Saturday, 2nd December 2023

The necessity of politics – Part 2

By Alade Rotimi-John
11 August 2023   |   3:54 am
Chief Obafemi Awolowo while delivering a lecture at the Ahmadu Bello Univerity, Zaria in 1978 under the auspices of the institution’s Student’s Union relevantly quoted a student’s query.


Chief Obafemi Awolowo while delivering a lecture at the Ahmadu Bello Univerity, Zaria in 1978 under the auspices of the institution’s Student’s Union relevantly quoted a student’s query.

“When… squabbling over indigenisation was going on in the part of the country I live, we used to hear about how important it is that ‘the North’ is not cheated in this allocation of shares; when you ask who exactly constitutes ‘the North’ which is going to benefit from the private acquisition of shares, you get a nasty look and accusation of foreign ideology. Elsewhere it was ‘the West’, ‘the Tivs’, ‘the Igbos’, ‘the Muslims’, ‘the Christians’, ‘the majority’, and ‘the minorities’ who have to be protected from cheating… in which way for example, does the present Funtua, Gboko, or Umuahia benefit because a businessman or a bureaucrat of Funtua, Gboko or Umuahia origin has bought shares in John Holt, UAC or ITT?”

These words, Awo intoned, are words from a Nigerian youth whose mind has become totally detribalised and decolonised. Nigerian youths must emulate this unique example.

In Thoughts on Nigerian Constitution, Awo expatiated further on the responsibilities of a leader in politics.

“What all we have been saying boils down to is this; good leadership involves self-conquest, and self-conquest is attainable only by cultivating as a first major step, what some applied psychologist have termed “the regime of mental magnitude” in plain language, the regime of mental magnitude is cultivated when we are sexually continent, abstemious in food, abstain totally from alcoholic beverage and tobacco, and completely vanquish the emotion of greed and fear”.

But there are some undesirable traits generally manifested by the average African, nay Nigerian, leader. Many Nigerian leaders are not only claiming divine ordinance or Emi l’o kan drivel for their acquisition of office, they are assuming a larger-than-life posturing by treating the ordinary people with unnecessary derision. In a lecture he delivered at the Great Hall, University of Science and Technology, Kumasi, Ghana on the 17th of November, 1976, Awo put the matter in a proper perspective.

“As soon as an African (substitute Nigerian for African) accedes power with the support of the people, he develops a superior but false estimation of himself. He views himself as God-sent and as the wisest man in the land who must, as long as he lives, remain in power in order to ensure that heaven and hell do not collapse over the heads of the people of his country, by allowing any other of his country men, who are now considered by him as lesser than and inferior to him, to succeed him…”

Aghast by the deceitful conduct of politicians who say one thing and do the opposite, Awo at a press conference in Ibadan on the September 15, 1958 cautioned that, “It is absolutely imperative that those who aspire to lead Nigeria should be men whose words can be taken as their bond” not nattering nabobs.

Awo proffered a solution to this problem when he delivered a lecture to the students of the Adventist College of West Africa, Ilishan Remo on the February 27, 1962.

“In private life, before we entrust our personal or business affairs to anyone, we take steps to inquire into his qualifications both as to competence and character. Such an enquiry as this is done in private because what is at issue is a private concern. But the competence and character of politicians must of necessity be examined in the full glare of public limelight. Because what is at issue is the welfare of the community or nation. In the management of private affairs, a gross mistake will only affect the fortunes of a man or a family or a small group of persons.

A serious error of judgement in the management of public affairs might adversely affect the lives and fortunes of millions of people. For this reason, there is need for the competence and character of public men to be subjected to severer and stricter scrutiny – and that, mainly in public – than those of persons engaged in private concerns”

We conclude this essay with the immortal words of Morde Chaus Gur, a one-time Israeli Chief of Staff.

“What use is it to speak of freedom if people are afraid to make sacrifices for it?”
Nigerians need to define their humanity. Every conscious decision they make confirms their humanity. It is often said that it is at the moment of decision that man exists as a man – a sentient being. Even as politics looks like revealed art, it can do without the utterly destitute, charmless and intellectually barren condition of many of our politicians or of people in our public life.

The fable is told in Greeco-Roman mythology of how Heracles was admitted into the ranks of the gods and received at the table of Zeus bowing reverently to each god in turn. Lastly he came to Pluto, the God of wealth. But he lowered his eyes to the floor and turned away from him. Shocked, Zeus asked why having graciously saluted all the gods, he should turn his face away when he got to Pluto. Heracles replied.

“It is because when we were together on earth I nearly always saw him being attracted to wicked men”
Fortune has a way of being nearly always attracted to vile, morally prurient men.


Rotimi-John, a lawyer and public affairs commentator wrote vide