BY FELIX NYERHOVWO JARIKRE
When the majority of the people see the government to be adversarial and insensitive, their disenchantment manifests.
So, addressing how the poor majority can be defended or protected from marginalisation and oppression is the only way to prevent their disenchantment. To prevent the disenchantment of the poor majority is the only sure way to achieve political stability and national cohesion in any society. To be neglectful of this nexus is a recipe for sure disaster.
From the story of how the Kingdom of Israel in the Bible fractured into full-blown secession, a nation can only hope to survive on a sustainable level when its defining focus is how to enfranchise and restore the productivity of its weak and vulnerable segments among the populace. A sustainable ecosystem must be deliberately built by the government to facilitate the creative impulses and production capabilities of the poor people that usually fall through the cracks of neglect.
It’s delusional to think that mere zoning or power rotation among ethnic groupings or regional configurations can achieve political stability and national cohesion in Nigeria. And to conflate zoning and power rotation as a resemblance or extension of the constitutional Federal Character Principle, I dare say, is plain mischief. Utterly deceitful. Zoning or power rotation is a leadership issue, albeit political. On the other hand, the Federal Character requirement in the constitution is a management issue. The success or failure of a political leader who helps to form a particular government will be judged by the degree of his adherence to constitutional requirements like the Federal Character principle, for example.
Power rotation or zoning of political leadership and Federal Character are not the same. It’s baffling sometimes how our self-serving politicians and intellectuals can conflate these issues without batting an eyelid in the public space. It’d be helpful to calm themselves down and back off from misleading the people. That way, the misplaced tension thrown up by unnecessary acrimony over zoning can be doused. The poor defenceless masses do not gain anything meaningful from these overheated debates on power rotation except confusion and perplexity. These debates are all part of an elaborate elitist game. A scam. A self-preservative decoy put up by elitist, disengaged politicians from being asked hard, probing questions concerning their stewardship by people they are supposed to represent and lead.
For too long, Nigeria’s elitist politicians have betrayed with impunity the trust reposed in them by their followers. So, if we must recover our bearings or regain some semblance of balance, we must learn to properly focus the debate on how to achieve justice, equity and fairness in the running of our society. Nigeria is a country with over two hundred and fifty ethnic groups, some in majority, many in minority. There can only be one President and C.I.C., thirty six governors during a four-year term limit. Not to mention the senators, House of Representatives members, or State Houses of Assembly members. Needless to say, there are millions of Nigerians who will never attain these stated positions, intentionally or inadvertently. That many do not occupy these exalted political offices on an electoral basis is not to say they live less fulfilling lives than the fortunate politicians. As long as all are participators and contributors to a functional democracy while striving to achieve political stability and national integration.
To achieve justice, equity and fairness in the clear aim for political stability and national integration, every government must be resolved in its determinant focus to remove the poor, the weak and the vulnerable from marginalisation and oppression. Government is not about catering to the aggrandisement of those with political strength and power, but it is about how to enfranchise and empower the poor majority to become productive citizens.
It’s in this light that we must situate Peter Obi’s enthusiastic resolve to turn Nigeria’s economy from “consumption to production.”
We must turn around the concept of government for the general good. If not, many will perish in ignorance. Nigeria as a country still struggling for definition does not have enough electoral offices to go round and satisfy the craving of power-mongers among our ethnic and religious groupings within every four-year term limit. But we all, citizens and government officers, can have equal access to good roads, decent and reasonable education, adequate health care delivery system, decent housing, public pipe borne water system, adequate electricity supply, free markets to buy and sell, etc. We must be mindful that hunger does not respect the religion of anyone. Bad health is totally indifferent and disrespectful of the ethnic origin, majority or minority, of anyone. Many of our deathtraps masquerading as roads don’t care whether you are Hausa, Itsekiri or Ijaw, etc. At any slight mistake, the bad roads are potential killers.
Yet, in all this, what we must not fail to emphasise is that keeping the populace ignorant and insecure is very destabilising. Education is a fundamental part of human rights. Perhaps that’s why late Chief Obafemi Awolowo said: “The most important aspect of the campaign of the Action Group was free education, life more abundant for the generality of the people etc, etc. Our manifesto was centred on the development of man.”
Within context and without controversy, we can judiciously paraphrase this greatly enlightened politician – “the greatest President Nigeria never had” – to mean: “Our manifesto was centred on the development of leaders.”
Indeed, one jarring note that stands out in the debate over zoning or power rotation is a deliberate ignorance of the leadership role in nation-building. And it’s this deliberate ignorance of the leadership role that has made Nigeria to stumble and totter on the world stage. And why, shamefully, it’s the World Headquarter of Poverty.
Every politician today in Nigeria, to be taken seriously, must learn to encourage their followers to cultivate the leadership spirit, and understand for themselves the principles of leadership. They must realise that education will not only make their followers to be technically competent, it will also open their eyes to see the expansive possibilities of leadership. Now, you can relate to why Peter Obi as Labour Party’s presidential candidate would confidently say to the youths: “Take back your country.” Without access to education, no youth can develop the leadership capacity to take back their country from rapacious sit-tight rulers.
Leadership is the willingness to use power to accomplish a purpose, an objective.
We all have the responsibility to install a government that should not presume to give or take away what we were created to be. Political leadership is the most powerful way to express that responsibility. Since a government can make it harder or easier for people to achieve their purposes or goals, it is not reasonable for people to pretend disinterested in how a particular government is installed. Democracy, therefore, is the necessary tool that requires the popular participation of every political leader within a sovereignty to install and maintain a government that is not adversarial or insensitive to the reasonable aspirations of the citizenry.
No man, therefore, should presume to proscribe, suspend or rotate leadership in any circumstance or clime. Because a wise man said: “If the noble do not lead, the profane will. And if evil prevails in a time or place, it is because the initiative is seized while the good wavered.”
As a function, political leadership is characterised by a combination of vision, courage, patience, resolve, purpose, initiative, internal motivation and humility.
To develop these indispensable characteristics of leadership comes with self-sacrifice and diligence. It’s not a road many are eager to follow. The irresistible few like Peter Obi who come swinging from this road of discipline will cause a bloodless revolution.
Felix Nyerhovwo Jarikre, a leadership consultant and author of the successful book, How to be a Wealth Controller, lives in Lagos, Nigeria. He is the pioneer CEO, Perfect Report, a leadership training group.
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