Loyalty and betrayal in a Season of Treachery

Ogunsakin Mustapha
9 Min Read
Prof Hope Eghagha

By Hope O’Rukevbe Eghagha

There are times in the life of a clan, people, or nation, when vice takes over the ethos of the people or the land. In such a circumstance, there is a prevalence of negative forces in the affairs of society.

In eschatological terms, we encounter such a narrative in biblical accounts leading to the destruction of the first world. How and why this happens goes beyond conjecture. It is often not planned by anybody. It just happens. It is often gradual. Usually, it is started by people who have access to power- political power, financial power, and cultural power. In other words, a people can just find themselves descending into a society governed by vices after a group starts the process.

This is because, the persons who are charged with the responsibility of guarding the moral values and ethos of society become guilty after being compromised by money or the wealthy class. Ironically, it is often a source of ‘joy’ or power to beneficiaries. What happiness comes to the heart of a man who runs afoul of the law and has the financial power to avoid the arms of the law! Or, what exhilaration does a man who acquires a position illegally after parting with some cash!

The descent into a world of vice – betrayal, decadence, treachery, infinite corruption – starts with a society’s cultural, political, social, and judicial institutions.  In the early stages, it favours only a small group. It then begins to grow and spread. It then becomes a way of life. For example, giving and accepting bribes starts in a small way, as is the example of Nigeria.

In the First Republic, corrupt political office holders were contented with the notorious ten percent. By the Second and Third Republics, percentages disappeared. Whole sums of money which had been budgeted for a project simply disappeared into somebody’s account. In the speech which Major Kaduna Nzeogwu gave after the January 1966 coup, he said: ‘Our enemies are the political profiteers, the swindlers, the men in high and low places that seek bribes and demand 10 percent…’. But these days, nobody talks about a percentage in looting public funds. It has been reported that during the Buhari days in Aso Rock, trillions of naira simply vanished. There is no indication yet that the Tinubu administration will be different.          

When treachery and betrayal reign supreme in a polity, loyalty becomes endangered, becomes rare, and finally becomes obsolete. When leaders or rulers betray the trust of the people, loyalty becomes an endangered virtue. In some instances, rebellion becomes an obligation to shake off the yoke of bondage. Nigeria is moving in that direction now. When a culture of betrayal is pervasive, individual loyalty is tested, both in our private lives and in our dealings with the powers-that-be. Sadly, it has percolated homes and families. Individual character has become redefined in line with the savage norms in the country.

For me this is the real danger – character development. It is dangerous to individual growth. It is dangerous to obligations. It is dangerous to the overall development of the motherland. Character is being gradually eroded by a free-for-all anything-goes philosophy. Those who make a fuss about what is right and what is wrong become villains.

Students in the school system brand teachers who are disciplinarians as wicked. Treachery. Betrayal. Loyalty. Disloyalty. Our yahoo boys say that their ‘enterprise’ is their own way of doing what political office holders do, and that in their case, they do not hurt any Nigerian. I was shocked beyond words when I first heard their arguments. Why should we disturb them from making money through love scams, internet fraud if these actions do not hurt any Nigerian? If government officials can steal and become chiefs, why should they be prevented from being the real ‘guy men?

It is true that nobody pays attention to betrayal of trust by government anymore. It has become the norm in Nigeria. The original notion of governance was that the elected officials held power in trust on behalf of the people, and elected officials in the First republic were conscious of this obligation. They competed on how to deploy state resources to projects which fed or promoted the common good. If the notion of a social contract between (‘an implicit agreement between the people and their government about what each side provides to the other) the rulers and the ruled still subsists, it is certainly not in Nigeria. Democracy is a government for the rich and powerful, for the pocket of the rich, and for the benefit of the rich. This is Nigeria’s spurious contribution to the theory and practice of democracy.

The truth therefore is that in Nigeria government is a thief; this, government is made up of thieves. In 2019, Chatham House said that $582 billion had been stolen from Nigeria. ‘At least, N11tn is said to have been diverted in the power sector alone since 1999’, writes The Punch Newspaper, ‘while N1.3tn public funds were reportedly laundered between 2011 and 2015’.  Government, a thief?

This at least is the view of the average Nigerian. Government steals the commonwealth. Individuals are richer than the government, not from genuine business deals. Government officials get rich from the resources which are placed in their care on behalf of the people. Whole sums appropriated to build or maintain roads are cornered by powerful persons in government. This therefore is one of the greatest acts of treachery, of betrayal in the land.

Reports by the EFCC indicate how much funds have been misappropriated by appointed and elected state officials. Sadly, even the EFCC has been roped in the dance of betrayal. How can we get out of the bind that has been created by kleptocracy? How can we get back to factory reset in the country? How long more can the precipice accommodate us as a people?

Nigeria is currently adrift. The naira has depreciated, has been devalued like the life of the average Nigerian. Nobody in government, not even the president, is talking to the people. Generally, in economic theory, it is desirable to allow a national currency to float. But in a country like Nigeria which produces little to earn foreign exchange, it is a death knell. And that is what we face currently. The people have been betrayed once again. They do not matter because their votes do not count.  

But betrayal is not a forever thing. It will end someday. When and how this would be, we are no prophets to tell. But no man enters his house through another man’s door forever.  ‘Every day is for the thief, so we say in street discourse in Nigeria, ‘but one day is for the owner! When will the owner catch the thief in Nigeria? Time will tell!       

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