Editor’s note: Elaborating on his “Nigeria is a zoo” comment, Professor Pius Adesanmi, the Naij.com’s columnist, says Nigerians are the ones creating the favourable environment for the troublemakers to thrive.
A young and very patriotic Nigerian contacted me from Japan recently. The volume of messages I receive daily from Nigerian millennials all over the world is one reason I have been unable to just close shop and give up on Fatherland. They are so passionate about their country! Every day, hundreds engage me, privately or publicly, taking me to task over issues relating to our country: why did you write this? what is your take on that?
The young man in question took me to task over a statement I have often repeated on Facebook, to wit: “Nigeria is not a zoo because Nnamdi Kanu says so; Nigeria is a zoo because she rewards crime and impunity”.
The young man wanted to know if I truly believe that impunity makes Nigeria a zoo or my frequent recourse to that statement is just a way of letting off steam.
No, whenever I make this statement, I am not letting off steam. Impunity is what makes Nigeria a zoo, not Nnamdi Kanu’s misguided rhetoric of hate. There are harmful things that Nigerians do to Nigeria in every station of life on a daily basis precisely because they can predict the outcome: lack of consequences.
Daily life in Nigeria is a bazaar of nation-ruining actions devoid of consequences. You just do it because you can. Just like that. We are unaware of the enormity of the problem because we think it is limited to politicians and public office-holders. But many Nigerians have country-ruining impunity running as blood in their veins. We have allowed it to become second nature; to define us. DNA tinz.
Professor Osinbajo went to Okene in Kogi state last week and stood on the same podium with Abubakar Audu, his political party’s gubernatorial candidate in the forthcoming elections. For the record, I have condemned that election as a choice between Satan and Lucifer. I don’t want my focus on Audu here to be twisted by any reader into an endorsement of his opponent, Idris Wada of the PDP. I am not endorsing Wada o. Ehen.
But let us return to Professor Osinbajo and his buddy, Abubakar Audu. To the extent that the change agenda of the current administration has a professional cum technocrat cum intellectual shining light, it is Professor Osinbajo. In fact, part of the appeal of that team to Nigerians resides in the possibility of President Buhari’s famed integrity combining effortlessly with Professor Osinbajo’s unimpeachable and intimidating credentials as a professor of law, a pastor, and a SAN to deal a death blow to corruption at the practical and symbolic levels.
Appointing Magu to head EFCC, blocking leakages here and there, adding more bark to the work of the CCT (hopefully there will be some bite soon) – these are all practical baby steps in the fight against corruption. But so great is the power of symbolism that a thousand practical steps could be destroyed or rolled back with just one symbolic misstep.
Abubakar Audu’s corruption history is terrible. No need going into all the sordid details here. Suffice it to say that he still has an ongoing corruption indictment with EFCC to the tune of N11 billion. In any standard democracy, it would have amounted to political suicide for a sitting vice president to publicly cuddle a man indicted by the anti-corruption agency of his own government. It is bad enough that his party settled on such a candidate!
Standing with such a man on a podium to raise his hands and do photo-ops is a terrible symbolic blow on the anti-corruption war. Now, why would a man such as Professor Osinbajo do this? Because he knows that he operates in a zoo where politicians pay no political price for such things. Because he will not fall in any polls. Because he does not have to worry about his political future. Because he does not have to worry about the Nigerian media.
Not even the activist media I write for, Sahara Reporters and Premium Times, has deemed it necessary to look into this ugly episode. Because his aides don’t even have to worry about how they will spin this episode.
Oppressed Nigerians, whose salaries have not been paid, will do the work that Professor Osinbajo’s aides are paid to do. They will argue that Professor Osinbajo was just on a routine party assignment. They will argue that Abubakar Audu has not been convicted in a court of law. They will argue that… well, you know all their usual arguments. You know all their usual rationalizations and justifications. I don’t need to run through them here. Just read the comments section of this piece whenever it is published.
Law-abiding Nigerians abroad, Nigerian Nigerians at home
Professor Osinbajo is not the only one who doesn’t have to worry about consequences because he functions in Nigeria. Governors Adams Oshiomhole and Olusegun Mimiko are on their way out of office. Before they leave, they are both looking for last-minute loans. Mimiko even tried, as we say in Nigeria. He is looking for a domestic loan of only N7 billion. Unlike Mimiko, Oshiomhole is not a local champion. He does not play in the local league. He is looking for a foreign loan. Maybe too much rainfall is what has been preventing him from traveling abroad to pick up the loan check.
Now, why are Oshiomhole and Mimiko taking last-minutes loans — moves that could crash them in polls and have dire consequences for their political future in standard democracies? Because they both know that they can access these loans a day to leaving office, parlay a substantial part of the said loans into juicy retirement packages for themselves, and end up in the Senate where they will hook up with Godswill Akapbio to break traffic rules in irresponsible convoys — and still end up with Nigerians defending them.
As civil servants, teachers, pastors, imams, mechanics, market women, students, hair dressers, farmers, traders, the Nigerians defending these guys in the government also produce hundreds of thousands of acts of micro-impunity in every sphere of our national life daily. As for Nigerians in diaspora, they are law-abiding citizens here but they cannot wait to get off the plane in Lagos or Abuja to partake in the festival of impunity.
That Nigerian waiting patiently for his turn in the queue in London, Washington, Ottawa, or Paris is just a forming law-abiding citizen. Once he gets off the plane in Nigeria, he is going to try to jump the queue at immigration. If you accost him, he will answer you: “Do you know who I am?”
So much for thirty years of life abroad!
Author, Professor Pius Adesanmi
Pius Adesanmi is a professor of English and African Studies at Carleton University, Ottawa, Canada. In 2010, he was awarded the inaugural Penguin Prize for African Writing. A widely-cited commentator on Nigerian and African affairs, he has lectured in African, European, and North American universities, and also regularly addresses non-academic audiences across Africa. Follow him on Twitter @pius_adesanmi.
The views expressed in this article are author’s own and do not necessarily represent the editorial policy of Naij.com.
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