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Gluttony at public expense

The social media was buzzing last week over a picture of a police orderly with a heaped plate of food trailing behind a “political madam”…

The social media was buzzing last week over a picture of a police orderly with a heaped plate of food trailing behind a “political madam” at a social function. It has become the norm for past and present political office holders to be assigned police orderlies as bag-carriers, umbrella holders, and general house-helps. 

Now food carrying has joined their duties. Claims that the food was not for Madam but for the policeman were an afterthought. Everyone knows that no uniformed officer on duty would have the effrontery to join a queue for food where Ogas and Madams are queuing. The real embarrassment for the Madam was the sheer amount of food loaded onto the plate which indicated gluttony of the highest order. 

The main feature of elite social functions in Nigeria is the sheer amount of food loaded onto plates, not eaten and wasted. Although some “Madams” have taken to hiding “take-away” meat and chicken, in their voluminous hand bags! The problem is that such gluttony, while condemnable, is of no consequence when private funds are involved, but increasingly it’s paid for with public funds. Considering the ruinous circumstances which the nation is regressing into in which fuel scarcity has joined hyper-inflation, hunger, mass unemployment, and burgeoning insecurity, it’s incumbent upon those at the helm of affairs to act demurely and at least pretend that they have an iota of human compassion.  Alas, it appears as if even pretending to care seems to be above them. Hardly a week goes by without televised news reports of weddings, birthday parties or traditional title bestowing in which political office holders congregate with their retinue of aides and security personnel to indulge in gluttony at public expense as if that is their sole raison d’etre. Excess food and drinks flow freely to pot-bellied political office holders and mint currency notes are sprayed with abandon. All this in  a country in which the majority lives below the international poverty line and can’t afford three square meals a day! 

Leadership is supposed to be by example but by serially celebrating in the midst of failure to govern effectively political office holders in general and the first family in particular, have not shown a good example. Videos have surfaced online of the president’s wife celebrating her birthday in Dubai with the wives of some governors fawning over her. The less said about the obscene lavishness of her son’s wedding or daughter’s birthday celebrations the better. It’s long been understood that “First Ladies” have no constitutional role and few have any work. Most have nothing better to do other than squander public funds setting up foundations into which government money is poured, which fold up as soon as their husbands leave office. President Buhari himself made clear his disdain of their desire to bask in undeserved limelight when he said he married his wife for the kitchen and the other room and not for her political views or meddlesomeness in public affairs! These days, so called “State First Ladies” unconstitutionally maintained at public expenses along with most political office holders, are enamoured with materialism and accumulation of wealth and far more concerned about personal development not national development. They exhibit lack of humanity and compassion towards the immense suffering of those whose lives they are supposed to be improving. Surrounded by sycophants and praise singers, they care less about the scorn in which they are held by the general public. 

The main reason for Nigeria’s economic and social regression is an inability to solve basic problems because political office holders lack the necessary self-respect and basic integrity for any reprimand or condemnation to embarrass them and cause them to govern compassionately and effectively. Arrogance, insensitivity and shamelessness are their character traits. Their modus operandi is to snub public opinion, insult and denigrate opponents or detractors, while fully enjoying the luxuries of office, privileges of power, and unjustifiable monetary rewards. Nigerians excuse this toxic behaviour by saying “that is how all politicians are”, whereas what they should be saying is “such people are unfit for public office”. 

As elections are on the horizon and Nigerians look set to elect new political leaders, it’s important to bear in mind that political leaders are supposed to have specialist advisers. Of far more importance than profound intellect, the most necessary qualities for good leadership are a heart full of love and ears open to listening, both of which have been markedly absent in recent times. Come 2023 it is imperative that Nigerians elect people who are happy to see happiness and sad to see sadness, not those who evidently don’t give a hoot. 

The Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) has made it clear that no new political party will be registered before the elections. As such all the old political warhorses harbouring serious ambitions will have to pursue them in the existing political parties which are not based upon any ideology and to which “professional politicians” have decamped and re-camped to. The nation’s fortunes are unlikely to improve with the incoming administration if all that happens is that the current leadership is replaced by people of the same mindset. 

It’s imperative that there is a change of character in political office holders so that the penchant for endless official junketing, overseas trips, banqueting and social functions ceases and more attention is paid to alleviating the nation’s ever increasing levels of poverty and suffering. 

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