Certain incontrovertible facts govern the affairs of men and nations alike. For example, men are born, gradually attain to maturity, and then eventually pass away. Nations form, attain to their peak and then suffer decline. Empires rise and empires fall. Nations reflect their citizenries, and very few nations can transcend themselves. There is hardly any escaping this fact. Great people make for great nations, and mediocre people make for mediocre nations. More accurately put: great leaders make for great nations, as inept leaders make for inept nations. The potential variations of this theme are endless. But the central message is clear. A picture of a nation is a picture of its peoples. Whatever comes out of a nation is a reflection of what is in that nation; hence the basis for the popular adage: ‘garbage in, garbage out’.
In Nigeria, as in most other nations, the practice of our politics and its governance – since before, and ever since independence, and right through to the present time – has been an overwhelmingly male preserve and pursuit. The female of our species, either through choice or circumstance, have largely been absent, inactive, or unrepresented in their participation in our politics and governance. Perhaps, they decided somewhere along the way that our politics and governance was beneath them; or having tried, without success to establish a foothold within it, have now become tired of trying and have, thus, left its practice almost exclusively to their men folk.
It is debatable whether the one sided domination of our politics has been a good thing or a bad thing; but it certainly hasn’t been a complete thing. But given the god-awful mess that our manly politicians – military and civilian – have plunged the nation into since independence and ever since; our women must at least be grateful for avoiding the indignity of being tarred with the same brush of ineptitude that discolours many of their men folk in political life.
Since most of our governments, have without fail, often failed us, and since all of our governments have without fail been led by men; it is safe, then to conclude, that our nation’s leadership is a reflection of the quality of our men. And what then does this say about the manner of the many men who have manned and manhandled our nation’s fortunes; and the quality of our national manhood?
But just before one considers the nature of the many men who have manned and manhandled our national affairs, I would like to highlight an interesting aside, a wholly fortuitous discovery, stumbled upon whilst scrolling through a mental roll-call of some of the political personalities who have over time played prominent and dominant roles in our nation’s politics.
Through some inexplicable quirk of alphabetical selection, many of the men who have at different times presided over, or influenced the governance of – the sum of the parts or the parts of the sum – of our nation have had surnames beginning with the letter A. I wonder what effect, if any at all, the occurrence of this feature has had on our politics. There may be nothing to this, but on a cursory level, there does seem to be an emergent pattern in there somewhere, and one which may repay further scrutiny.
Ponder for a moment the following roll-call of names: Azikiwe; Awolowo; Ahmadu-Bello; Aguyi-Ironsi; Akintola; Ajuluchukwu; Adegoke Adelabu; Adisa Akinloye, Akinjide, Augustus Aikhomu; Abiola; Anenih; Abacha; Abdulsalami Abubakar; Aper Aku; Abraham Adesanya; and Abubakar Atiku to mention just a few. This list is hardly exhaustive and with more thought I am sure that more names can be added to it.
Is there a possible correlation between having a surname beginning with the alpha letter and the pursuit of a political career? Or does having a surname beginning with the alpha letter translate into alpha leadership? Therein lies a research opportunity for a budding Nigerian social scientist or historian – to either affirm or rebut – any correlation or correspondence between matters of alphabetical selection, the choice of a political career, and the quality of leadership.
But in returning to the earlier poser regarding the nature of the many men who have manned Nigeria’s affairs; one can only conclude on the strength of their conduct and record of performance or non-performance, as the case maybe that these men fall into two broad categories: ‘Alpha Males’; and ‘Area Boys’.
The latter categorisation – ‘Area Boys’ – may at first seem strange. Seeing as it is a term more often employed to describe those thuggish; oppressive; offensive; ill-disposed; and aggressive elements in our society. That collection of urban and sub-urban guerrillas whose sole reason for existence seems to be to terrorise the lives of innocent people. They are the human equivalents of the disease ridden hirsute quadrupeds which often defy man’s best efforts to exterminate them. One would be mistaken to think that they exist only in unsavoury places such as gutters and motor parks – they do not. They also dwell in our ‘political palaces’ and ‘military barracks’.
‘Alpha Males’ on the other hand conjure up completely different images in the mind. The term bespeaks confident men; men in charge of their environment; men who aspire to, and make a positive impact in the lives of those around them; men of vision and direction. Every so often in our nation’s history, either by design or accident, such individuals have risen up and asserted themselves in state and national affairs and made a difference. Unfortunately, however, none of such have been given sufficient time within which to make a lasting difference to our fortunes.
Personalities like: Dr. Nnamdi Azikiwe; Chief Obafemi Awolowo; Alhaji Ahmadu-Bello; Oba Adesoji Aderemi; Mallam Aminu Kano; Dr. Michael Okpara; Chief Ladoke Akintola; Dr. Akanu Ibiam; Dr. Eyo Ita; Major Kaduna Nzeogwu; Chief N.U. Akpan; Major Isaac Boro; Alhaji Lateef Jakande; Brigadier U. J. Esuene; Major-General Tunde Idiagbon; Alhaji Balarabe Musa; Rear Admiral Ndubisi Kanu; Mallam Nuhu Ribadu; and Mr. Babatunde Fashola SAN; are examples of some of the Alpha Males who have graced and still grace our politics.
The sheer preponderance of Area Boys in our national political life makes it a wholly thankless task to begin to enumerate them. They are easily identifiable by their oppressive and provocative actions towards the people and their records of non-performance in and out of office. And given the fact that our nation has underperformed for extended periods of time; one can conclude without going through any complex deductive process, that our national leadership has been dominated by Area Boys; in and out of uniform and – in between dictatorships and democracies.
The overall picture of governance in Nigeria over time points to the fact that our politics and leadership has been hijacked and monopolised by Area Boys. If Nigeria is to have any hope of fulfilling its rich potential, much less transcend itself, then determined efforts will need to be taken to reduce the sway and influence of Area Boys our national affairs. So ‘Arise O Alpha Males, Nigeria’s call obey;’ and arise too Alpha Females and link hands with your male counterparts; if the battle for the salvation, redemption and reformation of Nigeria is to be joined, let alone won.