We need to reflect quite well on the outcome of Edo state governorship election primaries last week. To me, we need to remind our leaders what John McCaine and Mark Salter meant when they wrote a classic in 2005 that, ‘Character Is Destiny’. The publisher of the book notes that the work contains inspiring stories every young person should know and every adult should remember’.
We need to deepen our understanding that even too much learning without the backing of good character will not take us anywhere as a nation. I mean here that what the two major political parties, the governing APC and the main opposition party, the PDP did last week in Edo state has shown clearly that they actually have a crisis of character and that has been the reason we have become a failure that keeps failing.
And so we the people need to take the character of people who will rule us next time, very seriously.
There is no doubt about the expediency of quality in education of those who should aspire to lead us. But it is time we began to dig deep into the character of those who intend to lead us at all levels. Really, only character can shape our destiny. There are too many learned people here already. There are enough public intellectuals, numerous orators here already, but there are still too few oracles. There are too few men of sound character who can lead us from this present darkness to a marvelous light.
Every day, from my place of work through the private sector organisations and public sector, that I have covered for more than three decades, I have seen the danger in learnedness of managers and leaders without character. And here is the new thing, if our leaders had character last week, they would have been afraid of the implications of the political shenanigan they concocted in Edo state last week. The Edo state governorship candidate of the APC in 2016 and current governor of the state, Mr Godwin Obaseki who was berated as unfit by the PDP then, last week emerged as the same PDP governorship candidate for 2020. What is more galling, the PDP governorship candidate then, Adams Oshiomhole publicly called ‘a thief’, Pastor Osagie Ize-Iyamu, last week curiously emerged as the (governing) APC governorship candidate in 2020 election.
What do these two political parties want us to believe about them? What did they mean by their strange actions last week? How will Oshiomhole, for instance, raise the hand of Iyamu in the current campaign? How will the PDP campaign for the candidate they pilloried barely four years ago? There is indeed a national crisis of character we ought to address in our next political recruitment.
As I noted in my Sunday July 8, 2018 issue of this column here when I wrote on ”Democracy without good political parties?”, we need to re-examine our culture of low expectations.
I noted then that because we had always enjoyed a culture of low expectation in the most populous black nation on earth, we appeared to be looking the other way while our leaders at all levels merely converged every week on the nation’s capital to meet with the president and his security chiefs on the general state of insecurity in the country. Although no details, a whopping $1 billion worth of special security vote was in June 2018 already being disbursed on insecurity in the northeast region. What happened thereafter?
Yes, this is Nigeria, where critical infrastructure deficit is shameful as debt is rising but no one is commissioning any significant projects that can improve the environment, boost the economy let alone deepening democracy and good governance.
They say we are not at war but we are not at peace as we daily bury hundreds of our people. We are managing more internally displaced people than the flashpoints and theatres of war in Syria, Libya, Afghanistan, Iraq, Somalia, Yemen, etc. What is more, we have acquired another reproachful distinction as the world’s centre of extremely poor people. We displaced India to a second place since 2018. That is where this public enemy called corruption has placed us in the comity of notorious nations.
That is why we need to call on the power elite and public intellectuals to step out fast to save the country that has failed Africa and indeed the black race.
So, as I was saying, we are losing this democracy that is not delivering significant dividends beyond intellectual masturbation they ingeniously foist on us from Abuja and the 36 state capitals.
Yet, I think we should defend this democracy from the other manipulators, the soldiers of fortune who imposed on us what General Chris Ali calls, “The Federal Republic of the Nigerian Army” in 1966. We should not allow democracy to be demonised again by these desperately incompetent dealers who call themselves leaders through the political platforms called PDP and APC. The leaders of these two parties, past and present have been the common enemies who have underdeveloped the country.
Yes, APC and PDP leaders have undermined democracy, underdeveloped the political party system and ruined all the institutions of governance in the country. It is time for public intellectuals, the good men and women in the country to stop lamenting in the social media alone: they should get sufficiently angry and tell our representatives in the parliament and even in the cabinet that we cannot continue with democracy this way without good political parties.
Doubtless, we need some value re-orientation about the expediency of good political parties to drive development. And so we need to tell our wasteful leaders all over the nation that using APC and PDP, as mere platforms to get to office and power can only continue to under-develop us.
For instance, we need to tell the two former Chairmen of PDP, until recently Minister and Senator in APC-led government, Chief Audu Ogbe and Senator Barnabas Gemade that they are not a credit to democracy. We need to tell former President of the Senate (on PDP platform), Senator Ken Nnamani who once showed interest in national chairmanship of the ruling APC and now a member of the (APC) caretaker commitee that the way he and his colleagues abandoned their organic political party in a twinkling of an eye to join the governing party is a reproach to the majesty of party system and democracy.
The way the 8th Assembly President of the Senate, Dr. Bukola Saraki and the Speaker, House of Representatives, Hon. Yakubu Dogara were being treated in the ruling APC (they also defected from) the other time, speaks volumes to the dysfunctional nature of the current party system. They were neither here nor there, where they should be the pillars of government policies in parliament. The 2018 budget was approved in June that year and most of the presidential nominees for confirmation by the Senate remained in the cooler for more than a year, no thanks to party affiliation bickering.
A former Speaker and Governor of Sokoto State, Aminu Tambuwal meted out the same treatment to the then ruling party, PDP he merely used to be in office. This is unconscionable in the extreme. Here is the thing, this is not a time to hail those who always abandon their parties during or after conventions to trigger implosion in their parties. We need commentators and influential bodies and public intellectuals to step out and tell our big men that there is a worsening crisis of character in the polity that is fast demonising and threatening democracy at the moment.
The threat to democracy is not from another planet. Those threatening democracy are the political power elite in the dominant political parties who don’t care a hoot about the value of well-organised political parties to development. There is a correlation between the quality of political parties and development of any nation. We should not dismiss this: unless there is a respected, well organised, influential, ideological political party that good people can freely join to advance political interests, development will continue to elude us in Nigeria. Even where we have independent candidacy, it is within a working political party system as enshrined in the constitution.
So, we need to demand responsibility and proper behaviour from our political leaders in Abuja and 36 state capitals who are currently enjoying perquisites of office in this democracy. We need to tell them to reconstruct their parties’ manifestoes that should reflect how they want to move Nigeria from extreme poverty to wealth, from Third to First World.
Political Parties perform an important task in government. They bring people together to achieve control of the government, develop policies favorable to their interests or the groups that support them. Besides, they organise and persuade voters to elect their candidates to office. In Nigeria, ruling political parties specialise in abusing people: they don’t canvass for votes: they buy. Although they are very much involved in the operation of government at all levels, political parties are not the government itself. The basic purpose of political parties is to nominate candidates for public office and to get as many of them elected as possible. Once elected, these officials try to achieve the goals of their party through legislation and policy support initiatives. Specifically, political parties represent group interests, simplify choices, formulate public policies, make the working of parliament possible, re-orientate and sensitise the people about public policies, provide political stability and help recruit good political leaders.
That is why political parties are indispensable for the working of modern democratic governments. What is more, political parties shape public opinion. Parties in any system of government educate, formulate and organize public opinion. They also help in the growth of the level of political consciousness of common citizens, who hardly have time to follow state matters.
The young ones who are being mobilised to take over Nigeria just need to know that there is a correlation between good political parties and development of a country. The current organisational structure and culture of the governing APC and the opposition PDP lack character and promise that can take Nigeria out of this present darkness.
Inside Stuff With MARTINS OLOJA (first published in “The Guardian”, Sunday 28, June 2020, P.13)
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