In an intervention entitled Nigerian Democracy and the Fading Light of Integrity, published in some platforms, a friend amidst euphoria triggered by the declaration of the 2015 presidential election result sent a caution. He said in few words: ‘’Men will change their ruler expecting to fare better; this expectation induces them to take up arm against him, but they only deceive themselves, and they learn from experience that they have made matters worse.”
I reminded him that the result ushered in a season of integrity. He again replied thus: No single attribute could be identified as a virtue. “Remember,” he added, “Politics has its own rules.” Three years after, present instinct in the country explains two things: First, apart from the shout of integrity which hitherto rends the nation’s political space has faded, jeer has since overtaken cheers of political performance while fear has displaced reason, resulting in an entirely separate set of consequences, irrational hatred and division.
It will not be an overstatement to assert that the propeller of today’s intervention is a crisis. As many that bought into the “change” and “Next Level” mantras sold to them by current administration in 2015 and 2019 are presently at a crossroad. To add context to the discourse, it is expedient at this point to say something about the use of power which is the common denominator and plot of this present piece.
Power properly understood is nothing but the ability to achieve purpose. It is the strength required to bring about social, economic, political, cultural and religious changes. What is needed is a realisation that power without love is reckless and abusive, and love without power is sentimental and anemic. Power at its best is love implementing the demand of justice, and justice at its best is power correcting everything that stands against love.
From these words of Martin Luther King Jnr, it may not be wrong to conclude that there is nothing wrong with power when used constructively. For a man to function well in any given position of authority, he must identify that power is not a complete end. It cannot itself be the ultimate goal. Power is valuable according to the use to which it is put. And most importantly, power in the estimation of the Marxists is but the ability to protect one’s interest.
Let’s focus on specific examples. Chief among such examples of destructive exercise of power includes Pol Pot. It was in the news that while in power in Cambodia between 1975 and 1978, he used his position to cause the death of more than two million persons in Cambodia, a small country in Southeast Asia bordered by Vietnam and Thailand.
The story is not different here in Africa. The late Robert Mugabe in his quest to hold on to power, massacred over 20,000 of his people, destroyed Zimbabwe’s economy and watched with disinterest while his wife looted millions of Dollars. Fresh in our memory are Liberian episode in early 1990s, Gnassingbe Eyadema of Togo and Mobutu Sese Seko of Zaire. In Africa, there are more accounts of gradual and silent encroachment/abuses of power by those in positions of authority, than by violent and sudden usurpations.
Thought of constructive use of power brings to mind people like Lee Kuan Yew, then Prime Minister of Singapore. It is recorded that Lee grew fifteen times, independent Singapore with a GDP of $3billion in 1965 to $46billion in 1997, and its economy became the 8th highest per capital GNP in the world in 1997.
Back home is another similar account. Shortly after independence, Chief Obafemi Awolowo, and then Premier of the Western Region, Nigeria constructively used his position to improve the life chances of his people infrastructuraly, socioeconomically. And through quality and affordable education, Awolowo set the region on a hyper-modern pathway. Closely, the Northern Region under the Premiership of late Ahmadu Bello and Chief Michael Okpara of the Eastern Region were appreciably not left out in this race for infrastructural and socioeconomic development of their regions. Among other infrastructural feats achieved within this space, Awolowo to his credit built Ikeja Industrial Estate, and the duo of Ahmadu Bello and Michael Okpara, have Kano and Aba industrial estates respectively to their credit.
This feat or a combination of other people-purposed achievements explains why over four decades after their reign, they are daily remembered and used virtually in both public and private primary schools as examples of great leaders. Indeed, they defined power in the image of their actions
Such narrative has changed to the extent that in a period when policy makers across the globe are actively integrating frameworks that protect the rights and opportunities of their citizens. Such period has turned out to be the ripe time for the Federal Government to be reputed for generating inconsiderate policies/decisions that promote excruciating poverty and starvation in such a way that drives more people into the ranks of beggars. These desperate beggars struggle for bread that renders them insensible to all feelings of decency and self-respect.
From an increase of Value Added Tax (VAT) of 5 to 7.5 per cent to re-introduction of Stamp Duty Charge, all in the bid to boost internally generated revenue amidst dwindling foreign earning from crude oil, this year has also witnessed introduction of Stamp Duty on house rents and C of O transactions. As if these are not enough wars against the masses, before the dust raised by these obnoxious directives could settle, the Federal Government against all known logic and within a space of two weeks brought a hike in the price of petrol and electricity.
These flawed decisions and errors of judgement authenticate the position canvassed by Finkelstein, a Steven Roth Professor of Management at the Tuck School of Business, United States ff America, that leaders make bad decision because of inappropriate self-interest, distorting attachments and the presence of misleading memories.
If not presence of misleading memories, why has All Progressive Congress (APC) led Federal Government suddenly failed to remember that it was similar decision they condemned in 2011 during the Goodluck Jonathan administration? If not distorting attachments, why increment in the pump price and electricity tariff at a time when crude oil prices are nosediving at the global market and electricity tariff in a season when majority of Nigerians are without meter?
A time the global community is concerned that COVID-19 has caused massive shocks to informal and formal economies and unearthed massive inequalities within our societies and in Africa; a time the World Bank estimates that the Sub-Saharan African region will see significant economic decline, and plunge to as low as -5.1% this year; can such decision be adjudged right in a society that youth unemployment rate is currently at 34.2%; at a time when manufacturing companies are leaving the country in droves as a result of high cost of doing business?
In this period of vulnerability, Nigerians should take hope in the fact that a crossroad is a place of difficult decisions. Most importantly, as they wait at the crossroad of nationhood, they must again draw strength that from “the politics of remembrance and forgetfulness, it is sometimes convenient to forget. At other times, it is uncomfortable to remember. To forget is perhaps one of the greatest gifts of nature. But to remember can also be an invaluable asset sometimes.”
It is my hope that come 2023, Nigerians will not forget the present crossroad. But even if as humans they forget, history will be there to remind them.
“…while President Buhari is uniting the nation, Obasanjo had descended from the lofty height of Commander-in-Chief to the lowly level of Divider-in-Chief.”
-Senior Special Assistant to President Muhammadu Buhari on Media and Publicity, Mallam Garba Shehu said why lampooning former President Olusegun Obasanjo who recently said Buhari presides over a country that is failing.
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