A “billionaire” kidnapper, Evans, is now the new icon shining in the dull skies of Nigeria. One may ask how a ruthless kidnapper can either be an icon or hero to millions in Nigeria? Because it is Nigeria. Claude Ake once stated that “Nigeria is the only country in the world where no one questions the source of one’s income.” The depth of the statement is far from casual or mere observation. Amassing wealth in Nigeria, whether legally or illegally, has a highly regarded and venerated virtuousness of its own. In many cases, the more crooked the source of income, the better it is rated by the public. That is why you find young men who have legitimately worked very hard for their money blatantly lie that they made the same money by crooked means. How twisted can things get?
In a society with strong democratic institutions and where the “rule of law” prevails such a man would “Public Enemy Number One”. Sincerely, not Nigeria. To millions of Nigerians, King Evans the kidnapper is a genius, a mastermind, a don, a blessed son, not a rapacious, ruthless and evil gangster. So many politicians, educators, townspeople, law enforcement officers, company executives, clergymen, military officers, civil servants, business people, skilled professionals, traditional rulers and more actually hail King Evans the kidnapper privately or publicly for his acumen for mischief and rare daring.
The logic behind the worship of wealth and the rich in Nigeria at the expense of the government or public institutions, using the Evans saga as an example, is that it gives Nigerians a more realistic hope of a better future. Call it the “Nigerian Dream“, quick riches by “questionable” means. The Nigerian Dream does not look like the American Dream built on untiring industry. Why would a kingpin kidnapper not be the new icon shining in the dull skies of Nigeria? People celebrating “King Evans” are unconsciously saying “anyone who makes it in this country struck and overburdened by debt, poverty, hunger, suffering and disease is either very lucky or very blessed and my time will come“. As the nation lays its bed, so shall its leaders and citizens lie on it. The President and the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) do not have the usual starring roles in this case, and I doubt they like it.
One of the earliest concepts I learnt about institutions from the works of economist Geoffrey M Hodgson was the interaction between routines and habits. Routine are institutional rules of the game which organisations [formal and informal] by way of downward causation (top-down flow of commands or coordination) stably determine member and customer interactions and preferences. Habit is the coping mechanism by which members and customers consistently interact with routines by way of upward causation (creating expected effects in a bottom-up manner). Routines come first then habits, no ‘chicken and egg’ conundrum here. Wherever there are routines, there will be habits.
Many have come to suspect that every aspect and component of Nigerian society has deliberately or inadvertently connived together to produce the conditions and outcomes that will make a notorious gangster into a “king” worthy of extraordinary deference. The routines of schools encourage cheating, the routine of work foster deception, the routines of religion promote duplicity, the routines of family endow one-upmanship, the routines of government bestow learned helplessness, the routines of the security forces endear bribery. Every major routine created and maintained by any organisation, agency or outfit operating in Nigeria, private and public, is thoroughly polluted and contrary. Nigeria is practically littered with countless ‘contrary institutions.’ What will be the nature of habits can we then expect from citizens who interact daily with the routines in question?
It is tragic in an increasingly competitive globe that Nigeria does not have robust institutional routines to revere and support her scientists, engineers, writers, innovators, inventors, scholars, historians, artists, jurists, sportspersons and similar. Well, perhaps momentarily when they win a prestigious international prize or medal. Who will then make Nigeria competitive? It is a non-question, who will answer it? On the other hand, Nigeria has many exceedingly adaptive routines created to adore the rich, especially “those who got rich quick” and continuously so. Such routines empower thieving politicians, thieves, embezzling government officials, smugglers, human traffickers, human parts sellers, kidnappers, fraudsters, drug pushers, runs girls, anyone who can steal or rig a fortune. That is the level Nigeria has fallen to morally, but it was not always like this.
Do not dismiss Evans as a King, for in Nigeria, most sadly, he is a “King of hearts” to millions.