I was told about a cleric who discouraged young people in his community from pursuing the study of law. He told them that lawyers were destined to rot in hell.
Although he had no solid theology to support his claim, the cleric promised these youngsters that lawyers lied, were covetous and capable of all sorts of manipulations, stuff which would, in his estimation, lead to God’s wrath.
As absurd as this story sounds, I suppose that a lot of us have arrived at such conclusions about politicians. With stock characterizations like unreliable, selfish, thieving even murderous, not many Nigerians who are not in politics or related to one in their number, wish politicians eternal comfort.
Politicians bear the blame for most, if not all of the woes of underdevelopment plaguing this country!
But there are questions that we must ask ourselves before we sentence them to hell. Are Nigerian politicians a different breed from the people that they represent? How, for example do Nigerians react to former office holders who come back to their villages without having erected mansions and driving state-of-the-art cars?
How do we react to political office holders who do not take advantage of their positions to provide employment for the youths in their communities over more qualified people from other parts of the country?
How often do we give the pariah treatment to people who come out of political office without significant wealth? Don’t we just ask for too much from political office holders? Haven’t politics and political office become the most lucrative endeavours in our country, such that there is incredible desperation for these offices?
However, it is true that Nigerians have not always been like this. There were moments in the history of Nigeria when parents forbade their children from associating with people with inexplicable wealth. It didn’t matter whether they were suspected to be drug couriers, armed robbers or corrupt politicians, parents placed a premium on hard work and honesty. But this is now almost antique, the current fad is to pursue wealth and bring pride to your home and community.
Some people would argue that the loss of respect for hard work and contentment goes directly back to the failure of leadership. Somewhere in our history, institutions worked perfectly. Education was possible for children of the mighty and the lowly. Admission into higher institutions was based on merit so parents did not need to bribe anyone. Presenting in hospitals with any illness was easy because there were nurses and doctors who knew what to do at every turn, but again this is history.
Those who hold this position, which I do not disagree with, situate the gradual erosion of responsible citizenship to the collapse of national institutions and the growing selfishness of successive leaders. And so Nigeria is today in a place where nothing works, where selfishness reigns with everyone caring only about himself and no one else and we gleefully refer to that as “everyman for himself, God for us all”
Now, we can’t agree on how, where and when we lost our moral compass as a people although we all agree that we are currently totally messed up.
So is it right to put all the blame on the politicians, continue in our own compromises, hoping that sending all politicians to hell would change this country and improve the future of our children?
I think not. For us to see the change which Nigerian urgently needs, there is something for every Nigerian to do. Leadership, at all levels, must redefine service, rebuild institutions and invest in the welfare of the people. Every Nigerian must recommit to values that edify, we must reject the celebration of mediocrity and mendacious riches. It is the only way in which we would be able to demand good governance from our leaders.
Honest Nigerians with the temperament for politics should jump on the train. Those who cannot be politicians should remain the conscience of the nation, ceaselessly demanding selfless service and accountability from elected leaders while sensitizing the people on responsible citizenship and the power available to them via the ballot box because even if all politicians were to go to hell, they would have succeeded in making our lives a living hell if we do not act now.
But more than that, hell, for those who believe in it, is not made for politicians only, It’s a frightening prospect for everyone who knows what is right but neglects to do it.