THE classical Greek philosopher, Plato, in his famous Republic, noted that the heaviest penalty for declining to rule is to be ruled by someone inferior to you. It doesn’t matter if one is charmed by philosophy or not, but, in today’s Nigeria, Plato’s statement does not only inscribe the basis for Nigeria’s character defect, it equally awakens the subject of inept leadership that has served as a classic peculiarity of our country.
Starting from 1999, when Nigeria transitioned to democratic rule, the most troubling start for the country at that period seemed to be that the bunch of politicians who launched the democratic system—or the republic—as a representative form of government, were, to put it sympathetically, inept. It won’t be too tasking to reckon that at the time, most people who signed up to politics and contested elections were hardly tied up to an auspicious career. In the Nigerian clime, such a people of discouraging future—career wise—are most ably eligible to contest political offices. Nigeria’s 1999 transition to democratic rule was, therefore, a perfect point—in the history of the country—in which the crooked amongst us had the ideal opportunity to take control of power, which they did relentlessly.
It was regrettable that at the time, credible Nigerians with integrity and honour couldn’t have considered venturing forth into partisan politics, perhaps for the time-honoured presumption—that not only is partisan politics most suitable for people of discouraging future; without active careers to build—that politics itself is a dirty game. Out of their own volition—and at the peril of our country’s future—credible Nigerians with unmatched track records in the public and private sectors of the economy; who had their careers on the upswing, couldn’t think through abandoning their otherwise assuring professions only to take the deep plunge into the murky waters of politics that carried with itself the overt currents of uncertainty. Although Nigeria was successful in leaping out of successive military dictatorships, it unfortunately leapfrogged into a democracy guided by the mostly incompetent ones found from within us; an oubliette democracy, if one may call it that.
But, regrettably, like Plato has told us, in the end, everything boils down to politics, whether or not we like it.
Decisions taken by politicians today have a way of influencing and shaping all aspects of our individual and collective lives. From education, arts, literature, agriculture, economics, labour, and manufacturing, and to all other sectors of the society, the influence of decisions taken by politicians can never be played down. Thus, the disregard and neglect for partisan politics by more competent people in the country—as opposed to the crooked—must be the single most elemental factor that is responsible for the sundry issues Nigeria is battling with today. In a country of more than a 170 million people—who lay claim to professionals and experts in almost all facets of any and every preoccupation, it is quite biting and most strange that the political showground of Nigeria’s democracy has been subjugated, in the majority, by the mostly ineffectual elements of society.
There is an insistent need to overturn this trend by encouraging and reassuring the fine, adept people amongst us to answer a calling in partisan politics by joining the socio-political system at all levels—local and central. It is high time we saw participation in partisan politics from an untainted, unsoiled perspective. We must collectively raise the spirits of our people so they could get a handle on the fact that partaking in partisan politics is not dirty, all together. No one should be made to feel that to sign up to and engage in partisan politics is akin to risking one’s sanity. Rather, it should be seen as an avenue for enervating one’s rationality; the ability to go in there, takeover the polity from the hands of the mostly crooked, and to unfetter the sufferings of our people from a life of captivity, oppression, and suppression.
The civil society groups have a duty to encourage young Nigerians possessing the passion and the instinctive intuition of managing people and resources to join politics, en bloc. For quite a while, Nigeria has been losing the dexterity of the sharp-witted amongst us. Our people, out of disappointments, have either left the country for the far-off; never committed to returning home until the days of innocence are recouped once again, or have chosen to live a somewhat quiet life in the academia and other sectors of our society. Nigerians with exceptional skills and capacity to spearhead the affairs of the country must be ready to contest elections at all levels of government, from the peripheral to the central.
No momentous improvement is certain for Nigeria until we all are ready to succumb to a logical, hard-nosed decision, to reverse the institutional challenges that confront us daily, which obviously are all attributable to a miscarried, mercilessly corrupt leadership. Not only must we contest for political offices to change the course of action in governance, we should rally round and abet candidates for political office who have got a history that is free of venality and corruption.
More importantly, incentives and perks that have become the enticing inspiration for aspiring to win and occupy political offices must be grossly reduced so as to make such offices not as much attractive to perverts. Doing this will ensure that the best natured amongst us present themselves for political offices more willingly than the dishonest. Electioneering processes should also be conducted in a more maven manner in which potential candidates for political offices are called to debate and deliberate on national issues and concerns, and how to set about tackling societal problems.
- Aminu lives in England