In Nigeria, politics is one big industry that employs all sorts. In a way, this uncommon industry is engaging people and providing employment opportunities. But unlike a real industry that produces goods and services for progress and the common good, products from this industry called politics are sometimes harmful. To live its highest purpose, many people are of the view that politics must change its production line to avoid continuous mass production of violence, corruption, bad government, misery, insecurity, incompetence, arrogance, ignorance and hopelessness.
But politics in Nigeria is also rewarding in a curious way. It comes with security, peace of mind, excitement, influence, relevance and limitless opportunities for the politician. A political career in Nigeria guarantees a good life, not just for the player but also for his family and friends. However, the strangest part is that a politician in Nigeria could actually escape justice, once he is in the right party.
During the last presidential campaign, the National Chairman of the All Progressives Congress, APC, Adams Oshiomhole shocked the nation when he publicly declared that the sins of any member of the opposition party who joined his party would be forgiven.
These are the ways of politics in Nigeria. Sometimes, the closer you look, the less you see.
I know many big players in politics today in Nigeria who do not have any work experience anywhere. They left school and joined politics as apprentices and political godsons to bigwigs. Currently, some of them are already god fathers and holders of very important positions in different spheres of life in our country. Yet, some of us sit comfortably in our different corners of the country, praying daily and expecting miracles from persons without proof of ability or experience.
For those who may not know, politics is also war in Nigeria. Every election in this part of the world records extreme violence and avoidable deaths, and everyone is a victim.
The coming governorship elections in both Kogi and Bayelsa States are pure battle and nobody is pretending about it. In fact, the fight has started and there is every likelihood that the battle will escalate in the coming days. Many who do not want to be caught in the crossfire are already fleeing the two states until normalcy returns. This is what this generation of devious politicians and those before them, bequeathed to a country that once had promise.
But there are also great politicians in Nigeria. In the past, I interacted and worked with a few of them with sterling qualities like the late Professor Dora Akunyili who was genuinely concerned about a new Nigeria. She raised the bar as a public officer, first at the National Agency for Food and Drug Administration and Control, NAFDAC and later, as Minister of Information and Culture where she did a lot to re-brand a battered country through attitudinal change.
Even with the poor shape of things at the moment: horrible roads everywhere, power cut, unemployment, institutional decay, official vendetta and more, there are still exemplary politicians who are ready to make a difference but are constrained by their realities and operational environment.
So, good politicians have an urgent task. They must banish the bad ones who give them a bad name with their unguided comments, obscene displays of wealth and irresponsible conduct. As citizens, we must be careful not to tar with the same brush, decent politicians with others like the ones already working ahead of 2023 when they are yet to account for our support and votes.
It will be unfair to blame the ruling APC for all our woes as a country because this problem of structure didn’t just start, it has always been there. Somebody once alluded to the fact that we are people with a long history of moral failings, repugnant views and low standards. I couldn’t agree more. Our choices and decisions are a reflection of how rash we can be sometimes, especially with regard to those we entrust with the power to govern and oversee our affairs.
For me, the lowest part is that Nigeria’s politicians are not good students of history. I am not sure some of them find time to read about nations and why nothing stays the same. As a very privileged class with common interest, I had thought politicians would be concerned about enduring things like justice, development, liberty, youth empowerment, unity and other things that are likely to enliven and inspire the citizenry. But nobody seems to care, and this is troubling.
Ironically, our country has produced more billionaires among politicians and other public office holders in this era than at any other time in our checkered history; this again, is another point of interest. But we have also suffered huge critical infrastructural decay and development crises despite the enormous resources of this period under review.
To blame politicians alone is to put a lie on the lips of a docile citizenry, a passive generation that is not only complicit but also a great worry. As citizens, are we seriously concerned about the quality of our leaders? What are we doing to elect well-bred and resourceful people who are ready to serve? How about the issue of ethnic politics and the enthronement of merit in critical areas of our national life? And we all hope for a better Nigeria where the poor and the defenseless can live a normal life?
The problem is us. The raw anger on the streets and other places arising from bad leadership and dashed hopes is a negative emotional energy that won’t do anyone any good. As conscious and responsible citizens, the onus is now on us as a people to channel these energies towards productive things by taking steps that are positive and beneficial. This means that we must continually speak and draw attention to all the deficits that now stare us in the face. These are part of the responsibilities of every good citizen. On their part, politicians must listen and gauge the mood of the country for the good of everyone. They must also provide opportunities and inspire hope to mitigate the suffering of honest and hardworking Nigerians. That is the only way to build a country.