Though conscience is inherent in man, ability to behave accordingly obviously differs from one man to another. Also, though everyone can pretend to be a person of conscience, only time and circumstances will tell a real man of conscience from a charlatan. Besides, the fact that no one today can rightly claim the ability to maintain perfect commitment to his conscience all the time, explains individuals’ points of strength and weakness in this regard.
With its complicated socio-economic and political challenges, Nigeria’s public sphere has always featured many supposedly principled public affairs analysts and critics analyzing the causes of its various challenges, proffering solutions and advocating good governance and accountability.
Prior to the internet age, the sphere was dominated by newspaper columnists, academics and civil society activists. Today, however, with the proliferation of internet-based platforms where everyone can effortlessly publish his thoughts at will, the sphere is awash with all types of analyses, criticisms and solution proposals.
Yet, there have always been some public affairs analysts who have always enjoyed public confidence as, supposedly, principled and patriotic individuals thanks to their apparently constructive criticisms, anti-corruption stands, exhaustive analyses of issues and, of course, sophisticated literary styles.
This isn’t surprising because a typical public affairs analyst of this calibre would always sound so principled that one would swear that when he gets the opportunity to hold a position of authority, he would prove too honest to tolerate corruption, let alone take part in it. He would also always sound so competent that one would equally swear that when he is brought into the corridors of power to hold a position of authority, he would simply dust off his written columns and articles and begin to put into practice all the solutions he had proffered and the development ideas he had written over the years, to completely turn things around in the particular government institution under his supervision or direct administration.
Over the decades, many reputable public affairs analysts and critics have at various points been appointed by successive federal and state governments in the country, to head various government institutions and agencies. Some of them have been ministers, managing directors, director generals, commissioners, advisers etc. Some have even somehow managed to secure elective offices to become senators, members of the House of Representatives at the federal level, and legislators in their respective states.
However, obviously the corridors of power in the country have persistently proved to be the graveyard of conscience, patriotism and development ideas. Because, with the exception of a very few real men of conscience, all those supposedly principled and patriotic critics, firebrand academics and civil society comrades appointed to hold different positions of authority at various points have always appeared to lose their wonderful ideas and indeed their respective consciences as well, if they actually had it in the first place.
A typical unscrupulous and manipulative opportunist cunningly pursuing selfish interests has enough patience to keep faking commitment to conscience and patriotism for as long as it takes to get him into the corridors of power where he would, in no time, quietly vanish into its comfort and begin to be part of the normal business to eventually blend into the largely corrupt elite he had always castigated. He would lay low therein resonating only when it’s absolutely unavoidable, in total contrast to the situation when he was advocating good governance. Sometime one would even wonder if he is actually still active publicly. Yet, as soon as he loses his job and his privileged access to the corridors of power, he shamelessly begins to resume his advocacy for accountability. Instances of this trend are simply too many to count.
Incidentally, though some few may perform relatively well or better than their predecessors, yet their respective performances would remain largely overshadowed by the sheer amount of public expectations, thanks to their hitherto holier- than-thou style when condemning their predecessors, and their obvious know-it-all attitude when proffering solutions to the country challenges. This is because prior to their appointments they had been unnecessarily too idealistic in their criticisms paying little or no attention to the country’s peculiar underlying challenges and systemic constraints. Consequently, having inadvertently conditioned the public mindset to rightly expect them to, once they are in power, deliver exactly what they used to preach, their performances would always fall short of public expectations.
Besides, unlike what obtains elsewhere where public office holders with real commitment to their consciences simply quit whenever they face persistent pressure or temptation to compromise their respective principles, in Nigeria, most of those appointed to hold positions of authority based on their perceived integrity as, say, supposedly principled critics, actually never try to operate according to their supposed principles in the first place, let alone consider voluntary resignation no matter the amount of illegal practices perpetrated under their watch.