Posted by Emmanuel Onwubiko | 24 May 2014 | 3,793 times
Two nations in this contemporary political era typify the immediate outcome of what too much selfish and petty politics among the ruling elite would look like. These are Thailand and Egypt – which are countries located far apart from each other but have in the recent period experienced similar political and economic misfortunes.
After several months of political unrests among two diametrically opposed camps made up of supporters in the rural and urban areas, the Thai military in the last 24 hours announced the take-over of government from the quarrelsome political contenders.
The military overthrow of a democratically elected administration in Thailand has signposted growing uncertainty even as foreigners who thronged the different parts of that beautiful country have become cautious since there is now a general state of political anxiety brought about by the instability created by the military who have taken over political administration of that country, and have already announced several measures aimed at curtailing fundamental freedoms of not just the politicians that have now been pushed aside, but even foreign tourists caught up in the crossfire are advised to go to bed early following a nationwide curfew.
Thai military that wrestled power from the democratically elected administration has in the most bizarre fashion blacklisted several dozens of politicians and activists whom they have reportedly banned from travelling abroad. These military renegades even went to the ridiculous extent of detaining the immediate past embattled prime minister and sister of the exiled billionaire, Mr. Thaksin Shinawatra [Miss Shinawatra]. Thailand will certainly suffer some severe economic setbacks because of this current political turmoil. Already, the United States government has rejected the military coup, thereby forcing those military men to announce a decision to appoint a neutral prime minister who would then proceed to organise another general election.
The case of Egypt in North Africa is even worse, because of the revolution and counter-revolution that toppled two different civilian administrations and the foisting of an interim administration preparatory for a national election next week in which the military chief that supervised the overthrow of the last democratically elected administration [General Abdel Fatah Al Sisi] is speculated to have perfected measures to manipulate the electoral process so he could emerge the elected civilian president, after a choreographed retirement from his top military position.
At the last count, Egypt’s economy has plummeted to an all-time low, even as unemployment has spiralled and now estimated at 14 per cent. The dominant contributor to the local economy which is Egypt's tourism industry has began a spiral decline as foreign visitors are weary of being caught in the crossfire of terrorism campaign that started with the removal through a counter-revolution of the Moslem Brotherhood-led civilian administration and the eventual crackdown on members and leaders of the Moslem Brotherhood: Egypt’s most enduring religious cum political movement in a long time. A report by CI Capital Research estimated that tourism revenue in Egypt for 2011 reached $7.6 billion – a 35 per cent drop below levels in 2010. Such experiences depicted above are clear demonstrations of what a nation becomes when politicians, rather than statesmen/stateswomen, are foisted on such country as leaders.
The above shameful scenario leads to an experience one had far back in early February 1997, when a well-respected community leader in a town not far away from Jos, the Plateau State capital, Mr.Dan Fari Bello (not real names) engaged his contemporary, Mr. Usman Bako, in a dinner-time debate about what Nigeria needs now in her collective quest to liberate the people of Nigeria from the pervading situation of corruption, mass poverty, hunger, unemployment and organised sophisticated crimes.
The veteran community elders were analysing the conceptual phrases of the politician and the statesman. At the end of the debate, both men came to a compromise or rather consensus opinion that Nigeria is urgently in need of statesmen cum nation builders, and not career politicians. The discussants blamed career politicians for all Nigeria’s existential, economic, social, political and religious woes and adversities.
In a survey of Nigeria published in a magazine titled ECONOMIST of January 13, 1982, one Nicholas Harman concluded that Nigeria, “the giant of Africa, one of the world’s ten most populous nations, strategically vital, rich in natural resources, was heading downwards.”
Harman prophetically asked: “How can so much money and such high hopes engender such chaos…? Why is almost everyone infernally aggressive, and when aggressive driving kills, people can’t at least clear the corpses off the streets?
Nicholas Haman added: “In a country out of which fortunes have been made lately [from the huge crude oil resources], the overwhelming majority of Nigerians are poor, utterly uneducated and increasingly separated from their roots in farms and village...”
Similarly, Dr Arthur Nwankwo, a respected commentator on national issues and publisher, had affirmed, since two decades back, that Nigerians are still burdened with multifarious difficulties such as the general insufficiency of necessities, including water, good network of roads and power supply.
Arthur Nwankwo stated rightly that majority of the Nigerian people are living in very unhappy environments, and that the bureaucratic machinery in government offices of all levels of administration across board have slowed down the dispensation of the constitutional responsibilities and duties that civil servants and political office holders ought to provide to the populace.
In this article, we will attempt a comparative analysis of politician and statesman in order to ascertain whether there is a meeting point or borderline between the two terminologies.
Late Dr Kingsley Ozuomba Mbadiwe, one of the strong pillars of Nigeria’s independence struggle, who featured prominently in the First and Second republic politics, wrote in his book "Rebirth of a Nation" that politics is an art in the government and administration of human beings in the society, and for him politics ought to be one of the highest functions devised by man for the uplift and orderly preservation of the wellbeing of humanity.
Dr Mbadiwe lamented the sharp decline in the quality of persons thrown up as politicians when he wrote thus: “It is painful, however, to see that this highest function of human beings in the society is so carelessly handled that it seems to have lost respectability…Before any person could reach the level of being a politician, whose responsibility covers the management of men and affairs, he or she would have been trained and seasoned. His above average intelligence is taken for granted as a precondition of qualification for any training. In the name of what is logical and what is sensible, how can people without training be made to direct and rule those who are more competent than themselves? These are some of the factors which contribute to make politics in the First and Second republic to be misapplied by some overzealous persons.…”
K.O. Mbadiwe characterised a statesman in the following words: “With the emergence of a visionary leader, a leader accepted nationally; forward-looking, honest and patriotic, the nation’s problem of instability is removed. I believe our search for a new society will bring forth a new leadership for the people. The new society which will be dedicated to the equality of all people will entrust power to a highly responsible people’s leader. The leadership shall in return hold power in trust for the greater good of all Nigerians. No one should be made to aspire to leadership or be entrusted with power unless he is qualified to hold it; unless he has something worthwhile for the people.”
