Letter To Nigerians: Where Has Our Conscience Gone To?


To begin with, let me quickly take a look at the literal meaning of the word “conscience” described as the inner sense of what is right or wrong in one’s conduct or motives, impelling one toward right action; again, it is the complex of ethical and moral principles that controls or inhibits the actions or thoughts of an individual; an inhibiting sense of what is prudent, to feel guilty about what is wrong-in all reason and fairness. This is what I believe is the meaning of the word “conscience”. Since am writing to Nigerians, I will have to be as brief as possible knowing our penchant for impatience. That’s why you may have to excuse me if I do not delve deeper into the “ko-ko” (excuse my Pidgin English) of how Philosophers like Ted Honderich, Sigmund Freud explained it. But this has a lot to do with our “mentality”, “wisdom”, “knowledge “and “intellect”. Very quickly, in other to put the records straight, I will explain the meaning and how they are interrelated and impact on our daily reasoning —why our dear politicians appear to be running the nation aground. In modern psychology and neuroscience, the terms “intelligence” and “intellect” describe mental abilities that allow people to understand—intellect relates to facts while intelligence to feelings; a habitual or characteristic of mental attitude that determines how you will interpret and respond to situations. For example, when trusted with a “high office” in a multi-ethnic and diverse contraption like Nigeria whereby you are expected to take a certain “fair and just” action and you fail to do so! Here comes your “intellect”-your faculty of understanding and reasoning objectively regarding abstract matters; your rational or intelligent thought on using your “political position’ to move the nation forward. Then, your “wisdom” and “knowledge” comes in; whereas wisdom characterizes your willpower, common sense, perception and intuition, knowledge is your collection of skills and information acquired through experience; knowledge is wonderful, but it fades as new technics and technologies develop. Though intelligence can be manipulated at will, wisdom at the end prevails. For example, since intelligence is associated with “deductive’ reasoning, you may decide to apply it the wrong way by being “corrupt”—to deliberately refuse to do the right thing like pay pensioners on time although your wisdom is telling you to desist from that attitude.  It is wisdom that tells you not to deviate from your sworn “oath of office”; not to be rigid in decision making and to avoid the tenets of negativism. It is wisdom that tells you not to “neglect” the people—to build good roads and schools, but your native intelligence –used the wrong way—might tell you to “cheat”, to “steal” the resources you are entrusted with and abandon the people—you are supposed to serve. Thus, seen from this angle we can make an inference as to why we behave the way we do; and the reason why we need to tell ourselves the home truth. I wouldn’t want to think that there may be something wrong with our mentality, but clearly, we need to take a second look at it. It is a puzzle though what the matter is; it seems to me as a paradox that dereliction of duty is so rampant in our society; we seem to revel more in illusions than logic; we are no more bothered about our actions and pretence, despite the obvious paralysis that stares us in the face.  I will take a few examples and then leave the rest to your imaginations. Mind you, I am not an irredentist or writing as someone free from the malaise—otherwise, I might be accused of “nepotism” or be referred to as an “ethnic bigot”; I am merely exercising my fundamental human right as a human being and trying to make sense out of the socio-political hubris we have found ourselves! Let me also quickly point out that this is not an “exercise in gimmickry” or “political brorakio” apologies to a popular grammatical “terrorist” based in Benin who deployed the big grammar while trying to “justify” his political bent; the dictionary links the word with “disintegration” though. He also deployed bigger grammar such as “politicalmisegloriousose” found to be associated with one Steve Glorioso a practical idealist and famous Kansas City politician who died aged 70 and “swombotopoliticalpelidigration” for which the computer told me did not match any document and went ahead to advise me to try “other keywords’, meaning that words like this exist in the realm of the speaker’s imagination! Now permit me to proceed. The first scale upon which we must reassess our mentality is the infantile ritual of budget presentation which is rapidly turning into more like a “grand deception” or “fanfare”. Usually, this chronic exercise in futility is accompanied by men and women who are “representatives” of Nigerians dressed in resplendent attires would converge in their domain to receive the document from the president; thereafter they would then “clap” their hands and “hail” themselves for a “job well done”! It is not clear, but am told something like a “cocktail” party would later follow, but this is not my business. While it is true that you hear of high sounding figures like “trillions” to be spent, but you will be disappointed that during the next phase of “budget execution’ the mysteries would begin. IF the same enthusiasm displayed during the budget presentation is the same used in monitoring the implementation, Nigeria would have been like Dubai; at best there would have been visible changes today. The population of Nigerians have increased sharply; for example in Abuja, the Federal Capital Territory, there was never traffic jam; now with more and more people entering the city, the commotion has set in: the same old road;  no alternative means of transport;  the satellite towns are abandoned; no new public utilities; like it is in Bangkok, you expect to see overhead rail lines from Abacha barracks to Goshen on the Mararaba –keffi highway; you also expect to see another road artery different from the overused Abuja-Mararaba-Nyanya highway. Despite the alleged trillions mentioned, there are no innovations. Meanwhile, the precincts of the hallowed chambers you will begin to hear of the struggle for “constituency projects”; ” introduction letters” directed at heads of departments and Agencies to “submit” and “award” contracts to cronies and the lucky few smile to their respective banks; that’s the “picture” we get from ‘budget monitoring” to the extent that my village is still the way it was  15 years ago; what you see are the efforts of smart individuals who constructed personal boreholes, built overhead tanks, etc. The Igbos are better off; they compete among themselves to fix their roads; they no longer wait for government. The East-West major road is still a madhouse till this day despite our yearly budget ritual. And thereafter you are regaled with “probes” upon “probes” and more wasted funds to “discover” who did this or that. Who can be happy in these circumstances? Then move over to the area of employment and recruitment. This