I am bewildered by Nigeria’s brand of party politics; and more than that, I am leery of the Nigerian electorate. Contributing to my confusion and my leeriness is the absence of the kind of leadership we enjoyed as a nation for about two decades in the periods before, and immediately following Nigeria’s independence.
Our political leaders made some mistakes and were imperfect in some ways; but so too were gods. Still, they had ideas, principles and standards. Criticism of his personality aside, Awolowo was a giant amongst his contemporary. Who amongst the current crop of politicians can be deemed a leader in terms of ideas, vision, strength of character, sense of purpose, and reputation for moral and ethical uprightness?
In the current political climate, I’d be hard-pressed to attend political rallies. Ideas, ideals and party platforms don’t mean much anymore. The days of grand ideas are long gone. Today, all you need is a sack full of money to buy your way through, or a lorry load of vagabonds to intimidate, whack, or assassinate your opponents. I am not contending that party politics was a gentleman’s game (in the 1960s and in the 1970s); only that the quest for unbridled power and access to material resources has risen to an insufferable level. And so has the intensity of intolerance, incivility, and barbarism that pervades our body politics. Essentially, we have a dearth of ideas on how to run our country.
The dearth of ideas and the lack of first-rate leadership is not all that ails Nigeria. The Nigerian electorate is also responsible for some of the ills that bedevil us. Our collective actions and behavior is appalling and repugnant. Amagbe Edwin Kentebe, once observed, “It is only in a country like Nigeria that you have the people scream and shout for 30 years against military dictatorship and clamor for democracy. When the time comes, we then pick military rulers as presidential candidates.” Amagbe’s observations are both profound and worrisome.
As a nation and as a people, we seem to enjoy the exploitation, the oppression and mismanagement that are meted out to us. Why do we condone the nefarious act of our leaders? The ease at which we sell our votes and our conscience is appalling. Therefore, the culpability is not their and theirs alone. It is because we condone such nonsense that these so-called leaders are able to steal from the public coffers; disregard the rule of law; disrespect us, and in the process pee on our heads. We bear some of the responsibility.
Consider some of the actions of the Nigerian electorates: we’d rather send delegates to politicians to congratulate them on trivial achievements, than tell them the gospel truth; we are satisfied with the tokens and crumbs they dole out at regular intervals, instead of questioning them on how they amassed such wealth; we sing their praise and bestow chieftaincy titles on them even when we know they are of shady character.
Leadership is very important in guiding the affairs of the state; but then, so is the vision and the character of the electorate. Except for a few shinning beacons; what we currently have at the national stage are a posse of two-penny politicians. We the electorate must not resign ourselves to faith. Now is the time to take our country back; otherwise, forty-two years hence, the masses would still be wallowing in self-pity – just as we wallow (today) in the rung of abject poverty while the country itself is fast becoming the poster boy for all that is terrible about humanity.
We enable and encourage rogue politicians by our passivity and by our silence. If we are serious about the rule of law, democratic institutions and culture, and about good governance – if we are, then we cannot close our eyes to the bastardization of our country.
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