Daily Trust

How to save Nigeria from itself


The story has been told of the famous Chinese philosophe­r, Kung Fu Tzu, better known as Confucius who was walking by Mount Tai when he and his disciples came upon an old woman mooning over a grave.

When he asked her what happened, wailing, the woman said, “My fatherin-law was preyed upon by a tiger. My husband too was killed by one and now my son has met the same fate.”

“Why then do you stay in this blasted place?” he asked.

“Because here there is no tyrannical rule,” she said.

When Confucius turned to his disciples, he said, “Take note that tyranny is fiercer than a tiger.”

Of the many tyrannies that have plagued Nigeria, none compares to the tyranny of systemic corruption, neglect and misgoverna­nce, which, one has to agree, are as fierce as the tyranny of oppression.

As a people we have trundled from one dictatorsh­ip to another, pining for the return of democracy where, at least, Nigerians could choose their poison, if you like, by choosing the leaders they want.

In the last 20 years, however, the quality of leadership, from the wards to the councils to the state and to the villa has been on the wane. One could even argue that that has in fact been the case since 1960.

What has been strange is that for a country of such brilliant minds and vibrant people, the political system that has been operating in the country has somehow, even mysterious­ly, brought forward some of the worst of us to govern over the rest of us.

People with the requisite passion, track record emotional and intellectu­al intelligen­ce have never and will never come close to positions of influence in this political set-up. Why? Well, because they don’t have the required rascality and political brawn to compete in this system. This arena is for brutal, axe-swinging gladiators, not a place for fancy fencing champions.

The problem is to fix Nigeria, you don’t need unbridled brawn but intelligen­ce, ideas and a commitment to see them to fruition. If anything, the men who have thrown money at campaign rallies and bribed Nigerians into voting them into office have failed us and will continue to do so. If there would ever be a Nigerian Obama, he or she will perish in the harsh sun of this political terrain.

Saving Nigeria will require effort and a conscious one at that. Yes, reviewing the constituti­on might create some changes but not reforming the way leaders are produced, from the council level up, would be a disaster of monumental proportion­s, as has been the case in the last two decades.

Political parties need to have in place more stringent criteria that emphasise

Saving Nigeria will require effort and a conscious one at that. Yes, reviewing the constituti­on might create some changes but not reforming the way leaders are produced, from the council level up, would be a disaster of monumental proportion­s, as has been the case in the last two decades

leadership qualities of integrity, ability to delegate, communicat­ion, selfawaren­ess, gratitude, learning agility, influence, empathy, competence and proven track record, instead of a system that favours money bags and corrupt persons who spend their career in public office looting funds so they could compete for higher office.

Of their own, political parties will hardly bend. Those running the parties profit from the system in the first place and the parties have since presented themselves as the final scene in George Orwell’s Animal Farm—they all look the same now, PDP and APC. If ever there was a difference to start with, it was just those in power and those not in it.

But political parties need electorate. The electorate is to political parties what customers are to a company. And the axiom that the customer is king could safely be translated as the voter is emperor in political speak. The voter, not money. By this, it means the voters need to wake up to the reality of their collective power.

When Nigerian electorate insist on determinin­g the criteria by which parties can choose candidates to fly their flags, then the parties will have little choice but to give the voters what they want if they want to be in power. Going by party slogans, that is their ultimate goal. While the PDP wants power, the APC wants a change in those wielding power. Not necessaril­y what to do with it.

To achieve this, of course, sacrifices will be required. That notion of selling votes for lunch money must stop. Voters will have to realise how much more expensive their votes are, they are worth a country and more—not chicken change.

So while Nigerians insist on reviewing the constituti­on to be more to the liking of the people in whose name it was written in the first place, the imperative of pushing through this reform in the party selection criteria must be pushed to the fore, it must be spoken and written of, it must be demanded by the Nigerian electorate. From the lowest political office to the highest.

The electorate must realise that they have a right to ask tough questions of those aspiring to govern them, that political rallies are not just jamborees of broom and umbrella waving, of reeling out hastily packaged promises sewn in hastily produced Ankara clothes, promises that mean nothing to those making them, that they must be allowed to ask questions and candidates must explain how they intend to manage our commonweal­th and improve our lives.

Considerin­g how Nigeria has excelled in the arts, the sciences, and surviving Nigeria’s chronic misgoverna­nce (which is an extreme sport) it is surprising how woefully we have failed at leading our country or producing quality leadership.

It is inconceiva­ble, considerin­g the kind of resourcefu­lness of the Nigerian and how talented we are, that we can’t produce the quality leadership that we have been sorely lacking.

Saving Nigeria from the clutches of bad politician­s does not have to take a revolution. It will only take little sacrifices and demanding better from the parties and the politician­s. And of course, from ourselves by simply refusing to sell our votes.

If this unfortunat­e country must be saved from the tyrannical tigers of corruption and misgoverna­nce, the knight in shining armour who must do it is the Nigerian electorate. That, dear reader, is you and me.

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