“Politics is too serious a matter to be left to the politicians.”
– Charles De Gaulle
“It is an act of political sagacity to understand political arithmetic,” Former Senate President Dr. Chuba Okadigbo chided his former co-presidential hopefuls who walked out on the ANPP convention in January. He computed wisely of course and got his party’s vice presidential ticket for his ‘political savvy’. His notion of political arithmetic when stripped of grandiose verbiage about ‘sacrificing personal ambition for national interests’ reveals a cupboard with skeletons of selfish motives being fattened on delusions of nationalistic fervour.
Political sagacity as expounded by Nigerian politicians rests on the tripod of money, ethnic and religious blandishments. It is trite to state that our steady retrogression in the comity of nations is largely attributable to the quality of leadership with which we have been saddled over the years. This is not surprising when a cursory look at the production lines of national leadership unveils an all comers’ affair. Characters that ordinarily can only be elevated to one-line parts in Mafia B-flicks blight our national consciousness with sad sophistry about ‘sacrifice in the interest of the nation’ when the only interests being served is their egotistic agenda.
When ‘leaders’ emerge championing sectional interests what is the concomitant impact on the national polity? When politicians preach segregation and have perfected the art of inciting riots purely on religious sentiments what business do they have on a national stage? Many politicians do not understand the true denotation of federalism and have not the fuzziest inclination as to its correct application in a heterogeneous entity like Nigeria.
It is still business as usual; many that seek elective posts do so because such a position automatically elevates one to a demi-god. Nigerians adore veneration and constantly crave the obsequiousness of a genuflecting knee. Why then do you query the conflagration ravaging parts of the nation in the wake of the April 19, 2003 polls? Do you still wonder why these men are dying to serve us? It is not for ideas of moving the nation forward which they yearn to implement. It is certainly not for visions of Nigeria’s greatness with which they are visited each night that the horde of Nigerian politicians have been sleepless nights. If that were to be the reason the airwaves should resonate with such, instead there is silence save for reports of gunfire as politicians engage each other in a do or die warfare over coveted seats of power. The lot of Nigerian Politicians are busy creeping through the night with packaged terror hand delivered to opposing camps. There are choruses of destructive criticisms, yet not one constructive opinion has been proffered on how to correct the ills of the past. Opposition thrives in hellish baskets as opponents unearth sordid pasts in a bid to nail one another. The fastest growing industry in Nigeria is for moles that burrow into the stench that are past lives of our present day politicians. Mudslinging has been refined and made 2003 compliant.
This development is explainable since the treadmill churning out leadership quantities for the country is fuelled by ethnic and religious sentiments. Without proper address of pertinent issues the processes attached to leadership are serviced by material connotations. Without due regard to the character and history of the prospective leader sectional interests ensure that he/she is palmed off to the nation.
Thieves and cutthroats are at our national jugular. The National Assembly legislates unto its fractured interests and the masses that voted them in are left to lap up breeze of their immanent presence. Have you not heard of a particular state Assembly that sought to reward its four years of luxurious indolence with payments of allowances for life and (wait for this!) police escorts for life, all at the poor taxpayers’ expense. The phenomenon of political assassinations and attempted assassinations is symptomatic of the present breed of politicians; these are men who are intolerant of opposition. These are men who regard political opposition as a crime warranting the death penalty. Any obstacle to the quest of occupying the coveted seat of power is a vendetta that can only be settled with street styled murder.
Our politicians as blood contractors resort to violence as the only assured solution to political opposition. There are no opinions to be proffered and no ideas to defend, thus political debates are eschewed. The order of the day is gorily akin to the notions canvassed by Adolph Hitler in his ‘Mein Kampf’ (only that the Master race is carries the hired guns and is bent on exterminating the unwary and less aggressive politician). Politics has become a dog-eat-dog affair. Survival is guaranteed the toughest that is ready to play dirtiest. The present state of our politics roundly denounces the conception of what true politics embodies as expounded by late US President Dwight D. Eisenhower: “Politics is a profession; a serious, complicated and, in its true sense, a noble one” whenever has politics been played nobly in Nigeria, you might ask? I hold the opinion that we are skating on thin ice if the present state of politicking should continue unabated. The current trend of annihilating political opponents is a potentially dangerous ground and a step towards catastrophe.
An ANPP senatorial candidate in Imo state was assassinated by unknown gunmen and within a spate of days, series of politically motivated killings and attempts at such killings had followed. Assassinations of several politicians have been carried out within the last three and a-half years. Many aspirants for public offices are alleging threats to their lives. Suspicious persons recently visited the Abuja residence of PDP’s Governorship candidate in Kwara state, a state that is presently a theatre of war between ANPP and PDP supporters. There are harrowing signs of imminent electoral crises in a host of states and this litany of horrors shows no sign of flagging.
I implore the electorate to exercise their franchise in a manner that would guarantee our future and that of our children. I believe the brand of political sagacity canvassed by the likes of senator Okadigbo is colossal idiocy. Senator Okadigbo’s political arithmetic, which simply translates to a southern Christian Presidential candidate with a Northern Muslim running mate, equals a Northern Muslim Presidential candidate with a southern Christian running mate has been the bane of leadership in Nigeria and should be decried. Senator Okadigbo as a politician is of course thinking of the next election and therein lies the woes in ‘his sagacity’. J. F. Clarke however displayed true wisdom when he said: “a politician thinks of the next election; a statesman of the next generation”. Who from the present breed of politicians shall become a great statesman in the near future? I dare say none from these bands of rogues, brigands, ethnic and religious jingoists. Leadership is an art of veritable examples. What great traits of leadership have been exhibited thus far?
The politics of ethnicity and religion may favour the likes of Senator Okadigbo but Nigeria is worse off for it. This type of politics highlights differences and its internecine effects are the origin of ‘it’s our turn politics’, which has been hacking at the rubric of our corporate existence. I believe such politics is a ruse created to divert attention from issues that should be on the front burner prior to an election: in a country listed in UNDP Human Department Index with 80% of its citizens living on less than $1 per day; where only 49% have access to safe water and heath care; where only 33% live up to the age of 40 years and life expectancy is 50%, greater issues abound than ethnicity of our politician and by whatever name we call God. In a nation ranked as the 9th largest crude exporter, education has been confined to an indefinite moratorium and our ivory towers witness daily brain drain and intellectual flight. It is time to ask questions. In a country where many cannot afford a decent meal despite the immoral display of affluence by less than 1% of the population, it is time to demand service from those who long so desperately to serve us.
I believe that true servants answer a call for true service. Nigerians yearn for qualitative leadership- we intend to walk to the El Dorado of constant energy and power supplies, good roads and improved public infrastructures, standard health care and potable water. More than anything else we crave a dearth of poverty. We desire a stable Naira and an attendant healthy economy, hence our Moses should be able to speak to God and listen to the people. Incumbents are threatening fire and brim stone against all opposition regardless of the fact that most of them have no single achievement, which can be credited to them in four years of holding public office. Politics should not be the conduct of public affairs for private gain (apologies to Ambrose Bierce) as such I urge the electorate to exercise wise discretion in choosing leaders. Every vote counts and should be employed effectively. This is our duty to God and Country and the political arithmetic that attests to political sagacity.