The continuous bastardisation of the Nigerian psyche and our collective intellect really bothers me. We recently witnessed the return of a former governor of Delta state to his home town, after being incarcerated in the United Kingdom for robbing generations yet unborn of their future and possible access to healthcare, education, and other attributes of good governance. James Ibori was sentenced to jail in the United Kingdom for stealing over $250m while he was governor of Delta. One of the comments that startled me on social media, was by a young man who responded to a post where James Ibori was called a thief by saying, ‘is he your thief.’ The meaning that can be deduced from that statement is, since he is our son, even if he is a thief, he is our thief.
I remember the story of a man from a community ten kilometres from my home town, who several years ago was arrested in Netherlands, allegedly for drug trafficking offences. The people of his village went up in prayers to God for his release since according to them, he had at least used his ill-gotten wealthy to provide employment and educational opportunities for his own people. As far as they were concerned, ‘our son can do no wrong.’
As a young boy in secondary school, whenever I returned home from school with an item of clothing that was never purchased by my parents, my mum especially, will accost me, questioning me about where and how I got the item. I still bear on my back the marks of her whip for not being able to give proper account in some instances.
A Yoruba adage says, “omo yin o se agbafo on k’aso wa ile, ero’ju ole e o mu.” The interpretation in English is; you are not a dry cleaner and you keep bringing home all kinds of clothes, you must be a thief. I am thankful that I was raised by parents who taught me that, ‘our son can do wrong’ and when he does we must tell him, discipline him and correct him.
Our political landscape is replete with the ‘our son can do no wrong’ syndrome. Once we can identify a person as being from our own part of the country, we throw our sense of judgment away to defend them at all costs. We do all we can to protect our own, since ‘our son can do no wrong.’
I must say that many of those who have weakened the hands of the leadership of this country through the years are from their own part of the country. The constant play of the ethno-religious card, and the endless defence of wrong policies and programmes is the reason why Nigeria has struggled to become the giant of Africa since 1999.
It is recorded in history that the Roman Emperor, Marcus Aurelius had a servant who followed him and whispered in his ear every time he received a compliment or achieved victory, “remember yourself mortal” you are just a man and not God” The purpose of this was to remind him of the great responsible he had to lead the people he was assigned over.
Is someone whispering into the ears of our leaders? From the churches to the mosques, from the Villa to the local government offices… Is someone saying, “You may be our son but you are doing wrong.” or are their ears blocked with ethno-religious chants of support.
The shouts and groans of this generation for good governance appears to be deafening today, probably because of the high cost of living and the huge discomfort Nigerians are experiencing at the moment. However once the situation changes and some ease sets in, most people will return to status-quo ante and the demands of good governance may take a back seat.
Sadly to most Nigerians, good governance is summed up by how much enters the belly of their son. No wonder no matter how much our son steals he can never do wrong and will always be our hero.