Lest We Forget

a commentary on socio-political developments and institutional policies

The MTN Jigsaw – Season 1

One of the major pillars of advanced nations, which regrettably is lacking in developing countries, is the enforcement of law. Because different people with different socio-cultural orientations must be forged together to become a nation, there is the need to fashion out common denominators, of which, at least, two things brilliantly recommended themselves: Currency and Law. They are national binding factors. The Currency of a nation enjoys unfettered legal tender within the political territory of the nation. No other currency may upstage or supplant it. Its instrumentality is not negotiable. So also is Law. At least, in advance countries. Laws are meant to be obeyed. Breaches are sanctioned; they are not negotiated. Because laws are enacted for good governance, law breakers are often viewed with dim regards. They are penalised to prevent a further breakdown of law and order to which anarchy is sequel. The supremacy of law is so overwhelming that like the primitive people’s idol its creators must bow to it.

Tragically, for us in Nigeria, the application of the necessary provisions of the law is an avoidable inconvenience. Our laws are enacted that we, like the primates resemble and imitate Man, may have a semblance of civility, civilisation and organisation. Sincerely, we don’t mean our laws. Our guests are quick to notice this peculiar virtue, and they try to outdo us in our lawlessness to our own chagrin. What the foreigners and their enterprises dare not in their land they do here with impunity. Why not? There is always a super Nigerian, a big man who would negotiate their infractions and ensure their escape from justice. Of course,  the big man does not engage himself in fits of anger at the temerity of foreigners to desecrate our laws. No. He is not upset. In fact, he is pleased. He uses such opportunities as a sociopolitical barometer not only to guage his influence and relevance but to further entrench it. So, it is in the eternal interest of the big man that foreigners should ride rough shod on our shoulder, that his interventions may be sought and his influence further peddled. After all, did he not facilitate their coming in the first instance? And of course for permitting a big man to have his ways in spite of the odds, written and unwritten, there is always a clear and present reward, either in cash or kind. In addition, you become adopted by the big man whom, one day, you might need in the uncertain trajectory of your career. His support is a delayed gratification that you had better treasure. Every Nigerian knows that. After all “Godfathers never sleep”. Apology to J.K. Randle.

In case you are obstinate, and decide to fight on behalf of the law, you would soon discover to your dismay that you are acting on your own. OYO as the acronym goes. Someone else would still do the big man’s dirty bidding. When you take a stand for the law you take a stand for the society. That, of course, should be the right thing. Wrong!  The mortal sin is to obstruct a big man. The big man does not forget, he does not forgive.

So as a nation we have wobbled and fumbled. We have granted import waivers when we should not. We have granted tax holidays to undeserving foreign businesses. We have created a huge mess, so messy that an American Republican presidential candidate and business mogul by the name, Donald Trump in October 2015 called for another 100 years recolonisation of Africa because, according to him, Africans “know nothing about leadership and self governance”. He lambasted further, “From the government to opposition, they only qualify to be used as a case study whenever bad examples are required.” This is a neo-colonialist clarion call coming 55 years after Nigeria’s Independence. Will you blame him? Should we not, by now, be ashamed,  well enough to get things done properly, no matter whose ox is gored?

Businesses, whether government or private, are conducted without emotions, and within the confines of laid down rules and regulations. Little wonder despite the down payment of a whopping $40 million by Nigeria’s TV company,  HiTV to UEFA for the broadcast rights of the highly lucrative EPL for 2010-2011 season the company lost out as it could not provide a bank guarantee for the remaining two seasons by Monday July 19, 2010. However, the company had letters from Nigerian banks that the guarantee would be ready by Friday,  23rd July 2010 – a mere difference of 4 days. Losing $40 millon is no joke. The company came crashing, and has laid prostrate since. It was a serious scorch for Toyin Subair.

To typical Nigerians, it’s just 4 days difference. To the whites, you missed the deadline. EOD. Europe was unwittingly teaching us in a hard way, using one of us as a classical example of how (or how not) to conduct business. No sentiments, no emotions, just rules – whether just or unjust. Nobody talked about racism or any form of bunkum. No intervention by any big man. Law, itself, is the big man (or I dare say the big blind woman). Rules are meant to be respected, not perverted. Rules do not recognise colour or creed. At least, they are not supposed. They just must be respected. Simple.

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