Not even the most vociferous supporters of President Jonathan, for whom any criticism of their man is haram, have been able to find a way to spin the embarrassing question of his failure to declare his assets in accordance with a clear, unambiguous provision of the Constitution he swore to respect and defend. The strategy of presidential aides in Aso Rock, Jonathan’s self-appointed social media wailers, and sundry kool-Aid drinkers is simple. They either avoid the subject entirely, hoping that “irritants” like SAHARA REPORTERS and PREMIUM TIMES would stop talking about it, or dredge up red herrings and foolish, constipated excuses and rationalizations, while hounding and abusing those insisting that transformation begins only when you respect the Constitution and your office. As usual, they underestimate our determination to keep this subject alive in the public sphere.
Two people cannot be suckers in the social exchange of lies. If an unsuspecting, innocent victim has no way of knowing that he has been lied to, the author of the lie knows that he has told a lie. Thus, we know that President Jonathan, his palace aides, and in-too-deep social media supporters are not unaware of the lies they are generating over this issue of asset declaration. We know that they know that every second President Jonathan spends in office without declaring his assets makes him an illegal president; a Disrespecter-in-Chief of the Constitution and the Office of the President of Nigeria. That is why Nigerians must continue to ignore the silly exhortations of government’s mouthpieces to respect an office that the incumbent dishonours and disrespects.
We know that they know why President Jonathan cannot possibly declare his assets. It is a tricky situation for the President. Sometimes I genuinely feel for him. Even without adding whatever his share of the $1.1 billion Malabu Oil loot may turn out to be when, eventually and certainly, the fowl’s rump is placed at the mercy of the evening breeze, it is obvious that the president has stolen much more than he will ever be able to satisfactorily explain to the Nigerian people with a straight face.
You need not look beyond the acquisitive culture of his political ilk and the empire of billion and trillion-naira corruption he now supervises to understand why he cannot possibly declare his assets. Why satisfy that constitutional provision and expose the size of his acquisition and the growth of same as he progressed from Deputy Governor to President when he knows that the National Assembly is way too irresponsible and compromised to ever make him comply with a Constitutional provision? Sam Nda-Isaiah implied recently that this mega-looting is going on in broad daylight within the vicinity of the President’s office and he is doing nothing about it because the guilty are his aides, cronies, and political benefactors. I am not as generous as Mr. Nda-Isaiah. I believe that the President’s hands are elbow-deep in the cookie jar.
Interestingly, the real reason President Jonathan is getting away with ruling Nigeria while spitting on the face of the Constitution has to do with another asset he has declared and will continue to declare brazenly. Suffice it to say that the President has no monopoly over this particular kind of asset. Every member of Nigeria’s political élite holds substantial shares and stakes in this particular asset. I am talking about a followership largely deprived of civic sentience. This sort of followership is President Jonathan’s greatest asset. It is the one asset he is not afraid to declare. It is the one asset he vigorously cultivates and addresses his speeches to.
It is perhaps now cliché to declare that the trouble with Nigeria is equally about leadership and followership. In fact, certain social critics and commentators have moved beyond wasting intellection on the failures of leadership and now focus mostly on how a cowed and disempowered citizenry can be awakened to the patriotic responsibility of taking Nigeria back from the buccaneers currently running and ruining our lives.
However, such analyses are not always backed by an understanding of the social trajectory of this followership. Some commentators have identified mass poverty and the ravages of prosperity Pentecostalism as the culprits responsible for the production of a sedated followership that either no longer knows how to hold office holders accountable or even displays symptoms of Stockholm’s Syndrome by preening the same contemptible leaders who loot their today and rape their tomorrow.
The task now is to understand that this sedated and uncritical followership is a manufactured product. It is the product of a remarkable process of social production engineered by the leadership of Nigeria. Poverty and Pentecostalism are nothing but incidental and welcome instruments in a process of social engineering consciously settled upon and pursued with vision and vigour by Nigeria’s political class. Manufacturing a followership that would evolve to identify with the rapist, rationalize rape or and explain it away is a critical pre-condition for running Nigeria the way it has been run at least since the 1980s.
In essence, those who complain that our educational institutions have been left to rot by an élite ever ready to send its children to Euro-America – and, sadly, Ghana – to acquire the quality education they deny Nigerians at home make a mistake by thinking in the intransitive mode. What happened to education in Nigeria was a transitive process. There is a difference between “Ken Saro Wiwa was killed” (intransitive) and “Abacha killed Ken Saro-Wiwa” (transitive). In the second sentence, there is a subject performing the action, “to kill” on an object. There is responsibility: Abacha. There is a victim: Ken Saro Wiwa. The same process applies to the fate of education in Nigeria. Our primary schools, secondary schools, and Universities were not left to rot. Such intransivity misses the ideological deliberateness at work. President Jonathan and his predecessor destroyed our Universities and other educational institutions.
