I Am Not A 'Politician'

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By Leonard Karshima Shilgba

Politics is defined as activities associated with governance of a country or area. From etymological enquiry, the word politics derives from the Greek word 'politikos', which means 'of, for, or relating to citizens.' Thus, Wikipedia defines politics as 'an art or science of influencing other people on a civic or individual level. More narrowly, it refers to achieving and exercising positions of governance.' Politics, therefore, is about the people-exercising power or influence in such a way that there is equitable allocation and management of limited resources, opportunities, and privileges for the happiness, peace, security, good health, and general prosperity of the people.

In Nigeria, the word 'politics' has been misused and abused in a manner that this noble art and science now connotes everything that is evil with human relationships in the country. Accordingly, puritans are hateful of being referred to as 'politicians'. They would say, 'I am not a politician.' Therefore, a 'politician', in Nigerian lexicon, is perceived as someone who is dishonest, corrupt, and of very low moral rating. A study of the holy bible informs any keen student that God takes leadership or governance of nations very seriously. And if politics is about governance of a country or area, then the quality of people involved in it should be highly essential. God calls leaders his avengers, sword-bearers, and ministers. It is only reasonable that leaders must be on the side of nobility, ethics, empathy, and sympathy. Politics is a noble and high calling. God needs noble and highly disciplined people to get involved with politics for survival of society-its morals, values, and endowments.

Nigerians of very high moral discipline have been deceived and scared away from the art and science of politics by those who have come to give it a false meaning. As they watch with horror from a distance, society is being destroyed with insidious consequences that shall eventually consume even those puritans and their offspring. Some pastors and preachers even preach that politics is evil. Those need to study their holy books more closely and repent of this falsehood. Some of us scholars are either cowardly or selfish in our display of pathological hatred of and disgust for politics. We are either afraid for our lives at the hands of hijackers and abusers of the art, who falsely call themselves 'Politicians', or we are too selfish, thinking only of 'building our careers' and 'securing the future of our children' to be 'distracted' by 'politics'. So, some of us remain in our universities until we grey away. And when we are old and very senile, we find 'politics' a convenient pastime and a waiting venture until our passing. This then is our national tragedy.

Those of us who write about our common national tragedy, who dream of providing good leadership, should search our motives, heart, values, abilities and calling, and come out of hiding and cowardice. I am also speaking to myself. We have yielded the ground for too long to pretenders and thugs. Yes, a few true politicians have slipped through the narrow cracks into public governance; yet, they are too few to make the kind of difference our people need. Nigerian scholars should be touched by gruesome available data on Nigeria. In less than 5 years Nigeria's population shall exceed 200 million, at the growth rate of 3 per cent. And if this growth is sustained or exceeded, the population shall exceed 300 million in less than 30 years and exceed 500 million before 2050, when many of you readers shall be alive and active. Where is the requisite carrying capacity in our public schools, recruiting industries and companies, health institutions, public transport infrastructure and the supporting energy sector, public housing, and the food industry? Don't we need true politicians in the state and national assemblies, who are moved by statistics? This is not the time for fruitless prayers without plans and relevant actions. God has given Nigerians a country to manage; some even doubt if we must remain together as one country. But this is beside the point. I am talking of active involvement in managing our societies no matter how small. We must be involved in the governance of our wards, local governments, states, and the nation.

Now is the time to start. Determine in advance which public offices possess the kind of influence you may require to provide good governance for your people, and research the requirements and responsibilities of such offices. Choose a political party, not because it is populated by angels, but because you need one, and, in your genuine estimation, it is the best vehicle within your area to accomplish your goal. Do not allow the thought, 'Let other people get involved and improve the welfare of my people.' Think as if there is no one else. If you are a man or woman of valour, why should your people suffer? Always link your present prosperity to the prospective prosperity of your people. Then, find a model politician (in Nigeria or abroad; living or dead) whom you admire, and begin to study their forays into the noble art of politics-the challenges they faced, the errors they made, how they were helped and why, the methods they applied to win over enemies and retain friends, how they communicated vision, and most importantly, how they used power.

In conclusion, permit me to say this. We have fake pastors and prophets, but this does not make Christianity a 'dirty game.' We have fake Muslims who perpetrate crimes in the name of Islam, but this does not in itself make Islam a 'Dirty game.' Some teachers have raped their students and done so many immoral things at their schools; but this does not make teaching a 'Dirty game.' Why should we, with our intellectual power of reason, buy into this false propaganda against politics to such an extent that we have allowed the science and art to be corruptly misrepresented by those who don't know its meaning, who have turned it into lasciviousness to satisfy their lusts?  It is like a man who stumbles on a foreign currency note on the road. His co-wayfarer tells him that there is no use for the currency in their country. Seeing the fruitlessness of taking home the money, he leaves it on the road side only for his co-wayfarer to return after and take the note home. By the time this man discovers he has been deceived, the note has been changed and spent. It is time to re-educate ourselves about politics and to re-introduce it to the electorate the way it really is.

Leonard Shilgba is the founder and Overseer of the Bible Clinic Ministry and Associate Professor of Mathematics with the American University of Nigeria.

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