Private interest, sycophancy and poverty in Nigeria


In Nigeria, one of the common and popular statements one hears especially among politicians is that “politics is a game of interest.” It is seen as a game where selfishness or self-centeredness is the first consideration for all the players.
There is no consideration for public interest or the general good of the people. This is one of the reasons why result delivery by leaders in developed and undeveloped nations like Nigeria are different. In developed climes, people think and pursue public interest whereas in undeveloped ones like Nigeria, people think and pursue private interests. When public interest is the pursuit of the leaders of a country, it is natural that ideologies evolve towards the realization of the ultimate goal -public interest.
This is why in a country like the United States there exist two major political parties- the Democratic Party and the Republican Party. These two parties are cut on ideological grounds, each with the goal of achieving public good or interest, according to the desires and aspirations of members of its ideological base. Smaller political parties like the Green Party also exist. The Green Party exists to pursue the general interest of environmentalists and they often gain seats in the legislature where their members pursue environmental issues and conservation needs of the people.
This ideological basis of political parties is also obtainable in the U.K. where you have the Conservative and Labour Parties, the counterparts of Republican and Democratic Parties in the U.S. It is like that in all developed climes of the world. In these developed climes, people do not go into politics to serve themselves; they are guided by the public interest which embodies the spirit of accountability. In this case, the political office holders see themselves as representatives of their ideological base and are in power to pursue a course that they believe in. This is their political base and they will never compromise it for anything.
When you compare the above to the guiding slogan of Nigerian leaders and politicians, it is not surprising why there are so many gaps between Nigeria and any of the developed countries in economic development, infrastructure, technology and political maturity. Politics as seen as a game of interest by this country’s politicians and leaders is the reason behind the massive looting of this nation’s treasury by successive politicians and also reason why politics is the major business or industry in this country. Hardly had anyone aspired for political office with public interest in mind. When everyone is pursuing private interest in all activities, there’s bound to be clash of interests. In our own case the interest of our politicians is the “national cake” or nation’s treasury. This is why the political parties have no ideological basis. The pursuit is to loot the nation’s treasury. This is why when one gets a political appointment or wins an “election”, he throws a big party to celebrate it. It is because he has now been admitted to the sharing table of the national cake. It is not a call to service but to partake in “national cake” according to one’s level of position.
The lack of genuine public interest-oriented pursuit by our politicians is the main reason why there is nothing distinguishing one political party from another. This is also why carpet-crossing is a culture in the politics of this country. The members of a political party are not there based on values, principles, beliefs or convictions. Party membership is based on one’s belief that it is the best or fastest vehicle to achieve his or her interest. He moves to another party when his personal desires seem far-fetched if he should remain in his party. The change of party is not informed by principles, values or convictions. His stomach is his driving force.
This lack of public interest in political office holders is reason why former Governor Rochas Okorocha once described a political party as a mere vehicle that conveys you to your desired destination (interest), after which both of you part ways. It is a means to an end (private interest). That is why there is no fundamental difference between APC and PDP. That is why one in PDP today will criticize APC; next day he joins APC and lambasts PDP. No morality in our leaders. Even the youths that should criticize this lack of morality more are at the forefront of sycophancy. The reason is that the political leaders, in their pursuit of self-interest, have looted the people’s commonwealth without any investment in the future of the country.
The youths have emerged with nothing to lay hands on by way of employment and so have no option than to join “politics”. And many of them are used and dumped by these unconscionable politicians.
When Governor Hope Uzodimma emerged with his 3R policy thrust of Recovery, Reconstruction and Rehabilitation, I was concerned if he would get to the root of our problems. The alarming poverty in our country has its root in the mindset of the leaders. If everyone is concerned only about their personal interest, then public interest must suffer and this breeds poverty. The journey to our present predicament started with our thinking pattern or mindset. The solution also lies in changing our thinking pattern, beginning with our thinking pattern or mindset. The solution also lies in changing our thinking pattern, beginning with our leaders. Dr Jerry Savella said that “going to the next level begins with your thinking thought.” The pattern goes like this: changing your thinking changes your beliefs; changing your beliefs changes your expectations; changing your expectations changes your attitude; changing your attitudes changes your behaviour; changing your behaviour changes your performance; changing your performance changes your life. If people in positions of authority would apply this formula, there would certainly be appreciable changes in our lives as Nigerians.
The thinking of political office holders must be aligned to the public interest for any poor nation like Nigeria to free itself from the vicious circle of poverty. Why should Nigeria be designated as the poverty capital of the world with all its abundant human and natural resources? It is the promotion of private interest ahead of public interest. But any change effort, if it must succeed, must start with the leaders. It is of no use telling citizens to be patriotic when the leaders are engaged in a mindless scramble for the nation’s commonwealth! Let the right thing be done and this country will move forward.


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