The increase in the pump price of premium motor spirit announced a couple of days ago by the federal government, in my opinion, is another instance (and the latest) of the disregard by our self-proclaimed ruling elite in this country (of whatever ethical persuasion or political affiliation) for the intellect and humanity of the common citizen, a disregard that has become almost the norm as to render its very allusion trite. But the proceeding of the current APC government and its myriad apologists is that, far from leaving matters as a simple though unpardonable indifference, they must now positivise their particular insult by insisting that all their actions, inactions, reactions and misactions (not just in the pump price increase now, but all their policy moves up till date) were in the interest of Nigerians and Nigeria!
The interests of Nigeria and the interests of Nigerians are two distinct and sometimes mutually opposed ideals to be sure, but not utterly irreconcilable, and it is the triumph of statesmanship and steersmanship to effect such reconciliations time and again (and further, one would think this was the change we signed up for). But if, for argument’s sake, we have a situation where the good of a state clashes irreconcilably with that of its citizens, the moral and ethical ruler will side with the citizens every time (for in the final analysis, he is a citizen and can rise no higher than that in the sociopolitical concourse, assuming of course that his morals and ethics are brought to bear on his rule) even to the dissolution of the former state and the reconstitution of a more congenial one to its citizens’ welfare. To do otherwise is to reveal one’s colours as an apostle of naked fascism; one who wills the state on as such in its progress, even when such progress implies the ruin of some constituent segment, or all constituent segments, of its polity. One fears that the emerging consensus in the new behemoth introduced into the Nigerian political discourse may be tending to that ideal.
All thinking Nigerians will, upon some reflection, agree that decades of profligacy and public mismanagement (which we are all in some varying measure aware of or privy to) must present some bills to our national commonwealth for settlement. And if we cheered and applauded the former spendthriftness, we must be equally prepared to adapt ourselves to some form of austerity in the present (all by the way in the public sphere). That much is obvious and commonsensical. What is neither obvious nor commonsensical is why government should itself wield the whip, why its decisions should ape the application of the cudgel of correction as it were; much as if the present citizens must pay penance for the misdeeds of their past rulers, who have somehow proven themselves beyond the reach of the justice of the land. One would rather have thought the government anxious to protect the citizenry from the worst of the effects of our past foolishness. Moreover, in the Christian communions and traditions where penance forms a part of the process of repentance process, the priest who prescribes penance never undertakes to carry out his prescription on the penitent faithful. Rather he strives to provide words of comfort and encouragement as the ordeal is borne. It is only a fiend who revels in the suffering of others and persuades them the suffering itself as such is nothing but mere utility. As we resist such diabolical suggestions in our devotional life, we must stoutly repudiate the shadow of it in our political transactions.
One can have a certain sympathy for the unenviable position the government of the day finds itself. But one must balance the sympathy with a hard look at all the mischief its sponsoring party alongside cronies fomented for the previous government (which most thinking Nigerians are agreed is the worst thing to have befallen our country in a long bad stretch, but that notwithstanding) by suggesting impractical governance schemes that was unworthy of even the most imbecilic nonentity. On one view, one may say the great mass of Nigerians had it coming by voting in the present government. But then on another, simple decency and simple morality common to all men dictate that a man strive to fulfill his promise. An honest man no less (do we not define treacherous and faithless men by their failure to keep their word, by their failure to discharge obligations freely undertaken?). No one forced governance on the party; they stepped forward (so they collectively claim) to help stem the rot in the apparatus of state. All well and good (even if we have our reservations about particular members of this “dream team” and other fellow-travellers they collected as they campaigned). But now, having got inside, and having discovered the reality of the control room as it were, and presumably discovering or determining that their earlier programme is unworkable (that is assuming they did a sort of SWOT analysis on the raw programme to emerge with SMART objectives, which one has no very great assurance has been painstakingly done), have they not enough decency and political savvy, and yes morality (which was the principal high ground the party campaigned from) to come back to inform us of the situation. Instead, all we have got is a lot of despicable sneakiness! And another attempt to pull the wool over our eyes. But this time, our many privations over the past couple of months sound a very discordant note in the national symphony they are attempting to conduct.
One cannot fail to remember at this time all the attractive promises made during the electoral campaign, the rosy vistas painted of the “El Dorado” that would ensue on the installation of a certain honest man in Aso Rock Villa, a man who has now managed, personally and by proxy, to unsay almost all that was said in his favour), and the many debunkings aired on diverse electronic media. We may excuse much that was said as mere election propaganda (to a further debit in the reputation of the Man), but except we now glorify frank deceit as the proper practice of politics, we cannot simply wish away every promise the present party in government made to the electorate. And it is no use complaining about the state of the treasury or the level of foreign reserves; these things can only be excuses except the powers-that-be wish to add intellectual cretinism to their growing list of short-comings which is the only viable explanation for not having anticipated the most obvious obstacles that could arise in the delivery of their electoral programme (one begins to wonder if the said programme did not in fact consist in its entirety of clever combination of words designed to impress and possibly to mislead, but not for much else, and certainly not for implementation).
Frustrated indignation may continue to spew forth words to fill several pages, but the case against the government cannot be made stronger than it has been made, except to descend into bald obloquy. One cannot resist however, as a parting shot at the conceit of the government and ruling party’s proceeding, likening all that has being inveighed against to the self-delusion of a physician who undertakes to cure a patient whom he has not properly diagnosed and to whom he administers foul-tasting nostrums in the ineffectual hope that somehow a cure will emerge from all his humbuggery! It takes no seer to forsee that his intervention will end only in the certain death of his patient. And a probable bankruptcy of the patient before he is nudged into the Final Indignity. The patient is thus well-advised to put up a stiff fight for his dignity at least, if wholeness can no longer be had. And of course for the sanctity of his purse, to ensure a real bequest for his heirs after he is gone.
Verbum, aiunt, sapienti satis est!