One of the major characteristics of our polity is what is increasingly described as a trust crunch. It is conceived as the fading of trust between citizens and government as well as between citizens themselves. It is not that the trust meltdown, especially as it affects politicians, the political system and governmental institutions is anything new; it is just that there is a resurgence of distrust in recent times and an exacerbation of cynicism regarding public affairs. It is not uniquely Nigerian, considering for instance that the British are talking about a post-trust political universe which refers to a reawakening of public distrust of politics and governance institutions, especially in the wake of the fall of Boris Johnson, former Prime Minister. Equally so, if not more pungently the case, the United States has experienced its own paroxysm of distrust and withdrawal of faith in the political system. Influential writer and columnist for the New York Times, David Brooks, has spoken of the United States as a country undergoing “a moral convulsion.” Indeed, United Nations Secretary-General, Antonio Guterres, has spoken not too long ago about the entire globe as afflicted with “trust deficit disorder.” I make this point early enough in order to underline as this columnist has always argued the very concept of Nigerian exceptionalism expressed in the widespread remark “it is only in Nigeria that such and such happen” is mostly bunkum. That said, it is one thing to go through a seizure of distrust, recognise it and begin to reverse it; it is quite another not to even recognise it at all as a problem, not to talk of doing anything about it.
In the Nigerian case, it is a sad thing that neither the politicians nor civil society actors appear to see exceptional distrust as an issue, much less thinking out remedies that can mitigate it. Needless to say, or harp on, the extraordinary levels of distrust, especially in the political arena that is almost becoming a signature tune of Nigerian politics in recent times. To give an example, many young Nigerians and not-so-young ones have left the country to seek fortunes in other nations despite the awareness that these other nations are undergoing their share of hardship and the consequences of inflationary upswings. Social media are awash with cases of immigrants who arrived at their new destinations with songs of triumph for having “escaped” the hellhole that Nigeria has become. Interestingly, several of these countries are hunting feverishly for professionals in the Medical and Nursing sciences, Information Technology and travel-hungry Nigerians have taken full advantage of the situation. Never forget, however, that as I once wrote in this column, their gain is our loss as several banks discovered recently that their IT sections have nearly collapsed because of the departure overseas of the ablest hands. So, the trust crunch, which in the Nigerian case is partly derivative of promises upon promises by politicians without fulfilment is not something a country can afford to toy with.