When Nigerians discuss the deplorable and dishonest performance of their politicians one often hears sentiments like, “Let’s hope that someone will come to power that will turn things around.” Despite the fact that regime after regime the country seems to be taking a nose dive, the expectation of the people for a messiah is unshakable. Perhaps it is this lassitude that is the root, the perpetuating factor for the poor governance of Nigeria and Africa as a whole. In spite of the numerous maxims that abound to the evidence of our misplaced faith, there remains the unwavering belief that someday, somehow, someone will arise from among us who does not have the voracious appetite of his predecessors for illicit wealth, someone who has an aversion to self-aggrandizement, someone who will do us good of his own volition.
But the reality is that we have created a society in which such a messiah cannot exist. The worship of wealth, irrespective of source, in Nigeria, and the total disdain and disregard for the poor and have-nots has bred a crazed appetite for wealth irrespective of source. In a society where infrastructure is dilapidated and the lives of citizens are worth next to nothing—as far as the governing class are concerned—there is not only an astonishing lack of a common will to demand justice, but a reckless aspiration in individuals to seek what piece of the national cake they can grab for themselves. The social conscience of the nation seems to have been annihilated. But in all this, the realization, perhaps, has not dawned on all concerned, that a working Nigeria will work for all. The rich will be more comfortable and secure and the plight of the poor will be bettered. A progressive Nigeria will cause all to progress. In a society where the roads are death traps, where the state of security is dangerous and hospitals do not live up to their designation, even those who consider themselves well off are only one emergency situation away from total disaster.
Yet, what is to be done? History teaches us that there is no freedom without struggle. The French rose up multiple times against their elites and their insistence on equity brought about, at last, a thriving society. It was a sustained struggle against apartheid that caused the world to hear black South Africans and join them to bring down a shameful oppression. But even for citizens who are not like the brave peasants of France, the modern world offers avenues for freedom from oppression. If Nigerians decide to engage in a sustained struggle against corruption and poor governance it will get to a level where the world will take note and the corrupt politicians will have no place to hide.
In this day and age when the poor governance in Nigeria has created a large population of economic migrants around the globe, it has become easier to curb the ability of corrupt Nigerian politicians to launder their stolen wealth abroad and seek healthcare abroad while their citizens perish in abject poverty and dangerous hospitals. Indeed, more avenues are available to curb the illicit activities of corrupt Nigerian leaders should their citizens decide to act. And decide they must, if there is going to be hope of progress for Nigeria.
Nigerians in diaspora, in whatever country they live, through their different town meetings, have the power in their hands to curb the freedom with which the corrupt politicians access the amenities in the West. These politicians use the nation’s coffers as their launch pad for living it up in developed countries: purchasing mansions, stowing away illicit wealth, seeking health care and sending their children to school abroad while their citizens are left to grovel in poverty and poor amenities. If Nigerians in diaspora are able to make politicians’ activity in developed countries uncomfortable through regular demonstrations, the politicians will get the message to fix things in their own country. After all, politicians from developed countries do not come to Nigeria to buy homes, send their children to schools in Nigeria or live lavish lifestyles beyond what is commensurate with their income without being called to account.
It is time for Nigerians in the diaspora, when they attend meetings of their towns of origin, to begin to consider ways they can foil the corrupt activities of Nigerian politicians that occur in the country in which they live. Nigerians at home in Nigeria, in whatever way they can, also need to demonstrate peacefully and frequently against the corruption that wastes the land. Freedom does not come to those who fold their hands in captivity. The messiah that Nigerians await is within themselves. It is the people that will demand good governance and insist on it; it is the people that can make it impossible for corrupt leaders to continue to trod them underfoot; it is the people that have the power to create a situation where there is no lavish gain in political office and thereby encourage only patriotic individuals intent on leaving a legacy, to seek public office.