Away with the king-slave mentality!
One of the persisting challenges Nigeria, and indeed the African continent has been bedeviled with over the centuries, which has inexorably led to the slow pace of economic development is the master-slave mindset. While one could understand and even excuse this under feudalism, autocracy and military dictatorship, it becomes not only anomalous but a sickening anathema under a democracy.
So often, we have been witnesses to aberrant situations here in Nigeria whereby a vast majority of the electorate who sacrificed their precious time, talents and even money to see to the victory to their preferred candidates become objects of rejection and ridicule by those they assisted to the pedestals of political power. The wrong mindset of seeing elected or appointed political officers, be they councilors, council chairmen, state governors or the president as ‘lion-kings’ under a democracy exhibits the sad psyche of an animal kingdom.
Little wonder that they too behave as such, as several sensitive national issues dovetail into jungle justice, where might is right. What do lions do but to roar their threats, hunt down their helpless preys and make a mince meat of them? How do ‘lords of the manor’ behave but to lord it over us-in words and actions. They care less about the sacred oath of office they swore to uphold while being sworn into office. At best, they may kowtow to your wishes during the campaign period, making fanciful promises they never intend to fulfill, or hand out crumbs of half bags of rice, vegetable oil, pans of salt and sugar to canvass for votes.
But once in office they show their true colours of selfishness and greed. Unfortunately, they are helped by the anti-people 1999 Constitution patently skewed in favour of the political elite at the expense of the masses. Or, how else do we explain a situation that has people prostrating or kneeling before elected governors to get their attention. How do you juxtapose the appointment of relatives and in-laws, or a coterie of fraudulent friends and kinsmen into the most plum offices in sheer nepotism rather than on merit, even by those who call themselves ‘progressives’?
In such a sad situation you find some myopic members of the led majority engaged in sheer slave-mentality. Some climb to the rooftop to rain praises on their elected leaders for some fleeting achievements as if they used their own money to build structures, provide constituency projects or offer scholarship awards. Patriotic minds dare not point out the mistakes of our ‘lion-kings’, lest their blind supporters seek your blood on and offline, or your objective analysis are termed ‘hate speech’. What a country! But we cannot tread long on this crooked path.
Perhaps, former President Musa Yar’Adua (of blessed memory) took full cognizance of this wrong notion when he openly canvassed for the servant-leader principle on assumption of power in 2007. A few years later, the erstwhile governor of Niger state, Aliyu Babangida came up with the prefix of ‘servant-leader’. Whether he lived up to the billing is debatable.
For instance, the Athenian democracy of Cleisthenes and Pericles was based on freedom of speech, association and equality of the citizenry before the law. Through the reforms of Solon, (isonomia), which Cleisthenes introduced and later expanded by Ephialtes and Pericles democracy was meant to benefit the people. But not so here in Nigeria, what with our Human Development Index (HDI) with access to basic education, primary healthcare delivery, food security all plunging down with every successive administration since 1999.
Fueled by what one has severally referred to as ‘the twin evils of crass corruption and impunity’ in high places, combined with an unmerited lion share of the national cake by way of huge pay packages and spurious bloated contracts, the ordinary Nigerians have been left holding the short end of the nation’s economic stick. They are left washing their hands with spittle while standing by the shore of the vast Atlantic Ocean.
What a pity, that some Nigerians who know little or nothing about their inalienable rights to quality life, as enshrined in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, which was adopted by the UN General Assembly on 10 December 1948, keep viewing our political office holders as their kings and they the hapless slaves! The African-Americans once found themselves in this position but made the sacrifice needed to get themselves out of the rot of racism.
According to Thyblackman.com website, the most dangerous enemy the African American community faced under racism in the United States was neither the Caucasian man nor the police. It was traced to the slave mindset that infects generation after generation within the African American community. ‘It is the mindset that promotes self instead of unity. It is the individualistic mindset that cannot see that we are all connected together. It is the mindset that fails to realise what one of us does impacts all of us. It is the very slave mindset that helps other groups oppress us, play us against each other and destroy us.’ Is this any different in Nigeria? Not at all.
The traits of the slave mindset include the reluctance for the oppressed to come together and fight for their freedom. Others include refusal to work together ‘unless they can be the head, take the credit or make money off the tragedy and our people in the process.’
The way out of this political quagmire, is first for the led majority to realise that they deserve far more qualitative leadership than we have seen in the past 18 years. They should be interested in their rights and responsibilities, as well as taking their leaders to task on the issue of accountability in governance. They must stop being easily fooled by the promises of paradise-on-earth made by the politicians, by refusing to take gifts in cash or kind to vote for the candidates.
All these would be achieved when the mass media and members of the civil society do more than they say in sustained political re-engineering.
Baje, a public affairs analyst and media consultan, wrote from Lagos.