In a recent Punch newspaper interview, the current Nigerian senate president, Chief Ken Nnamani said, inter alia, “…but you know I don’t mind serving as a local government chairman because I believe in service? The chief law maker, and Nigeria’s number 3 citizen was responding to a question on life after the expiration of his tenure in 2007. Of course, why not? In the true sense, political office should be about service.
True patriots heed to calls to serve the fatherland, regardless of the cadre within which that may happen. In Nigeria, It’s no longer difficult to discern what appear to be political ambition, garnished with the grandeur of power from honest patriotism. Albeit, former heads of state coming back to active political life is not new around the world. Some have indeed come back to occupy their former positions, while quite a number of them returned to lesser positions.
But, the mentality of Nigeria’s political leadership contrasts sharply to these patriotic ethos. Trapped in hierarchical ego, the typical Nigerian Ex head of state would rather seek no political office, than return to serve his fatherland in a less grandiose office.
The implication is the current titanic standing where two former Nigerian heads of state, two former number two citizens and a serving vice president are bracing up for the 2007 presidential contest. Save for the Enugu state Governor, who’d just beaten a retreat from the PDP presidential primaries to contest a senate seat, the rest of his colleagues are wound up in this ignoble tradition. They have so far, not shown interest to vie for any less plum position.
While the constitution does not bar Ex Nigerian heads of state from doing so, Nigerian citizens can as well reap from their “wealth of experience” If they (former heads of state), run and get elected as state governors, local government chairmen and senators from their respective constituencies. While the idea may sound retrogressive to some, the fact is that It is a part of a civilized and progressive political culture.
It has seen respected world statesmen like Former Israeli prime ministers, Shimon Perez and Binyamin Netanyahu, serve at different periods in several capacities. Having previously served as the prime minister of Israel, Shimon Perez later served severally as a cabinet minister. He’s currently serving his country as the deputy Prime Minister.Netanyahu, on the other hand, served as finance minister after having headed the government of Israel as the Prime minister. Similar examples could be found In Nordic democracies such as Belgium and the Netherlands, where the former Prime minister of Belgium, Jean Luc Dehaene, is currently serving as the mayor of Vilvoorde. A small town on the outskirts of the capital city of Brussels, where he once headed his nation’s federal government.
Democracy is not a-winner-takes-all game. Political figures such as Generals Muhammadu Buhari and Ibrahim Babangida, serving as elected senators or governors would certainly be a metaphor for national rebirth. In this wise, the word “service”, vis a vis political leadership, would begin to resonate its true meaning in Nigeria. The nation’s political institutions will be straightened through separation of powers.
Enduring political legacies, It must be emphasized, can be created without necessarily having to head a national government. There are examples of cabinet ministers who’ve carved a political niche for themselves. Europe and America still revere the American post world-war II secretary of state, General George Marshall. His achievements have indeed withstood the rigours of historical inquiry. It was the General’s brain child, the “Marshall plan”, that prompted the US government in 1947, to release the sum of $13 billion to reconstruct a bombed out Europe, and which kept her (Europe), from losing a territory to communism during the cold war. An idea which in turn gave birth to the greatest military organization in human history–NATO, head quartered in Brussels.
And back in Nigeria, the Akhigbes and Ekwuemes whose contributions could be valuable, should be willing to do that even as senators. Such a move will certainly educate, and send the message to Nigerians on the enormous powers and prestige vested in the other tier of government .
Without having to be the Nigerian president, Buhari and Ebitu Ukiwe’s much trumpeted anti-corruption and discipline credentials could still be of benefit to Nigerians. When such manner of men are found in the legislative chambers, there may, perhaps, be no room for “Ghana-must-go bags”. Those legislators who connive with the executive to circumvent progressive ideals would have a hard time having their way. What’s more, our executive branch will sit up like other progressive democracies around the globe.
The success of the anti-third term legislators was a catalyst; the best thing that happened to Nigeria’s legislative history. It should be harped on as a reference point in furthering the enlightenment of the role of the legislature to the masses. A population that has long schooled in the dictates and excesses of past military dictators, would need to be re-schooled in the norms and scope of democracy. Thus, current presidential contestants, having been beneficiaries of the triumph of the legislature, should rethink and lead the way to a practical democracy.