Bureaucracy is a systemic form of administration. Since there is a universally acceptable standard benchmark, a deviation from the ideal type reveals the unintended fault lines and the extent to which the system can no longer function as a bureaucratic administration, as expected. A variation in the ideal structure of a bureaucracy, anywhere, is an aberration; and it generates or produces contaminated contents and a distorted organisation.
In a bureaucracy, the Mafia paradigm that often emerges in a political system suggests a variation or an adulterated variant of bureaucracy, though a powerful one. Usually, this paradigmatic shift from the ideal type is motivated by the leadership structure of the executive arm of government and the subtle intervention of the political class. Once the inbuilt systemic check of a bureaucracy fails, the corrupt version takes roots and gains prominence.
There are contending forces that will want to hijack the administration of any political system. It only depends on the administrative competence of whosoever personifies the leadership of the government. More often than not, what one gets is that the established structure of the leadership is rubbished for a strange and different structure to become unofficially authentic and running within the officially recognised system. However, as long as the consensus profile of the political class is assured, the corrupt system will subsist. This is one of the chief reasons the fight against corruption in Nigeria is only observed in official ceremonies and mere verbal pronouncements.
In his book, ‘Mafia Democracy: How Our Republic Became a Mob Racket’, Michael Franzese describes American Mafia story as a gangster lifestyle in which the “pursuit of power overshadows even the desire for a dollar, and self-interest outweighs the greater good.” He likened it to a government that “is run as if it’s a thing of theirs and not the people’s, a syndicate, a racket.” Founded on greed, lies and corruption, the mindset is characterised by arrogance even as the tactics do not detract significantly from intimidation and deception. When the Mafiosi are at work, the sanctity and integrity of public administration is lost. They are the harbingers of unimaginable evil, if allowed to keep festering. Well, a striking characteristic of those running the Mafia system is that they always identify themselves as being superior; and as people with unlimited access to the leadership of the government. Since Mafiosi tend to be more catholic than the pope, they will always admire the vicar of Bray, not minding whether he is popish or protestant.
One of the first things the Mafia structure does to thrive is cripple the normal and efficient system. Once that is done, what comes thereafter is no longer a bureaucracy. Public administration is already jaundiced and one can expect all kinds of corruption to follow. This is possible because the existing standard would have been messed up and subsumed under the corrupt standard. There and then, whatever the Mafioso defines as the standard becomes the standard. The people who are planning development can no longer execute developmental plans based on already-known doctrines because bureaucracy has a pattern and its ambiguity can be deciphered. But, with the Mafia, a ring is run around a leader to the extent that the victim will no longer have a mind of his own. Thenceforth, it is ‘anything goes!’
Vitalized by the ingenious manipulation of an identifiable cabal, the philosophy of what works is what makes it to be different! The unfortunate part is that the victim-leader at times thinks that such a structure is to be trusted. Like a rat race, people would rather go through the Mafia than the proper bureaucracy because it seemingly has the listening ear of the government. They may grumble, but no civil servant will complain officially; and that’s the tragedy of that system! So, oftentimes, the bureaucratic sector of the government adapts, and embraces the newly-introduced corruption-laden modalities of public administration. Ordinarily, the people become victims of the Mafia because it seems to be more effective.
The Mafia paradigm is notably an intrusion into normalcy, which should not be encouraged. Since this is the reality of our world, administrators should watch out for it. It evolves in a very subtle manner until it ultimately truncates the bureaucracy. It is so powerful that it can destroy governments. Once it is institutionalized, it becomes something else. Reckless implementation of the aggregated interests of the Mafioso will make the government to become ineffective and, unresponsive to the people’s political interests and demands, which triggers low morale on the part of the masses, and lack of enthusiasm in the government. Once it becomes prominent, Mafia develops a life of its own; and it’s difficult to control.
All in the name of politics, people will allow all kinds of unethical practices which, if care is not taken, can lead to the ruination of public administration simply because it will no longer follow already known pattern; oftentimes, with ‘political exigencies’ as the readily-deployed excuse. With this, things are made to happen without due diligence or strict observance of the bureaucratic standards. Consequently, as it were, public administration is rigged from the source. Everything will become amoebic! In this situation, no one can really say ‘this is how to move’ because the fortunes of such a government are at the whims and caprices of the Mafia. Unfortunately, the whims and caprices of a human being are indeterminable. They can only be decided by whatever constitutes the interests of the operators. Under this condition, the ‘interests of the operators’ become the definitions and outcomes of government policies. For instance, if the Mafia wants to deal with the pensioners, it will not only do so but also make it looks as if it is the government’s position.
The evil associated with the paradigm is that, if the gladiators like, they can impose checks and balances; and, when they like, the ‘checks’ can be removed, leaving only the ‘balances’ to thrive. With it firmly entrenched, the state ceases to be a state because it only appears in name that it is a state; but, in terms of functional capability, it has been crippled. Development will also suffer because it no longer follows the normal pattern that is discernible and understandable by the masses. The most grievous evil of this paradigm is that, till a leader becomes captured, he will always see himself as being on top of the situation. That’s one of the subtle manners by which the Mafia discharges its functions. Unofficially, it goes behind everybody; and, by the time it becomes manifest, sometimes, it would have become too late in the day to control!
In Nigeria, those with the gift of discernment would readily agree with yours sincerely that the Federal Government is the prime architect and harbinger of the Mafia-induced bureaucracy. The Federating Units only adapt for convenience. Our major problem in Nigeria is that the pilots and crew members aren’t in charge anymore. Instead, the powers that sit on the Iroko tree are the ones taking the aircraft to destinations. The real custodians of administrations and due process are already lame and deliberately incapacitated. The anchors now rest with the accidental power bidders. And the bureaucracy itself is now a subject of the Mafiosi. People prefer to play the games according to the rules of the Mafiosi than go through the processes of bureaucratic orders. At least, one is faster than the other, but then again, the end results can’t be the same.
May the Lamb of God, who takes away the sin of the world, grant us peace in Nigeria!
*KOMOLAFE wrote in from Ijebu-Jesa, Osun State (firstname.lastname@example.org)