House of Commotion: Legislators in free-for-all fight

Legislators Fracas Is No Shame, But Political Immaturity

When the fracas occurred in the National Assembly very recently (scroll down for video) I watched with amusement the event and condemnation it received from all quarters. My amusement came from the question, since when has shame ever been significant as a deterrent to inform the behaviour of Nigerian politicians? Or simply put, do Nigerian politicians care about their personally created shames? “Shame” and “politician” in the Nigerian reality are two of the most incompatible words known; where one exists the other is abhorred.

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In Abuja, if you hang around the Hilton or the Sheraton it is not too difficult to overhear senators and reps openly (sometimes loudly) bragging about moneys they received or shared as gifts, settlements or bribes. Legislators arrested for corrupt practices get five star treatments at interrogation centres and their celebrity markedly enhanced. These same legislators can be openly found outside female halls of residence at Nigerian higher institution campuses, courting hordes of girls. If they are made to wait too long in banks they would shout vehemently often announcing how many millions they have in their account. Are they people who know shame?

Do we know of senior politicians that have been reputed to be assassins? Do we know any politicians who have been members of secret cults? Do we know of any politicians who have been serial rapists or drug users in their immediate or distant past? Do we know of politicians who have criminal convictions overseas for economic, financial and other crimes? Do we know any politicians in office who only got there because their political opponent was assassinated? Yes would be the answer to these question, but some will argue the number of legislators that fall into this group are relatively small. Fair enough.

Legislators Fracas Is No Shame, But Political Immaturity by Grimot Nane

So we ask other question about the behaviour of the legislators? Do we know any politicians that exhibit the characteristics of a “psychopath” of which a lack of remorse or shame is a prominent identifier? Do we know any politicians who readily use violent and murderous thugs to further their political ambitions? Do we know any politicians who have gone into office and robbed public funds under his care dry? Do we have unrepentant and remorseless politicians whose greed has littered Nigeria with innumerable “incomplete projects” that were completely paid up for? Again, the answer is yes, but this time it applies to the majority.

If Nigerian is not ashamed of the wanton thieving of politicians why should they be ashamed of their hand-to-hand fighting?

We must understand as best as we can that our national legislature, like elsewhere in the Nigerian government, is filled with psychopaths who cannot feel shame even if experiencing shame will make them much richer. Shame to the Nigerian politician is an extremely low-level occupational hazard. We must also be careful not to rush to diagnose politicians of mental conditions they might or might not have. And we must be particularly careful not to paint all legislators with one brush; there are exceptions who are not psychopaths or of bad behaviour. However, the legislators at the National Assembly that are genuinely good men and women did not start or sustain the fracas in question.

Nigeria is a democracy if not there would be no legislators today to make our laws. But Nigeria’s democracy is perhaps a grossly immature one. The electorate is immature because it lacks the incentives to not vote thieves, murderers, rapists, drug users, drug pushers, fraudsters and above all psychopaths who lack any sense of shame into office. Voting in a psychopath and expecting him to exhibit the ‘bureaucratic morality’ necessary for good governance or the ‘civic morality’ necessary for dignified politics is at best delusionary.

Some may persuasively argue that the electorate may not vote for the scoundrels because the democratic mechanisms that have been blighted by a long history of rigging and election buying undermine their voice. The implication is that till the electoral and democratic institutions of Nigeria become adequately enforceable, Nigeria democracy will remain in the kindergarten. But the mostly greedy wanton bandits who make our laws would not permit such because it would be the end of them and their political careers.

The legislators’ fracas was not a national shame but a case of national political immaturity and of a nation of failed institutions. The good news is that the Nigerian electorate is getting wiser and better informed; they are watching and deciding.

Brawl in the Nigerian House of Representatives (courtesy SaharaTv)

  • Dr. Nane is an errant scholar and economist. Follow him on twitter: @Grimot

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