Waging A New War Against Indiscipline

Nigeria is not a democratic country. Although generally described as a democracy, Nigeria is, in reality, an anocracy. An anocracy is a system of government that is half democratic, half autocratic. In true democracies, authority progresses upwards from the people to a dependent centre. In true autocracies, authority flows downwards from an independent centre to the masses. An anocracy combines the authoritative ideology of autocracy with the institutional processes of democracy. In short, this system uses the negative aspects of one to cancel the positives of the other.


The anocratic nature of our political system is evident in the attitude of public officers. There is a tendency for the average public officer—whether special assistant or minister—to condescend to citizens. Public officers act with the confidence that backlash can only come from their superiors in office. The ideals of constitutional democracy have no impression on our public officers.

This is not surprising. Colonial and military influences have dominated much of our national history. An ingrained fear of public officers infects our social psychology. We cherish authority over intelligence, we consider judge over judgment. Our public officers know this, and they do not hesitate to flaunt this arrogance of office in our face.

Last week, both the Attorney General of Lagos State and the state’s Commissioner for Information and Strategy released a statement that described dissatisfied citizens as “hypocritical and manipulative”. Also recently, a Senate leader stated—without irony or hesitation—that they reshuffled Senate committees simply to “soothe frayed nerves” of some aggrieved members. We can give many more examples. Even the most junior special assistants consider themselves a tad higher than the ordinary citizen. Yet we have done nothing to stop this attitude.

It is easy to dismiss this apathy as symptomatic of traditional respect for authority. But this is a simplistic understanding of Nigerian pre-colonial societies. The citizens of pre-colonial societies did not live in constant subjugation by their governments. In fact, pre-colonial traditional rulers often reigned at the pleasure of their subjects. There was no guaranteed tenure of office. If displeased, citizens could remove their rulers by customary methods or direct uprising. Any respect for authority was balanced by socio-political checks that prevented despotism.  A tyrannical ruler would have had only a short time to reign.

Unfortunately, with colonial intervention, the traditional rulers became “protected” under the British socio-legal order. Under this socio-legal order, the people lost the power to control their rulers. Only the elite and the political class could stimulate political change. And so it remains to date.

Today, we are fighting corruption. But corruption is multifaceted. While corruption is often exhibited as blatant theft, it has also passed—without challenge—as indiscipline in the exercise of public office.

Indiscipline is the unending verbal diarrhoea of our public officers. Indiscipline is when the president rebukes Nigerians for importing toothpicks while he travels to treat an ear infection. Indiscipline is when the same president returns from vacation to a red carpet, bagpipe-tooting reception. Indiscipline is when governors disrupt traffic with a convoy of cars. Indiscipline is when the public treasury finances the power supply, water supply, healthcare and transportation of public officers while these utilities are unavailable to the general public.

And so, it is unfair to challenge Nigerians to a disciplined behaviour when public officers are uncontrollable. Discipline is a holistic standard. It either exists across all aspects of a society or it fails. A society where the citizens are well behaved but public officers are uncontrollable is merely a slave society. In a developed society, public discipline starts with public office.

This is why public opinion has to react strongly to irresponsible imposition by public officers. We should not ignore bad behaviour simply because it is sanctioned by the president. We should not tolerate insults merely because a governor serves it out. We have to resist attitudes that disrespect the citizenry. Indiscipline in public office should be queried: from a minister who “jumps” traffic to a special assistant who insults citizens on social media.

Of course, this is easier said than done. The Nigerian masses are incapable of dealing with the machinery of government. This is partly because they are not educated enough to handle its incidences, and partly because the struggle for survival requires a capitulation before officialdom. Unfortunately, we cannot run away from the fact that Nigeria operates a patronage economic system. We have a system where profit is determined by closeness to political power, not productivity. Yet, it remains a patronage system because those of us who are enlightened enough to defy its excesses still choose to “support” these leaders.

We need a new war against indiscipline. This is a war against the indiscipline of public officers. And, until there is a full awareness by the masses, the responsibility for this war is on the educated minority. We have waged enough wars against ourselves as citizens. Now, we have to be more concerned about checking the excesses of all arms of government. We have the media and the various social platforms available for expressing public opinion. Pressure, if applied consistently, can yield results. This may be false optimism but, other than outright revolution, it is the best card we have.

Otherwise, we can only look forward to a future where our children will continue to be oppressed in their own land, bullied by comfortable parasites who feed fat—legally and illegally—on our resources.

Ayo Sogunro is a Writer, Teacher and a Lawyer.

