Tuesday 18 May 2010

Nigeria: Why politician became a drug mule

A belly full of coke
When I learnt this morning that a Nigerian politician had been arrested [1] on suspicion of drug smuggling at the Murtala Mohammed International Airport on his way to Frankfurt in Germany, I was not surprised.
Rather, I was surprised that this had not been the norm for quite a while, but there are other things to address with the publication of this event and those are the things I will concentrate on.
The fact that he was caught in Nigeria rather than abroad is a compliment to the Nigerian Customs and border control officials – most notably because his office, bearing and influence did not preclude him from being assessed just as any passenger using the international airport facilities should.
Give the eyes to software
Then after the pants-bomber incident in December 2009, the airport introduced body-scanning X-ray systems which from what we have now learnt are as intrusive of privacy as to reveal uncommon contents of one’s stomach.
That should be a cause for concern as to how much detail is revealed and whether such machines should have added sophisticated software that does not require human eyes to determine if flesh, blood and bones in clothes passing through have the wrong compositions or foreign objects that then require further scrutiny.
Enough has already been said of those who have found out that their not too generous endowments have become the butt of jokes – forgive that turn of phrase.
Desperate campaign finance ploys
In any case, the matter of this politician reveals a failure of the political process in Nigeria that needs serious reform. The fact that a man could risk his dignity, integrity, position and office to become a drug mule in order to finance his election campaign might just be the tip of the iceberg of the extents to which people might go to gain or retain political office.
Mr. Eme Zuru Ayortor is a US-educated pharmacist who for all intents and purposes if the economic and political situation had allowed should have been content to dispense drugs for a living whilst making an appreciable impact on his community.
The reality is holders of political office are in a completely different class of their own, they are neither middle-class nor upper-class but the power and influence class who thrive on patronage and every corrupting activity to maintain their power base and electability – I would presume Mr. Ayortor needed to grease the palms of those that believe they can put him in office.
He portends that he was bankrupted by his last electioneering campaign but it also shows that you need to have an almost inexhaustible source of funding to run for office – it allows serious-minded people might put their money where their mouth is, but it also puts political office out of the reach of ordinary people who might be better representatives of the common people.
Perks beyond belief
The risk he took should also be measured against the possible gains of office – Nigerian political office offers possibly the [2] for any job – I dare say, in the world – the benefits beyond the basic salary are multiples of the salary, there is no way anyone who has enjoyed those benefits would give them up for accountable hard-work which the majority of Nigerians do - it is also aspirational for anyone who dares.
This remuneration way beyond any other middle-range to senior management employment feeds the desperate and do-or-die aggressive quest for office that losers never lose gracefully but clog the courts with petition after petition – it is unhealthy for any career quest and most especially for a democracy.
This should become part of our electoral reform process, a system that allows us to select the best people without ending up with the worst characters whose greed and hypocrisy damage the system.
It should get us thinking but one just wonders what other desperate and reckless thing other politicians are doing to gain or retain office in Nigeria – it does make one worry.

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