Opinion: Nigerian politics, a monkey business

by Ayodele Oluwagbemi

Our ears are already picking up prattles and babbles. Mouths are running, curse words are flowing freely without hinder; thugs are threatening and their sponsoring mafiosos are cuddled in their hideouts. Foul monies have begun to change hands in bales and batches. Fools are spending and the wise are splurging. Candidates have enlisted social media magpies and mainstream media motormouths to repackage garbage made of many men who seek political power. Mayhem myrmidons are waiting for the next instruction from their field commanders. Their first love is fomenting violence. In any election season in Nigeria, dirty things happen. These are all signs and symptoms of another unfolding ugly weather. These are announcements that elections are around the bend again in Nigeria.

Recently, I stumbled on a report that about 96 per cent of those who seek political offices in Nigeria today see politics as a cash-and-carry fief and looting as a lawful barony. 96 per cent? That’s whooping, isn’t it? My friends in Nigeria, some of them in government, think the percentile is close to a hundred. Just look around and you’ll see evidence flying disrespectfully before your eyes. Men who seek to rule in Nigeria are mostly people that are sick-in-the-head and who don’t give a care about ordinary Nigerians and their pressing needs. The sole goal of Nigerian politicians is to keep milking the people who have been denied the milk and honey of a blessed and endowed nation like ours.

Runners and gunners for political offices only salivate after our collective pies, baked in the oven of Nigeria’s crude oil and on the backs of sweating labourers. Not even the crumbs of the Nigerian comestible are falling on the laps of those who truly own Nigeria—the people. The pies are restricted servings only on the selfish dinner table of the greedy and gluttonous and their pillaging criminal cahoots. It is why millions continue to die of hunger. It is why diseases snuff lives freely out of the innocent and hapless and there are no cures. It is why kidnappers rape and kill and why bandits are not ready to give up their depravities. It is why our roads remain life-silencing snares and crooked paths to premature trips to hell. Since 1999, when the exploitative and breath-expunging experiment called democracy flagged off, we have indeed seen changes. But the changes experienced by Nigerians, unfortunately, aren’t what they asked for. My friends, Nigerian politics is nothing but monkey business. Who will deliver us?

What is monkey business? Follow this short story. A particular village was the habitat of many mandrill monkeys. One day a merchant strolled into this village to purchase the breed. He offered to purchase one monkey for $200 and the villagers, who saw no value in the animals, thought the merchant had gone cuckoo. Why will a sane man buy stray monkeys for that much, they wondered? But the merchant kept amassing monkeys as the villagers smiled to the bank. Words went wild around town and the monkey small-scale business became an acre of gold for the poor villagers. The merchant later increased his offers to $500 per monkey! Villagers went wild and brought more monkeys to the merchant.

Over a short period of time, the villagers ran out of monkeys. The monkey merchant later skipped town for a week but promised to return with a higher offer of $1,000 for one monkey. His manager who was charged to take care of the purchased monkeys offered to sell the monkeys for $700 each. Villagers jumped on the offer. After all, the merchant had promised that when he returned, he would buy more monkeys for $1,000. For the villagers, it was a whopping $300 profit. The next day, villagers besieged the monkey warehouse buying one monkey for $700 in anticipation of a resell at $1,000 each. Those who had no funding either sold their properties or borrowed money to buy more monkeys they sold cheaply to the merchants. They waited and waited but the merchant did not show up. Now, they are stuck with monkeys and deep in bankrupting debt. But the merchant? He is living large in Dubai and Switzerland.

Nigerian politics is just like the monkey business. Who will deliver Nigerians? We’ve all had experiences with politicians during campaigns and after they sit in authority. Lofty promises were made and not even one was kept. They build wells without water. They construct roads that cave in after a few months. They build schools without teaching tools. And for all of these, prices of projects are inflated up to 300 per cent. And in a daring affront, they present themselves for commissioning of the reject-projects in a sheepish photo-op. Chai! These people have taken advantage of my people! They have insulted the people’s intelligence for too long, and there is no end in sight to the shenanigan. Politicians live large while the people die off in pauperism. Public office, which is supposed to be an instrument of service and responsibility to the people, has become a channel of accumulation of power and wealth. Not even a well-intentioned candidate can survive the strangulating political terrain. How can a good man or woman escape the growling of this assembly of the wicked? With promises of good healthcare delivery during electioneering; the few existing hospitals cannot cure migraine headache. With mealy-mouthed promises of a sound education for our children, what we have instead are scattershot rickety public schools that cannot tutor students to spell the word “GRADUATE” correctly. Big people look out for themselves while little people, who don’t know that they are the government, are quiet and docile. They watch their tomorrows auctioned off by the rich.

Nigeria was once a net exporter of refined petroleum products. Today, she imports all refined petroleum products from beyond our shores. There was once a car battery-producing company called Exide situated in Ibadan. It serviced almost all of Africa. Exide later went extinct. There was once The Dunlop in Lagos and Michelin in Port Harcourt producing tyres for our bumpy roads. They too are interred in history. Nigerians were clothed from the production at the UNTL textile mills in Kaduna and Chellarams in Lagos. They have both melted into oblivion. If you are not too young you should remember Nigeran Airways. It was once the biggest airliner in Africa, was an adored beauty flying to many places around the world. The wings of the airliner were clipped in corruption and a multitude of malfeasances. It quit flying many decades ago. In the 1980s, $1 sold for 0.78 kobo. Today, it is through the roof at almost N600. Promises from government fellas over many decades have not helped Nigerians but hurt her hollow.

Ours is a decadent and debauched society. Nigerian democracy, which is the government of the people, for the people and by the people is working against the people. Nigerian politics is nothing but monkey business and fraud. Who will deliver us?

5th century Greek philosopher, Plato, once said that when good men shun politics, the people are left to be ruled by bad men. He offered a prescription. To force good men into positions of power, Plato suggested that good men must be punished for refusing to rule because for as long as bad and corrupt thieves oversee a nation, today and tomorrow will forever be bad for that country. I feel the pain of Plato. The bail-out of Nigeria from chains and shackles of retrogression and backwardness is not in the hands of men who make promises and renege with ease and without apologies to the people they lied to. It is mentally tiring and emotionally frustrating talking or writing about Nigeria. Nigeria’s hope is in God and God alone.

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