TOO many have had to suffer at the hands of a political economic elite whose only fight is for them by them, with them and them… And with a bureaucracy so bloated and confused, the powerful always win…but…–Onyedikachi Ndidi in a recent conversation with a friend of mine on the Nigerian state, he reminded of the Marxist theorem that says, “When a society is on the verge of collapse, the ruling class is thrown into confusion.”
Nigeria’s current picture and identity is that replete with a confused, factionalized and extremely corrupt elites with a limited sense of nation. As Ihonvbere puts it, “These elites lacking strong and viable base in production, have for long used the state as its primary instrument of primitive accumulation.” In the end, the state has been mangled and rendered impotent in the quest for nationhood, growth and development, much less democracy.
The genesis and development of the Nigerian elite is as interesting as the generic rooting of the Nigerian state. The new Nigerian elite, which took over power from the departing colonial authorities, also took over from them the development ethos of the colonial administrations.
This could be stated as the self-interested exploitation of the people and the country. This self-serving ethos, which had been the foundation, was what the colonial state had engrained in the mentality of the emerging Nigerian elite. The devastating effect of this formed the basis of development orientation in the postcolonial Nigerian state.
While one can argue rightly so too, that though the elite is meant to play a central role in promoting and designing democracy, as it is quite impossible to prosecute any democratic project in any society without the input of the elite, the Nigerian elite has sadly continued to impede and frustrate the democratization trend.
They see democracy or governance more as a means to an end, and in Achebe’s words, have a tendency to ‘pious material wooliness and self-centered pedestrianism’. Consequently, the group remains just like its colonial progenitor an instrument of exploitation and suppression of the popular classes and a tool for primitive accumulation and class consolidation for the hegemonic groups.
In other words, the few who control the system have access to all imaginable perks while the many who are excluded are victims of all forms of abuse. Perhaps, it is for this reason, the struggle to attain and retain power has become a veritable war fought without restraint and with total disregard for the ethos and conventions of democracy
Giving birth to an unprecedented level of corruption and misgovernance irrespective of the party or group.
In twenty-first century Nigeria, elite corruption is demonstrated in various dimensions, namely, presidentialism, clientelism and rent seeking.
Now, let us look at presidentialism, it implies the systematic concentration of political power in the hands of one individual who more often resists delegating all but the most trivial decision-making tasks.
This concept is likened to patrimonialism or personalized rule, where an individual rules by dint of personal prestige and power. It can emerge from either the army or a dominant political party, whichever way; the point is that power is consolidated by asserting total personal control over formal political structures thereby making ways for corruption (Bratton and Van de Walle, 1997).
For example in Obasanjo’s government, President Olusegun Obasanjo was the minister of petroleum, a portfolio he never wanted any other individual to handle.
He was minister of petroleum for seven years and four months yet he did not build even one refinery. So it is foolhardy for any sane person to be moved by his exhibitionism of card tearing.
In Nigeria, primitive accumulation comes in form of theft, looting, graft, expropriation, money laundering, enslavement and internal colonization. In this sense, even governments are not eager to probe the sources of personal wealth.
What is more? The prevailing trend among the Nigerian elite is how to enrich oneself in order to remain relevant in the polity and how that is done is nobody’s business. To this class of individuals, ‘the end justifies the means’, and not ‘the means to justify the end’.
Little wonder, the cases of Boko Haram being viewed as a political tool, coupled with ritual killings, political assassination, human trafficking and hostage taking. To this end, the average Nigerian simply sees the elite as an opportunist, a ‘timocrat’, and a ‘plutocrat’ who first and foremost is in office for his own end and probably those of his immediate constituency.
For the purposes of further analysis, the term ‘timocrat’ is derived from ‘timocracy’, which is a form of government that represents degeneration, the love of honor. As Stumpf and Fieser (2003) contends, “In so far as ambitious members of the ruling class love their own honor more than the common good, the spirited part of their soul has usurped the role of reason. It is a short step from love of honor to the desire for wealth, which means allowing the appetites to rule.
On the other hand, the concept ‘plutocrat’ is derived from ‘’plutocracy’, which is a form of government where power resides in the hands of people whose main concern is wealth.
What is serious about plutocracy is that, it breaks the unity of the state into two contending classes: The rich and the poor. Plutocrats are consumers of good things and seekers of constant pleasure, and when they have used up their money, they become dangerous because they want more of what they have become accustomed to.
This then is my admonition, and the analysis of all the big-sounding words I have narrated above—If indeed elections do hold, if APC wins, PDP would not concede, if PDP wins, APC would revolt—anyone that wins would spell class violence.
Scenario one has already been predicted, ask Jonathan to leave the office, and off course no show for Buhari, which brings in an Ijoba fi di ha to rejig things.