As a Nigerian, in the best of circumstances, people will call me stupid. Am I actually stupid, or under a spell? If one likens my every-four yearly votes to handing over a stock certificate to a broker; have I honestly invested wisely? The present Nigeria's constitution and political arrangement allow, once in 4 years, an opportunity of share certificates distribution, or call it ballot papers to be handed over to every Nigerian, 18 years of age and above, including me.
It is a chance to invest in the future of the nation, with its attendant dividends, for me and my family. Since every citizen cannot go to the "stock market," these certificates are ceded to "stock brokers," of our choice, to invest on our behalves. The process is called democracy, with the hope that, in the end, there would be dividends.
Most Nigerians, as I do, determine the choice of broker from available brokers, based on reasons that range from the ridiculous to the absurd. Please don't laugh. Sometimes individually we use gut feeling, or influenced by a broker of the same religion, or tribe, or geo-political zone, or state, or local government, or fellow villager, or somebody that lives on the same street. It could be that the broker speaks my native language. Besides, business is all about trust; using any or combinations of the above should normally not pose any problems; I should not be called stupid for trusting people. It is all about maximizing our individual opportunities – which broker, to me, is more trustworthy, more likely to generate better dividends are also some of the considerations.
Unfortunately since 1999, ninety nine per cent (99%) of the political brokers in Nigeria, instead of investing the shares certificates entrusted to them, have gone to the public treasury to cash the share certificates for their personal use. Had they invested at all, this could easily have provided each one of us a better life of good roads, constant power supply, jobs created, good health scheme, portable water, better education for my children, good transportation (mass – train, bus) and better security to mention a few. If you think I was not a good judge of people because I was dim, what about my neighbor that was only offered a bag of rice, worth only N10,000.00 (ten thousand naira). From the foregoing, his share certificate was exchanged for millions of naira at the public treasury with the proceeds kept by the broker. Has he sold too cheaply or was he plain stupid?
To make matters worse, my own broker always gloats as he drives past in tinted limousine, bought with my share certificate while I struggle with danfo or keke NAAPE; his family jets across the world using the proceeds of my share certificate that he cashed from our public treasury. He exhibits not a tinge of concern or try to fix anything for my life or that of my family to get better. As long as he has cashed my share certificate, instead of investing it, I can go to hell. What belongs to me, he uses to augment his opulent lifestyle. Am I stupid? I still do not believe so. Yes, he has abused the position of trust I had in him, but that does not make me crazy yet. Whatever consideration of tribe, religion, geo-political zone, village or living on the same street that was employed to get my attention last time means nothing to him presently.
Thank God for democracy – at least there is a freedom of choice. After all, my broker did not put a gun to my head, to hand over my share certificate. I did it in the light of my knowledge at the time; though I do regret my decisions, but there is always another time. I hope he realizes that soon, the 4-year cycle of distribution of share certificates is around the corner. I hope he knows he is not the only broker in town nor his association the only one; he will need to offer me, in advance this time, millions in shares plus interest before I can even consider listening to him, or his association. I am not going to listen to anybody to convince me to hand over my share certificate to him or whoever; he could have settled the other people without my knowing. This is Nigeria, and the conventional wisdom is to assume nothing and question everything.
Do these scenarios look familiar to the many stupid Nigerians like me? This is the reality of our time. I will be called stupid if my business decision, next time, is based on sentiments. Before one calls for the crucifixion of our political brokers, I mean our politicians, let's be realistic. The process of getting the licence before they can approach us to solicit for our national or state share certificates is expensive too. Each broker has to belong to an association (political party), which demands returns in advance before a broker is licensed. Those that lose out in the process have to be pacified; otherwise they may leave the party. There are godfathers to be paid also; there are thugs to provide security for each broker – a necessary consideration for fear of me coming to challenge his audacity for hijacking my share certificate for personal use. All these expenses do not fall from heaven; they are financed from the proceeds of cashing my share certificate at the public treasury instead of investing it.
According to Lee Kuan Yew, the Singaporean strongman, 'The system is extremely corrupt. You borrow money to get elected; once elected, you have to make enough money to pay back what you borrowed, and also make enough to cover the next election in order not to go and borrow.' The expenses have to come from cashing the peoples' share certificates at the public treasury. The 4-year cycle does not allow the elected public officers to invest first and wait for the dividends; instead, they cash the peoples' share certificates first with little left to invest for the future of the voters and their families. With all sincerity, I do not believe our politicians are bad people, they are just survivors like you and I.
To consider fixing this jigsaw, we may have to tinker with the political process to make it a performance based arrangement. The presidential system of "winners take all" is not, to me, the cause of our woes; the way we practice it, however, does not encourage good performance. The advance-payment method, which is what we have now, has not worked well for the majority of Nigerians. Elected public office holders, whom we hand over our share certificates, should wait for their remunerations and only be paid a percentage of economic dividends at the end of their tenure. How many jobs did they create; what GDP increment did they add; what social amenities upgrade did they provide, etc. could be the basis to award points to effect their percentage for their remunerations. While in office, the running cost for their trouble will be financed on credit without interest which will be deducted from their final settlements.
I was just thinking.
Samuel Akinyele Caulcrick