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NIGERIA AND THE ‘OGA’ SYNDROME


In the extremely muddied waters of Nigeria`s public life, a larger-than-life image is usually sculpted of those in leadership positions, at least in the minds of their subordinates. This image captured in the word ‘oga’, which replaces the more politically correct ‘principal,’ or ‘boss’ or ‘managing director,’ or ‘chief executive’, which is usually as mentally bruising as the name suggests is often meant to evoke one thing: fear.

There is the fear of the unknown; fear of victimization; fear of being left out when the ‘palliatives’ of corruption are being distributed to the loyal while leaving out the prodigal.

It is not for nothing that politics is a do or die affair in Nigeria; it is not for nothing that it is a dance for the deathly desperate who are willing and ready to do anything; it is not for nothing that Nigerian politics is so callously cut-throat. Those who wield power in Nigeria become ogas and come perilously close to holding the power of life and death.

One thing is to blame for this extremely unsavoury situation and it is Nigeria`s extreme power imbalance. In 1999, Nigeria made a historic return to democracy after close to two decades of military rule. Now, democracy is about people`s power. This power translates to the power of choice that enables people to choose those through whom they wield the power that is theirs.

When democracy works well, there is no better form of government as it gives people options and keeps the dictatorial tendencies of those in power in check. However, when democracy struggles, as it currently does in Nigeria, the severe power imbalance produces a system that is ungainly and unsightly, providing the perfect opportunity for the corruption of power to thrive.

In Nigeria, impunity runs in the veins of those who bestride Nigeria`s corridors of power. Because checks are weak and weary, many of those in positions of power do what they will and wish safe in the knowledge that reckoning lives far away and may never come.

So, power corrupts and absolute power corrupts absolutely. In Nigeria, the corruption of power breeds even more corruption which in turn breeds yet more corruption to continue a vicious cycle of corruption.

So, in public offices, when the oga coughs, the whole establishment quakes. Whatever the oga does is right and however the oga does it is the correct way. So, Nigerians look away or cower in fear while corruption rampages and power is abused.

Over the years in Nigeria`s public space, there has been an inexplicable but embarrassing failure of public values. While some Nigerians argue that among Nigerians, there are those who will do much better than those who currently occupy public offices but cannot get in, other Nigerians are quick to argue that no matter how whistle clean a person is, once such a person gets into any public office in Nigeria, a mighty struggle ensues to do the right thing.

It seems that the only system that works in Nigeria is the one that systematically corrupts whoever takes the reins of power. This is damning because it bespeaks a weakness of institutions. Because in Nigeria, men matter more than institutions, those who find themselves in public office plunder public funds while further weakening public institutions to preclude the coming of the day when they will be asked to account for their deeds and misdeeds in office.

It has been a bumpy ride for Nigeria so far and one thing that has been plainly obvious is that the ogas driving the country`s extremely rickety bus off track have become so powerful that they are willing to take neither counsel nor correction from anyone.

Nigerians can see for themselves the price of such intransigence.

Kene Obiezu, [email protected]



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