The resentment of the Nigerian political class is easily provoked whenever comparisons are drawn between the standards of political behaviours prevalent here and the integrity quotient that charaterise actions of state actors in other developed climes. Anyone who attempts such comparisons is denounced as a nihilist and immediately admonished to face reality by appreciating that the socio-economic and cultural conditions obtainable in Nigeria are radically different from what obtains in those other places. Needless to say that what follows is the usual but boring refrain that “democracy as a political culture has been in operation and nutured for over two hundred years in those jurisdictions sought to be compared with ours.”
Such pedestrian rebuttal of factual claims further underscores the need to thoroughly interrogate these divergent standards. Curiously however, none of the foregoing vituperations has effectively dislodged the desire and inner quest for appropriate national code of behaviour expected from the average Nigerian politician. Indeed, it is the adherence to such irreduceable minimum standards that can secure the kind of future that we all desire, regardless of the pretentions of present political actors whose actions continue to undermine the foundation of such standards.
We have been inundated by the spate of defections from one political party to another depending on where the pendulum of power swings. It happens in our clime and in circumstances that erode all constitutional justifications for such carpet crossing as well as the moral limits for such actions. Yet, the corresponding culture of voluntary resignation by state actors who imputed with poor performances or incompetence has been in very short supply or completely absent in our society.
Few days ago, precisely on September 12, 2016, David Cameron, former Prime Minister of Great Britain, resigned as a member of the British parliament, formally terminating his representation for Witney, Oxfordshire. The official reason given was that his continued stay as a backbencher after his tenure as Prime Minister of Great Britain from 2010 to 2016 would constitute a serious distraction for Theresa May, the new Prime Minister. He, however, pledged his unalloyed support for the new prime minster and her cabinet. This is an elevated test of integrity and honour in a public space, a moral high ground and sound judgment of a conscientious public servant, driven by the patriotic desire to secure the future of his country above selfish ends.
To be sure, David Cameron may have made avoidable mistakes in the trajectory of his political careers all combined to torpedo his politics largely described in Britain as a fiasco for two unfortunate reasons: First and unlike his predecessors, Gordon Brown and John Major who left office after losing elections they could not avoid, Margaret Thatcher and Tony Blair were forced out of office after staying too long, but it was David Cameron himself who called for a referendum on Britain’s continued stay in the European Union at a time when he lacked both popular appeal and party support, plus cohesion to successfully push through his agenda.
One July 6, 2016, less than a forthnight after that resounding BREXIT defeat on July 6, 2016, Cameron allowed the Sir John Chilcot Panel of Inquiry on Iraq to release their 2.6million- word-report which established that about 179 Britons were avoidably killed in that misadventure in which Tony Blair (even though of a different political party) was directly indicted for the very scant consultations he had with parliament before deploying British soldiers to that war; acted on faulty intelligence and did virtually nothing in terms of post war plans and preparations after Saddam Hussan. It was an inquiry that was instituted seven years earlier costing British tax payers about £10m to produce. Certainly, the timing of the release of that report coinciding with the damning verdict of Brexit combined to force a terrible dwindle of Cameron’s political fortunes and reversed most of his accomplishments. Regrettable as it is, no one, who chooses to be charitable to him, can easily discountenance the hugh moral integrity and honour with which he haddled his last two public actions.
First, the verdict of “BREXIT Referendum” was given on June 24, 2016, and the next morning, as I personally predicted, Mr. Cameron indicated that he would resign his position as the Prime Minister of Britain sometime in November on the ground that he had lost the moral platform to continue to lead Great Britain in that capacity. The point being that he could no longer exact his leadership authority over a people who rejected his view about the future of Britain in the European Union. To further validate that conviction, he threw in the towel much earlier than he had announced before the general election, to pave the way for a new leadership that could pilot the affairs of Britain out of the EU. The second surprise, also in pursuit of honour was on September 12, 2016 when he decided to quit his position as a Member of Parliament (MP) for the morally valid reason that his continued stay as a back bender in the British Parliament will constitute a serious distraction to the new leadership after his tenure as a Prime Minister.
For the purpose of this piece, our attention is also drawn to our own David-“Mark”generally representing the Nigerian political elite. His political journey started about 17 years ago following the return of civil rule in Nigeria. Prior to 1999, Mr. David Mark had a remarkable military career that spanned over three decades terminating in the mid 90s when he retired from the Nigerian military as a Brigadier General. From January 1984-January 1986, he was the former Military Governor of Niger State. In 1987 our own David was the Minister of Communications under the dictatorial regime of General Babangida and ended up with the infamous statement that telephone lines are not meant for the poor. For four years between May 1999 and May 2003, he was a Senator representing Benue South Senatorial Zone and for another eight years between June 6, 2007 and June 2015, he presided over the Nigerian Red Chambers as the Senate President and Chairman of the National Assembly. The enviable credentials of a military background and qualifications are added advantages in the rating of any person who transmuted from soldiering to public services including politics. That is, however, in societies where the contribution of the military is sterling and not otherwise like in Nigeria where their violent incursion into the body polity has been identified as the provenance of our national woe.
As a fact, Mr. Mark, like his colleagues, was an entrenched member of the Nigeria military class that stoutly and violently opposed the principles and practices of democracy in our country, hence I was never deluded when he touted democracy and its values from the hallowed chambers of the parliament.
Needless to say that the 68-year-old Idoma-born politician is generally described within the circle of his military peers (militricians) and collaborators as “a master of the game on the political chessboard.” Leveraging on his military background and now his long stay in the parliament, they insist that David Mark (GCON) has aptly mastered the art of blending military strategy with political detfness. Recall that since the return of civil rule in 1999, no single Senate President successfully side stepped the proverbal “banana peel”, which consumed all his predecessors including Senators Evan(s) Enwerem, Chuba Okadigbo Adolphus Wabara, except Pius Anyim. It was only in 2015 that his “assured stay” in the Senate was jolted by the close political pursuit he received from his opponent Daniel Onojah, which saw him out of the red chamber for only three months.
But the old man will not step aside like his namesake David Cameron. On the contrary, he is doing everything politically possible to retain his senatorial seat after the re-run elections. Even at 49, David Cameron realized that the only way to retain his integrity is to toe the line of honour by stepping aside, both as Prime Minister and a member of the British parliament. Our own David at 68 is vehemently opposed to those ideas as he gladly relinquishes his Olympian presidential seat and sat into oblivion, where he makes no comment or contribution. In fact, he had to walk away from the Senate when the controversies surrounding Saraki’s emergence ensued. Today, the only campaign known to me for which David Mark is active is how and why PDP must reclaim political power in 2019.
•Ugwummadu is the president of Committee for the Defence of Human Rights (CDHR)