By Ochereome Nnanna
THE terms: “nepotism” and “corruption” are much misunderstood among the Nigerian populace. Unfortunately, even some of our prominent intellectuals are guilty of this, perhaps blinded by selfish interests. I am discussing these two topics because of their places in our democracy, especially in the dispensation of the current government. A dictionary defines nepotism as: “the practice by those with power and influence of favouring relatives and friends, especially by giving them jobs” When some of us criticised the emerging trend of giving most top government jobs to Muslim-Northerners, with some spinoffs to the South West while the South East and South-South were almost completely sidelined, many Nigerians waved away our concern as “petty”.
One of our erudite professors (I withhold his name to avoid making him the focus of this write-up) told the media that it did not matter if all the jobs in the government were given to people from the president’s village! Those were the days when the epidemic was sweeping the psyche of millions of Nigerians who either did not know the president very well or chose to loudly sublimate his image with hopes of selfish benefits. Today, most of these people have fallen quiet. The reverse of “Buharimania” is now the order of the day. This is evidenced in the fact that the president’s campaign billboards were torched a fortnight ago by anti-Buhari protesters in his home state, Katsina! Former “Buhari trekkers” are now being arrested for protesting and “insulting” him. How could it be that a president who has given everything that belongs to all of us to his home state and region is still getting insulted? The entire police, military, paramilitary and security system are in the hands of the North, yet the North has become so insecure that many innocent citizens are in internally-displaced persons’ camps. Meanwhile, hundreds of thousands of Northerners are fleeing to the same neglected Southern parts of the country whose leaders have now sued the president over nepotism and marginalisation. What an epic irony! Why is it that Northerners who were given the full control of our armed and security forces cannot defend their own homeland? The same Governor Nasir el Rufai who had accused former President Goodluck Jonathan of using Boko Haram to wage war against the North recently apologised to Kaduna people for his inability to protect them from the “Bandits” who are not exactly strangers to him. This is what happens when you rig a diverse system with nepotism. For a country like Nigeria to function effectively, it is necessary to bring everybody on board in the composition of government. If you try to push people off the boat, they will rock the boat. It was this exposure of nepotism that gave rise Nnamdi Kanu’s popularity.
When you sectionalise the armed and security forces, it means you have an agenda that is not the national agenda. What is more corrupt than pushing an ethnic agenda in a diverse country like Nigeria? The relentless quest for “ruga” and “cattle colonies” for the president’s local and foreign kinsmen and refusal to even recognise the killer herdsmen militias as a security threat must have informed ethnicisation of our armed and security forces. This has also led to lack of coordination in tackling insecurity. People have established and now hold tightly to their private turfs to enrich themselves, thus denying the fighting forces crucial welfare and armaments. This is more so as the president appears not to be in charge as Commander-in-Chief. If he were, his wife, Aisha, would not be complaining on Twitter everyday about her travails in the hands of her husband’s cabal. With only people from a few families in charge of our Federal Government, the struggle for power has become intra-family squabbles. This is impossible in a properly constituted government. In a diverse country like Nigeria, it is unsafe for everyone if at the core of governance people freely converse in a particular local dialect because there is no need to speak our commonly-shared official lingua franca, the English language. Beyond the moral consideration of nepotism being capable of introducing the “rot” factor in government, it is also prohibited under our constitution. The drafters of the 1999 constitution borrowed the Federal Character principle (Section 14) from resolutions reached at the 1994-1996 Constitutional Conference convened by the late General Sani Abacha, which sought to end sectional dominance of the Federal Government. The president swore twice to defend and abide by the constitution but he violated the Federal Character principle to give things belonging to all Nigerians to “his people” only. Can anything be more corrupt than this? Corruption is not only when you steal government money. This was the wisdom Jonathan was trying to convey. But evildoers twisted it to say that stealing is not corruption, just to knock him down and bring in Buhari. Wikipaedia says: “Corruption is a form of dishonesty or criminal offence undertaken by a person or organisation entrusted with a position of authority to acquire illicit benefit, or abuse power for one’s private gain”. Fighting corruption is not only when you recover stolen public funds because nothing stops you from re-stealing it. You cannot be running a nepotistic government and claim to be fighting corruption. I am happy that some of our regional leaders have come together to challenge Buhari in court after five years of idle spectatorship. I have had my say. Now, let the Judiciary have its own.