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Primitive thinking – Anointing, nepotism and cronyism

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Beset by entrenched tribalism, nepotism, and favoritism, the chokehold of primitive thinking on Nigeria is one of the most asphyxiating in the world.

The pace at which the stranglehold is choking the life out of the country seems to be accelerating. Growing incidents of spontaneous anti-government protests, louder cries of marginalization coming out of the middle belt sub-region and the southern region, increasingly strident calls for restructuring via a sovereign national conference, growing attraction of separation from Nigeria in Yoruba speaking areas, deep-seated agitation for separation in Igbo speaking areas, open suspicion of the commitment of Fulani and Hausa elite to the good of Nigeria are some of the indicators.

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Primitive thinkers include elites in the far north who scheme to maintain control of all key sectors of political and regulatory life namely: fiscal revenues (Section xx of the 1999 constitution, NNPC, Customs, and FIRS), law and order (Nigeria Police, Federal Court of Appeal, Supreme Court and Economic and Financial Crimes Commission), the vote (N), the count (Nigeria Population Commission), the military (Army, Air Force, and Navy), and internal affairs (intelligence agencies and Ministry of Internal Affairs). This ensures redistribution and lopsided fiscal transfer to the far north and control of opposing voices.

They include political godfathers, heavily invested in corruption and state capture, stealing from taxpayers, looting the commonwealth and using money to buy stature, influence, worship, corrupt political pathways, select candidates for political office, subjugate merit, support and promote violence, thuggery, and murder while at-times scheming to hold high political office themselves. Political godfathers are endemic and are found all over the country, in every ethnic group. In some states, they have acquired a vice-like grip on political activities. Working as a group across states, they control who attains major political offices.

Primitive behavior, thinking, values, and norms are at odds with the prerequisites for broad-based wealth creation, peace, liberty, justice, and freedom. Arguably, primitive thinking, especially at the tribal and individual ego level, is a common characteristic of human beings. However, any human formation seeking to accelerate widespread prosperity had to bury primitive thinking and behavior and to remain vigilant against a rebirth. This is as true for Japan, as it is for China, the United States of America, Germany, the United Kingdom, France, Canada, Australia, South Korea, and other advanced and fast-emerging economies.

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In Nigeria, seemingly clever (but short-sighted) politicians speak of justice and peace, while subverting justice and peace by their daily actions and behavior. Control of the military, intelligence activities, the police and the legal system is used to browbeat and corrupt as necessary. By allowing unfettered corruption, a class of looters was created. A conscious decision to facilitate corruption is a signal to anyone that cares to find a way to join the party.

These clever and short-sighted politicians, civil servants, appointed and elected government officials and contractors, have different but roughly similar agendas. For those in the far north, it is cast as a desire to develop their semi-arid region at the expense of the southern region and the middle belt sub-region. That the sub-region is by far the poorest, after decades of political control and massive capture of the country’s fiscal resources, is damning. It shows that individual amassment of wealth is the dominating motive.

For those in the south and middle belt, tribal thinking and behavior, amounts to stealing and misappropriation of wealth at the individual level. It is a testament to large egos and a lack of understanding of the very drivers of widespread prosperity some use as cover, mere political-speak. It is a descent into acceptance of inducements from the fulcrum of corruption as control at the expense of the people.

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The behavior of this class of elites is cold and calculated. It leverages the relative ignorance of the poor and peace-loving masses, and timidity of the peace-oriented and hard-working mal-educated and educated class that is well aware of the presence of a murderous police force, terrified of resumption of heavy, jack-boot military domination, in full knowledge of a compromised legal system and thus intent on keeping heads down.

If Nigeria’s institutions are to function properly, if the country wishes to deliver sustained, high real economic growth, to elicit pride as a country, primitive thinking and behavior have to be completely buried. Nigeria cannot be different from any other country. Primitive thinking is inefficient and by misallocating resources, it is an existential detriment to the working of a free market. Only the callous, mean-spirited, and hard-hearted, those afraid of free and fair competition, dabble in primitive thinking and behavior!

Proponents and beneficiaries of primitive behavior, don’t like being told the truth. They resent being held to account. They actively seek to undermine, intimidate, and even kill those who dare to say the obvious and point out their corrupt mindset and its dire consequences. They are quick to use state power (police, intelligence, prison, and if possible, penury) to silence opposition and maintain their chokehold on the country.

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Regardless of what they say and propagate, primitive thinking and behavior result in slow real economic growth, inequality, poverty, and unemployment. These outcomes have serious, debilitating, and globally embarrassing social outcomes: chaos, crime, and terrorism. Primitive behavior is its own bane as it slowly but surely creates political and social opposition that only but grows. Slowly growing widespread opposition, makes the primitive thinker class believe they have perpetual control over the affairs of the country making a rational rethink a challenge for members of the benefiting class.

Over years and decades, it will seem as if the class is in control of its affairs, but all over the world, humans have demonstrated that permanent subjugation is impossible. In the modern era, of social media, subjugating humans, especially those whose ancestral land is high in natural resource endowment, is possible but harder than ever. Thus, the earlier a fair constitution, merit, accountability, and transparency supplant primitive thinkers and thinking, the sooner Nigeria will fulfill any great destiny it might have in peace and with dignity. The pace at which the stranglehold of primitive thinking and behavior is comparatively chocking life out of the country and deepening misery is accelerating and people are noticing!

Ijose, a Professor of Strategic Management and International Business, wrote in from the United States.

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