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The link between crime and politics

By Kole Omotoso
26 February 2017   |   2:21 am
The past, according to that United States of America white writer, never goes away. It is in fact not past. This must be the reason why all who write on the ease with which crime and politics co-exist in democracies of the developing.....

The past, according to that United States of America white writer, never goes away. It is in fact not past. This must be the reason why all who write on the ease with which crime and politics co-exist in democracies of the developing world take their arguments to the station of the past.

They insist that the extractive nature of a colonial economy, instead of an inclusive economy, breeds a politics of criminality. This type of past leads to a politics absolved of ethics and morality. Put simply, because British colonial economy was of an extractive rather than inclusive nature in Nigeria, Nigerian politicians can only play extractive economy, which breeds immoral politics and unethical social relationship. What do these words and phrases mean — extractive, inclusive, nexus of crime and politics and being absolved from ethics and morality?

The Trouble with contemplating these words and phrases and sentences is to think that History should not be about the past, especially in a developmental state, but about the future! History should be about what should not be in the future. The economy should not be extractive but inclusive, the reason being the last time it was extractive it led to criminal politicians excusing their criminality on the criminality of their colonial rulers. And since no one has punished the colonial politician-rulers for slavery and slave-labour laws, why should anyone want to blame them?

Before other diversionary thoughts seize us, it is necessary to wonder how deeply our languages have absorbed these ideas and used them to fire our contemporary lives of extractive economy and a politics without ethics and morality. Yoruba questions your unwillingness to cheat a mad person when there is certainty that a sane person would not permit himself or herself to be cheated. Which means that we were all mad to let the British come here and cheat us and go away. And we are still mad to allow our politicians to be here to cheat us and stay among us to enjoy the harvest of their unethical and immoral politics. After all, we insist that they should cheat us because “Omo wa ni, e je o se!”“He or she is of us, let him or her be.”

Some years ago, on a television discussion on 419 scams, a young Nigerian participant said that there was nothing wrong with those who initiate the scam. It is those who are tempted who are to blame. This was in South Africa. After all, the British comprising the Irish, the Scots, the Welsh and the English came here to scam us and got away with the murder of our ways and our means. First of all, we must get it back from them, get back our ways and means. Second to everything, when we have satisfied on that score we can then also get our ways and means from our own criminal politicians.

After all, we have spoken here of the rise of proverbs, words of wisdom, that encourage ethical and moral compromise. Let’s invest the mad one as the groom of the day so he can clear out of our way. If we grovel before the dwarf it does not mean when we get up we would not be taller than him. So, politics without principle, wealth without work are fine. We did the labour, they took the harvest. Now let others of us do the hard work and we lick the cream, thank you!

But wait small, where in the world can we find inclusive economics? Such an economy will nurture inclusive social relationships where my action would emanate from consideration of your interest and your activities would not proceed without counting me in! It would encourage an ethical and moral political practice. Such a place would ensure that I would not take a bite without wondering if my neighbour has something to eat. I would not pick and choose when my neighbour picks from the garbage and chooses what I throw away. Where is such a place where all efforts have been expended to turn stone into bread? And when such a feat has been achieved and every mouth ate and every stomach was full what happens then?

If we are alarmed at the cosy relationship between democracy and political criminality, are we saying that all previous political criminality happened under undemocratic systems? Crime and politics felt at home under imperial systems of governance, under dictatorships, both military and civilian, benevolent and malevolent. How many imperial majesties can we count in Nigeria today? Anyway, to get away from these easy messy systems, democracy is called forth, the best government of the people by the people for the people. Instead of king ships and monopolies, instead of inherited hierarchies and inheritances of blue blood and family virtues and natural rights of being born to rule, we have processes of leadership emergence through qualities of humane behaviour. We have periodic elections for periodic rulers. And everyone has the right to aspire to rule.

Still. Yet. Every democratically government aspires to imperial majesty!
Who did the British blame for their period of criminal politics, the Romans? Who did the Americans blame for their period of railway barons and pork barrel politics, the British? Perhaps yes in both cases and in other cases. In doing something about it, in correcting the situation they also learnt that when a government does not provide the basics that the people need, opportunists would come in to try to provide such social needs. In doing so, they would claim constituency projects and social far-fetched responsibilities. They would try to replace the work of the government.

Once it was discovered that the link between crime and politics is the failure of democratic governments to provide for the greatest number of the people, everything is done to strengthen government by creating institutions that would make a democratic government work best. With that would come inclusive politics, would be nurtured concerned co-existence, and ordinary comfortable fellow-feeling. A nanny state, not a neglect state.

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