NIGERIAN POLITICIANS AND LACK OF ENDURING SPIRIT
“It is impossible to rightly govern a nation without God and Bible” George Washington
I was just seating in the comfort of my car and listening to the sonorous voice of one of the great musicians from Ukwani, my part of Delta State, – late Smart Williams. Suddenly, the lyrics struck me like thunder bolt! By the way, Smart Williams had such a great voice and huge success that, were he to be living today, he would have chunked out so many danceable tracks which would have made a mincemeat of his mentor - Oliver de Coque's music. But death took him home in his prime in an auto crash.
The track which ministered to my consciousness that moment was titled “Ndidi Amaka” interpreted in English language; it means “Endurance is good.” Suddenly I transmuted to my environment and I remembered that I was in a car! Then it occurred to me that we are now in a nation with leaders and perhaps followers who lack enduring spirit – we want tomorrow like yesterday! But we do not want to do all it takes to arrive even midway. Our maximum efforts end in blaming one another.
The founding fathers of Nigeria, most of who have gone to the great beyond, were men and women whose names could have all been easily changed to endurance. Nigeria is one of the few countries of the world which attained independence through dialogue, not war. With the country being the bread and butter of Britain in terms of needs in agricultural, mining and later oil and other raw materials, we still had freedom without guns! South Africa and many other countries of the world never had that luxury. Ask Eritrea, South Sudan and many more. Nelson Mandela was not jail because he was not involved in Gum running, nor did late Mariam Makeba and a lot of South Africans seek political asylum in other lands because of some crime against the state. No, they all paid the price only for being different, for voicing their views and opinions against the state.
The journey to Nigeria's independence, which started with the motion moved by the late Chief Anthony Enahoro, was with an empty hand and simple logic. There is no record to prove that he received slap, threats, or was he undermined in the house of parliament. That was how we started the process of nation building. Nigeria metamorphosed into a country known world-wide for the production of enviable agricultural produce like Cocoa, Groundnut, Cotton, Bennie seed, Palm Oil and fruits, Rubber etc. then God in His infinite mercy gave us Crude Oil first from Oloibiri in the present Ogbia Local Government of Bayelsa State!!! Thank the same God, which the Ijaws then, were in extreme riverine areas of the creeks without roads or good and navigable water ways. Or else, we would have negotiated Nigeria again long before now! (I stand to be corrected). The war in Iran, Iraq, Libya and elsewhere today, would have been a child's play. But peace and decorum reigned because the leadership and followership were patiently waiting for better days.
A peep into the leadership and political structures which have existed, and were inherited in our body polity require us to ask if as a people, we are making any positive impact at all. This is necessary because in the land today are all manner of persons arrogating leadership positions to themselves, even when most of them cannot control their children.
Late Dr. Nnamdi Azikiwe the Zik of Africa, the very known and ever smiling inventor of grammar even before the Britons who taught us the language, piled his political trade with ethics, focus and decorum. He marched is politics intelligence for intelligence, joke for joke, strategy for strategy, even in defeat, in all humility he embraced his opponents. He first piled his political exploit in the West, and even at being humbled just when he needed his followers most, he never turned to foul languages against those who betrayed him when they cross carpeted to the opposition Action Group for ethnic reasons. Who ever thought that Zik did not feel the pain of disgrace, shame of isolation and the associate loss of personal finance, should ask our today political jobbers. That is why wining in politics has become a “do or die” affair.
