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Mfonobong Inyang: Dogmatism is A Major Problem in Nigerian Politics

…even education doesn’t cure bigotry, it only makes it more sophisticated.



When the rubber hits the road, right-thinking people double down on competence – not ethnicity or religion. You would think our economic woes will make electing the most competent person non-negotiable but this is Nigeria, look how we’re living now. This is why although we are all on God’s green earth, we live in different ‘worlds’ – first-world countries are categorised not necessarily by how rich they are but by the quality of their corporate thinking or thought leadership. People that are serious about leadership put systems in place to ensure that certain categories of persons, especially criminally-minded ones, don’t get anywhere near power or social influence. Yet on this side of the Atlantic, we come out drumming support for people who have a number of FD-302s hanging over their heads to aspire for the highest offices in the land. After all, “everybody has the right to choose their candidates.”

Much earlier this year and to their credit, the Nigerian Meteorological Agency (NiMet) and the Nigeria Hydrological Services (NIHSA) warned of heavy rainfall and possible flooding. Although flooding is not a new phenomenon in Nigeria. There are remote factors that worsen the effect of the flood – like poor drainages, heavier-than-normal rainfall, the release of water from dams, and climate change. Consequences always include loss of souls, community submergences, loss of businesses, displacement of people and more food insecurity which is a direct result of subsistent and industrial farmlands losing their yield. The biggest rice farmer in Nigeria reportedly lost over $15 million worth of yield – 4,500 hectares of crop area wiped off! How is the biggest flood crisis in at least a decade not instinctively declared a national emergency?

Strategic thinking is beyond the range of an average politician; they leave the group chat when you start talking about development economics. They will express the customary ‘shock’, offer condolences and keep it moving. However, when you talk about winning elections, they will let you know how ‘experienced’ they are in that aspect. Political pundits will tell you how young people are wasting their time because “when the jungle matures,” the results will be clear. They have no answer to perennial market fires but they are quick to tell you which states are “in the bag” when analysing the electoral map. They will chest-thump about having political structures in rural communities that have never experienced a day of electricity from the national grid. A politician caught on camera assaulting a woman isn’t a big deal to a political party but daring to speak up about justice, equity and fairness is where they draw the line. Basically, their definition of a great political leader is not one that improves the lives of the people but one who can deliver votes.

Saudi Arabia has oil just like Nigeria. The Saudi Arabia Oil Company, Aramco, earlier this year posted the biggest quarterly adjusted profit of any listed company globally, driven by high crude prices and production. Aramco earned record quarterly and half-year net incomes of $48.4 billion and $87.9 billion respectively. Looking at their 2022 second-quarter numbers, they had a 90% year-on-year (YoY) increase in net income. Make I shock una small: that viral video of their hi-tech control room where they monitor their oil pipelines and supertankers is from 2008 – 14 years ago! In 2022, they probably have cutting-edge tech to detect when a fly perches on any of their facilities.

Today we complain about oil heists in Nigeria as though it’s rocket science or brain surgery. Guess how the African giant monitors her crude oil theft? On vibes. What exactly is your competence if with all the funds used to manage an organisation, you cannot detect a pipeline leak? Imagine hiring a person as a driver but he can do everything else but actually drive – would such a person survive the first day of employment? Even Angola, which has since overtaken Nigeria in crude oil production, cashed out so much from oil this year, amidst the Russia-Ukraine crisis, that they paid off national debts. My point is simple: having resources is great but everything rises and falls on leadership, not resources.

In 2008, America was neck-deep into the most severe financial crisis since The Great Depression. There was a subprime mortgage crisis, the banking system collapsed, record unemployment and a cocktail of terrible economic indices. That year, American electorates had a courageous choice to make – to vote like they have done for the 43 previous presidents or give some young Black man a chance. They went with Barack Obama, an African-American for the job. The economy of the United Kingdom was also in crisis; the value of the pound fell to its lowest level against the US dollar. Liz Truss stepped down after 45 days because she “couldn’t deliver on a mandate.” When they read the tea leaves, Rishi Sunak, a British-Asian was elected almost unopposed.

However, in Nigeria, we attack clearly competent candidates running for public office with dog-whistling, bigoted talk and ethnic slurs around those with a well-documented history of maleficence. For the right incentives, the average Nigerian ‘intellectual’ will twerk for you with some interesting ad hominem, pejoratives and polemics that beggars belief. I couldn’t have put it better than Aesop: “We hang the petty thieves and appoint the great ones to public office.”

You would think that after undergraduates have been at home for almost a year, they would make education funding a hot topic or at least, in a pre-election year. But they won’t. Those that do are not that concerned; they only want the votes. A budget is not just a fiscal tool but more importantly, a tool for social re-engineering. Meaning that, amongst other things, it should reflect strategic priorities. As an economist, one thing I know about data is that it can be disrespectful – it doesn’t care about your feelings or agenda. Don’t take my word for it, go and verify the following numbers from the proposed 2023 Appropriation bill (Part J – Statutory Transfers):

  • The National Assembly made up of 109 senators + 360 federal representatives (combined membership of 469) is allocated N159b (with an additional N10b for severance/inauguration).
  • Universal Education (N95b) + Basic Healthcare Fund (N47b) = N142b

Those hell-bent on destroying this country are united across ethnicity, religious and partisan lines. Yet they want to play the divide-and-rule card on the rest of us. It’s on brand for feudalists to weaponise illiteracy and poverty, and polarise identities (religion, gender and ethnicity). This is why most politicians don’t like the surge of interest in elections from urban voters who are more economically buoyant, have independent thinking and will vote for candidates that exude competence, character, capacity and commitment. I am not unaware that sometimes, even education doesn’t cure bigotry, it only makes it more sophisticated. Thankfully, the coconut head generation is too ideologically advanced for such pedestrian gibberish; they see through the faux outrage, performative activism and selective amnesia.

“The day Nigeria wakes up, Africa will never be the same again!” – Prof. Patrick Lumumba

Now available in select bookshops and on my Selar Store - get your hands on my brand new book, Hope Is Not A Strategy; Faith Is Not A Business Model - Mfonobong Inyang is a creative genius who works with top individuals and institutions to achieve their media, tech and communication goals. As a consummate writer, he offers ghostwriting, copy-writing and book consultancy services. A master storyteller that brilliantly churns out premium content for brands on corporate communications, book projects, scripts and social media. A graduate of Economics – he speaks the English, Ibibio, Yoruba, Igbo and Hausa languages. He appears to be a gentleman on the surface but the rumours are true - he get coconut head! Reach out to me let us work together on your content project(s) - [email protected].

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