This article was first published in The Punch Newspaper.

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17 Responses to Waging A New War Against Indiscipline

  1. maveedah August 11, 2016 at 12:44 pm

    It is really anocracy
    Our leaders are just too stingy
    Embezzlement of government funds just to acquired multiple properties…No thoughts of the masses that voted them into power and no thought on the after life

  2. Opeyemi August 11, 2016 at 12:48 pm

    We are soo blessed in this country but our leaders are not even allowing us to benefit from the blessing…we don’t even have the right to vote who we want anymore because election itself is manipulated…several killings just because of POWER

  3. Olowolafe Olanrewaju August 11, 2016 at 1:58 pm

    Nigeria is such an interesting country, been rule by some set of corrupt people fighting against corruption.

  4. DSEED August 11, 2016 at 2:05 pm

    Ayo sogunro has given us one way out of which we can use to fight indiscipline in our country, which is using the social media platform. I think is better we engage in these if is going to bring solution, to secure the future of the upcoming generations. God bless Nigeria.

  5. olaluv August 11, 2016 at 2:16 pm

    Leaders are meant to serve. The truth is that we don’t leaders but all we have in these country are group of people enjoying the benefit of there various position.

  6. lanfem. August 11, 2016 at 2:23 pm

    The writer has just succeeded in exposing the cause of suffering in our country. But my question is, how can social media platform be use to wage a war against indiscipline?

  7. precious August 11, 2016 at 5:49 pm

    if we keep talking about Nigeria. I will say Nigeria is an unfortunate country the main problem is in the top sit.

  8. henry August 11, 2016 at 5:52 pm

    when will Nigeria get better. not until the issue of corruption is wiped out.

  9. Ebonychyqui2 August 11, 2016 at 6:21 pm

    This is very true, an anocracy indeed. The governments are parasitic in nature, if not how will they allow innocent souls work for them without being paid? Wickedness of the greatest other.

  10. Harryrrah August 11, 2016 at 6:33 pm

    What we are practising in Nigeria is not democracy but demoncrazy. All our leaders know how to do is embezzle, corruption everywhere and yet they call it democracy?

  11. D'apoet August 11, 2016 at 7:48 pm

    The Nigerian populace should indeed take an active role in fighting corruption in this country. But where do we start from, the canker worm has eaten too deep

  12. D'apoet August 11, 2016 at 8:03 pm

    This country is so corrupt that the theme is as familiar in articles as the National anthem. Would there ever be a day when we read about corruption with shock, disbelief and grief? Is there any hope for our fatherland?

  13. Femi Diipo August 11, 2016 at 8:07 pm

    I wish we know the way forward from here, I wish someone can lead the reformation. Not with words but actions

  14. Princess August 11, 2016 at 9:46 pm

    Now its time to wage war against the devil himself because thing are getting worst by the day. Bag of rice is now twenty-two thousand naira, its high time we all knelt down on our knees and ask God to set priorities right for us because our governments can’t do anything again as it stands.

  15. Olakunle Olajide August 12, 2016 at 9:28 am

    I have said it before and will say it again. Nigeria can’t be better until all these old men leading us disappear miraculously. The elites are getting richer while the masses linger in the little they can afford and now WAI is introduced yet to the masses. Well said sir, but how the “OGAS” at the top be disciplined when they are not bindede by the rules nd laws they give due to their autocratic nature. Even when one’s opinion is aired, it becomes an offence. People no their rights but are not just ready to go through a storm that might end badly.

  16. Legzycool August 14, 2016 at 7:18 am

    The leaders of Nigeria are just suffering the masses. What is the meaning of war against indiscipline when they are not even disciplined. They just find themselves immuned one way or the other to the law. I just pray there won’t be an uprising war in the nation.

  17. Bamisebi toluwalope August 15, 2016 at 12:06 pm

    D law is abused to protect d high, mighty nd powerful interests, dat’s why corruption nd indiscipline fester in our government nd d damages dat all of dis inflicts on our country. Our political leaders ave been indiscipline. They have very little regard or respect for the civil and economic rights of Nigerians. Anyone who suddenly arrives at political office, begins immediately to see the rest Nigerians as adversaries and enemies; people who must be contained and repressed, and garrisoned. Because you have the privilege of the protections of public office, nigerians are constantly infantilized. Let me emphasize here that no matter how well intentioned our laws are, if the culture of respect for our laws and regulations is not enthroned, rewards and punishment are not served to those who break our laws, no meaningful fight can be waged against indiscipline and corruption in our country.


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