Over the final two weeks, I’ve tried to account for the mass exodus of the Nigerian middle class. I argued that army rule mixed with poor financial administration have been the major components inflicting the exodus of the middle class. However I additionally argued final week that the middle class, as a unit, is not only a sufferer, however an enabler of the rot and despoliation of the nation. In contrast to the archetypal middle class in Western nations that act to guard the democratic order by guaranteeing good governance and accountability of elected leaders, the Nigerian middle class, with few exceptions, use their privileged positions to barter good offers for themselves, their households and mates and have thus change into the medium via which Nigeria’s politics of plunder, neopatrimonialism and prebandalism is sustained and deepened.
However by doing this, they’re inevitably committing class suicide as a result of as analysis has proven, the financial destiny of the middle class financial is instantly tied to the high quality of governance and financial administration. The middle class relies upon extra on public providers than the wealthy or higher class. The wealthy might, usually, decide out of public service however not so the middle class. They may try to decide out of public service, as the Nigerian middle class did when the high quality of schooling declined from the late 1980s onwards. However as most of them at the moment are realising, their diminished revenue can not present the type of non-public schooling they loved to their kids.
However why does the Nigerian middle class all the time act in opposition to its enlightened self-interest? The reply lies in a pathology David Hundeyin calls “culturally embedded pathological selfishness,” a “desperate, individualistic drive to survive in spite of (perhaps at the expense of) everyone else”. He traces the historical past of this narcissistic perspective to the “Meritorious Manumission Act of 1710 in the United States, which authorised the legal emancipation of slaves or improvement in their status in return for certain ‘good deeds’” equivalent to saving a grasp’s life, property or snitching on fellow slaves. In actuality although, no stage of private emancipation might insulate the slave from the harshness of 18th century American society. As many so-called emancipated slaves later found, there might be no private emancipation exterior the group and irrespective of how they tried, they might not escape the “nasty shared experience of blackness.”
That mindset discovered its approach again throughout the Atlantic and has taken deep roots in our tradition and faith, and has led to the perception that our private pursuits comes earlier than the collective; that, in reality, our “case is different” and that despite the bleak fortunes of our society, we might prosper and change into fairly profitable as people. For sure, this perverse mindset solely makes us change into extra vicious and untrustworthy, all the time prepared to cheat, back-stab each other and endanger the curiosity of the collective for an phantasm of private emancipation. It’s this false consciousness that makes a public official thinks he’s searching for his curiosity and that of his household by embezzling funds meant for social providers or infrastructure. It’s why the search of lucre has change into the major motivation for politics, faith and life usually in Nigeria.
In fact, like the 18th century emancipated slaves found, private emancipation exterior group emancipation is a mirage. Nonetheless, the Nigerian middle class is but to understand that easy reality. We destroy the probability of group emancipation by our utter selfishness however go to church every single day to hearken to pastors who guarantee us that we are able to obtain private breakthroughs even when the total society is out of joint. We provide our providers to perpetuate army and civilian dictatorships however go to church and mosque to wish for good governance and God-fearing leaders. We sit by idly and even partake in the diversion of funds meant for investments in public infrastructure equivalent to well being and roads however we go to the church and mosque day by day to wish for good well being and for journey mercies when travelling. We sit by and watch as our leaders flip the nation to a haven of poverty and unemployment but go to church and mosque to wish for defense from theft and housebreaking. Ultimately, after we come up in opposition to the harsh actuality of what our nation has change into and our utter helplessness, we would like out. We aspire to go dwell in a rustic the place its middle class are performing their duties of holding their governments accountable and guaranteeing enough investments in public infrastructure and providers.
I’ll finish with a private and painful instance. Someday in 2017, the Lagos state governor invited senior editors of media homes to the authorities home, Ikeja, to transient them on authorities’s plan for the state and to get their inputs. At the assembly, I watched with disgrace as senior journalists and editors suck as much as the governor, shamelessly singing his praises and asking for ridiculous favours. My single try to ask the governor probing questions on authorities accountability introduced the programme to an finish and accusations from my colleagues of embarrassing my host. If senior journalists, whose job it’s to carry authorities accountable, might behave this fashion, think about what different professionals do after they are available contact with political leaders.