Yesterday, yet another group emerged to rescue Nigeria from the abyss. It is called the “Revive Nigeria Group” and is led by Aisha Waziri Umar. It followed the launching of the “National Intervention Movement” led by Olisa Agbakoba on 29th November. Previously, the “Emerging Political Leaders Group” had launched a Summit also in Abuja on 22nd November led by Datti Baba Ahmed and Frank Nweke. I am told that many more are enroute. I lot of these groups have emerged from intense WhatsApp discussions on the national drift and the imperative of reinventing another type of leadership for the country. I guess the real issue is that as political preparations for the 2019 elections accelerate and two old politicians in their seventies appear to be the key candidates on the track, other generations are coming out to scream, following tutoring from the articulate Samson Itodo and his YIAGA youth movement that; “WeAreNotTooYoungToRun”. For others, it’s not an age issue but one of ideas on how to transform Nigeria’s potential into development reality.
So yesterday, at the Revive Nigeria Launch, Frank Nweke spoke of the Nigerian paradox on how his friend, Osita Chidoka was so impressive in the debates leading to the Anambra elections and how the people should have elected him for his excellent programme and commitment to serve. They chose otherwise and followed the money he complained. It was in that context that he recounted the story of a taxi driver complaining bitterly about how his people have been cursed with a governor who has no brain and is messing up the State. Nweke’s point was that we must learn to choose leaders who can exercise good governance and I guess make us happy about our country and ourselves.
Talking about governors, I read yesterday that we finally have clarity on the Imo State happiness controversy. According to the spokesman to Governor Rochas Okorocha, the real name of the new ministry some people are ridiculing is: the“Ministry of Happiness and Purpose Fulfilment”and not as earlier announced as the“Ministry of Happiness and Couples Fulfilment”. The word “Couple”, we were told, was inadvertently written, instead of the word “Purpose.” Now that we are clear, I guess the next item on the Imo Government agenda, according to postings in the social media, is the establishment of SAS – the Special Anti-sadness Squad. Governor Okorocha has used his considerable brainpower to devise ways of providing democratic dividends to his people. He has been generous with sharing the exceptional skill sets of his family members with the masses through appointing them into public positions. He has invested huge amounts of public funds to build statutes of world leaders for the civic education of the masses and is now focused on transforming their sadness into happiness.
The basic narrative about Nigerian politics today is that the worst elements in our society – the crooks, the swindlers, the daftest and the most selfish constitute the majority of the political class. We are therefore paying the penalty spelled out by Plato that when the good ones refuse to participate in politics, it’s the others that govern them. It is in this context that groups are emerging to explore how they can impact positively in the leadership process in the country. They are asking themselves questions about how they can intervene? Many are afraid that the political process is so corrupt and monetized that they should seek to work only in the policy arena. There is a small problem with that approach; the same political leaders they are complaining about run the policy arena.
The meeting by the National Intervention Movement was more political. They presented themselves as the “Third Force” that could combat the subsisting divisive and corrupt politics that is leading the country to the doldrums. The idea is to assemble prominent political leaders of thought and frontline activists in the country to impact on the process leading towards the 2019 elections. The project is to establish a Nigerian democratic platform that can galvanise national political cohesion among new brand of leaders of conscience. The steering committee includes Dr. Olisa Agbakoba, SAN , Dr Jhalil Tafawa Balewa, Prof Pat Utomi, Alhaji Rabiu Ishiaku Rabiu, Mr. Donald Duke, Mr Frank Nweke Jnr, Comrade Issa Aremu, Wale Okuniyi and yours truly. As with the other groups, the challenge is the lack of internal ideological and political clarity that could make the group cohesive. The challenge is for the groups to work out what they really want and above all, how they can achieve the success they desire. Meanwhile, the country retains its basic paradox with those with ideas remaining outside the political process and those in control of the political process focused on bad governance. We must seek pathways to begin the mingle them. It would be no easy task.
The first challenge is that while many of the emerging activists are sincere, many are simply opportunists wishing to be noticed and recruited into existing political parties and spaces. It’s difficult to establish the motivations of the actors. The second challenge is that too many groups are emerging without synergy and common purpose. Their analysis and prescriptions are similar but their organizational efforts diverge and will therefore be wasted. The biggest challenge in all political systems is the devising rational criteria for leadership recruitment. Democracy in itself is not always very useful in this regard. Citizens sometimes choose leaders because they like their racism and tribalism or because they like the fact that they steal public funds and share (a bit of it) out. Of course in Nigeria, we often refuse to even allow the people choose their bad leaders themselves. Violence, money, security and control of institutions are often used to impose leaders on the people. In such situations, people do not learn, through practice that there are terrible consequences for choosing bad leaders. We must learn to make our mistakes.
The question however remains that what do we do now. We have too many leaders without brains and above all, without any commitment to the welfare and security of the people. One useful step that the various emerging groups can do is to develop a leadership charter. Let’s start the conversation on who deserves the honour and privilege to govern us. What should be their track record and qualifications? How do we assess their competence, integrity and ethics? How do we ensure that they have a (good) brain?