Political power is addictive
Political power is supremely addictive. And when it wears the toga of parochial, sectional, ethnic or religious interests, it becomes a fantasy.
When such fantasy is devoid of accountability and continues to wallow unhindered in incompetence and non-performance, it leaves in its wake death, destruction, despondency, poverty and a general collapse of the fabric of the society.
In the last four years, our imagination has been flushed with so many examples from a man aptly described as the most powerful man on the planet. How does a man fight so hard for a job he is not interested in doing? And yet, he unapologetically rides a 74-million-man strong wave of populism with religious fervour despite all the systemic dysfunction and political flaws that hallmarks his administration. Such is the weight of addiction and fantasy to political power.
Closer to home, how can anyone forget the weeping General? On National Television, a presidential hopeful shed tears appealing to the emotions of Nigerians to just give him that last chance after 3 failed attempts at political power. Yet after 6 years, a litany of failed promises, a failing economy, and a deplorable state of insecurity will be some of his unenviable legacies. Yet to many and to himself, he could do no wrong and has been the best thing that ever happened to Nigeria. Such is the weight of addiction and fantasy to political power.
Taking a peek into our not too distant past, another president supervised a rent economy and an unprecedented wave of corruption with uninhibited impunity. Insecurity was rife and there was one presidential scandal after the next; and one political miscalculation after another. Yet he could not turn his back from seeking another mandate from weary Nigerians and was willing to plunder the commonwealth while doing so. Such is the weight of addiction and fantasy to political power.
On the road between now and 2023 in Nigeria, we must separate the “wheat from the chaff”. We have to first identify and rid our polity of those for whom political power has become a fantasy. Then we have to create in our collective consciousness and in our political space room for those who by reason of demonstrable and infallible proofs from their own personal lives, have an appreciation for the burdens associated with political power in terms of progress and performance. In short, we must look out for performers and performers only. And by their fruits, we shall know them.
The example of the late sage Chief Obafemi Awolowo (1909 – 1987) underscores the point in his famous quote: “I have never regarded myself as having a monopoly of wisdom. The trouble is that when most people in public life and in the position of leadership and rulership are spending whole days and nights carousing in clubs or in the company of men of shady character and women of easy virtue, I, like a few others, am always busy at my post working hard at the country’s problems and trying to find solutions to them…Only the deep can call to the deep.” (Obadare and Adebanwi, 2016*). Today, many of Awo’s legacies in Primary Health care, Education, Public housing, and infrastructural development are still unrivaled.
The addiction to political power must be balanced with the weight of measurable and inexcusable performance. And there must be consequences for addicts and fanatics who have nothing to show to improve the lot of the collective. We must keep the pressure constantly on them, their nepotism must be exposed, their incompetence must be sung like a hymn, their disapproval must be noised at home and abroad, and their politics must be unapologetically embarrassed. And any opportunity to vote them out of political office must be actively and wholeheartedly embraced.
Every meaningful progress in the course of human civilization starts first in the philosophical and the intellectual dimensions. In order to have the right kind of political leadership, the Nigerian middle class and political kingmakers must have an appreciation of the addiction and fantasy to political power. And we must all accept that the imperative of the demands for progress and advancement from political office holders should be inexcusable.
Nigeria missed its turn in 2019. The road between now and 2023 offers yet another opportunity.
A.Adeyemi writes from France.
*Ebenezer Obadare and Wale Adebanwi, 2016: Governance and the Crises of Rule in Contemporary Africa: Leadership in Transformation , Pg 60, Palgrave Macmillan JQ1875.G67 2015