Joseph-Marie, Comte de Maistre, a French counter revolutionary aristocrat, lawyer, and philosopher once said: “Toute nation a le gouvernement qu’elle mérite”. It is translated to mean “every nation gets the government it deserves” and “In a democracy people get the leaders they deserve”.
The quote is popularly misattributed by many people and different commentators who are either unfamiliar with its preempting history; or deliberately manipulate its interpretation to promote their personal agenda in order to score a cheap political goal.
It is not my intention in this article to review Joseph-Marie or extrapolate his philosophy. But for clarity of purpose, I like to explain the basis of this statement; and later contend different misinterpretations of people who have misrepresented his stance, especially in the fashion expressed above. Hopefully, I will be able to disabuse the minds of the people who have taken this statement as a justification of the barbaric political and military leadership that Nigerians had to deal with since independence.
According to Wikipedia, Maistre in Considérations sur la France (“Considerations on France,” 1796), He claimed that France has a divine mission as the principal instrument of good and of evil on earth. He perceived the Revolution of 1789 to be providential: the monarchy, the aristocracy, and the ancient regime instead of using the influence of French civilization to benefit mankind, had promoted the atheistic doctrines of the 18th century philosopher. Therefore the crimes of the reign of terror were the logical consequence of enlightenment thought, and it is divinely-decreed punishment.
In his short book Essai sur le principe générateur des constitutions politiques et des autres institutions humaines (“Essay on the Generative Principle of Political Constitutions and other Human Institutions,” 1809), Maistre argued that constitutions are not the product of human reason, but come from God, who slowly brings them to maturity. After the appearance in 1816 of his French translation of Plutarch treatise On the Delay of Divine Justice in the Punishment of the Guilty, in 1819 Maistre published Du Pope (“On the Pope”), the most complete exposition of his authoritarian conception of politics.
He said that any attempt to justify government on rational grounds will only lead to unresolvable arguments about the legitimacy and expediency of any existing government. This, in turn, leads to violence and chaos. Maistre therefore argued that the legitimacy of government must be based on compelling non-rational grounds, which its subjects must not be willing or allowed to question. He went on to argue that authority in politics derives from religion and that in Europe this religious authority must ultimately lie with the Pope. His analysis of the legitimacy of political authority has to this day influenced utopian socialists as well as conservative political thinkers. It is therefore conclusive to say that his statement “every nation gets the government it deserve” , at best could be described as an inexcusable vent of a frustrated theocrat.
In a country where law rules as opposed to the arbitrariness of the few people in power, separation of power is a necessary tool that should ensure a transparent check on each agent of government. The people should have the final say in all matter that dictates and promote good governance. This say hinges on “trust”. Any individual or any government that abuses or betrays the trust vested in it by the people must be consequentially sacked.
Man is by nature pleasure seeking. He is therefore prone to any arrangement that will promote such lifestyle. When a collectivity of people decide to come together and live together under the umbrella of one government, such decision is a contract. It is aimed at promoting their inalienable pleasure seeking right among others. The people trade their trust with the expectation that such government will promote the people’s integrity and welfare, defend it against internal and external aggression or invasion, and be characteristically altruistic. Any government that fails to meet this basic human obligation and ideals is deemed non-grata. Nigerians in the light of this conclusion should review and evaluate their stance on the quality of service and integrity of this government.
The nation has been bedeviled with several monstrous regimes in the last fifty –two years of its existence. The regimes are inefficient, inept, ignoble, self seeking, visionless, corrupt, conscienceless and careless. In fact, all the regimes from independence to date are evil personified. The officials, military or civilians, have deliberately used the instruments of the state to perpetrate wanton atrocities against the people whose welfare they swore to promote and protect. They have further marginalized the people, spread poverty beyond reasonable proportion, entrenched corruption as an institution in all levels of government, the health sector is in shambles so much that hospitals are far below the level of consulting clinics, education system is paralized, unemployment is un parallel, social and economic infrastructure disintegration is monumental, security of life and property is unimaginable, the nation’s electricity power is a mirage, citizens lives have been devalued below the price of a fowl.
