I have the feeling that Nigeria has not been very lucky with her elite class. When one reads the history of renaissance and how developed societies evolved from primitive beginnings, one will not underrate the crucial role of the elite class in nation building.
The elite referred to here is in the corporate business, academic, military and, of course, the political class, who are to be the forerunners of great reforms and ideas as they deploy the power of education to challenge mediocre values.
The very nucleus of development and attainment of lofty heights of any society resides in this peculiar group.
I want to believe that the last time Nigeria ever benefited from this class of people was during the pre-independence era through the Pan-African nationalistic struggles as they put their trained minds to work for the emancipation of their fatherlands from the draconian handling of the colonial masters.
However, one may be tempted to conclude that the mandate then was for self-aggrandisement and enrichment.
Immediately after attaining independence, something came over them that corrupted their egalitarian values as they fuelled narrow ethnic preoccupations to negotiate power at the centre.
They invariably transformed over time to become another cohort of native colonial masters as they continuously strategise to plunder our collective resources in the guise of leadership.
At this point, I disagree with scholars who push the theory of neo-colonialism and neo-imperialism to explain our underdevelopment and the malady of our elite clan. The colonial masters handed over to this group about six decades ago to creatively manage these resources for the social, economic and political development that would impact our mental wellbeing.
The Europeans did not frustrate our plans to build roads and provide us with uninterrupted power supply. The mediocrity of our elite caused us these goodies. This malady of the elite class is not immediately traceable to our diagnostic categories in psychiatry but their behavioural pattern definitely satisfies the criteria for some attention since it comes with profound negative impact on them, their family and the society at large.
I prefer to explain the root cause of this malady emanating from an elitism that predated the colonial adventures of the Europeans. This pre-colonial elitism furnished our colonial masters with the facility to articulate the indirect rule effectively. Historically, we have had empires presided over by kings who had absolute control and effective subordination of the masses assisted by the army generalissimo that guaranteed security for the king and the elitist priesthood that placated the conscience of the king even while he became reckless with power.
There is apparently no vivid record of a process through which power was seized from the elite class by the vulnerable masses because they were trapped in a strange form of communal existence within the context of a draconian elitist arrangement.
Whenever the king was reckless and the other public office holders were uncomfortable, a change of baton would be articulated in a way that had no recourse to the preferences of the masses while the offending king was given a soft landing through canonisation of his burial site. The site could be a river, a rock or forest to be worshipped by the masses without his wrongdoing exposed.
The colonial masters used this template on ground to formulate the indirect rule that empowered the then ruling elite class to give their brothers into slavery and plunder our economic resources.
What our scholars label as neo-colonialism is an excuse for the malady of our elite class who are continually exploiting the loophole of our culture that confers leadership with the status of a deity. The Nigerian problem is not ethnicity and lack of resources but that of a primitive and selfish elite class that squanders our national wealth for the mundane.
We have them in the university, civil service, corporate business world and unfortunately many clerics deploy their intellectual resources in strategising to assist the elite class to undermine government for selfish accumulation of state resources. This has led to pervasive hopelessness in the country with rising unemployment and penury, which guarantees mental distress. The priesthood arm of the elite class has failed to be the conscience of the nation, which could have been a template for healing the malady of the elite class since they are caught up in the mindless material accumulation derivable from the joint sharing of the national cake.
That is why it has been suggested that many of the nation’s leaders should undergo mental evaluation and counselling before they take up political appointments.
Experts say this would make them conscientious and empathetic to the challenges the average Nigerian contends with.