Over the past few days,
Nigerian twitter has been hyper-political partly as a result of the recently concluded presidential election.
Of the many political tweets I came across, a few that caught my attention and got me debating my views on the matter with friends were tweets calling on the children of Nigerian politicians to refrain from sharing their opinions on the dilapidated state of the country. According to some people, because these children are direct beneficiaries of the system, their concerns are at best disingenuous.
I will preface my opinion on this by saying a few things: I do not believe children of politicians should be held accountable for their parent’s actions; none of us want to answer for the sins of our parents. However, I believe as direct beneficiaries of a corrupt and oppressive system, adult children of politicians are, at least, in part, responsible for dismantling the system. This aligns with my beliefs on other systems that disenfranchise many and benefits a specific class of people, like the patriarchy or white privilege.
It is not news to anyone that Nigeria is a country that does not work and that bad governance and corruption are systemic issues largely responsible for the state of the country. This system, from which a select few have benefited, has also eroded the rights and basic dignity of the average Nigerian citizen. Bad governance and Corruption do not exist in a vacuum; they are, in fact, directly responsible for the deaths of many Nigerian children either at the hands of the Boko Haram insurgency or the lack of basic health care. The government abdicating its duties is also directly responsible for creating an entire generation of kids without access to quality education and, as a result, ensuring they are completely excluded from participation in the technology-driven economy of the future, to name only a few of its ills. There are steep real-life consequences to the actions and systems enabled by the political class in Nigeria, and the human cost is paid every single day.
On the other hand, there are also direct beneficiaries of this deeply unjust system, and this includes the children of members of the Nigerian political class. Specifically, adult children with agency who now directly enjoy the gains of a system with such high costs to the average Nigerian. Adult children gain from this system by various acts of nepotism, by infusion of embezzled funds into their private businesses, or even by receiving first-hand grooming and support to join the family business of politics as the underperforming private sector is often less financially appealing. While we do not get to pick the families we are born into or the privileges we grow up to enjoy, like any form of unjust privilege one inherits at birth, members of benefiting parties must acknowledge it, and then actively participate in dismantling it. Failure to do so is not a harmless choice; it, in fact, makes one complicit.
Accountability is an essential requirement for real systemic change anywhere, including Nigeria. Unfortunately, there are almost no levers left to the Nigerian people to effectively hold the ruling class accountable, as vividly demonstrated by the recently concluded election marred by a host of irregularities. However, a tool that is readily available to the Nigerian people is the use of shame as a mechanism for accountability. Ensuring the human cost of our unjust political system cannot be ignored, especially by those that enable or benefit from the system, is crucial. People that actively participate, in an ecosystem responsible for the inhumane lifestyle Nigerians are subjected to daily, should have to answer for it. Shame can often be a powerful tool to drive systemic change and it is currently under-utilized in Nigeria, where known corrupt politicians are celebrated and allowed to flaunt their questionable wealth with impunity.
The effectiveness of taking politicians and their adult benefiting children to task for the effect of their actions and complicity remains to be seen in this context. However, if past is prologue, the use of public shaming by Igbo women during the Aba women’s war, often referred to as “sitting on a man”, provides us with at least some evidence for its potential efficacy. More so, it is paramount that we begin to use all measures available to us to correct the current course our country is on. For direct beneficiaries of the current system, it is important to acknowledge that the benefits you have enjoyed have been to the immense detriment of others. As such, you should and are in a privileged position to dismantle the system considering your close proximity to it. One way you can actively begin doing so is to, in turn, crystalize the effect of our corrupt and unjust system to the ones — your parents– that have created and continue to uphold it. It seems to me to be the right thing to do.
– Aly Olutimilehin