By Tonye Princewill
UP to this point, I have focused most of my attention on extremist ideologues and the instigators of violence and social discord. That’s because these happen to be the most urgent challenges we are facing at this time—and the perpetrators are very visible.
In many respects though, extremists and terrorists are less insidious than are the ordinary citizens who believe in political magic: In what can be called “social sleight-of-hand”.
One way or the other, the various armed insurgencies will be overcome. Far more tasking and threatening are the intellectual and psychological insurgencies, which deny the legitimacy of the Nigerian state because of government’s imperfections (“State” and “Government” are not the same).
It is the adherents of this fatalistic perception of Nigeria, who provide a political and social environment that is conducive for the armed insurgencies.
There is no perfect state; and there is no perfect political leader, whether he be head of state, minister, governor, commissioner, local government chairman or councilor. It is the imperfections of leaders and institutions that make evolution preferable to magic. Not only are “the beautiful ones” yet unborn, as the Ghanaian novelist, Ayi Kwei Armah, would put it, but they are also unconceived and, in reality, unconceivable. Messiah’s exist only in the spiritual realm.
In temporal politics, deliverance is gradual and, as I have said, often painful; and deliverers don’t arrive on white horses with thundering hooves or swoop down from the heavens on silver clouds. The growth of nations occur, not as radical leaps and bounds, but as gradually diminishing imperfections—averaged out in political time. The Chinese, for instance, learned this the hard way, during the Great Leap Forward.
We should give ourselves time. That’s what the Ghanaians did. Armah’s novel, The Beautiful Ones Are Not Yet Born, is a metaphor of post-independence corruption, set largely in the last days of the Nkrumah administration. But in the late 1960s, when Armah was writing, Nkrumah had long been overthrown.
Yet Ghana was mired deeper in corruption in 1968, than anyone living under Nkrumah would ever have imagined. Nigeria has never, in its history, descended to the depth to which Ghana plunged under K.A. Busia.
Ghana’s resurgence was gradual, not instantaneous. It began with Colonel Ignatius Kuto Acheampong’s removal of the corrupt and inept Busia administration—a foundation on which Flight Lt. Gerald Rawlings built after his brutal execution of Acheampong and two other former heads of state.
Seen in historical perspective, therefore, Ghana’s smooth, one-day transition from the Presidency of the late John Evans Atta Mills to that of John Dramani, was hardly a “piece of cake”—as Charles Taylor said, famously, during his rebel days in Liberia.
Like Ghana, Edo State has a turbulent political past. The journey from Ambrose Ali to Adams Oshiomhole has been no easy walk. Endemic corruption, intrigue and violence (including assassination) have been recurring political themes—albeit with varying intensities. Nor has the journey ended for Edo State.
Last May, for example, an Oshiomhole aide was assassinated; and the balloting took place under conditions which can only be described as a military occupation of the state. Nevertheless, the election was peaceful and the outcome prescient.
With Oshiomhole’s landslide victory (in balloting generally adjudged free and fair), Edo joins a growing phalanx of progressive states, with Lagos and Rivers setting the pace, which are pointing our nation in a refreshingly different direction—towards new standards of leadership and governance.
This is apparent, not only in Oshiomhole’s judicious use of the state’s resources during his first term, and in his style of governance—strikingly similar to that of Governor Chibuike Rotime Amaechi of Rivers State—but also in post-election politics.
I am particularly pleased with the posture of the opposition Peoples Democratic Party, PDP, the party to which I belong. Although the gubernatorial candidate, General Charles Airhiavbere, has, of his own volition, filed a petition with the election Tribunal, the party is not supporting him.
In fact, both the State Chairman, Dan Orbih, and the candidate for Deputy Governor, Johnson Abolagba, have opted out of the litigation. In doing so, they too are pointing us in a new direction—away from the “attempted court-room coup,” which is another form of political magic. An aggrieved candidate is, of course, entitled to his day in court. Otherwise Rivers State would certainly be in dire straits—since the Supreme Court gave Governor Amaechi his first term.
What I’m referring to, is the boring tradition of perennial and pointless post-election litigation, which Celestine Omehia of Rivers State and a few others exemplify.
But PDP in Edo State seems to be setting a different type of precedent. It apparently is breaking with the hackneyed post-election practice of probing for a legal weakness in hopes of over-ruling the electorate. We have evolved beyond that at, least in Edo state. Next stop - Nigeria.