Matters Arising

June 20, 2009

Can we change the looting spree?

By Kule Oyatomi
Last week I wrote about the seeming incapacity of our present polity to handle the debilitating disease of corruption in the country.

If the current democratic infrastructure is too week to tackle corruption, then there’s no way we can depend on it to make significant progress.

There must be a way out, and this country is very capable of fashioning a way out.
We have the manpower to effect change. We are endowed with spiritually elevated people with big intellect who can put things right.

But our nemesis is that those who make corruption impossible to fight are those at the helm of power.

All of us are agreed that violent change of the system are undesirable and we are also agreed that fundamental changes need to be made  before the policy needs to be run successfully for economic and social progress to take place.

It is a difficult admission to make. But the truth is that democracy in Nigeria cannot thrive as currently constituted because it leaves the institutions critical to democracy in the hands of unsuitable people.

There are virtually no benchmark for the quality or  personnel or  individuals who could participate intelligently and successfully to grow the political process upon which a thriving economy will flourish.

I am talking about benchmark of what we could easily call standard. The current system has none. First anybody and everybody can aspire to political leadership and participation in the political process. It is a fundamental error.

Governance is about a public service. Democracy is about intelligent operation of a free space in which the right and freedom of individual is protected and ensured.

So, what calibre of people should our democratic space allow to participate in the political process, given that a heavy burden of accountability is attached to the democratic governance of this country?

Should this huge task be placed on the shoulder of ignorance, inexperience of hardly evolved individuals?

To find an answer, let’s get back to the simple process of training a child. It needs no qualification to get into kindergarten except that he can walk and talk and appears to be healthy.

From the kindergarten, not too much emphasis is placed on performance before that child is admitted into nursery and primary. That’s where the free advantage ends.

To proceed to the secondary school, a child must meet a basic minimum standard of performance. From then on until he becomes qualified adult, the child’s aptitude and performance determine into what career prospects he is admitted in higher institution of learning.

As the child grows, he is conscious of the standard required of him to be able to practise in his given profession.

This process should be applicable also to all the processes of the democratic institutions.

There must be a standard which a politicians must meet to qualify to participate in the process.

As things stand at the moment, those who are engaged in politics and in governance are largely not designed to participate in altruistic enterprises like you have in politics.

Democratic politics is designed for people who have the urge to contribute to the social, political and economic development of the nation as distinct from their everyday business to make money for themselves.

If we do not have the political will to limit political participation to those who have something to contribute to the advancement of law, governance, political thoughts and socio engineering including economic development for the good of the society, there is no way out democracy will thrive.

Those who cannot offer anything to growth of ideas and the practice of governance, become liability to the system rather than assets.

It is this liability we are now having to contend with.
Until and unless we address the issue of fundamentally changing the system and the quality of people who run it, we are on the road to a failed state if we are not one already.