Institutionalization of Nepotism in Nigeria



It is no news that our leaders (the word ‘leader’ is used loosely here, as there is no true leader in Nigeria) in political authority have now bastardized the process of appointments into political offices in the country. They have sacrificed merit on the altar of mediocrity. They always tend to engage in the politics of nepotism instead of holding firm to the ethics and precepts of good governance.
Nepotism, according to the Oxford Advanced Learners Dictionary is defined as “giving unfair advantages to your own family if you are in a position of power, especially by giving them jobs.” Mediocrity refers to a state of ordinariness and poor quality.
When we appoint people on the basis of nepotism, we get mediocrity; i.e. mediocre performances, results and products. We seem to be institutionalizing mediocrity in Nigeria in place of merit. One may ask what a graduate of English Language has to do with being the minister of transportation of a very large country like Nigeria. What happens to our learned professors of transportation, maritime management and so on? Only in Nigeria will a professor of Education, a former vice chancellor of a reputable university be made an education minister for state (junior minister). When you hire the right people, you get a maximum output – innovations, improvements, growth and development and not hiring people full of nostrums. It is high time we embarked on meritocratic recruitments and stopped using appointments into political offices as a reward for one’s effort during an executive member’s electoral campaign. Where one comes from, one’s religious inclination and political affiliation have now been made a benchmark and criteria for political appointments. We have descended so low to such a level that we care less about the fact that when we employ or appoint technically unqualified candidates into positions of political authority; we have directly or spontaneously consigned ourselves to recurrent mediocre performances. University professors and professionals in various fields of endeavours are constantly overlooked in some appointments that require professionals. For example, professors and dons in both Political Science and Public Administration are over time overlooked in the appointment of chiefs of staff of state government houses. Such positions and that of commissioner for land have been occupied at times with graduates of history and so on. The founding father and first prime minister of Singapore Lee Kuan Yew argues: “If you want Singapore to succeed… you must have a system that enables the best\man and the most suitable to go into the job that needs them.”
Nigeria should desist from such tradition as considering people’s political affiliation, religion, ‘ethnic group’, sex and so on, before employing or appointing them into political offices. It was Chinua Achebe who posited that the only problem with Nigeria is a failure of leadership.
Things will not normalize until we begin to appoint and employ people strictly based on their qualification and not out of nepotism or favouritism. Quota system will only succeed in restricting the government to a handful of candidates on a particular position, where, in fact, the best candidate for such position may exist in another geo-political zone of the country. By so doing, we would have succeeded in denying ourselves the innovative and competent ideas of “this” qualified candidate. (Though, quota system, if properly used can be advantageously harnessed for our benefit).
It is high time we began to embrace the idea of meritocracy in all our dealings in government. Let the best man be employed or appointed. The most popular man is not made the captain of a ship, rather the man who knows the act of navigation. Meritocracy guarantees superior results and performances. It encourages a competitive mindset and not primordial sentiments. Meritocracy has no room for barbaric and unnecessary considerations like race, religion, political affiliation or sex on employment or political appointments. It is my humble ‘suggestion’ and ‘opinion’ that with the dethronement of nepotism and enthronement or institutionalization of meritocracy or merit-based employment and appointment, Nigeria will accelerate the achievement of vision 2020.

Chukwuezi Eunan Osinachi
Wrote in from Umuekwune,
Irete, Owerri
081372 14414, 08132003409