While we were getting into politics in 1979, fourteen years after military rule, politician re-grouped to form what was then called National Party of Nigeria (NPN), Unity Party of Nigeria (UPN), Nigerian Peoples Party (NPP) Peoples redemption Party (PRP) Great Nigerian Peoples Party (GNPP) of course we had a few others. When the elections were conducted, UPN won mostly in the south west and was the main opposition. NPN won with wider margin and spread around the country, but even when the election result was declared by a legal luminary Chief Richard Akinjide (SAN) with 12 2/3 majority in favour of NPN, it could not form a government. An urgent marriage had to be consummated between NPN and NPP to have majority voice in the National Assembly. Tensed as the nation was then, none of the political groups were involved in vain insults or foul languages against each other. Not even when the wedding was aborted midway and caused Dr. Paul Onongo - a compromise candidate, to resign his appointment as the Minister for Steel! Chief Edwin Umezoke was the Speaker in the lower house while Dr. Joseph Wayas was the Senate president and late Alhaji Olusola Saraki was the majority leader. None of these officers of the national assembly were ever seen or heard to have had personal antagonisms. Between 1960 -1966, 1966-1979, 1979-1983, all issues which caused the various changes in government were external influence otherwise internal mechanisms were fixing things slowly but definitely.(I stand to be corrected)
The Bible I read says that we should all pray for our leaders and those in authority. Who are those in authority today in Nigeria? - the President, Governors and Local Government Chairmen on the one hand, and the legislators. On the other, within the opposition are also leaders! So when we pray for the president of the Federal Republic of Nigeria and other leaders are we being partisan? No! We are being obedient to God. If we do not pray, but insult the president and all others in authority what are we doing? We are acting in disobedience and God says that he gave the sword to the king to use any which way he desires. Should the king wield the sword against us can we complain? Yes, but he is accountable to only God who gave him the authority in the first place.
Today, we have all manners of people parading themselves as leaders even when they cannot come clean before ordinary men in the street or their families. There is hardly anyone in the opposition camp who has not insulted the person and office of the president of Nigeria with impunity. Who is in the opposition camp that can allow even constructive critics of their works? Are we not living witnesses to all the deeds of most of these people while in and out of office? It is not surprising that the civil right groups have gone to sleep now because most of the members have collapsed into political groupings. Why did most of them fail to join Late Gani Fawehinmi's National Conscience Party? This exposed most of the Human Right fighter of old to have had some agendas while they were still relevant. Only a few still rare their heads and stands respected today.
No political party or group has ever taken Nigeria to near Promised Land since 1960. The last we got of a good government was in the first republic and an attempt by late General Muritala Muhammed. Then, as now, tribe and tongue differed, but in brotherhood we stood together. Can that be said of us today? The current administration may not have satisfied our voracious appetite for good government yet, but it remains in the books that no one has been arrested for running their mouth foul. No one has been killed for holding opposing views; no one has been suspended for challenging the leadership. While we yearn for more attention in all front, cries for good roads, health care delivery, improved electricity, Tractor hiring services and agricultural supplies are all dying down due only to improved manner of service delivery. One do not need to be a politician to appreciate all these. It is only in Dr. Goodluck Jonathan's government that governor and people in opposition would insult the president's office and person with impunity and still have the president go ahead to develop their communities. Did Senator Bola Tinubu have to go up to this far before former president Obasanjo clamped down on his state's financial allocation and the wretch of former President in many other ways? Why are we so forgetful? Why are our brains so shallow? Rivers State was home to Obasanjo during the tenure of former Governor Dr. Peter Odili. It is on record that the then president visited Rivers state more than even his own home state Ogun, while in office. But what became of his regular visit after he turned down now Gov. Rotimi Amechi as governorship candidate for the PDP because he has K-leg? (as l write, the same Chief Obasanjo has eaten his words and has just concluded his maiden visit to Rivers state under the same Gov. Chibike Amechi , all because there is a coalition to unseat President Goodluck).
The council of state, a body of all past Presidents and Heads of state of Nigeria has lost its fervour and have remained in the cooler because most of those who ought to be there as statesmen are partisan, biased and so do not qualify for the lofty description or prefix as Elder Statesmen! Those coming after them are also taking their footsteps hence an Alhaji Aminu Tambuwal, who before his election to the lofty office of the Speaker of the House of Representatives would absent himself in state affairs and can proudly tell the public that he had personal interest elsewhere on Nigeria's independent day celebration! Where did he derive his staff of office? I am still bothering my memory to remember when he ever showed up on any national event with the president to date, yet they belong to the same political party.
