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Bamaiyi, politicians and the rest of us


Ex-General Ishaya Bamaiyi

There are a handful of politicians whom I respect in Nigeria. They include, the late former governor of Kogi State, Abubakar Audu and Ogbonaya Onu. The former, for his principles, despite pressures on him from the establishment and the electoral gains there from, to defect as governor of Kogi, from 1999-2003, on the platform of ANPP to another party before the gubernatorial elections of 2003. He bluntly refused and was rigged out as speculated. The latter, because he has always remained in the camp of the least popular party which his kinfolks do not matriculate from.

General Ishaya Bamaiyi is in the news today and getting flaks from prominent Nigerians after the release of his book where he, without fail, supported the administration of General Sani Abacha, which he was a key member of. While this piece is not about the morality of the Sani Abacha administration, and the support of same by this writer, I think General Ishaya Bamaiyi should be commended.

Especially due to the fact, that in Nigeria, loyalty to people and institution is a scarce commodity. Also, very rarely do people remain loyal when their principal dies. General Victor Malu is also one such loyalist but this is not about him. In 2016, on national television, I watched Joshua Dariye, a former governor of Plateau State (PDP) now senator (APC) decamp from the PDP to APC by spewing vitriol on a party on whose platform he became governor for eight years. Now, how unprincipled, democratically, can some people be? In medieval times, the people in that township stadium would have seized him and thrown him out. But we are in civilised times, right?

It only dawned on the deputy governor of Rivers State in the twilight of the administration of former Governor Rotimi Amaechi to realise he was in the wrong ship, having collected perquisite for years from same ship.

Need we go on? If all politicians were like General Ishaya Bamaiyi who is still loyal to a dead boss, quirks notwithstanding, then the gale of defections from one party to another for survival would have ceased and only people who have made names for themselves in industry, would be members of the political class.

Politics would have been for those who have dates with destiny. Only the best and brightest would have been recruited to be flag-bearers of such parties. Small wonder, great societies were developed by thinkers and men of action. Men who do not lack the moral vision to lead. Men who do not commune with the gods only but with other men. The opposition would be opposition indeed. Three things they would have done: tell us why we are in a recession, how to get out of it, and how the party in power (whichever one) isn’t qualified or knowledgeable enough to get us out of it.

The art of propaganda, which is necessary in politics hasn’t been mastered by members of the fourth republic whose idea of politics is to fork out nativist agenda.
It is no surprise that our political scene is in smithereens. National interests take backstage in many cases while the interests of the parties take centre stage. The political scene in Nigeria is due to the absence of a credible opposition and those who find themselves in that opposition, instead of re-inventing their parties by bringing in new sets of people that Nigerians can trust to win the battle of ideas, have settled for the same people that Nigerians once denounced to lead their charge.

General Bamaiyi didn’t write that book to win praise. He knew he wouldn’t but he has shown to us that in politics, leaders do not enter the ring to win political matches only but to make life tolerable for their people and that this cannot be done without the community of the whole. Political wars are won by the spewing of ideas and not through gun-boat diplomacy.

After all, real politicians are aware that they would one day become passe and were careful not to be in history’s debauched books and so worked with the rule of right and ingrained correct political mores for the party faithful.

In our day, no-one in the political class is called a sage. Sages are thinkers who commune regularly with sages elsewhere without the drawing of imaginary lines. They commune amongst themselves regardless of their imperfections. Sages hold “think clinics” periodically and it is here where ideas for development are born.

In our day, some moaning minnines and ministers of The Lord not only celebrate thieving politicians but liken them to personalities sacred to a religious body. It staggers the imagination to assume that democracy will thrive if it does not work within the asymmetry of morality and working with the algorithm of thinking “what’s best for Nigeria?” Nigeria today is the oyster of many and loyalty is to self and regions and not to country. How can we provide solutions to pressing economic and other national issues? Without pushing ourselves to our emotional, mental and physical limits, a shoo-in for political office, to lead as political soldiers from the get-go.

Bamaiyi is Zuru, a Christian from Kebbi State. Abacha was Kanuri from Borno and was a Muslim. A Christian extolling the virtues of a Muslim? In our day we preach sameness. Maybe we should all be tolerant of each other like the Zuru people of Kebbi State and Yoruba of south west Nigeria. Let’s cut General Ishaya Bamaiyi some slack, the quirks of General Sani Abacha, notwithstanding.

Simon Abah writes from Port Harcourt

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