For some time now, a wind of absolute mass deviation from established political norms is sweeping across countries of Europe, Americas, the Middle East and Africa, reminding the world that the only thing permanent in life is change. The global political landscape is on a roller skate.
Across the world, there is an imminent stage of transition from old and often antiquated orders to more fervent and people-oriented systems driven by new men and women, who have joined the political class and who understand that the past must be buried and the new extolled. This whirlwind, which is gathering dusts across the continents, does not exempt any political tribe, race, class or creed. Rather it is one that stares the political class in the face and declares albeit to their chagrin – you either reinvent your politics, or commit political suicide.
Only a few politicians, who have chosen to play the Ostrich will pretend that they are not faced with a moving cloud, gathering momentum and the signal of a total departure from the way things were done to an era where society is demanding for a better way of responding to growing challenges of daily living.
Everything that the old political leadership order has conceived as perfect, have failed. And the new thinking is one that is upturning what has appeared in the past to have worked well.
When it happened in the United States of America, it was unbelievable that a brash, political green horn, like Donald Trump, who, hitherto, was known only for his business accomplishments, would become America’s president. Not only is Donald Trump the President of America, his presidency, whether the world likes it or not, is evoking a new thinking in American politics and has a followership that amazes many.
In France, another political neophyte, 39-year-old Emmanuel Macron, who does not enjoy the backing of a political party, is on his way to becoming President of France during one of its most troublesome times. Ironically, the story is not different in Africa.
A few years ago, it would have been unimaginable that Moumar Ghaddafi would be challenged in Libya. Hosni Mubarak, who played lord in Egypt, has become history and in The Gambia, Yahaya Jammeh did not reckon with this until it swept him out of power and banished him into exile.
Everywhere in the world, the buzzword is reformatory political leadership. And this comes with a common purpose – give free expression to the wishes of the people and bridge the yawning gap that has often existed between the political leadership and the followers.
Does this gap exist in Africa nay Nigeria? Perhaps, there is no place where this gap is more pronounced than in Africa and Nigeria is assuming an obvious centre of the continent’s existing political leadership crisis.
Since the 1970s, Nigeria has been enmeshed in a form of political leadership crisis that has only rehashed an old brigade of past leaders to the detriment of national good. This convoy of recycled political leadership has gradually become a thorn in the flesh of the country.
Unfortunately for the country’s more than 180 million citizens, this hegemonic political leadership has been dictated by a few, who have arrogated to themselves the power to choose the man or woman, who becomes Nigeria’s president.
Given their antecedents, this selection by the few has successfully undermined the electoral process, which ought to provide the people and the political parties the opportunity to choose candidates of their choice. It further promotes the very negative idea that no citizen can aspire to any political office without the support and prodding of a political godfather.
The nation’s political history is replete with numerous instances of compromise by public office holders, who give undue advantage to the interest of the godfather to the disadvantage of societal good. Any wonder we are confronted with a culture of impunity difficult to rival anywhere else in the world. The implication of this is that state institutions and individuals with good intentions are stifled and frustrated out of the scene.
While Nigeria is a democracy with an executive president at the helm of affairs, what the country has experienced in the last decades has been a near autocratic and jaundiced democratic system of government. Today, that system is once more threatening the overall good of the country with the few, who think that their mundane selfish interests of clinging to power through surrogates, is more important than the national interest. This system is skewed in favour of the few against the majority. It is a system that is ever poised to seek to satisfy the good of the few against the aspirations of the many.
Unfortunately, Nigeria cannot pretend to be indifferent to this, as the rest of the world is beholding a growing eclipse around the old order of political leadership. The new political leadership, which is forming the crust of the changes we see across the continents, is sustained on the tripod of equality of the sexes, opportunities for the youth, which in Nigeria represents over 60 per cent of the population and equitable distribution of national resources. This concern for lop-sided political leadership in Africa was expressed at the recently concluded World Economic Forum (WEF), which took place in Durban, South Africa.
According to a report compiled by Oxfam, the British aide agency, inequality is visible all over Africa and the continent has seven of the 20 most unequal countries in the world and between 250 million and 350 million Africans could be exposed to extreme poverty within the next 15 years.
Winnie Byanyima, who was co-chair for WEF 2017, captures it this way: “Inequality in Africa is fuelling poverty, fracturing our societies and stifling the potential of millions of people.”
At present, in Nigeria, industries are caving in under the weight of a receding economy, unemployment is at the highest level and small and medium scale businesses, which ought to be drivers of the economy, are failing mainly due to poorly developed business environment necessitated by inadequate infrastructure like power.
It is, therefore, pertinent that Nigeria quickly transits into a new political leadership, which will focus at maximising the advantages provided by the national demographics, which is in favour of the youths; alleviate poverty by creating jobs, promote gender equality and make SMEs the centre of its economic policy.
We are convinced that only a speedy transition from the present malfunctioning political leadership to a more vibrant one will assuage the desires of the people of this country.
And this new order must be founded on the enduring principle of equity, fairness and justice.
• Omoniyi, a journalist writes from Lagos.