Between Political Statesmanship and Opportunism ,By Niran Adedokun

niran(1)I am perturbed by the absolute lack of political statesmanship in our political landscape.  Our politicians, no matter how advanced they are in age or what life experience they have garnered, do nothing to further the national interest. All that we see and hear are utterances aimed at the furtherance of parochial interests usually in the entrenchment of individual political ambitions. It is doubtful that any nation could ever attain its best without politician statesmen who are more concerned about the country than their own ambition.

In the United State of America where we copied our presidential style of politics from, the political elite, in spite of clear ideological and philosophical differences are purposeful and united in moments of national emergencies. Politicians would speak and vote against policies not necessarily because it emanated from another party but with the welfare of their people in mind. We just saw the reactions of Democrat Senators like Mark Begich from Alaska and Heidi Heitkamp from North Dakota to President Obama’s gun background check proposal for example. They voted along the lines which would benefit their constituencies. The anger of American politicians is also across party in current discussions about the administration’ s handling of the attack on the US Embassy in Benghazi,  Libya, the seizure of reporters’ phone records in a Justice Department leak investigation, and the Internal Revenue Service’s alleged targeting of conservative groups for extra scrutiny. These are issues that affect the integrity of the country and it is being treated so.

When the Boston Marathon bombing incident happened recently, not one Republican tried to build capital out of the obvious sloppiness of the Federal Bureau of Investigation in dealing with previous intelligence on the Tamerlan Tsarnaev, the older of the two suspects identified. The concern of everyone in the public space has been how to make the best of the arrest of the younger brother in avoiding such events in future. Such nobility of heart is now hard to find in Nigerian politics. But it wasn’t always like this

I remember the second republic when we had respectable political actors like late Waziri Ibrahim of the Great Nigeria People’s Party (GNPP) Known as the Apostle of Politics without bitterness, Waziri and people like him brought great stability to the polity.   In utterance and action, politicians like  Nnamdi Azikwe ,  Aminu Kano, Obafemi Awolowo,  Tunji Braithwaite avoided the promotion  of selfish political interests over the general good.  It is a distressing fact that our political and democratic credentials were actually more advanced 30 years ago than now!

Nigeria is currently going through one of the most frightening moments in her history. Ethnic sentiments have overridden national interest, insecurity permeates the land. Crimes like terrorism (including suicide missions), kidnapping and so many others which were never part of us now occur daily.   The Nigerian youth is disillusioned, hundreds of thousands cannot get into school, and millions come out of school and roam the streets without jobs for years on end.  Hundreds of lives are lost to a variety of avoidable reasons daily.  Daily, hapless Nigerians succumb to the pressures of poverty, lack of access to adequate health care, potable water and motorable roads and a myriad of other denials.  As the rich get richer in Nigeria, the poor sinks deeper into despair, public confidence is at its lowest ebbs. We are in that season of anomy which Wole Soyinka spoke about.

Yet our political leaders bicker over trifles. They quarrel and haggle over the spoils of office while the people they watch over die in droves. They worry about political office in 2015 even when they have no assurance that there will be a country in that year.

It is on this front that I find the reactions of the Action Congress of Nigeria (ACN) and the Congress for Progressive Change (CPC) to the initial reports that President Goodluck Jonathan might declare a state of emergency in  some states unacceptable.

Let us assume for the purpose of this discussion, that all Nigerians have given up on the ability of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) to bring Nigeria out of the woods, should we be comforted by the upcoming congregation known as the All Progressive Congress (APC)? Statements like those credited to spokespersons of the two major parties in the lead of the APC formation do not give me that confidence.

The statement released by Alhaji Lai Mohammed, spokesperson for the ACN said inter alia; “…It is also important to warn that since the listed states are not under the control of the PDP and – going by precedence – President Jonathan is sure to appoint card-carrying PDP members to preside over the affairs of the state in the event that he imposes emergency rule on them, it will amount to robbing the citizens of those states of their mandate and capturing more states for the PDP. This, in addition to the request for President Jonathan to quit office was also largely the import of the statement issued by Mr. Rotimi Fasakin of the CPC. So if the declaration of state of emergency in would bring peace to these states and end to the Boko Haram menace, A.C. N and C. P.C would oppose it, just so that PDP would not win the 2015 elections in those states.

I consider this position a sad politicisation of national pains.  The Northern parts of Nigeria where these crises happen has lost so much in the past few years that it would take decades to catch up with other parts of the country in terms of development. For instance, this part of the country accounted for the highest volume of out of school children even before the Boko Haram crises, now it has become impossible for children to attend school and we play politics with that?

Do I put the A.C.N/C.P.C suspicions beyond the PDP? Not necessarily, but I do not think those issues should be the immediate concern any political party with any iota of respect for the development of Nigeria. It is legitimate, even reasonable for political parties to bicker and tear each other apart during elections but after elections are won and lost, it is important that everyone works together for the development of the nation. That does not mean sitting in the same cabinet with the government of the day, but issues like the Boko Haram insurgency, which has stifled development in the North for years demand more than alarmist bells on elections that are two years away.

I would expect every lover of Nigeria, especially those who are interested in taking the reins of power in a few years to bring up creative alternatives to government’s policies and offer those alternatives to government, even volunteer to work together with the government of the day towards solving the problems at hand.  What stops the leadership of these parties from requesting a meeting with the President on the Boko Haram problem and providing him with their own view points on the best way forward. This would endear them to Nigerians far more than trying to score cheap points about the PDP winning more states.  That is the position where we find statesmen even when the government of the day exploit their disposition. It is disappointing and sad that not many Nigerian politicians behave like statesmen, especially those who claim to hold better promises.


Adedokun, a Lagos based PR consultant, wrote in via [email protected]

You can follow him on twitter @niranadedokun

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