Sociology, the scientific study of human society empowers us to dissect and analyse complex human behaviours and predict how human beings behave in context after consistent observation of patterned behaviours. Through Sociology, we are able to appreciate that human beings are sentimental beings who manifest different behaviours in different contexts. For instance, we can say politicians are friendlier and clad themselves in humanitarian robes when eyeing political offices. Once the ambition is realised, the previously nice person transforms into constituted authority and harmonises interest with other parasitic elites in power. The politician is not alone here since, the politician grew up from the society where deceit is nurtured and through socialisation its transmission from one person to the other, one institution to another and generation to another has been seamless. It is this deceitful nature that is reproduced and unleashed depending on the context of the acting individual. The unreal nature of our social interactions embeds deceit. While still far away, we lie to people on phone that we are close by. While healthy we claim we are ill to attract attention, sympathy, favour and get exemption from a task. Taken together, there is a sense in which deceit is synonymous with pretence and corruption. A Yoruba maxim, eni to ba pa iro a ja ole (A person that lies will steal) unpacks admired virtue of truthfulness and uprightness in human dealings. How is the foregoing useful for explaining the deceitful mannerism of the Nigerian elite in relation to corruption probes in Nigeria?
Recent events in the National Assembly serve as eye-opener. The probe of alleged misappropriation of money by the Interim Management Committee (IMC) of the Niger Delta Development Commission (NDDC) shows the character of deceit in high places. It shows how corruption probe may be a strategic negotiation tool to re-align and re-strategise the looting of the common patrimony. Additionally, through this probe, Nigerians are presented with another opportunity to see why National Assembly members fight over the membership of juicy committees and that the oversight function may be oriented towards ‘eating out of the allocated national cake’. We are able to better appreciate how the Niger-Delta elite profit from the suffering of a society which they claim they are part of but corner all the benefits and share all the crumbs. This is the essential character of those claiming to speak for ethnic groups in Nigeria. In most cases, the shout of marginalisation of a region is not for the betterment of the region. Rather, it is the marginalisation of the parasitic ethnic leadership structures in the national exchange system. Parasitic ethnic elite are uninterested in the survival of their people because they benefit through the misery of their people; they ride on their people’s sufferings step into greatness and political positioning. Niger-Deltans dominate the NDDC commission and same people are allegedly ripping off their region. In this, ‘let me explain’ and ‘Mr Minister, Its Ok, off the mic’, we see how the ‘principalities and powers in high places’ collectively rubbish the essence of the anti-corruption crusade.
Fully understanding the transactional character of our national life and the shared immoral economy of deceit unpacks how elite facing corruption charges and those out of favour with power centers put up ill-health dramaturgy. Even hardened criminal and Billionaire kidnapper, Evans also put up ill-health performance when he was arrested to elicit sympathy. Ill-health has been repeatedly employed in order not to appear before a panel/court, not to answer or respond to queries or to get favourable request from the law court. Deployment of ill-health strategy has been a consistent pattern by the high and mighty. This is clear from Olisa Metu’s fainting, to collapsing Dino Melaye, Ayo Fayose’s ‘sifia pain’ nollywood and the latest artistic delivery of pondeism (a sudden ill-health dramaturgy employed to stop further anti-corruption probe queries) by acting MD of NDDC, Professor Kemebradikumo Pondei. While NDDC Director, Corporate affairs, Charles Odili explained that Pondei had been ill before appearing at the panel, the believability of such claim is watery when one considers the bizarre coincidence between the moment of slumping and the questions of spending asked by the panellists. In essence, many of these performances follow the same pattern of deceitful display of ill-health to buy time and get more opportunity to negotiate soft landing, frustrate investigation, appeal to human rights community, and ultimately delay justice. There is danger when pretence is deployed as an escape strategy and deceit is used as survivalist strategy. It has implication for socialising the succeeding generation to embrace deceitful living (Hushpuppism), legitimising the grabbing of what belongs to the majority for oneself without caring how that affects the life chances of others.
Were it not for COVID-19, those paraded by EFCC on allegation of corruption would have sought relief of the court to attend to their ill-health abroad but with the pandemic, they are forced to stay at home. The game of deceit is entrenched for scoring political points, bending the rules, exploiting the system and nailing political enemies. This is what I see in Mr Godwill Akpabio who had earlier claimed that Joy Nunieh was relieved of her position owing to insubordination and later claimed she was excused for not possessing National Youth Service Certificate or exception letter. Joy Nunieh and Akpabio’s vituperations are good for the public, unveiling how the swinging of power pendulum determines who is protected and who is nailed in the corridors of power.
Shall we absolve the National Assembly in all this? Certainly not. The National Assembly must probe its overbearing oversight which obviously contributes to the phenomena of budget inflation and padding to take care of the interest of compromised chairmen so that specific agency’s budget can pass. Professor Attahiru Jega, former Independent Electoral Commission (INEC) at a public forum had unveiled how some committee heads in the National Assembly asked for money from Chief Executives and University Heads in the name of oversight functions. Are the compromised committee heads not members of religious groups where they are celebrated rather than scolded? Is the slumped MD not a role model to some others in the society? Are supposed future leaders, the youths (hushpuppies) not learning faster than the hushdogs in high places?
What is the importance of Treasury Single Account (TSA) which the government claimed is designed to fight corruption? Is it only designed to forcefully enlist university lecturers and allow the COVID-419 in commissions like NDDC to thrive? We cannot continue to live in sin and expect grace to abound. When the foundation of pretence is laid and nurtured across the society, the upright will suffer for liars will be enthroned and society destroyed. Can we turn the tide? We might have acted in error by enthroning “misleaders”, let us begin the arduous task of righting the wrongs from the family by teaching the virtue of truthfulness in order to build a new generation of leaders equipped to champion and actualise the seemingly elusive social re-engineering.
Dr Tade, a sociologist sent this piece via email@example.com