Random Thoughts On Nigeria And Our Politicians - by Adeyemi Adetunji

It has become the norm, never to expect military intervention in Nigeria again. Thankfully, therefore, politics and politicians become serious issues for all to ponder over. What exactly does politics mean? More narrowly, it refers to achieving and exercising positions of governance — organised control over a human community, particularly a state. 

Furthermore, politics is the study or practice of the distribution of power and resources within a given community (a hierarchically organised population) as well as the interrelationship(s) between communities. (Source, Wikipedia).

The phrase, “politics is too serious to be left to politicians” comes to play, (Charles De Gaulle, Dwight Eisenhower at different times uttered these words). However, can this phrase be true in Nigeria? Can Nigeria be an exception to this oft-quoted and proven phrase?

We, citizens of this great land, cannot all be politicians. Since pre-independence days, a class of people…politicians have emerged. Unfortunately, their development, in terms of maturity, knowhow, rigour of thought, has for reasons of our collective history been truncated several times.

The longest period of civilian rule is what we are experiencing presently. 1999 to date; 15 years and counting. To several democracies, this is a child’s play, to us in Nigeria, it’s phenomenal. Thus, it is time to examine the political class and see if they are going to take us to the Promised Land. This Promised Land scenario being where Nigeria ought to be. The challenge? For as many Nigerians as there are, this concept of Promised Land is as many and varied.

Maybe, all politicians should sign up to a common idea of the Promised Land, routes to it would differ based on political persuasions, but we would all know where we are heading for.

Unfortunately, it seems this concept of the Promised Land is what is missing in our political journey. What do we, as Nigerians want? A few examples that have been a cause for discourse in the recent past would be used. Free education? Certainly not, as many Nigerians do not think this is necessary. Freedom of association? This certainly seems to be one point that we all agree with. Freedom of religion? This we do not seem to agree with, though we pay lip service to it. Evidence? Several of us, would not countenance the existence of a place of worship of another religion/faith in our communities and or towns. That we have not thought about it this way, shows our disdain for facts.

Electricity, we do not all consider this to be a required tool for existence in the 21st century. Evidence? We have put up with lack of, absence of and inability to provide electric power to all, that it would seem to be a favour when electricity is available.

Nigerians to reside anywhere they wish to within Nigeria. It would seem that this concept is alien to us. Evidence? The news is replete with stories of certain citizens, maybe based on religion or origins (within Nigeria, unfortunately) being asked to leave where they are domicilled for “home” wherever that is!

Health, we do not all believe access to health is a necessity for all Nigerians. Evidence? Lack of health care facilities in every nook and cranny of this land. Access to nutritious food year round, we pay lip service to this, or else, why do we perennially have absence of staple food at certain times during the year? This shows up in our lack of food security, a prime concern to this writer.

Respect for the Nigerian citizen? This, is the most important and on which the challenges of lack of development to date hinge. Evidence? A concept rightly or wrongly of a master servant relationship between office holders and the governed.

Indeed, in the view of this writer, the major challenge of Nigeria and democracy is the view of the office holders being BOSSES, and the ruled being EMPLOYEES! I refrain from using MASTER and SERVANT because of a few office holders who are truly humble, but, by and large most, office holders regard themselves as RULERS.

Is it the existence of royalty in Nigeria that has given rise to this? Or, the long incursion of the military in our leadership positions?

An Indian friend tells this writer, that right after independence in 1947 in India, it was decided to do away with the Raj system. Raj system is equivalent to our royalty – Obas, Obis, Amanyenabos and Emirs. All positions of rulership in India have since been by election, not birthright. Should the office holder who is not by birthright, royalty, emulate royalty?

Will we ever see in Nigeria a phenomenon like in the USA, where the President addresses citizens as Sir/Ma? Will we ever see in Nigeria where law enforcement agents address citizens as Sir/Ma?

Respect is one item we do not earn as Nigerians from our government officials. Instead, it is an attitude of lords and serfs that we have as the governed from the office holders. Is it then time for an attitudinal change? Might this affect all forms of governance in Nigeria? Would it usher in peace and plenty or chaos and want?

Do we have the courage to try? What would be the benefit to us as a people for this paradigm shift? It is this writer’s contention that the reason for our lack of development, when considered against where Nigeria ought to be, given our God given resources- human and non human, is the lack of respect for the Nigerian citizen by political office holders and seekers. It is when we the people insist that both office holders and seekers realise they are not, and can never be royalty that the required paradigm shift to make respect for the citizens front and centre of all office holders/seekers thoughts and actions that positive change will happen.

Disdain for the citizen results in the lack of provision of amenities- social, education, health and other life enhancing ones. This also permits (in the 21st century ) use of anomalies of tribe, state of origin etc. to obstruct collective efforts in improving the lot of the Nigerian citizen. Or, how do we position the origin and not the capability of an office holder/seeker as the prime determinant of if s/he can even offer to serve?

Once respect for the citizen is enshrined in both our conscious and unconscious thoughts and actions, a wholesome approach to making Nigeria a better place to live in becomes the norm. Can we trust our political class to appreciate this? Is indeed politics too serious a business to leave to politicians?

The answer from this writer’s perspective is no, if in this day and age, after 100 years of the formation of Nigeria, we are still saddled with “teething problems of nationhood”. If we are still grappling with mundane issues of religious plurality, tribal persuasions, settler/indigene issues, entry into institutions of learning on basis of origin and not merit, still looking at options of making life more abundant for the citizens from the perspective of poverty alleviation, and not wealth creation. If the foreigner in Nigeria still has ‘more rights than the citizen.’

Adeyemi Adetunji is a Lagos based management consultant