NIGERIA: UNORTHODOX LEADERSHIP DESIRED
President Goodluck Jonathan
Watching live telecasts of the series of debates that preceded the last general elections in the UK was as fascinating as it was thought-provoking. I could not but marvel at the dexterity of presentation, the vivacity of character, and the calmness of purpose as purveyed by the three gentlemen who represented their various political parties for the seat of the British Prime Minister.
From afar, you could feel their passion. Their love for their country was overt and unfeigned. And at no time was calumniation employed as arsenal to subvert or outwit an opponent. Issues and interests (not personal) were the focal points and the pedestal upon which constructive arguments were eloquently demystified.
That initial captivation, ultimately stimulated interest in me to, intermittently, as time and schedule would permit, follow events, analysis and even various opinion polls apropos of the elections. And each encounter got me thinking. The political mien of the system had my head spinning. Current of thoughts flew through my mind.
Looking back at the series of events before, during and even after that glorious electoral exercise in the UK, one cannot but wish a similar scenario for one's fatherland. But sadly enough, that is just about how far one can go in this part of the globe – wish. There is nothing on ground in our political consciousness, nay social existence to suggest that we are anywhere near that seemingly utopianism, or that we are propagating towards that direction. Certainly not in the next decade.
The experience of watching party leaders and aspirants visit local communities while on campaign tours, and having 'verbal missiles' hurled at them by the ordinary citizens for some perceived ills of the society was too much of an anomaly to comprehend. Certainly, this is alien in our clan. In my part of the world, gun-totting security officials would easily whisk the courageous fellow away for some 'special treat.'
Take nothing away from the general conduct and outcome of the entire exercise. An apparent display of political splendour. Or how best to describe the change of leadership not just from one individual to another, but also from a ruling party to an opposition in an atmosphere of placidity. More intriguing is the fact that in spite of this glaring electoral grandeur, there is still a resolve by the power-brokers to 'strengthen and perfect the electoral system.'
This contrasts sharply with what obtains in our nation. A nation that has continued to plummet and endure steady deceleration in virtually every aspect of modern-day positives. No thanks to the antics and skullduggery of our ruling class.
Thomas Jefferson, the great American leader once opined that 'the only orthodox object of the institution of government is to secure the greatest degree of happiness possible to the general mass of those associated under it.' Obviously, this assertion is not one to be embraced by those who govern us, as they continually subject us to de-humanising conditions while 'entertaining' us with their buffoonery. We, the governed have not made things easier for ourselves as we have remained unrepentantly docile even under extreme 'provocations.'
And the nation has continued to suffer for all these. With the result that we are hardly able to make any appreciable progress in our quest for the attainment of genuine nationhood.
Prior to the demise of the late President Musa Yar'Adua, there had been talks and debates at various fora on the political permutations surrounding Goodluck Jonathan even while he was still in acting capacity. So much emphasis was laid on the political (im) balance that would arise should Jonathan become the next president of Nigeria considering his geo-political zone and the perceived distortion in the political arrangement and calculation of the ruling party, the PDP vis-Ã -vis key government positions. And as is usually the case in this part, the interests of the governed count for nothing. They make us believe that political stability will, perhaps, guarantee economic, nay social stability. Rightly so. However, achieving a politically stable nation in the true sense of the word is proving an uphill task. Not with our enduring systemic rigmarole.
When one takes a look at other countries in the world vis-Ã -vis their various developmental processes, the Nigerian dilemma becomes even more worrisome. Like a scar that won't heal, our pains we may ever feel.
Considering that ours is a complex state – complex to govern, complex to manage, and even complex to hold together, one may begin to imagine that we begin to effect changes in our leadership and style of governance. Call it unorthodox or unconventional. No qualms. If it will bring about improved standard of living, why not. If it will provide adequate and efficient security, all fine and good. Come to think of it, what have we really benefited from the status quo ? How have we fared as a people?
Democracy has often been defined as a 'form of government where a constitution guarantees basic personal and political rights, free and fair elections, and independent courts of law.' The keyword here for me is 'GUARANTEE.' Is it just enough to have these words plastered on the pages of a document where they hold little or no practical values.
We need to start doing things differently. We need to adopt new strategies on matters of governance. We need to begin to jettison all personal and selfish interests and accolades that have brought or rather, kept us where we are today. It is only unfortunate and a pity that those who govern or rule us never get to learn or do what is right.
With 2011 around the corner, all focus and attention, as is usually the case, have gone political and electoral. Very little is heard about infrastructural development and provision of much needed amenities. Political jobbers are once more employed. Politicians are positioning and re-positioning.
But we just can't go on like this. With our peculiar system, where virtually nothing good works, we must begin to change our approach to leadership and governance. With all the bottlenecks in our style and system, a more practical approach to issues is imperative. For instance, it may not be enough, just to allocate funds for projects to be carried out, we need leaders who would personally monitor the work done.
I see nothing wrong in a Jonathan making funds available for the construction of the Benin-Ore road (or any other road), and paying an unannounced and unsolicited visit to the project site to get first-hand information, his busy schedule notwithstanding. With the spate of kidnappings in some parts of the country, a high sense of insecurity pervades the land. Why can't we constitute a 'special force' spread across the country to smoke out these 'enemies of the state.' They live amongst us. Some of us know them. They are not ghosts. They are also humans. Criminals can never be stronger than the state.
In a few months from now, Nigeria will be 50. Yet, uninterrupted power supply has remained elusive. Why can't we bring in foreign investors to invest in our energy sector? We can encourage foreign partnership under a well organized and transparent bidding process for investors to bid for power generation and distribution in each of the six geo-political areas, using the resources inherent in those areas.
With our peculiar system, our leaders (rulers) must show their unwavering support for genuine accountability and transparency in all their dealings. I see nothing wrong in abrogating the immunity syndrome from our constitution and psyche for all government officials. What better way of showing absolute sincerity and commitment to service. Why can't we question a governor, or even the president for any perceived irregularities and anomalies while still in office. Even former US President, Bill Clinton was chastised during his Lewinsky saga.
As we gear up for 2011, we the 'pawns on the chessboards' of politicians and political juggernauts must begin to seek these changes. And as we seek these changes, let's bear in mind that 'those who seek absolute power, even though they seek it to do what they regard as good, are simply demanding the right to enforce their own version of heaven on earth. And let me remind you, they are the very ones who always create the most hellish tyrannies. Absolute power does corrupt, and those who seek it must be suspect and must be opposed.'