us. I am also not surprised with the quality of the essay. It truly runs in the family.

    Liked by 1 person

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