The phrase ‘Memento Mori’ is thought to have originated in ancient Rome. In those days, while a Roman General was parading through the streets during a ‘Victory Triumph’, he would have his slave whisper in his ear the words ‘Memento Mori’, reminding him that although he may be at his peak today, tomorrow he could fall, or more aptly ‘be brought down’.
Tertullian in his ‘Apologeticus’ shed more light on what the slave might have uttered as:
”Respice post te!
Hominem te esse memento!
that is to say:
”Look behind you!
Remember that you are but a man!
Remember that you will die!
I doubt whether those words really cut the excesses of the Roman Emperors of yore, but what is important was the truth belied in those simple words, which came to pass irrespective of how it was recieved by those to whom they were spoken to.
Those words remain very apt today as it was centuries ago when it was first uttered, especially to those who by providence have found themselves in positions of Authority.
I will limit myself, for the purpose of this treatise to Leadership, Nay Rulership in Africa in general and Nigeria in particular. This is one place in the world where the rulership is under no obligation to be accountable to the followership (for reasons that will not be dwelt upon in this missive). I have used rulership here, because leadership is something else entirely (that connotes an ideal), that at the moment is alien to the political sphere of most African countries. I have also narrowed it down to the political as this is the only avenue where the most number of people are affected over and above all else, though it is not necessarily total.
Unfortunately, since attaining independence, most African countries have seen less of leaders and more of rulers. The former massively declining (to the extent that you may count them on the fingers of your hand and still have some fingers to spare) while the latter continue to grow in their leaps and bounds.
The people of Africa who form the followership simply replaced their colonial masters with masters of their own kind in the neo-colonialism. Hardly anything changed for the better under their rule, rather things simply became worse as they mismanaged the collective patrimony placed under their care (either democratically or by the power of the Gun).
Nowhere else on Terra Firma, has the effect of misgovernance occassioned by the dearth of leadership been more apparent as in Africa (in general, and Nigeria in particular). It is so bad, that even democracies in some African states are worse than the dictatorial regimes of undemocratic governments in other climes.
I shall now focus on Nigeria, as typical as what you would find in African countries plagued with the malaise of poor leadership.
Since the restoration of democratic rule in 1999 the masses have seen their lot dwindle by the day, while the lot of those they elected into office has continued to soar to enviable heights. It has become more profitable to engage in politics than to go into a profitable business.
Though Nigeria is resource-rich (mainly Petroleum, while other resources remain massively untapped), for it’s people it has been a case of water, water everywhere but none to drink.
These hapless masses get to pay for the excesses of those in government. When smugglers were lifting petroleum products to neighbouring West African countries, where they were more expensive, the government rather than impress upon it’s security agencies saddled with the responsibility of securing the borders to effectively and efficiently go about their jobs, decided to remove oil subsidies, to increase the price of Fuel thereby creating a disincentive to smugglers of petroleum products.
When the government again discovered that it had been scammed by those licensed to import fuel (mostly cronies of those in power), they again decided to increase the price of fuel by totally removing subsidies which the importers claimed on the one hand, yet continued to dispense fuel not at government regulated prices.
State governors are now intent on outdoing one another in the issue of local ‘deportation’ of poor people they describe as ‘destitutes’ and ‘mentally ill’ to their state of origins after failing in their duty in the first place to make provisions for these same people as the duty they were elected into office to perform in the first place.
These rulers have no inkling on what it entails to be leaders. They simply are after the welfare of their own pockets, and will go to any length (even to the sacrificing of lives) to ensure the continued watering of the ‘flower pot’ of their insatiable gluttonous appetite.
Nigerian rulers at all levels will build and commission what they are constitutionally expected to do (in the very rare cases when they so do) and expect to be praised for them even though no kobo from their pockets went into the realization of the project, at costs that are overbloated to accomodate the lot that’ll go into the private pockets of select ‘favoured’ individuals.
They see themselves as gods (demi-gods will be an understatement) and behave as such by cutting themselves away from the common realities the people they govern daily experience. In some cases, these are the same conditions they have imposed on the people. For instance, having not provided for the people an efficient transportation means and modes, they go about banning the transportation modes like the mopeds and tricycles the people have developed to ease their burden in response to the hardships they face. In so doing, the wrath of these Overlords and their kind are incurred as they seem to see these contraptions (that have made life easier for the masses) as obstruction to their smooth movements on the roads and as an eyesore to them and their so called foreign investors and tourists, hence they will frame devious allegations against this DOG, just so they can hang it, telling the masses that it was done in their best interest as they now watch them trek long distances to work while the governors, presidents, senators and the likes ‘voooooom’ past, siren blaring in their convoys to their jobs which is primarily to make life better for the ‘walking masses’.
They claim they have built, equipped and staffed health care facilities to world standards (commissioned with pomp and pageantry again at great cost to the state) yet when they develop a fever they are flown abroad for treatment (only to be treated by Nigerian doctors who had been frustrated out of their country by the same policies articulated and implemented by these same ‘rulers’), knowing fully well that the hospital they built are below acceptable standards worldwide. Don’t forget that the personnel are so often on strike that the facility remains a monument at most times of the year because these rulers care less about Human Capital Development. A few of them have been caught unawares and have died because what ailed them was such that required urgent medical attention, the sort of which you won’t find even in the Emergency Section of Tertiary Health Institutions.
Because they know that an educated populace may rise and question their capability to rule, or form an effective opposition to their decadent rule, they do all within their power to ensure that the education the majority of the people get is dilute and erratically delivered. They ensure this by reneging on agreements made with academic and non-academic staff union of Universities, Polytechniques, Secondary Schools and even Primary Schools, and because none of their children and wards attend those schools they care less when strikes called by these unions drag on with no foreseeable end in sight, while most of the students engage themselves in non-academic activities some of which they wouldn’t be proud of in future.
Their definition of ‘Redevelopment and Restoration of City Masterplan’ is the demolition of the shacks and displacement of the poor from the dilapidated ghettoes they’ve been forced to live in, to build new apartments and palatial homesteads that are far beyond the reach of the poor masses who once occupied those lands. As they do with homes, they do with markets which they upgrade to ‘International Standard’, and then exclude the original occupiers.
With the penchant of the average Nigerian politician to amass wealth off the resources meant for the development of their societies, you begin to ask the age-old question, ‘How Much Land Does A Man Need?’
These rulers will do well to be admonished by the words, ‘Memento Mori’, for definitely their time will pass (either as a loss of authority or in death) and posterity will judge them either positively or harshly according to their acts while they held sway. Yes, many will not give a hoot to what happens or what will happen to them when they leave office, hence will not give a damn about establishing any legacy, and in a place like Nigeria where the masses have been beaten to a pulp by their circumstances without the stomach to insist on bringing past leaders to account for misgovernance, these same failed leaders continue to dictate the path the local government, state or nation will go as ‘Godfathers’, in a way ensuring that their successors don’t exceed their achievement (if any) while in office.
But death is a leveller, and people will ultimately remember those by which their lives where uplifted and by those of which their lives took a turn for the worse, and when that time comes even monuments dedicated to their immortalization will serve as nidus to heap curses upon their memory and their generations, not only by word of mouth but in the sighs and groanings of the oppressed.