This purposed, transitive assault on education has only one target: civics. Our educational institutions per se are not the target of Nigeria’s depraved rulers. The direct target is civics, that dangerous area of education and the humanities which produces sentient citizens capable of asking critical questions and acting. When you plan to turn the largest political union of black people on the face of the earth into the most embarrassing open sore of the black race; when you plan to turn Africa’s most populous country into a continental example of how not to run a country; when you plan to loot on such a scale as to make Farida Waziri, your own appointed anti-corruption czar, declare in exasperation that the scale of looting by Nigeria’s political leaders is a “symptom of mental illness”; when you are planning to loot on that uninterrupted scale for three generations since the 1980s, the first thing you need to do is manufacture a followership incapable of critically challenging you or one that would applaud and hail your actions, especially if there is the occasional trickle down from the table of the bacchanals you organize at their expense.
The diseducation – what is going on is neither miseducation nor under-education – of the Nigerian citizen, especially the generation which came of age in the 1980s and 1990s, is purposed. It is deliberate in the sense that there is a political élite which gains directly and massively from a national condition of civic illiteracy. This explains why nothing has worked to revamp education in Nigeria. All the policies you hear from official spokespersons of successive administrations in the education sector are mere lip service. Nigeria’s élite would do only just enough to give UNESCO, UNICEF, and other relevant UN agencies the impression that they are doing something. It is really not in their interest to develop education.
What those of us who are critical stakeholders in project Nigeria – I am using stakeholders in the genuine sense; I do not refer here to the oafs in our political leadership who call themselves stakeholders – must understand is that the activism and critical intellection we deploy in the bid to actualize a process of national renaissance will continue to fail so long as the most critical segments of the population are being deliberately diseducated by those who fear civics.
This, really, is a double bind for we also cannot expect those who consider a followership without civic education an asset to improve the standards of education in the country. Why should you do that? Why would you be interested in producing citizens capable of rejecting a President who rules them in violation of the Constitution? Why would you invest in the production of citizens capable of demanding answers about your role in the $1.1 billion Malabu oil deal? On the contrary, your energies and resources would be geared at manufacturing a followership programmed to accept these things or rationalize them – a sort of Reno Omokri/Reuben Abati nirvana.
Many things happen in Nigeria that can only be explained by the fact that we have produced three generations of citizens and starved them of civics. How do you explain the insolence of David Mark’s last medical safari to Israel and his airport reception by a bunch of idle charlatans who call themselves Ministers and Senators? How do you explain the treatment to which Nigerians are subjected every time Patience Jonathan, a woman not recognized by the Constitution, comes to town? How do you explain the figures we have been hearing in the conglomeration of scams that Nigeria has become? How do you explain that reaction to such successive outrage hardly ever goes beyond the restricted circuitries of activists, intellectuals, and the new generation of undaunted social media warriors for Nigeria’s cause?
The enemy understands that there is a bigger mass that we cannot reach because he has diseducated them beyond what we could ever hope to reach and conscientize. This sort of followership is the asset that President Jonathan declares every day. They are his people. They make his day. And you know that Bukola Saraki also recently declared that kind of asset by claiming that the idle Kwarans who danced their way to Lagos to support him were not a rented crowd. They went there of their own volition. He is right. Those who danced to Lagos to support a man who stole from them come from the kind of followership that the Saraki dynasty has manufactured from one generation to the other in Ilorin. They do not have to rent a crowd. They already did their homework by killing civics in Kwara state.
It needs repeating: we cannot rely on the oppressor to educate our people. In fact what, he will do is trivialize education by mushrooming Federal and State Universities, always pulling the rabbit of new Universities out of his fedora before thinking of how to fund them while allowing existing ones to rot. That is his way of continuing the purposed devaluation of education – it did not start with him. He is just continuing a legacy – in order to sustain the assault on civics.
If we cannot look up to the Nigerian educational system as a partner in the struggle for national rebirth – those who fund it will never allow this – what is to be done? Methinks that Nigerian activists and intellectuals need to start thinking extremely seriously about the option of public pedagogy. We have to look beyond formal institutions to instruct and educate our people. We have to take civics to the streets, to social media, to Molue buses, to paraga joints. We have to meet Nigerians where they are. This would involve painstaking planning and networking. It would require dedicated intellects willing to brainstorm and strategize. Once we agree that public pedagogy is an option we need to consider very seriously, conceptualization and planning could follow. In the end, every citizen we gain who no longer identifies with his own oppressor, even if the oppressor is his ethnic kinsman – is one giant step for Nigeria. With public pedagogy and instruction, we can begin to undo the psychological injury that the oppressor has done to our Stockholm Syndromed compatriots and begin the process of taking Nigeria back one mind at a time.