Nigerian politics and governance
Politics is the art of looking for trouble, finding it, misdiagnosing it and then misapplying the remedies. – Groucho Marx.
The logman of the quiet past is inadequate to storm the present.The occasion is piled high with difficulty and we must rise to the occasion. As our case is near, we must act now.-Abraham Lincoln
Nigerian as a democratic country will hopefully continue to explore her political leadership position in Africa so as to emphasize the unquestionable maturity as a truly democratic nation. The current political system must be readjusted so that it can become acceptable to all Nigerians and eventually, translate to the envy of other developing nations of the world. Nigeria must pursue clearly identified development, political finesse and reasonable economic growth through credible structural changes. The Nigerian leadership approach to achieve the above lofty goals must be dominantly tied to stable political and enduring social systems that clearly support selfless service, honesty of intents, actions and transparency in all ramifications.
There is a great hope for Nigerian leaders who can amass significant support for economic programmes that can elevate people from poverty. To get to this level, the nation must search for near-perfect and highly disciplined leaders who can turn the economy around to the level that it will rival other developed nations. In the near future, Nigeria may produce goal-getter and unassuming leaders, as experienced between 1950 and 1960, who can execute credible socio-political programmes that will lead to notable national growth and improve the welfare of citizens. Within this extreme, such desired leadership pursuits will embrace successful wiggling out of the arms of prevalent poverty that has assailed Nigerian citizens and marred them in the grip of social imbroglios. The fact remains that our past political leaders have overwhelmingly portrayed themselves as mere house/gate keepers who delight in feeding fat on the national political misadventure that led to widespread misfortunes of people.
However, it is too late to put the entire blames of national socio-economic disasters on the past and present leaders. To say the truth, we are all guilty of past political misadventures and misplacement of the nation’s developmental priorities as clearly charged. It is necessary to examine outright the basic reasons that pushed our political leaders to the quagmire of unmitigated failures and unabated corruption at the cradle of power. We are not concerned with nominating and electing political candidates who fulfill the normal and reasonable indices of leadership that can augur for positive or efficient performance. The right performance barometers and supportive mentality of would-be leaders for good governance were jettisoned for mundane gifts and grafts. We have not generally considered for leadership positions, dutiful and knowledgeable men and woman, who are highly intelligent, with the innate ability, rapt attention to details, effective communicator, passion for good governance and reasonable exploitative interest of diverse national resources.
Thus, the political candidates presented as leaders for public offices have not been absolutely fair, impartial to national interests, devoid of nepotism, with no reasonable ability to differentiate between personal, family and public relationships and matters that cause political discords or disaffection in the national interests. Basically, celebrated political leaders must be able to differentiate between skewed political inclinations, personal and group interests but quite capable of aligning with the overall interest of electorates. They must not become the drain-pipes for siphoning public funds or psychologically unstable to act reasonably in matters of national interest, observe national realities while shunning the allure of being drug barons, couriers or addicts with the tendency to push the country towards the abyss of national calamity.
In order to elect Nigerian leaders, we must consider reasonable and highly experienced professionals who have achieved acknowledged strong habits of living and positive relationship principles. They must believe in the absolute success of democracy and have the willingness to accept political defeat at any time that changes are ushered in. Ironically, our past leaders forget that politics is not about do or die affair, deliberately machinated group conflicts and winning at all costs but a sovereign exercise to produce decent winners as leaders. Hence, leader-losers during general elections can re-strategize to take advantage of future elections to walk their ways back to power instead of resulting to machinated violence. Unfortunately, some Nigerian leaders are not fully equipped with the sophistication political system of political give-and-take. Leadership buffoonery and selfish display in pursuance of sit-tight-syndrome-in-power has always destroyed the nation’s nascent democracy and often led to fratricidal wars that scuttle the political process and ushered in the military jackboot diplomacy. When the contending electoral issues are not properly managed by the electoral institutions and adjudicated by the court of law, political disorder brews in the most despicable manner.
Elected political leaders in Nigeria must have the commitment to pursue progressive manifestos and passionately driven for a progressive nation after their elections. They must endeavor to grow the national economy while ensuring that salaries of the public workers are paid as at when due. They must provide adequate security, full employment for the jobless people and maintain public infrastructures. Elected leaders must renounce their personal greed, despicable corruption and shun the entreaty of office that can lead to the abuse of public trust designed to them to overnight multi-billionaires. Many developing countries like Nigeria that practice democracy spend their pupilage period tracking national problems within their nations. We expect the same from Nigerian politicians but most of them cart their loots and stack them abroad to develop other nations.
