What’s love got to do with it?
THIS is our week of destiny. Saturday, February 16, witnesses the first leg of a series of elections that will likely determine the future direction of our country. Valentine’s Day also comes up this week, precisely on Thursday, February 14. St. Valentine dedicated his life to love and to helping others. Lovers the world over mark the day by re-dedicating themselves to each other and reaffirming their testimonies of undying love.
I don’t care what you profess, the person you spend that day of all days with is your true love. And so it has always been for ages and ages, world without end!
The stellar constellations may be telling us something by putting the elections in the same week with St. Valentine’s Day. Love and politics have more to do with each other than we imagine. It is said that electioneering politics is a form of warfare without bullets. It is also true that war is the continuation of politics through the barrel of a gun. The famous expression, “all is fair in love and war” rings true today as it always has.
Speaking for myself, I know that my calling to politics as a vocation has been a call of love upon my life. I decided to throw my hat into the ring when, two years ago, my first cousin and her two little children were hacked to death in Godogodo, Southern Kaduna, by murderous herdsmen bandits. When I went to express my condolence to the family, her mother, who had lost her husband only a few months earlier, held me very tight and fainted in my arms.
Our power elites hate the truth and hate anyone who dares speak truth to power. We have kept meticulous records of thousands of innocents souls killed throughout the wide expanses of the Middle Belt – from Chibok and Michika to Plateau, Southern Kaduna, Taraba and Benue and the indigenous Maguzawa of Birnin Gwari and Zamfara. Over 400 clergymen have been martyred while more than 13,000 churches have been destroyed. The bloodbath amounts to a holocaust and genocide. And yet all the elites of the entire North are silent. Nobody has been arrested or charged to court. The blood of the holy martyrs cries daily at heavensgate for recompense.
Since December, the killings have quietened down somewhat. But we are not deceived. They are lying low during the elections, to re-appear after March, when the demons will be looking to fill the blood banks again.
I am in politics to save lives and improve human livelihoods. Because I deeply value life and cherish liberty. I love Nigeria and I believe in our manifest destiny as the flagbearer for our glorious continent.
Some of my fellow economists will scoff at my professions of love. Game theorists believe that politicians are nothing but selfish animals who profess to love the people while in reality they are merely self-satisficing actors. The adherents of this economic theory of politics believe that there is no such thing as the “common good”; rubbishing all the noble precepts of the social contract as we have known it from Aristotle to Thomas Jefferson, Rousseau and John Rawls.
And yet, come to think of it, the wisest statesmen throughout history – from Asoka of Chandragupta India and the noble kings of Israel, to the righteous caliphs of Islam, up to Abraham Lincoln, William Gladstone and Nelson Mandela — have been inspired by love.
I make a distinction between the Old and the New Enlightenment. The Old Enlightenment was based on rationalism, science and reason. From Immanuel Kant to Hobbes, Vico, Leibnitz, Spinoza and the French Encyclopaedists — the Old Enlightenment emancipated man from the manacles of superstition and bondage to religion and tradition. But I believe that the Old Enlightenment has outlived its historical mission. Carried too far, it leads to godless atheism, to contempt for humanity and the incivility of our confused and illiberal post-modernist age. It has led to Nietzsche, Marx, Stalin, Hitler, Stalin and Mao and a long line of bloody murderers. Our neo-fascist Jihadists, glorified in the confused philosophical grammar of Tariq Ramadan, belong to that ilk. They are enemies of liberty.
The coming Enlightenment, I prophesy, will be anchored on love and altruism. Among the apostles of the New Enlightenment are thinkers and activists as wide apart as Mahatma Gandhi, Albert Einstein, Ali Shari’ati, Bertrand Russell, Martin Luther King Jr, Albert Schweitzer, Obafemi Awolowo, Nelson Mandela and Pitrim Sorokin.
I recently dusted the old notes I had kept since my student days on Russian-American émigré sociologist Pitrim Alexandrovich Sorokin (1889-1968). Sorokin was a world renowned social scientist and founding chair of Harvard University’s old sociology department. He was a well-known political activist and former Secretary to Alexander Kerensky, leader of the provisional government in Russia in the early 1900s. He fought bitterly against the Bolsheviks in Russia and eventually went into exile in the United States.
Supported by the Eli Lilly Foundation, Pitrim Sorokin spent the final years of his illustrious career writing and researching a social philosophy of love. Reflecting on the self-abnegating “agape” love for humanity in the lives of Jesus of Nazareth and such personages as Gandhi, he concluded that such love could only spring from a source outside human time-space, “from an intangible, little-studied, possibly super-empirical source …. the centre of the highest energy in the universe”. He also believed this love-energy to be a very real, palpable element, “more imperishable than any other form of energy, including radioactivity”.
A true social science of love is still in its infancy. The mentally defective neo-pagans who dominate the intellectual world community today can only think in terms of “The End of History” and the endless “Clash of Civilisations.” They do not know what the sages of old have always known: That the greatest force in the world is love. Yes, love is a risk. It can make us seem utterly foolish. And yet, there is nothing capable of remaking our world more than the power of love.
True love begins with forgiveness. We have to forgive the pain, the historical injustices and the sheer bitterness others may have caused us. We must do that genuinely if we are to forge ahead to create the New Nigeria of our dream. I feel the pain of the evils that have been done to my people. We will never forget, but we can forgive all. With malice towards none, and charity for all. As the civil rights leader Martin Luther King Jr famously expressed it, “I have decided to stick with love. Hate is too great a burden to bear.”
The philosophy of love sounds controversial, if not boring. But it is certainly worth fighting for. In the words of the American writer Erica Jong, “Do you want me to tell you something really subversive? Love is everything it’s cracked up to be. That’s why people are so cynical about it… It really is worth fighting for, being brave for, risking everything for. And the trouble is, if you don’t risk anything, you risk even more.”
Love is akin to atomic power. True lovers are not weaklings; they are men and women of great valour. Only love has the power to turn around our world and make everything new. To quote the Indian sage Jiddu Krishnamurti, “The moment you have in your heart this extraordinary thing called love and feel the depth, the delight, the ecstasy of it, you will discover that for you the world is transformed.”
Perhaps no one has put it more elegantly than the great Cambridge philosophical genius G. E. Moore: “The hours I spend with you I look upon as sort of a perfumed garden, a dim twilight, and a fountain singing to it. You and you alone make me feel that I am alive. Other men it is said have seen angels, but I have seen thee and thou art enough.”
As we enter this election week, there is tension and palpable fear. But I believe that perfect loves casts away all fears. Let us all go out and vote on Saturday. But let us renounce violence, which can only undermine our democracy while breeding contempt for human life. My political ambition is not worth the blood of any Nigerian. Let love prevail. For true love is ultimately about service. In the words of Nobel laureate and missionary doctor Albert Schweitzer, “I don’t know what your destiny will be, but one thing I know: the only ones among you who will be really happy are those who have sought and found how to serve.”
To all my fellow countrymen and women, let me say this: I love you. Please, don’t laugh at my love. I desire the happiness of all our people. I long to wipe away the tears of widows, feed the hungry orphans, clothe the naked, bring hope to the hopeless – set at liberty all that are oppressed.
Happy Valentine’s and election week!