This situation is antithetical to the expectation of the people. When the people voted their elected representative into office, what they wanted is good governance. The people trusted the government, but the later deflated the former’s trust. John Locke in his Theory of Social Contract stated that “ trust” is imperative for starting and maintaining political society and government”, and the lack of it is instrumental to dissolving the latter. Trust, while it may be given, may also be revoked by the multitude, should government fall short of its duty. He concluded, whenever that end is manifestly neglected, or opposed, “The trust must necessarily be forfeited”. Because government is instituted for the purpose of the common good, and its authority derived from the people’s reliance upon it to meet that end, it can no longer be legitimate or necessary if it betrays the public trust “in not preserving the form of government agreed on, and in not intending the end of government itself.
The current regime of President Jonathan Good-Luck is a reinforcement of all his predecessors. It is deficit in integrity and blurry in vision. His transformational agenda has further impoverished the nation and plugged it into hopelessness. Available evidence suggests that he did not prepare to be the president of the most populous black nation on earth; he was coopted into office by OBJ in a show of shame to cover the deficits of his administration. His performance to date is consistent with the findings that the former zoology lecturer has a better understanding of animals and their environment than his present assignment as the commander –in- chief of the federal republic. If OBJ truly had the interest of the nation at heart as he claimed, and was genuine in his search for capable and or potential presidential candidate in 2007, he would have found out that JGL would be a better candidate in the Ministry of Agriculture or presidential adviser on animal matters.
Nigerians deserve better than what the present regime offers. The people deserve better government; a government that will stand up to its responsibility of good governance. Nigerians should renounce all corrupt individuals, government officials, political party and government whose agenda or policies entrench poverty and pauperization. Since ultimate power belongs to the people, it is in the people’s interest to stand up in true spirit of patriotism and nationalism and fight to free the nation from the treacherous claws of
the political profiteers.
Realization of this goal is contingent upon the availability of informed citizens who are conscious of the effects of the prevailing dangerous policies and politicking; and are willing to confront and challenge the government to a stand still. This is not a platform for cowards. Organizers and participants must be prepared to damn the consequence; after all freedom does not come with ease, it must be demanded and fought for. If Nigeria is worth living, it is worth saving. The people should be prepared to defend it from the debacle of its detractors.
Sooner than later, the on-going political changes in the globe will have contagious effects on Nigerian masses. When the people of North African countries resolved to free themselves from their different repressive governments, they parted with their hitherto political apathy and rose up in popular revolt. They resented government coercion and successfully fought it to surrender. Today the countries are free and their immediate past dictators are in bondage. Those of them who narrowly escaped the wrath of the people became refugees in foreign lands. What irony! History reveal that anytime the people stand for their right and demand accountability from their government in a popular revolt, they always succeed; and usually it lead to regime change.
With the on-going situation in Nigeria, where the government has through numerous policies promoted economic inequality and dis-equilibrium in social justice, it is a matter of time that the North African model of political change will replicate. The Buhari’s, the IBB’s, the Shonekan’s, the Abdusalam’s, the OBJ’s , the JGL’s, of this generation, their beneficiaries and accomplices might be living in affluence today. They might be building houses on hills, valleys and seas, they might be jetting from their bedrooms to the living rooms, eating breakfast in London and dinner in Dubai, scheming and strategizing on how to further plunder the wealth of the nation and create economic catastrophe; when the time comes, and the alarum bell sounds, they will be held accountable and forced to pay the price for their actions and inactions while in office. The bitter pills of their reckless insensitivity will be forced down their throats.
The trusted government officials cracked the foundation of the nation. They forced the people to internalize the culture of suffering and smiling; they left the legacy of pain, sorrow, tears and blood yet they deluded the people with the imagery of a better tomorrow. They are atrocious and deceitful; and in their colorless fashion they will be reminded that power is ephemeral and only God is invincible.