Elected leaders must become adept political strategists who have acquired enough potential to manage and turn-around the economy. Socially-related issues that can create notable national challenges should be of prime consideration to them. Particularly, issues that border on wellbeing of citizens, economic recovery, welfare of public employees, strong family cohesion, good education, health management, quality infrastructures, public investment, cohesive religions, technological growth that can shun-out machineries and equipment for industrial activities must be approached with reasonable fortitude and strong measures. This is the basic secret which aided the growth of many developing countries within the quadrangle of India, Asia, Korea, etc.
We must remind our political leaders that self-rule, democracy, economic prosperity and social growth were the collective interests of our founding political leaders who fought for national independence. Some of them were not only maltreated after nation secured independence as they were hurriedly and spuriously landed behind bars because they were regarded as “security risks”. In 1957, when Kwame Nkrumah learnt that Felix Houphociet Boignu of Cote d’Ivoire favoured the fraternity with France rather than full independence of his nation, he advised him unambiguously that he should: “Seek ye first the political kingdom and all shall be added unto you”. Claude Ake indicted in the post-colonial rule that: “indigenous leaders are responsible for a perverse alienation, the delinking of leaders from followers, a weak sense of national identify and perception of the government as a hostile force” (1996). His reason was clearly based on “selfish management of resources, bad management and the criminal attitude of those involved in corruption.” In my opinion, the Nigeria situation has not changed radically from the exposition of Ake. The former Zambian president, Kenneth Kaunda, once commented: “Government began to take responsibility for misguided actions while recognizing that their countries are bleeding from the self-inflicted wounds” (Poku 2013).
It will be a novelty while in casting our votes the only weapon that we have, as electorates, is to receive the temporal bribes and inconsequential gifts that will in future mar our political destiny and those of our children. We should remember that our nation is presently bleeding from the self-inflicted wound of bribery and corruption, selfish and skewed management of natural resources, bad management and criminal attitudes of political leaders. The opportunity is now rife for us, as electorates, to ask ourselves the following question: Why is Nigeria continually going down in the path of political and economic destructions?
It was Patrich Chabal who reminded us of the famous song of Fela Ransom Kuti in 1978 – “Suffering and Smiling”. He suggested that the forthcoming election was to be used as the opportunity to escape from the tragedy and trajectory of suffering and smiling in our system. Nigerian electorates ought to remember that politicians were a set of financial burden on the society always making policies and running various institutions. Again, they must be reminded that the choices we make during elections will always influence our future. In the last election, electorates considered their votes as the whip to chase out nonchalant and erring politicians who performed below expectations. Although, some electorates cast their votes for candidates who could pay them required stipends for temporary survival, the monies collected were their “pound of flesh” as most politicians immediately became inaccessible after assuming office.
On the other hand, the last Nigerian government at federal level was removed because of the inability to fulfill political promises to the citizens while highly placed officers in the government cabinet turned themselves to merciless looting machines. While poor governance reared its ugly head like under the government never before in the history of the nation, the citizens were despicably impoverished and left in the grips of hunger and starvation. At that period, many politicians stole money excessive from the national treasury and hid them inside guarded pits, public stores, burial grounds, rented apartments, overhead water tanks, etc., after buying chains of exotic and expensive properties all over the world.
The former British Prime Minister, Sir Winston Churchill, once remarked that: “Politics is almost as exciting as war and quite as dangerous. In war situations, you can only be killed once but in politics, you can be killed many times”. He further indicated that “to be killed many times” simple denotes the betrayals and other vices associated with politics.” Similarly, the Chinese leader, Chairman Mao, drew a comparison between war and politics when he noted that politics is a war without bloodshed while war is politics with bloodshed. Therefore, it is not surprising for dubious politicians to struggle for rigging elections and winning at all costs. Electioneering activities do not only indicate diverse interests of political parties but also portray different personalities of candidates involved. They identify themselves and hinge on their parties’ promises to ask for votes. They portray themselves as the most qualified candidate to serve the public interest and for “implementing their party’s manifestos in the best way possible and that can suit the electorates’ interests” – John A. Ayoade, Ibadan and Adeoye A. Akinsanya, Keffi, Nasarawa.
The opportunity is now in electorates’ hands to demand from political candidates seeking for votes to present their supportive economic agendas that will favor them before casting their votes for them. Such lofty economy programs must address national concerns, most especially, job creation, improved citizens’ welfare, blue-print for improved health, good education, agricultural revolution, poverty alleviation, infrastructure growth, modern homes/shelters for all, adequate security, elimination or reduction of corruption, tribal and religious conflicts. Electorates must clearly understand that if they receive bribes before casting their votes, they will suffer and obviously in shame as they will later be abandoned by dubious politicians who deemed them as having received their worth in cash payment before elections.