Over the years, nothing worked in the country because the economy was destroyed, the treasury was pillaged, cultural values were degraded…
Nigeria was 58 years old yesterday. It was an important milestone to be celebrated. The mood in Aso Rock was expectedly electric but I couldn’t locate any significant rationale why the country should celebrate. I am not convinced there are well-founded reasons why the federal and state governments should pop bottles of champagne to commemorate the country’s new age in a high-flying manner. It is true Nigeria has attained maturity but the behaviour of political leaders is far from what you would expect from responsible adults.
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Should we celebrate a country that failed to put into productive use the many opportunities that have passed by, a country that wasted so many human, material, and natural resources that would have transformed the lives of citizens? Independence anniversary celebrations have always given the President the space to blame citizens rather than his government for the problems that overwhelm the country. As Nigeria prepares for a general election in 2019, it is perhaps an appropriate time to compel national leaders to undergo psychiatric assessment.
Why should political leaders and those seeking political office be subjected to this all-important test? The reason is simple. The behaviour of political leaders suggests they are grappling with some kind of mental health issues. They need to undergo treatment to bring them out of the rarefied world in which they are operating so they can face the realities of life in the country. At the moment, political leaders believe Nigeria owes them some kind of debt. They are contesting election not because they are touched by the level of poverty and economic hardship facing ordinary citizens. They are contesting because they perceive political office as the only channel through which they can enrich themselves faster than paid employment.
Therapeutic sessions are necessary for Nigerian politicians for two reasons. The treatment will bring them down to earth. We need to assess and understand the level to which they have become mentally less acute or the extent to which their conditions have become grave. No one must make the mistake of assuming that all political leaders or those canvassing for votes have genuine leadership qualities.
When you examine the election campaign statements made by political candidates, you will see there is an underlying assumption that everyone else is either politically naïve or that everyone can be fooled easily. That is their mindset. It is the same frame of mind that defines how carelessly they construct their political manifestos. They do not believe it is worth their effort to put in serious thoughts into the messages with which they intend to campaign for votes. Most of the statements are, in my judgement, blank and unsophisticated.
You have to wonder why these politicians, with an empty mind and playfully joking manner, go out to engage citizens on serious issues of national importance. Why go about soliciting votes that would empower them to become political leaders who will, in return, ignore the basic needs of citizens? Politicians are elected to improve the socioeconomic conditions of citizens, to provide basic services and infrastructure that will transform the lives of people. Politicians are not elected so they can trample on citizens’ rights. They are not elected so citizens can become their servants, or to become beggars lining up to receive the crumbs that fall off politicians’ tables in the name of “stomach infrastructure” (apologies to Ayo Fayose of Ekiti State).
When citizens queue at polling booths to cast their votes, they do so with the hope they are electing politicians who can improve their welfare, who can provide for their needs, and who can assist them to overcome the challenges they face in life. Voters are not looking for autocrats who will rule over them. Voters are not looking for magicians who can solve all their problems within one term. That is humanly impracticable. The past few years have taught everyone a lesson about political dishonesty and deception. But, thank goodness, voters are now more sophisticated and more discerning than politicians would credit them.
Voters have learned that when politicians need votes, they promise to move mountains. They pledge to turn rocks into slabs of bread and gravel into bags of rice. Our politicians are wily. They have nothing but supreme contempt for ordinary people. They have no regard for the rule of law. How can self-centred politicians with a track record of misappropriation of public funds cater for the needs of citizens? They are the least qualified to seek political offices that require people with demonstrated evidence of responsibility, transparency, and accountability.
Voters should not be captivated by politicians who promise them heaven while they are still on earth. Politicians are not doing them any favour when they promise to provide basic services. In the past, citizens were charmed by politicians who promised what they never fulfilled. Fifty-eight years on, the promises are still flowing. That is a measure of the disingenuousness of political and leaders.
In the journey to the 2019 elections, civil society must rise to make the point that politicians are responsible for plunging the country into the deep hole in which the country has fallen. For the past 58 years, Nigeria has drifted aimlessly on the ocean like a ship without a captain. Within that period, ageing military dictators and politicians misled and misdirected the country. It is tragic that, nearly six decades after the attainment of political independence, Nigeria is still searching for the right mix of development policies, economic strategies, and industrial development plans.
Over the years, nothing worked in the country because the economy was destroyed, the treasury was pillaged, cultural values were degraded, and the education system hobbled and limped owing to underfunding and negligence. Above all, religious institutions became heavily commercialised, as church facilities were converted into centres for fundraising and tithe collection. Over a period of 58 years, everything crumbled so progressively. The groundnut pyramids and rich cocoa farms, key indicators of the health of agricultural production in the country, vanished. No one is talking about resuscitating these sources of foreign exchange. Everyone is thinking about how to make quick money through buying and selling, through engagement in fraudulent practices, and through production of counterfeit medicines and other low quality products and services.
When people talk about killing the cancer of corruption in Nigeria, or reinstituting, reestablishing the rule of law, or for that matter eradicating the culture of impunity that has undermined national socio-economic development, you have to wonder who would lead these campaigns in a country in which many people have sullied public service records.
After 58 years of purposeless leadership, Nigeria has a long way to go. If the country couldn’t find its way in the past 58 years, would the next half a century serve as the circuit breaker? I think not. Would the next 50 years produce the kind of immaculate, trustworthy, and altruistic leaders we so desperately need to transform the society? Perhaps, yes. And perhaps, no! Politics in Nigeria is so complicated that the future of the country is indeterminable.
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