I sent someone to a barber shop nearby just to hear what they are saying about my governor there. He said the barber was just complaining about how the governor is not giving them money. When they now pointed to a big school opposite his shop that the governor is building, he said ‘is it the school that we will eat?
That was a friend of mine who works in one of the South West states in Nigeria in the wake of Fayemi’s loss in Ekiti.
It is hard to escape the feeling that Fayemi’s loss has left a lot of incumbents feeling uneasy because they fear that the issues which toppled him are not unique to Ekiti. There is a Mekunu Revolution afoot and it threatens to consume any politician who stands in its way. But what is it all about? The answer likely lies in the way politicians have been reacting to whatever it is.
Fayemi himself kicked things off a month to the election which kicked him out of office by reversing his own reforms:
Ado Ekiti — Ekiti State Governor Kayode Fayemi yesterday went back on the decision of government to organise the controversial Teachers Development Needs Assessment (TDNA)for teachers in the state. Fayemi also announced the decision of his administration to commence payment of the 27.5 per cent Teachers’ pecuniary allowance.
Because it worked so well for Fayemi, Edo state has now decided to do the exact same thing:
Edo State Government has reversed the planned competency test for teachers in the state and recalled the 936 teachers whose names were deleted from the payroll over certificate discrepancies and age falsification.
This is depressing stuff. Presumably, the teacher who couldn’t read her own certificate last year when questioned by Oshiomole himself is part of the 936 teachers recalled:
Not to be left out, Governor Amosun in Ogun State has declared a ‘naira rain’ for civil servants who now have the bit between their teeth and are threatening to do him a Fayemi:
OGUN State governor, Senator Ibikunle Amosun, has approved car and housing loans for civil servants as a way of boosting their morale and efficiency at work. Amosun also promised to implement 27.5 per cent Peculiar Allowance for teachers, as well as payment of outstanding allowances.
As anyone knows, this is as good as a gift to the civil servants. To further boost the productivity of these amazing civil servants who produce so much, Ogun State went further to build a dedicated market for them where they can shop in peace and quiet away from the Great Unwashed Masses:
‘Oja Irorun,’ a farm produce market for public servants constructed by the Ogun State government, has been established at the state secretariat, Oke-Mosan, Abeokuta.
The Head of Service, Mrs Modupe Adekunle, while declaring the market open, said it was an avenue for civil servants to shop with ease. Mrs Adekunle noted that the market would be opened every Friday and would enable workers to purchase fresh farm produce, which would improve their healthy living.
In addition to all these there are the well worn complaints from Ekiti that Fayemi gave contracts to ‘outsiders’. This is now reverberating in Osun State where Ogbeni Rauf is being accused of hiring the ‘foreign’ Sam & Sara to set up the Omoluabi Garment Factory in Oshogbo to produce school uniforms. Sam & Sara, the complaint further goes, then went on to commit the crime of hiring Igbos (who are not Nigerians) to staff the factories. To make matters worse, Ogbeni’s opponent, Senator Iyiola Omisore, unencumbered by any morals, scruples or underpants, has been playing up his ‘man of the people’ credentials by making sure to be photographed riding shotgun on a motorcycle, eating roasted corn and guguru (a derivative of corn, it must be noted).
What does it matter that the man is wearing what looks very much like an Audemars Piguet watch on his wrist? Afterall, the watches have a starting price of a mere £12,500.
What does this all mean for our democracy? I fear the signs are not looking good. For starters, the electorate seem to be sharply dividing into ‘the masses’ and ‘the elitists’ who cannot drink their coke without a dash of lime in it. The whole point of running for office is quickly boiling down to the question – na who grassroots pass?
Yet, and for personal reasons, I feel this is all sadly very wrong. I am by no means a rich man today (infact if you were to offer me some money today, I will happily relive you of it) but only a few years ago, I experienced what it felt like to be desperately poor. I was raised by my mother, almost single-handedly, and anyone in my shoes will know how difficult, and often impossible, that task is. While I was in University in Nigeria, my Mother went through a terribly difficult financial period where my ability to continue going to school was under serious threat. In the end, an Uncle came to our rescue and the evil day was averted. Perhaps you might not be reading this blog post if things had turned out differently.
Yet, what I remember vividly from that whole period was how the desperate financial situation turned my mother and I against each other. I felt she wasn’t doing enough to find the money and she of course felt I wasn’t appreciative enough of her efforts. And on and on it went until a resolution was found. This is what I know poverty does to you – it turns you against whoever is near you and stops you from thinking properly. Come with me to the book of Proverbs, the 15th verse of the 15th chapter [Amplified], the first part:
15 All the days of the desponding and afflicted are made evil [by anxious thoughts and forebodings]
The emphasis is mine because ‘foreboding’ is exactly the word to use to describe the kind of poverty I knew. If it goes on for too long, people begin to think it is permanent and cease to think about tomorrow. I recall reading a story some years ago which tried to explain why the January 2010 earthquake in Haiti killed 220,000 people. One of the reasons given was that there was so much foreboding in the country long before the earthquake that people could not be bothered to put basic fortification in their homes. Something was bound to come and kill them anyway so why not spend the money on something else?
When you begin to hear people asking if they are to eat the roads and schools provided for them, you are beginning to see a dangerous sense of foreboding. In our case as a nation, this foreboding has been caused by years and years of mindless theft and squander of our commonwealth by people who pretend to be our leaders. What the ‘common man’ sees is a system awash with naira and dollars and he cant seem to find a way to lay his hands on any of it. The people no longer want schools; they want money in their pocket. They do not really care if a school or road is built properly – they want it to be built by a local contractor who will ensure they get some of the money. All this requires is for a politician to promise to do these things and he will get a hearing.
Predictably, where leadership is required, our politicians, who had no convictions to begin with and spines made of chocolate, have utterly capitulated. Was there no reason in the first place why construction contracts were given to reputable (the other name for ‘outsiders’) firms? A bad contractor is a bad contractor, period. This is an opportunity for governments to crackdown on those who do terrible jobs and use that as cover for the decisions they make. Is there no cost to bad teaching? Why were the reforms instituted in the first place? Is there any more evidence required for teaching reform than looking at the shambolic state of our education which does not equip anyone to solve the problems facing us as a nation. And surely, there are people who have benefitted from these reforms – where are they to act as cheerleaders for it?
It is not that ‘the masses’ are stupid and do not know what they are doing. Far from it. I think that those who exchange their votes and infrastructure for money know exactly what they are doing. There is a foreboding and the people want to take their payment upfront or perhaps ‘eat their seed corn’. Why be patient with a politician who promises reform when chances are that he is lying and stealing anyway? There will be no tomorrow.
Where is this Mekunu Revolution leading us? I do not know for certain but I doubt it’s a very good place.
But the biggest message in all of this is that we now have a pretty good idea of how the vast majority of the population are now against any kind of meaningful reform even if they all have different reasons for their position. Once upon a time, Baptists and Bootleggers in America were on the same side supporting alcohol prohibition too, as implausible as it sounds.
We can remain like this as a country for many many years to come.