By Ademola Yaya
Oxford Dictionary defines elite as a group of people in a society who are powerful and have a lot of influence because they are rich, intelligent, etc. The ruling elite manage and organise government and all the manifestation of political power from local government chairmen to the president at the top. By their strategic location, they are able to affect political calculations and outcome substantially.
In the advanced countries, when there is a clash between personal and national interest, the elite place preference on national interest. In the advanced economies, although there are high crimes liken to Sodom and Gomorrah,they regulate their society so well that crime is not attractive and once one is caught, the law of the land will take cause. They build their infrastructure.They regulate their society in such a way that life will be meaningful. They make sure that virtually everything works. Their discipline to providing decent living condition for the vast majority of their people among others, perhaps, explains why they are advanced.
Over there, there is a way in which their elite have ensured that one must work for earnings. Once one clocks age 18, his/her knowledge and acquired skills will earn him/her a living and pay his/her bills; there are no free meals, and there are systematic welfare programmes to sort out those proven to be socially disadvantaged, especially those who can work, are willing to work but for whom there is yet no work.
The behavioural pattern of elite in Africa and Nigeria in particular is quite different. To start with, there are three categories of elite in Nigeria: those who are rich because they have useful skills; those who are rich because they are rent seekers or thugs; and the mix of the two above.
With the exception of a very infinitesimal proportion, our elite compromise with the status quo by collecting bribes and benefits. They want to better their lots at the expense of the basic necessities of the poor. They extrapolate their own first world, lives and demand actions that will cause the people trouble. They want to live a first world lifestyle in their native country. They have stronger cultural ties with the developed world than with our traditional society. They want their children to be born in United States and United Kingdom soil than in Nigeria. They have houses abroad with dual citizenship. Their children school abroad. They take their medication abroad. They are more at home overseas than in Nigeria. In fact, they have no confidence in our system, which they have thoroughly undermined.
When they infringe on laws, they are always shielded. They don’t pay taxes but impose on the poor. Our elite who are supposed to be the ruler, the cream of society and role models are a liability to the system. Their stance is antithetical to national development and democratic principle. While they pretend to be democrats, they see democratic practices as a threat to their security and will do anything to frustrate it. They have no social and moral conscience to their followers. Despite the stupendous resources we are endowed with, of which they are largely in charge, our development does not match our national wealth.
With proper coordination of nature and people, developmental rate is very elastic and unlimited. It is a function of research and organisation of human and natural resources which we have in abundance. How does one explain a situation where either elected or appointed to a position, a man/woman amasses so much wealth that is meant for societal development to himself/herself at the detriment of the society? How could somebody have penchant to live to steal collective wealth consistently? While their action and inaction create absolute poverty in the midst of plenty, they create a buffer zone between themselves and the poverty; sometimes individually helping themselves from the public treasury to the tune of wealth enough to last a hundred people a hundred lifetimes!
The worst part is that the elite kleptomania is rapidly infecting the poor working people. Everybody is seriously waiting for any available opportunity to steal and inflict hardship on the people as long as it boosts his/her personal interest. Virtues like honesty, hard work, morality, love, etcetera, are fast disappearing for emergence of iniquities and violent crimes. Any society that finds itself in this condition is doomed!
There is an urgent need for reorientation. I do not mean reorientation for the poor working people alone as it is being presently mouthed by government agencies like the National Orientation Agency (NOA). There is a need for a national rebirth from the “Oga at the Top” down to last ordinary poor. There is a need to strengthen our institutions. A situation where a head of an institution determines how strong or weak it will be is not palatable. Institutions must have standards and sustained lives of their own no matter who and who drive them. It is the absence of this that accounts for perennial policy somersaults and blatant lack of continuity in African and third world governments in the last 60 to 70 years of independence.
We are very good at paper presentations and paying lip services. Our reorientation programme must not be business as usual where some individuals will gather half-sleeping and part-listening to paper presenters while awaiting “Item 7” (to eat and collect “a chopping”) and there is the end. We must handle it business like – fully focussed and committed to personal and collective rebirth and actions for development. We must take it a life and death matter while choosing life. We must declare a state of emergency on our value system. Anything short of this is rapid and continued movement to anarchy. The elite overseas are not angels; it is simply their attitude to making systems work that differentiates them from ours.
Yaya Ademola writes from Alekuwodo, Osogbo. He can be reached via 08037127929 and [email protected]