Dear Nigerian politician, thank you?- By Augusta Nneka

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When you think of public service, what comes to mind? Most likely politicians and people in appointed positions. Kudos to you; that is generally what public service encompasses. As the name implies, public servants are just people that decided to serve the public.

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My friend would say, “Public Service is a thankless job”, and I agree. Now before you argue, I am not here to justify the actions of Nigerian politicians and public servants, I am just sharing my perspective. You don’t have to like it but at least hear me out.

In Nigeria, public servants are regarded as different things to different people. To some, they are mini-gods who have come to rescue them from the trenches. To most Nigerians, they are looters, thieves and plain menace to society.

Unfortunately for the latter, society cannot function without public servants. They exist to serve the people and without them, a key component of society; the government, cannot function. It is just very sad that the typical Nigerian politician did not get the service part.

Fun fact: the laziest Nigerian politician more than likely works for an average of 14 hours a day. In most cases, they wake up by 5 am or 5:30 am and will not have a proper rest until 2 am or 3 am. In this span of time, they might attend 6-10 meetings in 2-3 cities.

Make no mistake, Nigerian politicians are very hardworking people. The problem is what exactly this hard work translates to. More often than not, they are very busy working on cleverer ways to remain in the top 1% and evade the watchful eyes of the media and the anti-graft agencies.

You might wonder why the average Nigerian politician would not employ their brilliance and dedication to making the country work and rather use that gift to loot until we are at the brick of destruction.

Let me tell you why.

I have explained in my previous pieces how financially taxing elections are. But let me paint a better picture. In the course of my journey, one of the “major stakeholders” my then employer consulted with, made a statement.

He said, “to run this election, you have to spend at least N10 billion”. At this stage, my employer was yet to even get his ticket. At this stage also, he was expected to spend about 70% of the purported N10 billion. This was the strategic advice he was given to “prove he was ready”.

Another case is the interview of the National Chairman of a political party. During the interview, he was asked why the cost of expression of interest and nomination forms were so high; he said “if you cannot afford it, it proves you do not have the financial muscle needed to contest elections.

In fact, you are not ready”. What that tells you is that to contest elections in Nigeria, you literally have to be or have access to multi-billionaires.

There’s more.

After spending billions to ‘legally’ win an election, you might have court cases that will lead to spending more billions of naira. Assuming you are met with a good fate, remember the billions you spent during the elections were not your resources, and the reaper must come to collect.

This is what leads to questionable deals, contracts and mediocre performance of an otherwise exceptionally brilliant politician.

Before you exclaim or nod your head; that was not the worst of it.

Regardless of the social media agitations, Nigerians see their public servants as mini-gods. Most will deny this, but it is the unpopular truth. When the reaper is satisfied with his harvest, he leaves the public servant in a desiccated state, but with some time to actually serve the people.

At this point, the politician if dedicated, can still do good work, no matter how little. This is also when the politician looks around and sees that he actually does not have to work so hard to fulfil the campaign promises.

Why?

Simple. We love and applaud mediocrity. So why should the promises be kept when the bare minimum is celebrated with so much fervour?

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