A reflection on power

While the presidential and national assembly elections were concluded two weeks ago, although not without hitches,  we returned to the polls to elect who rules or represents us at the states level at the weekend. Now, results are coming in. Winners are rejoicing. Losers are counting costs. But the nation is waiting for the good that should come from the process. Before going ahead on power seekers, I wish to mourn an intellectual soulmate I never had the opportunity to personally engage, except through his thoughts in words in print. Pius Adesanmi is one of the victims of weekend’s Ethiopian plane crash on a flight to Nairobi. Prof Pius, indeed an engaging scholar of Kogi extraction is my Nigerian replacement of late Professor Ali Mazrui. His treatment of African development tragedy is very challenging. Professor Adesanmi’s lecture at one of The Platforms Independence lecture, Hating Nigeria to Greatness is illustrative of the patriotism of a Nigerian scholar in The Diaspora. I envied him for indigenizing the colonial language. I enjoy reading him like reading D.O Fagunwa’s masterpieces.

Now for those exulting or agonizing over the concluded elections, a few thoughts to share. For every contestant, it was not without purpose that they aspired to be in the state house of assembly or the parliament. After all, our choices, motivation, quests, desires, needs even for something as mundane as drinking water are premised on achieving a goal. Immediately we achieve that goal, we ought to àpply the necessary lever and focus on its righteous, altruistic, utilitarian and purpose value application, now using it for the desired end public good and service. If we seek it more after its attainment and become engrossed in its enjoyment, we are likely to suffer some consequences of its obsession. However, for all of us pursuing power and office whether by élection or appointment, it is the moment we reach our goal that we forget the utilitarian essence of our pursuit, getting inebriated with the perquisites of office rather than becoming more visionary, focused and clear-sighted on delivering on our electoral promises.

Passenger dies aboard Delta Airlines en route Lagos

Rather than use such power or position to serve or work for and with others, we tend to privatise it, becoming unduly arrogant and vicious in the name of exercising authority. In this mentality, we may become insecure, unnecessarily protective or defensive, sometimes relying on strange forces and powers to preserve or protect ourselves or survive.  We are captured by intoxicating pòwer as we ring ourselves with a coterie of insincere advisers who take advantage of our naivety, fear of  defeat and loss or desperation for self-preservation to impose on us their own selfish agenda. We are isolated from those we are to serve or those that can genuinely guide us from derailment in power. In being our advisers, these captors rip us off, making a fortune from our naivety, obsession, fears and concerns for preservation. In their hands, we lose our independence because as our consultants and little gods, their views and advice are sacrosanct although usually self-serving. Unconsciously, we cede our powers to them, granting them de facto status in our office, releasing the keys of the public vault to them, granting them easy access to the commonwealth or throwing at their feet the public trust we are supposed to protect jealously and deliver on faithfully. We abdicate our throne, our seat of honour, for such advisers to enjoy the grandeur of our office. It is what they bring to us as our godfathers and sponsors that we approve or sign in public interest. It is what become our vision. In their hands, we become hostages.

So, when we seek power, whether we win or lose, there is a certain attitude we must adopt in order to escape hostage or captivity of self serving marketers of pernicious interests. First, power comes from Allah. He bestows it upon who He wills and disrobes whoever He wills. No matter our desperation or lust for office, we will never be able to attain it if it will not be in our ultimate interest in this world or the hereafter. But perchance we attain it through devious means, compromising ourselves and souls, trading our conscience and character to buy office, three things are likely to happen. We become a perpetual slave ever threatened, or all the blessing of that office is withdrawn, or we continue to witness unimaginable crises in our tenure giving no room for development. We lose our peace in power and those we exercise power lose respect for us, not gaining peace and happiness under us. Regrets set in for us, no matter how packaged we are to present a face or facade of no shaking, I dey kampe. We may even lose companionship of the most High as we seek solution from all sorts of magic wand traders. So, all power seekers must be conscious that it is a trust which only the prepared and the ready can bear. Do not seek power if you’re fundamentally flawed or deficient in leadership and management, in human relations and soft skills, in diplomacy, strategy and tactics, in intellectual capacity and morality, in education, expertise and experience. Never lobby lobby for power or fawn your qualities to Impress others. God uses people to appoint. Let God locate you for the system to throw you up and you will need less of campaign to do or will be needless of forcing vaults open. You will not need to buy power so will be under no pressure to pay back.

The best office is the one you are appointed, promoted or assigned to based on merit by the public or the system which groomed you without controversy or with less contestation. Power should never be a do or die affair or a war. So we should never be desperate when we seek it nor should we be depressed when we lose it or when our time in office is up. While in power however, we must be open and accountable, just, fair equitable, transparent. Power is a public trust held on behalf of the citizens and they we must serve rendering them account of our stewardship. True leaders and men of power are never victims of office, not afraid of losing it nor desperate to retain it. In their exercise of power, they are firm and focused, exercising discretion and reason at all times and when it’s time up, they experience security and freedom, fulfilled that they have discharged their responsibilities. They feel no fear of tomorrow. Finally, power is meaningless if is not exercised or deployed to create or deliver public value or promote virtue and morality around us. Let all power seekers, winners and losers purify their intentions and aspiration because on these we are going to be called to account.

Solanke is an Assistant Director at the Voice of Nigeria