As we deal with yet another absentee federal government – not as a result of acknowledged human frailties with which we all sympathise, but for the lack of vision, competence and humility in governance which sadly have been missing for most part of Nigeria’s independence, Nigerians must be careful and deliberate about planning and looking ahead to the future. The implications of politics and governance as usual on the lives and wellbeing of the people are brutal and there are reasons why we should pause and reflect deeply before taking decisions on how to move forward.

The first is that we’ve been here before. We have watched this movie albeit a few modifications to the script and the actors – little has changed about politics and the raison d’etre for participating since the Fifties. Pay little attention to gait, hue or accent; the mental mould of those who have had their hands on the mantle of power are the same. The question we should ask is if since the struggle for independence, ruling Nigeria has not been about ‘nation building but the control of Federal power and the resources of the nation’ in order to gain personal, regional or ethnic advantage then what are we going to do to break this cycle? Nigeria is not unlucky, the patterns are not accidental, we are where and what we are by design.

This leads to the second reason for deliberateness – Nigeria is designed as a criminal enterprise; an accusation that while not new should be assessed with fresh lenses because the beneficiaries of the enterprise will do everything and anything to maintain the status quo. While over a hundred and fifty million suffer and wonder at the chaos, the beneficiaries are comfortable with the knowledge that the blueprint works. Direct beneficiaries are everywhere – in the political parties, the judiciary, the legislature, the executive and the civil service while the indirect beneficiaries play the supporting role as extras who defend and prop up the grand designers and fight and kill for them. The beneficiaries are more deliberate than we are – there is order in madness – it is their madness and their order. The rest of us lurch from reaction to reaction too dizzy to see the patterns.

The third reason to tread carefully is that a procession line designed to produce certain goods will deliver those goods regardless of the input. Forget the servant leader rhetoric, our political parties are designed to enthrone those who understand that being in political office is an investment that must yield financial results to the enterprise. Everything is secondary to this – it provides a context for why an honest Balewa was helpless to confront the greed and activities of his cabinet ministers. If Okotie-Eboh, described as the ‘inveterate ten-percenter’ in ‘A History of Nigerian Organised Crime’, was truly passing funds to his party, NCNC and the Prime Minister’s party, NPC, Balewa was hardly going to bite the hand that feeds him. It is critical that Nigerians’ whose love and appreciation for food beats everything become more discerning about the hands they allow to put foods in their mouths. Today’s insecticide-deodorant metaphor for dealing with corruption should help us realise that enough of the facts are known to enough of us. The problem is that only slaves to and beneficiaries of the status quo are allowed to place their hands on the mantle of power. The status quo keepers recruit carefully while the rest of us who pretend to choose, do so carelessly.

This means that we have a fourth reason to take a simultaneously deep and panoramic scope of the names and faces that swim before us as we reel from one bad hand on the mantle to a leprous one. Headlong we run from frying pan to fire – instead of trying to discern between those who have never lost an election, those who have been in government all their lives and those who are considered outsiders. Arguably the skills of a person who has been successful in building and maintaining the current enterprise will be useful in dismantling it but more importantly, we must figure out if this skilled life long beneficiary of the criminal enterprise recognises that while they have had a good run, it is time for curtain calls.

There are no saviours of the Nigerian people amongst the most successful managers, beneficiaries, and products of the current political system. Amongst the faces running around flying kites are those from whom no long spoons can ever save us – these are the people who are responsible for the design and resulting chaos but have cast themselves as solution bearers, the true lovers of a Nigeria united only to loot from and disable the majority.

Dissatisfaction with the status quo is not the reason 2019 is already in play – Nigeria is in a perpetual state of electioneering – we give our all to the processes and put little thought to the input and substance. If we accept that we are stuck in a self-destructive cycle we must look with different frames at our problems and design new, fresh solutions for ourselves. We must think and plan long term in developing the right leadership pipeline for the new design and we must be extremely wary of the status quo keepers who come bearing advise or offering themselves – they are only vested in keeping the criminal enterprise going exactly as it is.

The views in this article are personal and not attributable to any organisation the author is affiliated with.