is where I think our mentality should be strictly examined and probed. From what I have read in newspapers for which the culprits have not come out to deny, it is –to use a mild word—appalling for any chief executive to sit down and recruit an overwhelming proportion of people from a certain tribe over and above the rest of the country—cornering an insane 90% for his people and the rest 10% for the rest collectively; this is pure sickness –no longer favouritism. It is not only incredulous but absolutely out of place to justify this level of indiscretion. Even if the president discreetly encourages such pattern judging from his own preposterous lopsided appointments it is as insensitive and reckless as it negates all known democratic practice and principles. This is why we must question our intuitive reasoning and intellect. Is it that some people imagine that they can perpetuate their archaic hegemonic thoughts to the full advantage without a backlash? They are mistaken because the world has already been created with an indivisible balance! Nothing can change that fact. It is base reasoning and restrictive mentality to begin to nurse such stupid and vane gambit. It is not possible for people from certain parts of the country to dominate others successfully because one day the cord will snap. That’s no love. They have created an insecure environment that will invariably be unsafe for them as well. Look at the ordinary computer; what you put in is what you get out! Look at the Aryan race in Nazi Germany; they felt superior and wanted to conquer; today, they are living in peace and at pars, with others, they think they could subjugate. That dream is impossible to achieve. Those recruiting thousands of their people into federal establishments better desist from that attitude. That is one area the application of wisdom and knowledge comes in. If they cannot use their wisdom impartially, then nature would teach them how to. Recruitment should be open to all and there should be equal opportunity. It beats my mind the kind of politicians we have these days who perpetrate evil acts. I wanted to commend the creek gift to Teachers recently, but at the end, I held my breath; I want to see such measures taken in the civil service that is losing talented people due to years of service and age grounds. The civil service should be completely overhauled. They are the most cheated and abused. some privileged persons from certain parts of the country would spend 10-15 years as director, permanent secretary while those from the less privileged parts would spend a paltry 6months as deputy director and retire; the big surprise is: while the one who has spent 10-15 years as director/permanent secretary is still under 60, you that is 6months old as deputy director form the “other side” has already “clocked” the diamond mark! Magic? Not really. Honest people are not used to doctoring their age. Fake people do and that’s why they celebrate their birthdays marking 56, 57, 58, and then 55 continuously. This is why we need to check our mentality and intelligence. It seems absurd to reason that age and time would not catch up with us; this is foolish thinking. People lived in the 16th, 17th and 18th centuries; why do we think people would not live after us? Something must be wrong with our mentality then. This is a clarion call for us to reassess our conscience and wisdom. Anyhow, let’s take a few more examples and close. Can any rational explanation be given to the way our pensioners are treated? In foreign lands, pensioners sit at home and their entitlements are mailed to them. They also receive their “cheques” at home without having to go and line up and be quizzed repeatedly the way we do here. Unless the position has changed, it takes between 2-3 years for pensioners to get paid in Nigeria; this is without prejudice to recent changes and the coming of the PenCom board that, hopefully, has not been politicized. Why can’t we get it right? You may have your BVN alright, but you will still be required to bring your NIM, driver’s license, National Identity card, Voters registration, official identity and even subjected to a blood test and “capturing” in their office. When you are told to come for “capturing” be sure to go there with your food flask or you might faint while queuing up in the sweltering sun or rain. Recently, I went for “capturing” for a renewal of my driver’s license; that was March 25th this year. 6 months after that event, the driver’s license is still not out; something must be wrong with our conscience and mentality. It is either that we are too far removed from reality or that we are simply wicked to ourselves. Should we continue this way? Where is the “blueprint” for a better tomorrow? What is the “ideology” being peddled today? Was there banditry, kidnapping, terrorism before? What is the cause of their sudden appearance? Why do our elected officials play god? They behave like tin-gods making catastrophic mistakes and plunging the nation deeper and deeper into a morass. In those days as a kid, we used to wear new uniforms and sandals during Independence Day celebrations; is that the same today? Why is there an open call for “restructuring” today if something is not wrong with our mentality?  We must be a people in prison to have `found ourselves in this state of inertia. That’s why people troop to churches now conspicuous everywhere. These churches have developed “programmes” from Mondays to Sundays. I was a victim myself where you are often lambasted for failing to turn up for “prayers” on a “working day” instead of surrendering yourself for prayers; we have been told to expect some kind of “miracle”. Ah, this magic word again–Miracle! This is part of the craze that has retarded our natural instincts for excellence; we now depend more on spiritual expectation than groundwork. That is why instead of having factories, industries and what have you, we have churches in every nook and cranny some as big as stadium! Something must be wrong with our mentality. Our men of God are urging us to strive to make it to “heaven”, while they are roiling in “splendour” and “opulence”; something must be wrong with our conscience. Any wonder why elected officials who served as senator now wants to become a governor or chairman of a local government? Something must be wrong with our mentality. This is why although we are asked to stay indoors because of Covid-19, the government still did not think twice before increasing fuel price and electricity tariff. I mean, how do we progress in the presence of this “pandemic?” We heap blame on the President all the time, but right in the midst of traffic jam, you will see the inherent wickedness in all of us with the roads completely “blocked!” No one is ready to conceded space; this is appalling and we are all casualties like John Pepper Clark would write in his classic novel. I therefore enjoin, we, Nigerians, let us weigh the consequences of our future actions please; it will do us well. Let us are our brother’s keeper–not enemies; the only chance you have to help is when you are alive–not dead.