Nigeria is a land of hypocrisy. The tragedy does not end there. Her people are so used to hypocrisy that they cannot face truth, so they remain un-free. There is hypocrisy in the home, church, mosque and in government offices. We – or rather or leaders – celebrate everything from the first 100 days in office to Democracy Day. Even this year, the ritual is not going to be different from the usual vainglorious self-adulation of individuals in power and their “fellow patriots” who are anxiously loud about the “achievements” of “my government”. But why is the term “dividends of democracy” so abused in this land?
The reason is not farfetched. It is hypocrisy. And it has reached suffocating levels in government affairs. Some of the “achievements” we will hear this year in the states include the construction of an “ultramodern” or a “befitting” or “the best” Government House by “my regime”. It will then be the duty of state radios to “enlighten” the “good people” of the state on the “benefits” of the project. With a “brand new” Government House, the governor and his cabinet are better positioned to “deliver dividends of democracy” that will “impact” the lives of the people. Meanwhile, the “cost” of these Government Houses is far more than their worth. And it has become a strain of madness ravaging the states where every governor that comes to office wants to construct for himself a “befitting” structure called “Government House”. Yet we have in these states, school children who study under angry teachers whose salaries are owed for months. Again, how does a “modern” or even an ancient Government House benefit the jobless vagabonds who also are legitimately entitled to these resources?
Another “dividend” of democracy articulated loudly at both the state and national levels is appointment into political offices. We hear every day, thank-you messages on the state radio appreciating “our able governor” for “appointing our sons and daughters” into “his government”, thereby, bringing “dividends” of democracy closer to the people. Quite clearly, this is nonsense! To function, a government must constitute human beings. These human beings are appointed to serve and while they may have some privileges as a result, the only benefit the people get from them is the quality of service they deliver. Their appointment in itself does not constitute any dividend for the masses. This will be the case however, if these people are not appointed to work, but to partake in “sharing” or “cutting” the “national cake”, and redistributing it among “my people”. And even if that were the case, how many “good people” of “my constituency” can have access to this “dividend”?
In at least one of the states, the governor’s “good relationship” with the president which enables him to “follow the president” even where other governors cannot, is also “dividend” of democracy. What I understand from this point is that it is a deliberate and not very wise way of promoting the governor’s “image”. But the prophets of this act do not seem to know that the average citizen does not even take pride in the “connections” the governor has. No doubt, these connections will not translate into good governance. If anything, they will lead to more wasteful financial expenditures on the part of the state. It however goes to show how desperate these gentlemen are, to be seeing as doing something. They seem to suffer from a tormenting emptiness which they only attempt to cover by their loud and substance-less noise, made all in the guise of providing “dividends” of democracy.
Also accompanying the “celebration” of the “dividends” of democracy in the states will be an unsolicited “advice” to the “good people” of the state to “shun opposition politics” and embrace the “government in power.” Opposition is both decried and denied. If the sun does not rise early enough, “elements within the opposition” must know something about it! Complain about non-payment of your salary and you sure are on the way to becoming a “disgruntled politician”. Even medical students whose programme has been intolerably delayed, risk being “used by the opposition” to cause “disaffection” and “confusion”. What manner of democracy is this that does not encourage freedom of expression? Why are our God-sent “servants” so seemingly allergic to fresh ideas?
The most hypocritical roles of all will be played by the state radio or television. We are going to hear of hurried “completion and commissioning” of various “mega projects” including renovated nursery schools, repaired culverts and repainted market stalls. Meanwhile, individuals seeking political favour will seize the moment to, “on behalf of the good people” of their local government areas, ministries, state assemblies, universities, churches, mosques or nursery schools, congratulate “His Excellency” on this “great” occasion of Democracy Day. Then, basking in the euphoria of fake glory, the “chief servant” of “our” state will “give account” of his stewardship. “My government” carried out a “youth empowerment” scheme in which university graduates were “empowered” in skills acquisition in areas like shoe repairs, recharge card selling and cloth sewing. All of these are done because of “my government’s vision” of creating job opportunities for our “teeming youth” who are “leaders of tomorrow”.
At the national level, security will be top on the agenda with the federal government promising to “crush” Boko Haram in three months. The honorable ministers of the federal republic have already been “giving accounts” of their one-year service to the nation. In the area of education, the president is “surprised” that 60% of university teachers do not have a PhD. I also expect him to express “sadness” that more candidates who are qualified by this year’s UTME will have no place in the nation’s tertiary institutions in spite of his “presidential” intervention by ordering the establishment of nine new universities. He will express “satisfaction” at “my government’s” progress on power sector “reforms”, reinstating “our commitment” to reaching the target of 6000MW. Now remember that Late Umaru Yar’Adua promised 10 000MW by December 2009. Today is not November 2010. It is May, 2012! Meanwhile Dr. Jonathan will be silent on the current health workers’ strike just as he was silent last Independence Day about the ASUU strike that had kept “our young ones” at home for too long.
In the end, crowds of hungry and expectant citizens will nearly suffocate themselves under the sun, listening to promises of delivering “dividends” of democracy to them in the next 100 days. And Bishops and Imams will fall over each other, delivering sermons and “offering” prayers as though trying to wish God Almighty a “happy” Democracy Day “celebration”.