If we asked 100 Nigerians to each list 10 factors behind the bad governance in Nigeria, there are factors that would surely reoccur in almost all of the 100 lists, and there are some that would never make it to any of the lists or only make it to an insignificant number of the 100 lists; factor like corruption would definitely appear on almost all of the 100 lists (if not on all), godfatherism would make it to a good number of the lists too, but on how many of the lists can we find the idolization of public servants as a factor behind the bad governance in Nigeria? It’s not certain we would have this on up to 2 of the 100 lists, and this is because we as Nigerians have all grown to seeing worshiping public servants as part of what they are elected or appointed for, and in fact, no Nigerian is really capable of seeing any public servant as a servant who is in office to serve, rather we see them as idols from when they show interest in getting to an office, and the idolization gets even more when they enter the office.
Not popularly suspected, but idolization of the Nigerian public servants is definitely the mother of all other factors making good governance impossible in Nigeria at every level of government. It is the reason why Nigeria can never have a public servant who is responsible to the people or see it compulsory to listen to the people. It is the reason why Nigerian public servants see the people they are called to serve as minions instead of as their employers. It is the cause of favouritism and nepotism. It is the cause of using public resources and opportunities to mine loyalties from the people. In fact, arguably, it is the birther of the corruption that we see as the major problem of Nigerian politics; a public servant who has been made to perceive themself as an uncheckable lord would definitely be corrupt in all spheres. So, to me, it feels like we are not talking about it enough the ways Nigerians idolize their public servants instead of relating to them as their employees. This is why Nigerian leaders get abroad and become absolutely humble while they govern like God in Nigeria.
I don’t know if Nigeria ever had a time when her politicians actually yearn for public offices just because they really want to serve the country and its people, but I know for sure that even the immediate times after the colonial rule in Nigeria which we now see as the good political times with good leaders who were seemingly true about their services, it still doesn’t look like Nigerians allowed these leaders to see that they were called to serve and not to be idols; stories in literature create the impression that the leaders where practically worshipped that we have a number of them who got carried away with this idolization caused by the power they held that they ended up wanting to embezzle powers. Till date, in Nigerian government, we can still see the elements of this power embezzlement everywhere from the presidency to the local governments, and this is because from when a Nigerian leader tastes any form of power at all and they have received the high level of idolization from Nigerians everywhere, they would just have to want more power to keep enjoying the idolization or enjoy even more of it.
I have in fact been in a gathering where the ones we see as the technocrats and the academia, on whose shoulders lies the responsibility of probing the Nigerian public servants, ended up worshiping the politicians in the same gathering. You as well must have seen some situations where a Nigerian would be bold enough to question a particular public servant, but the moment they have any chance at all to wine and dine with the same public servant they have been criticizing, they become yet another worshipper of the public servant; we repeatedly see this amongst the Nigerian activists and entertainment celebrities. The implication of this is that the public servants know that Nigerians are not capable of seeing their public servants as their servants, and the reason is because we all want some kind of opportunity they can give us, and we are all for sale—for a price, or for some sort of political favour.
Olusegun Peters is a businessman, an investor and a scholar. He is the founder of primerinfotech.com and pec-ng.com. He is passionate about contributing his knowledge to impacting as many people as possible one person at a time. Read more about Olusegun Peters here