Nigeria: Of Good Men, White Robes, and Palm Oil Stains

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I first got wind of news of Dr. Chrstopher Kolade’s resignation from the board of SURE-P on Twitter this morning. He is certainly taking a lot of flack for his involvement in the programme. I do not know Dr. Kolade personally apart from what I read and hear, but most of what I have read and heard over the years suggest that he is a good man. Even the context of the harsh words being flung at him reinforces this. A popular Nigerian proverb that has been widely applied to him today is this:

You can’t eat yam and palm oil in white kaftan.

I believe that this proverb corroborates the fact that Dr. Kolade is generally believed to be a good man who went getting involved with bad people in the system.

However, I am not writing about the specifics of his involvement in government. As always, my goal is to use opportunities that arise to pass across important messages. In the light of the harsh words that have been thrown at Dr. Kolade, I am wondering how we expect to build the nation of our dreams when it seems that the predominant attitude is that you do not get involved in government in any way. It seems that for the majority of “crusaders,” getting involved with an unpopular government is the unpardonable sin. But the question is, If good men do not get involved because they do not want to get stained, how do we build the nation of our dreams?

Here are my thoughts: we know that government is largely corrupt. We know that government is not one person. We also know that government runs on the wheels of a corrupt and creaky civil service, which means that anyone – no matter how saintly he may be – who is given a task to carry out within government will regularly hit walls. What should be our position then as crusaders for change?

Should good men stay away because they are likely to get stained, even when the implication is that bad men will do worse? Let me ask this as a practical question: As bad as the rumours of Dr. Kolade’s handling of SURE-P may be, what if his involvement meant that things were not run much worse? In other words, perhaps his involvement has been actually more beneficial to the country than it may appear.

Should we refuse to get involved because we know that our white caftan will likely get soiled with palm oil? In which case, we leave it all to the guys in black caftans who can feel free to cart away drums of palm oil? I am a Christian, and I dare say that even if Jesus Christ had taken the job of running SURE-P, there are enough bad people in the system to make sure that the results would be far from perfect. But the results would at least be better than if Judas had been left to run it.

Surely, we do not think that any nation got built because good men did nothing but protest and rant? If we keep tearing into everyone (especially good men) who get involved with government just because things don’t turn out so good, we risk arriving at a situation where no-one with any credibility will get involved. Then, what would be the point of the popular quote, “Evil triumphs when good men do nothing”?


  1. Nigeria’s problems cannot be fixed top_down. It has to be bottom_up.

    Our problems is not that of leadership because those Leaders come from among us, and are sustained by us.

    I am of the opinion that the followership is the problem.

    Making sustainable cannot happen by joining government. Can a drop of ink change the color of a drum of water.?

    Here is a thought inspiring article. Mbeki’s damning verdict on Nigerians — The Punch – Nigeria’s Most Widely Read Newspaper – http://www.punchng.com/editorial/mbekis-damning-verdict-on-nigerians/

  2. EyeBeeKay,

    I am of the same opinion too. I believe that the bottom-up approach is what Nigeria needs more. However, I also think that whatever little benefits that can be derived from joining the government shouldn’t be discarded either.

    However things play, the road to the Nigeria of our dreams is going to be a long one.

  3. God bless u sir. If good men don’t get involved,then anarchy is d destination. The only concern should be that those that get involved should not get contaminated and join the bandwagon.
    Thank u for pointing ds out. More Grace.

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