Jide Akintunde, Managing Editor/CEO, Financial Nigeria International Limited

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Subjects of Interest

  • Financial Market
  • Fiscal Policy

Of little men, big offices, and big cars 06 Nov 2023

There are many reasons people wear oversized shoes. According to University Foot & Ankle Institute, a leading US podiatric care provider, people wear shoes that are too big for them because they might feel more comfortable if they have bunions, blisters, or swelling foot pain from walking. The shoes might be the only size available in the style they like, and parents do buy oversized shoes for their children in the hope that they would grow into them.

But the experts advise against wearing oversized shoes. Instead of soothing bunions, they can cause or aggravate them. Oversized shoes tend to reduce one’s balance and stability, increasing the risk of tripping and falling.

Wearing oversized shoes is a fitting metaphor for the occupancy of Nigerian public offices today. Men and women who suffer from various inadequacies and are unable to find other fulfilling enterprises to engage in, have taken over various top public offices in the country. These days, the more socially and psychologically inadequate people are, the higher the public offices they occupy. Instead of their positions serving as a redeeming factor for them, the more their frailties are exposed.

These Nigerian little men in public offices like to have big official cars. Since the cars that are good enough for them are not made in Nigeria, and the country cannot afford them, the government acquires foreign loans to buy the imported cars. Patronage of locally-made alternative brands would enable the local businesses to expand their production capacities, create more jobs, and become externally competitive. Such a considerate act would ease the pressure on the naira and reduce imported inflation, but it is beneath the men and women representing the people in the National Assembly.

They have justifications for their indulgence, to wit, private sector leaders use such exotic cars and Nigerian roads are bad. Nigerian roads are bad despite the budgetary allocations for road infrastructure projects running into trillions of naira in the last eight years. For the legislature, the solution to the bad roads is not making the executive arm of government and the implementing agencies accountable for the poor performance of the high budgetary appropriations.

A Justice of the Supreme Court who recently retired said the judiciary is corrupt. He said the judiciary, where he served for almost five decades, was different from the one he had anticipated. He was unsparing in his assertion, not necessarily because it is impossible to still find honour among any his erstwhile colleagues but because corruption has become the norm in the judiciary, and he was only affirming the common knowledge.

Poor financial remuneration is adduced as the cause of the widespread corruption in the Nigerian judiciary. But this is only a poor refuge for the little men there. If a competent, fit, and proper person is poorly remunerated in a system where bribery for favourable judgement is the only way to make ends meet, the thing to do is to resign and exit the corrupt system. There is no honour in joining them because you couldn’t beat them.

The little men of Nigeria’s judiciary have lost their key capital, which is honour. When you trade in gold for brass, you lose value. The people who go on to strip the judiciary of its honour would never empower it to reacquire its dismantled virtue. They would throw crumbs at the judges and keep the dossier of corruption. This effectively removes the blindfold covering the eyes of lady justice. She must know and remember those she traded favours with. The relationship may have started as a one-off transaction, but it is actually a career-long bedfellowship.

Little men don’t know what they have until they have lost it. During military rule when the executive and legislative arm of government were cannibalised, and during democratic rule, the judiciary has always remained, and its role has consistently been legally recognised. But today, the judiciary that is shielded from democratic uncertainties has become the weakest arm of government. It allegedly now needs money and its honour. But money would not be given it by the little folks in the executive and legislature. The judiciary would have to choose between money and honour. It would not have both. The people in the executive and legislative arm of government who flaunt money their judicial counterparts are enticed with acquired the money through dishonourable means.

The pain that has been inflicted on Nigerian people by the little men and women in high public offices is very much and intensifying. Many Nigerians now queue up in the market to collect a share of fish heads that would have been otherwise thrown into the gutter. Poor Nigerians appear unseemly because they are hungry. Instead of the powerful little men to genuinely address the situation of the poor, they have instead weaponised poverty. Fiscal mechanisms to support the poor have become a means of further taking resources from them and lining the pockets of public officials and their private sector collaborators.

This problem cannot be solved through business-as-usual governance framework. The government must come into dialogue with the people and together forge a way forward.