Between reformers and reactionaries
We are not all the same in our orientational make-up, as there are great variations in our religious, political and economic ideologies which define our existence, and so powerful that they invariably transcend national boundaries. This situation has turned the world into different theatres of conflicts as die-hard apologists of different ideologies now battle for supremacy. Also not helping matters, is the infinite advancement in human knowledge that has only encouraged man’s fecund imagination to think up innovative ways of solving societal problems; hence, the continuous proliferation of ideologies and the never ending battle between the reformers who are bent on establishing a new order and reactionaries who are desirous of maintaining status quo.
As countries become more organised under democratic governments, where plurality of opinions on public issues run deep, the political atmosphere is always charged. The inevitable result of such democratic societies as witnessed the world over is the polarisation of her citizenry along party lines. A reformist leader in such a society would most likely be enmeshed in the conundrum as aptly captured by the foremost Italian political philosopher, Nicollo Machiavelli in his classical treatise The Prince. He opined that “that there is nothing more difficult to handle, more perilous to conduct, or more uncertain in its success than to take the lead in the introduction of a new order of things, because the innovator has for enemies all those who have prospered under the old condition, and lukewarm defenders in those who may do well under the new.”
The above statement clearly mirrors our poignant reactions to reforms, which would have been different, if only a deep sense of altruism were ingrained in our being, by default, at the point of conception. But unfortunately, it is not to be, as humans by their very basic nature are selfish beings; little wonder nature declared its first cardinal principle to be the law of self-preservation. As a result of man’s self-serving nature, it would not be wrong to conclude that the first adversary any reform-minded leader would have to contend with, in his or her bid to bring about genuine changes to a system that would likely dispense with the old order from which he has greatly profited, is himself. But accepting such a big challenge is one thing, and winning the battle is another.
The desire for change and improvement in man’s diverse affairs will always remain constant as long as the earth remains. Nigeria has, undeniably, passed through epochal stages in her national life that saw the implementation of major reforms from colonial rule to independence and from authoritarian military rule to civil democratic rule. These crucial periods in the nation’s history threw up reformists champions, who with singleness of purpose, unparalleled dedication and nationalistic fervour, not only fought the reactionary elements of their time, but satisfactorily ended the fight in their favour and for Nigerians at large.
These laudable achievements were made possible through the painstaking efforts of individuals, civil societies and groups who strongly believed in the nobility of the ideals they stood for, and so, willingly fought like those who had everything to gain by victory and all to lose by defeat. Some of these patriots, in the course of their struggle against authoritarian military rule, paid the ultimate price.
To say that our country Nigeria is in dire need of reforms in her socio-political and economic life would be stating the obvious. This is because the issue has never been whether or not the country as now constituted is in great need of reforms but whether our leaders who claim to be reform agents and readily bandy the phrase about in every election year, to the point of making it a hackneyed expression, truly perceive themselves as reformers.
Despite the humongous problems confronting the country as a result of several years of mal-administration by past governments, it would be totally unfair to say that the country is yet to see reform minded leaders since the commencement of the fourth republic. The crucial question that then comes to mind is what are those reforms that would truly make a big difference in improving the living conditions of the average Nigerian from which both the reformer and reactionary elements would likely be at daggers-drawn?
Nigerians desire leaders who are committed to the strengthening of our democratic institutions and the entrenchment of sound democratic values above leaders who perceive other arms of government as institutions that must be contained and if necessary manipulated to pander to their selfish desires. Nigerians desire visionary leaders armed with vibrant economic policies and programmes that would translate to massive employment for her teeming youthful population and also lead to an appreciable rise in the living standard of her people.
Nigeria desires leaders, who see education as being at the heart of the country’s economic development, and so, move to lay down the necessary legal and policy framework, that would revolutionise both public and private education in Nigeria, and ensure their affordability while not compromising their quality.
Nigerians desire leaders who will as a matter of urgency declare a state of emergency in our health care system as against leaders who see nothing wrong in the rot and decay in the system as long as the state continues to finance every foreign medical trip they embark on. Nigerians want a health care delivery system with good hospitals that can compete favourably with world class hospitals around the world. Nigerians want the provision of a quality universal health care service for all citizens at the expense of the state and tax payers which will go a long way in addressing the imbalance in the system where quality healthcare service is seen as a luxury within the province of the rich and top government officials.
As the APC-led administration of President Muhammadu Buhari rode to power on an overwhelmingly popular mandate based on the change mantra and promising reforms in various aspects of our socio political and economic life, all hands must be on deck to support this administration where it matters and to also keep it on its toes through constructive criticism that is motivated by love for the country when they err. It is time our political leaders across the political landscape put aside self and party interests to ensure the success of these needed reforms that would catapult the country into an enviable position in the comity of nations. Nigerians are tired of leaders who are reformers while in search of power, who become reactionaries while in power and return to being reformers while outside power.
Godwin, a legal practitioner, is also Assistant Lagos Co-coordinator of Renaissance Progressive Initiative (RPI)