Elite consensus vital in nation-building – Olurode
A former National Commissioner of the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) and former Chairman of its Board of Electoral Institute (BEI), Prof. Lai Olurode, has said that the depth of national development is contingent on national consensus on critical issues. According to him, “whenever national consensus is weak which is also an expression of the absence of overarching political will, material and ethical developments would be worst for it.” This was contained in the don’s message as Nigeria marked its 61st independence anniversary.
Among issues on which elite consensus must be cultivated are what governments exist for or rather what is the major mandate of government.
Rather than this being so, Olurode lamented further, “Nigerian elite focus on irrelevant issues of who governs and ethno-religious issues of identity politics. Inadvertently, in the discourse, peripheral matters get elevated to the front burner whereas those issues that are essential to effective governance get buried under the rubbles of politics. It is often forgotten that while occasionally the question of who governs rare its head, it is important not to exaggerate its significance nor equate it with the substantive issues of architecture of governance. Mere appearances cannot be equated with substance.”
Reflecting further, Olurode said since 1999, at various times, the Yoruba, the Fulani and the Ijaw had provided leadership at the level of the presidency, “can we say with certainty that this ‘politics of turn-by-turn Nigeria’ has facilitated escape from poverty and delivered exceptional social services for the parts of the country where these leading elites come from? It is more of a myth to assume that if my kinsman is there, it’s going to be a feast of a kind.”
In conclusion, Olurode harps Nigeria’s journey to true development and deepened democratization on elite consensus. “Elites in political parties that perennially engage in factional struggles cannot be expected to frame policies that would be development friendly. There is confusion in the land because of dissonance among leading political and economic elites. I could not identify an issue on which Nigeria’s diverse elite had ever consistently agreed. Major political parties are permanently in court over matters which pertain to internal party democracy. Whether in opposition or in government, how Nigerian elite can constitute an engine room of development given its winners take all and zero-sum game approach to power is yet to be seen. As a way of constructing elite consensus for the purpose of governance, once a political party wins in a competitive election, it should feel no inhibition in seeking for the best hands even from the opposition or the private sector in its determination to deliver on good democratic governance.”