The failure of Nigeria’s political class

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IT is common knowledge that whenever the title of any write up or speech about anybody in politics in Nigeria is given and which appears critical or not at once praise-singing, the politician(s) immediately feel their backs as if pushed to the wall; and as an action for which they must respond to, negatively and immediately. They do not think of it to see if there are useful truths in it; or any counsels in it that will be useful for their desired political successes. But should that really be the case? Should any political system exist without regular, thorough and active examination and positive criticism? Should any politician or political party wish to operate without any, or especially positive and constructive opposition? Will/Can they ever do or achieve their political best in such situations? I am sure that, everybody who desires to and actually thinks thoroughly about it will come to the same conclusion: it is not good for any politician or politicl system to exist without a regular, objective and positive or constructive criticism; or even opposition! It is in the best interest of such a politician or political party that they get these helpful criticisms. Nigerian politicians hate even positive criticism. Lately, by the moves that we are seeing, such criticisms will soon be classified as “hate speeches”! I wonder if people who think like these watch the CNN or any other local or international USA mass media; and see how Donald Trump is politically criticized, even ridiculed and torn apart before the whole world, by his very own American people. Does he, has he, or any of his political colleagues, called these hate speeches?

Everybody watching the present turn of events in Nigeria will appreciate the very fact that globally, we are in a deep political mess in the country. Even though political corruption is world-wide and as perennial as the grasses, for those who ever get willing to study it, its level in Nigeria is by far the most colossal, globally.  Yes, a few other countries come very close to us – nearly all the rest of Africa, the whole of Latin America, Indonesia, the Philippines, to mention just a few. It is also true to say that while there were ample items of political corruption in the immediate post-colonial government in Nigeria, the rate at which they grew under the military interregnum was “marvelous”, especially under IBB! However, the growth since the present uninterrupted “civilian” political dispensation has had no rival anywhere; either in history or anywhere in the world!In my mind, these phenomena are not necessarily because these people in Nigeria are more evil people than elsewhere in the world nor because the people in the progressive governances in the country are more evil than their predecessors. Clearly, to me, these people are able to be more corrupt and so, apparently more evil, because the type of government that we are running at each subsequent interregnum promotes corruption more than the earlier ones – from parliamentary democracy to unitary “Zombie” military governments and then to the presidential democracy of lesser political checks and balances and the winner takes it all paradigm, still dominated with the “zombie’ mentality people! Obviously, a presidential democracy is not good enough for any, as yet, developing country; nor the involvement of any people of a past or present/continuing “zombie” background. We only fail to recognize, reverse and to corporately prevent these in Nigeria to our self-chosen destruction or at least continuing corporate undermining!

Having said all the above, we must immediately observe that all the petty troubles that we have in Nigeria – from the Niger Delta agitators, to the Boko Haram ones, to the Biafra ones and Odua Peoples’ Congress (OPC) ones –are, all of them, evils created by the failures of the political classes; of the politicians and the other so-called leaders in all those local places. Unfortunately, instead of those agitators carrying the war to their very own local political class who are selfishly marginalizing and undermining them for their private political pursuits and self-aggrandizements, they (or at least a sizeable number of them) turn up, around and blame the entire Nigeria as the agency most responsible for their underdoing! This is, of course, not to say that Nigeria as the “mere geographical expression” that it isand not any nation at all(available for just anybody and especially better organized groups of people to keep exploiting) has nothing to do with or have no contribution to these masses’ miseries. It, of course, does! But the bigger truth is that it is the very bad political classes in these given parts of Nigeria that are the primary doers of the evil that these agitating people are suffering from; and so, their primary angers should be visited to those people. It is those their local leaders that had failed to ask for the national political restructuring that saw to the prosperity enjoyed in “the North”  (from the 1940s) followed by “the West” (from the early 1950s) and only 20 and 10 years later by “the East” (from 1960) under their various and true but only sectional “heroes past”!

These politicians failing us did what they did and/or are continuing because they were/are politically challenged, knowledge and culture wise, as well as had other challenges thereof. If any of us were there in their shoes, we might as well have done exactly what they did; or even worse! That is the truth of the matter; and no “holier than thou” attitudes or fact is involved here. For as it is said, in regard of anything truly good, “except by the grace of God, there also we will surely all be”! However, this in no way is a suggestion that we should not constructively criticize them or speak on the things that they are doing wrong! Not to do so is to become part of the evil!

So, especially for those who did not know these earlier, we all need now to start challenging all our politicians: the creation of jobs and getting the young people to go to school, as in our pre-colonial and immediate post-colonial days, is their job in each of our states and political regions. All our politicians at Abuja who only go there to seek their private/personal ends but neither truly for their constituencies or together for their states or regions, why do they do so? Why do we continue to allow them to continue like that, breeding local thugs to help them in those nefarious bids and people-marginalizations? Why do we allow governors who undermine the peopleat Abuja and deprive us the moreback at home in the states go on with it with all impunity and without recall and/or votes of no confidence and their removals, as at least one such constituency in Nigeria is doing now?

I must stop this discussion here. But surely, this is the time for all of us to rise up to change these past paradigms. After all, there are very few races in the world endowed by God as He Has done to the Nigerian people as a whole. We must put all these endowments now to their utmost use! Would ANY othersplease rise up now and let us continue with these discussions, please – nationally, in these very newspaper’s pages or others? So help us God! Amen.

  • Asuzu is Professor of Public Health and Community Medicine at the University of Ibadan

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