(By Simon Abah)
“Every nation that plans to succeed must educate the mass of its people continually on nationhood. Nigerians should be socially aware and ask questions. The exercise of questions-and-answers brings administration and governance closer to people.“
IF elections are won on calculations then it would have been difficult for Bill Clinton (governor of a poor state and a draft dodger) to upstage George Bush, a World War 11 veteran and an incumbent President in the presidential elections of November 3, 1992 in the United States of America.
Free and fair elections are won or lost based on demonstrated leadership by incumbent officials or the lack of it. Sincere democracy as a system of government promotes fairness, equity and justice. It empowers man economically, socially and makes it possible for children from disadvantaged backgrounds to succeed.
The major impediment to the growth of Nigeria is the lack of a stable, organised political order. A political order based on fairness, equity and justice. This lack of order has promoted rivalry among tribes leaving a lot of people overwhelmed in most states of the country.
The lack of this order is the reason political elite love to assail compatriots with the same rhetoric designed at seeking votes and, after attainment, abandon their countrymen to the gallows tree. It is also the reason that there has not been an all-inclusiveness of people in our democratic experience.
For illustration, almost all indigenous Christian minorities’ in the North East and North West are politically disenfranchised and discriminated against in the political and economic corridors with no plans by the mainstream political behemoths in-and-out-of office to correct this prejudice.
If ethnic people can be treated inhospitably, one wonders what hope there is for the ‘settler’ in these states. Can we ever, as a people, right this worsening wrong?
By comparison, Presidents Harry Truman ended segregation in the military in 1948 and John Kennedy/ Lyndon Johnson asked for the Civil Rights Act bill and signed the Civil Rights Act law, outlawing discrimination against blacks in the use of public conveniences and the right for blacks to vote and be voted for.
But for the efforts of these visionary leaders, the United States of America may not have had General Colin Powell rise up to the position of National security adviser and later chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, and, indeed, Secretary of State, or Barrack Obama as President of the United States (Both of whom are from the minority black race of that country).
The governmental class must begin to fight bigotry vigorously. Bigotry has destroyed so many countries in the world because they failed to realise that what holds a country together as a nation are more than what separates it.
Demagoguery in politics is today worse than at the time of liberation from Britain. Ironically, while the British are rather more civilised now even though they had a long and bloody history of genocide, cruelty and barbarity, Nigerians still work with stereotypes in the polity.
Colonists, especially the British, had a policy of divide and rule. Some of these divisions included economical/religious/
political/social. Colonialists usually divided the population into two sides: North/South, East/West, Catholic/Protestant, and Christian/Muslim.
Failed states always follow this fractious path. This is why countries such as Bosnia, Burundi, Rwanda, Liberia, Somalia, Sierra Leone, Sudan, etc., are reference points in history for transgressions to fellow citizens of mind-boggling proportions caused by the unabashed and vile conduct by visionless leaders.
Consequently, we need to see real statesmen who care deeply for country and citizens. Statesmen such as Nelson Mandela and President Lyndon Johnson both of whom were not despoiled by the frills of power; vacated the offices of the presidency even when they were still constitutionally empowered to run for another term.
We need influential people who believe in the impact of ‘people power’ in a democracy and fight against injustice and discrimination of the minority.
Every nation that plans to succeed must educate the mass of its people continually on nationhood. Nigerians should be socially aware and ask questions. The exercise of questions-and-answers brings administration and governance closer to people.
It is, therefore, imperative that we start proselytizing on the importance of a strong leadership. A leadership that can be provided by strong-willed people whether they are atheists, agnostics, prognostics, Christians, Moslems or traditionalists.
Espousing religious views and claiming belief of a faith is not conducive to good governance. If this were true, all inventions in history would have been credited to religious people. Cases abound in this country of religious men who have committed blatant larceny of the country’s resources and monstrous deeds against citizens.
As we march forward to the greatness highway, we must realise that teaching is best done by living an exemplary live. A life lived this way is appreciated and talked about for generations.
It is not by accident therefore that our founding fathers are still being talked about because of the spartan lives they led in spite of the huge amount of state funds they had at their disposal. In contrast, some people today with the same opportunities are depriving the next generation from reaching the top by gleefully looting the funds meant for that generation.
If Nigeria hopes to attain greatness among the community of nations, then the establishment must:
• Celebrate leaders who are acquainted with the history of this country; enough to know how we got to where we are, the challenges to be faced and likely solutions.
• People whose stock in trade is not to bow down to the forces of partisan-group thinking and fan the embers of division without reference to the solutions to Nigeria’s problems.
• Statesmen bold enough to correct the census fraud in all regions of the country. One major point to mention is the ‘Almajiri’ who daily wander in the North. The government must invent a way to capture their nomadic numbers accurately in a census if they hope to plan for their welfare and reduce poverty. A proper census must be promoted and conducted, possibly with the help of international observers.
• Leaders who appreciate what politics is all about: solving problems. This understanding will propel such leaders to bring our public schools up-to-standard to serve children from poor and middle class backgrounds that are reputed through history with renowned inventions and development of countries’ economies.
The major reason that most people seek elective office without any agenda is that they know agenda or not, money from oil will continue to line their pockets. Formulating policies for the development of states and the nation becomes a tortuous mental strain.
We are earnestly waiting for that day when Nigerians can confidently say they can do business with the political class the way Margaret Thatcher once said she could do business with Mikhail Gorbachev because of his openness on Glasnost and Perestroika.
Nigeria needs leaders who will be inspired to believe something has to change, motivated to positively influence the lives of people; stirred by anger and frustration at how corruption is ruining the country; moved by hopelessness when they look at the future and the future of yet-unborn children.
• Abah is an executive team leader, Rinasham Multi-Services Ltd, Port Harcourt.
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