Dr Mbadiwe’s trend of thought goes to show that a politician, to some extent, is a statesman. K.O. (as he was fondly called) noted that the qualities expected of a Nigerian politician cum statesman are as follows: first, the new leader must as a precondition, have the traits of leadership, namely, knowledge, humanity, public spiritedness, approachability, sincerity, keeping faith, selflessness and patriotism.
A politician, he said, should appreciate the implementations and apprehensions of power. “Apart from the constraints of tenure limited by the constitution, he should be ready to bow out, if need be. Secondly, the leader should understand his work. He should not be self-opinionated. He should be confident but not pompous....”
Usman Danfodio, the Islamist who undertook extensive violent Jihad across Northern Nigeria that led to the establishment of the Sokoto Caliphate, was quoted to have asked in one of his published materials on leadership: “Which one should look after the affairs of men but one who is of sound mind, abundant knowledge, little conceit, great zeal, strong without weakness, generous but not a squanderer, bearing no blame of any person…. A leader must have such strength that the killing of a man in the cause of truth would be to him like the killing of a swallow; and should have mildness, kindness, care and mercy which makes him fear to kill a bird without justice… a leader must endeavour to ward off every cause of corruption and harm from befalling the people of his land to secure everything for their welfare and sustenance, and to protect and defend them against anyone who would wage war to cause them any harm.”
These are the best qualities of what is expected of a Nigerian politician cum statesman. But, unfortunately, Nigeria is now populated by a bunch of anarchists and crass opportunists who are in no way near the description of statesmen.
J.F. Clerke, who perhaps made one of the most evidently rich statements on the concepts of leadership and what constitutes a statesman, wrote: “A politician thinks of the next election, but a statesman thinks of the next generation.” Certainly, most politicians in contemporary Nigeria are thinking of the 2015 general elections, and not on how to tackle sufficiently the maddening scenario of security nightmares and violent terrorism being waged by the violent Islamists Boko Haram, who, by the last count, have killed over 12,000 innocent Nigerians in their wanton campaign of murderous terrorism. The Peoples Democratic Party and All Progressives Congress are two political contraptions whereby these crass political opportunists have camped themselves, battling to outdo each other in the run-up to the forthcoming 2015 general elections.
Nigerians must look out for the few statesmen and women among the maddening crowd so they are given the opportunity to govern Nigeria, because except we give power to statesmen and stateswomen, Nigeria will not be liberated from the strangulating emasculation of those bunch of political prostitutes running political business in most parts of Nigeria now. Nigerians must reflect deeply on what Edmund Burke, one of the most respected political writers of all times, said: “The greater difference between the statesman and the pretenders, is that the one sees into the future while the other regards only the present; the one lives by the day and acts in experience, the other acts on enduring principles and for immortality.”
Socrates, a philosopher in the ancient Greek, considered knowledge and virtue as the two most strategic qualities which a politician cum statesman is expected to imbibe and externalise. For Socrates, knowledge and virtue was the same thing. If virtue has to do with making the soul as good as possible, it is first necessary to know what makes the soul good. Goodness and knowledge are, therefore, closely related because for Socrates knowledge is virtue.
Plato, a contemporary of Socrates also wrote: “Religious knowledge must be the proper training of the leader. He (Plato) canvassed for the evolution, emergence and enthronement of a philosopher-king. The leader, said Plato, should be the one who has been fully educated, one who has come to understand the difference between the variable world and the intelligent world, between the realm of opinion and the realm of knowledge, between appearance and reality. The philosopher-king is one whose education, in short, has led up step-by-step through the ascending degrees of knowledge of the dividing line and, at last, has a knowledge of the good....”
The philosopher-king as espoused by the great philosopher, Plato is, indeed, a perfect representation of a good statesman and politician. As Nigeria, once again, searches for credible political leaders who would move Nigeria forward from her state of backwardness to the one of greatness, the Nigerian electorate are advised to elect only those Nigerians who have the collective interest of this country at heart.
Nigerians should vote for politicians and statesmen who have been tested and trusted. Credibility, trustworthiness, godliness, financial prudence and, above all, sincerity of purpose are the qualities to look out for in our politicians and statesman.
Nigerians should look out and reject those groups of Nigerians who parade around as either politicians, but who are in fact, undesirable elements and failed contractors and fraudsters.
What we need now in Nigeria are nation-builders and statesmen who would see their election to political offices as opportunities to lift their country into a higher plane of wellbeing. Nwankwo rightly said, “the progress Nigeria wants is one that will be an ascendant journey, always moving into brighter prospects.”
The change that people want in 2015 is for the masters of the people to become the servants of the people. It is not the change of guards, but structural change that ensures security, as some political strategists had argued. And I agree.
This is indeed a wise counsel in the ongoing political dispensation. Let us all resolve today to elect only those Nigerians who possess the pristine qualities of politicians and statesmen.
•RIGHTSVIEW appears twice a week on Wednesday and Saturdays, in addition to special appearances. The Columnist, popular activist Emmanuel Onwubiko, is a former Federal Commissioner of Nigeria’s National Human Rights Commission and presently National Coordinator of Human Rights Writers’ Association of Nigeria (HURIWA).
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