Between political naivety and political sophistry…

by Rasheed Adegoke

I have come to understand more and more that changing Nigeria will not come on a platter. On the one hand, the entrenched interests with their political sophistry are no match for the largely politically naive and economically disadvantaged masses. On the other hand, we have a largely complicit elite class that’s just too comfortable and happy with the status quo to be bothered about changing it – only rising up in response to events or people that directly affect or threaten their continued enjoyment of the status quo.

Def: Sophistry: is a subtle, tricky, superficially plausible, but generally fallacious method of reasoning.

Yes, there is a lot of sophistry within the political space. The career politicians live by it – being conservatives today, progressives tomorrow or being corrupt in the morning and anti-corruption crusader later that afternoon. Beyond the career politicians; our complicit elites, the hangers on and the likes also swim in a pool of political sophistry – for example criticising a military coup in Egypt but rationalising electoral coups in Nigeria. Just to be sure, I am no fan of military coups and indeed believe military incursion in politics in black Africa has been the root cause of Africa’s backwardness. I therefore do not think the military in Egypt were right to intervene the way they did even though I think the events will end up strengthening Egypt’s democratic institutions ultimately. What however always amazes me is the way the “masters of sophistry” smoothly transition from defenders of democracy especially in other countries while they do not see anything wrong with falsified electoral outcomes enforced using violence and power of incumbency as if these were not as bad or even worse than military coups.

Another sophistry that is gaining currency and spreading like wild fire on social media is this talk about “opposition is not different from the ruling party so let’s continue with the status quo”. I’m sorry, but this is outrageously fallacious – certainly primed to shape the outcome of elections in 2015. Okay let’s even assume for a moment that we are left with choosing from two or more bad options, rational thinking should push us towards closer scrutiny and circumspection so we can end up selecting “the best of the bad options”. The rigour of the selection process should be even more than if we were presented with many good options because the cost of choosing the worst out of bad options is too enormous. And we cannot afford to continue with the trend in national leadership that has continued to move us, since 1999, into dissolution (rather than evolution) beyond 2015.

Def: Naivety: is the state of being naive – having or showing a lack of experience, understanding or sophistication, often in a context where one neglects pragmatism in favor of moral idealism.

The political naivety of the masses comes largely from a lack of circumspection and a focus on people/events rather than deep analysis of issues. The political mass therefore are easily programmed by half-truths and outright falsehood repeatedly fed through the media and other channels of propaganda.

One of the biggest indicators of political naivety amongst the masses is the whole concept of the North/South or Muslim/Christian divide. This is a division that politicians have promoted and so far succeeded in entrenching in the minds of a majority of Nigerians primarily to remain relevant.

We are naive to believe or even tolerate politicians that fan such embers of division in a country that so badly needs unity to move ahead. I do not see why we should get carried away by the tribe or religion of our leader. I love Ameachi (a Christian Ikwere man) as much as I love Fashola (a Muslim Yoruba man) – the common yardstick is their commitment to the upliftment of the society they govern. Again, I voted for Buhari in 2011 because he avoided that maddening crowd and stood up as a nationalist with ideals that I felt were needed for us to move ahead and not because he was a Northerner or a Muslim. Unfortunately, I may not vote for him in 2015, if he contests, because I did not feel he rose up to the occasion as a statesman after the election to stop the slide towards “ethnicisation” of his own political ambition and the violence that has since engulfed some parts of the North even though I know that General Buhari has no hand in the violence as some would want us to believe.

Another politically naive believe is this strong notion that the Hausa/Fulani is Nigeria’s problem and that this is driven by a “leadership entitlement complex” (LEC) which permeates the Hausa/Fulani population. This flies in the face of established historical facts. The question I have always asked is when did this Hausa/Fulani LEC start to manifest? Was it when the Hausa/Fulani lost a crop of its leaders to a senseless and unnecessary coup led by a Southerner (Nzeogwu) or was it when power was handed over to Gowon (an Angas man) for nearly 9years after a counter coup led by Hausa/Fulani soldiers? The point is that historical facts do not support this widely held notion of a deep seated leadership entitlement complex. What has however happened under PDP’s rotational leadership model is the creation of a platform for such an entitlement complex to develop amongst any group that believes it is their turn to fill any elective position that has been rotated to their group. That was what triggered the reaction from a section of the North after Yar’adua’s demise. I remember warning that the rotational presidency concept was likely to lead to a truncation of democracy or disintegration of Nigeria when it was being introduced. Thank God it hasn’t but we need to kill the concept before it kills us.

A last point on political naivety is this utopian search for the “saint leader”. The truth is saint leaders are more likely to be found in fairy tales and it is only by a stroke of extreme good luck (aha…did I hear not again) would we encounter them in the political space especially one as underdeveloped as ours. Pragmatically, we should seek and be happy to get “sain” (sane) leaders or at least saner leaders than the ones we are replacing.


Included under my definition of elite are the people with reach, based on their wealth/education/network/position/etc, who are able to one way or another influence change within a broader group than their immediate family. I believe we need an ideological revolution within this class – a change of orientation that will trigger the elite class to act in the best interest of the larger society rather than the current selfish focus on self and narrow interest groups.

The earlier the elite class knows this (ideological revolution) is in their best interest, the better!!! I was not surprised when the “fuel price hike” mob visited some Ikoyi elites in January 2012. Even middle class elites were not spared by the mob. The bottomline is the elite class is vulnerable unless it helps reshape society to the benefit of the majority, so it is enlightened self-interest if the elite class avoids playing the ostrich while our society degenerates almost in every sphere – infrastructure, institutions, security, social harmony, values, etc.

I will conclude by stating the obvious: no nation has ever developed in the hands of unpatriotic citizens. Let us be good citizens by thinking first about Nigeria’s interest above our personal or sub-group selfish interests. It requires an ideological transformation and above all some (worthy) sacrifice. Long live Nigeria.

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