In the military era, could anyone dare to be different? Who dared Obasanjo in his days as the president and did not pay for it? Or was it IBB? Why did Rtd Commodore Ebitu Ukiwe loose his second in command statues in the military and got retired immediately? Only last few day also, Governor Rabin Kwankwaso dismissed with ignominy, the president's visit to the state as chief security officer of his state (a situation never heard of before) on the advice of his superior opposition leaders. The same president had visited Gov Fashola, Fayemi and some others in opposition earlier) Back in Rivers state, it is now the former President who is having to commission projects, not the seating president, because leaders have political differences. And these are people hoping to lead us on a higher pedestal? No, they are not my example of leadership. They have Mosquito heads and must remember that what comes around goes around! Sen. Bola Tinubu was one of the proponents of National Conference, but no sooner than it was approved by the president, the view became an aberration, untimely and irrelevant. His people invited him to have his input and he declined. Where does he think his views would be captured again after the presentation of the new constitution? He has taken the bold step of conniving with his followers to frustrate the passage of the 2014 bill. Good enough, these issues make me laugh because they soon lose their sense of history. IBB once confessed that he refused to release fund from the federation account for six month to watch if the country would collapse during his tenure. It didn't. Tinubu himself was denied Billions of Naira by Obasanjo during the later reign as president, but Lagos state government did not owe workers throughout the period. Security and Exchange Commission did not wind up because the House of Representatives denied it allocation all through last year. Nigeria will not vanish also if the budget is not approved. But it will be on record that so and so fellows made it impossible.
Can somebody answer this one question; this anger in the land by the opposition, is it against the person of Dr. Goodluck Ebele Jonathan, or the President of Nigeria or his membership of PDP or the party itself? If any of these holds sway, will the anger persist after the man's tenor be it 2015 or there after? Or are we to expect the kind of Greek friendship as is being demonstrated by OBJ, Tinubu, Buhari and the likes today?
Politics is a game of number, if you go into it and play by the rules with open mind set of if l win I win, if I lose l lose, both will embrace themselves and even offer or receive helping hand from one another. That was the message of late Alhaji Waziri Ibrahim of the rested Great Nigerian Peoples Party (GNPP) whose motto was 'Politics without bitterness'. What is our belief today? I must win at all cost or no one rules if l loose!
The law of Karma remains - if you want to live, do not kill, If you do not want enemies be friendly to everyone you meet; If you want to be a king do not dethrone any king, because dethronement waits you on your way to the top.
17th February was celebrated as the Presidents day in America. The record did not show that all past and present American Presidents were saints. No. They all left some marks in their days. Lagos state has been blest with good governors since inception. But there live one military administrator who did no project throughout his time. It is on record that emptiness was what he left behind.
Whether we like it or not, GEJ will rule us till God gives us another leader. Leave him alone to be his own man he knows what to do and will demonstrate same soon. Obasanjo recorded only failure during his first term and political watchers cannot say less. President Obama had a weak mid-term report even from his Democratic Party, but hell was not let loose. The National Assembly is crying today that there is lack of continuity in its leadership and this is hampering service delivery in the various committees. Even good heads are being recalled because there seem to be some unwritten script based on which the members were elected. One of such is the sharing formula on rotation basis in the senatorial district and constituencies.
Finally, leadership is not for the liliy livers. God told Joshua how did not expect to be a leader for the Israelites to be only strong and courageous. That advice is apt for Goodluck Ebele Jonathan in no better time than now. We need time, we need men without bias we must jointly move the nation forward not by bicaring, but through constructive criticisms. We must learn to endure as endurance alone conquers.
I am a proud Nigerian. I live in Nigeria, I will help salvage my country and the struggle continues.
Mike O. Akpati is a Public Affair Analyst based in Port Harcourt