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Politicians and absence of political philosophy

By Adisa Adeleye

THE great debate is on.  It has something to do with the political stability of our great country – Nigeria. Every Nigerian is expected to join in the search for that golden greatness, which has eluded the country. It may be pertinent to ask, what are we searching for?

The answer lies partly in the terrible experience of the past, the perplexing confusion of the present and the uncertainty of the future.  In the search for a `Stable Political Order`, the theoretical framework has been laid through the agonizing centuries by those Western political philosophers, starting from Plato and Aristotle in the ancient world to St. Augustine and St. Thomas Aquinas in the medieval age.  However, the search for good social order and political stability has continued unabated during the period of ‘Enlightenment` in Europe.

Certainly, Nigerian political pundits are not unaware of the rights of brute force represented in the political thoughts of Machiavelli or are they unmindful of Hobbes philosophy of Absolutism.  They are certainly familiar with Locke`s `Contract` and Mills` treatise on Liberalism.

Tom Paine`s theory of Freedom of the Individual and the dream of Working Class struggle of Marx would not have been missed by our political historians.  In black Africa, Kwame Nkrumah was the best exponent of Nationalism and supremacy of the `Party over State`.

It is therefore safe to assume that our past political experiments `crashed` not because of want of elegant phrases and sophisticated edifices.  In fact, the 1979 Constitution could be described as an embodiment of the concept of `Rule of Law`, Contract of consent, Liberalism and Sovereignty of the country and the people.  It is easy to draw an interesting conclusion that the search for a stable political order should go beyond the quest for a perfect constitution which may not exist anywhere in the world.

It is believed that the real search should be for the `right leadership` at the moment.  What factors had made good `leadership` difficult to find?  Perhaps the answer lies in the simple nature of the average `Nigerian` who is concerned with how to live a better life today and leave something behind for his children.

It may not be wrong to believe that a Nigerian would be a good Nigerian only if he could look up for a gainful employment, good accommodation, good medical care for himself and his family, good education for his children and good care in his old age in a state of his vision. The quest for `better` life for himself in his own way, and by any means may be the genesis of corruption caused by his selfish interest.

President Goodluck Jonathan

Summing up, it is possible to witness the emergence of a good Nigerian in a welfare state.  Thus a good Nigerian leader could emerge in an ideal state where the man`s vision of a better life is realized through man`s equitable contribution to the building of the golden cake. Such a Nigerian leader and such an ideal state have become elusive commodities before and now.  The obvious reason is the lack of vision of a Welfare State.

Many countries of the West have been able to attain political stability and economic prosperity through the emergence of good and effective leaders.  Some countries have been able to inject doses of liberalism into their democratic concepts by the introduction of progressive social and welfare programmes.

Since the last century, Britain our formal colonial master has been able to introduce comprehensive insurance programmes and social welfare packages to make democracy work.  One could simply predict that in Britain of today, no person would die of hunger because of unemployment, old age and poverty.

In the USA, President Obama made the issue of insurance cover for the lower classes of the society his election promise, and inspite of legislative difficulties; he has been able to push through some reforms.

It is a pity that in this country, irrespective of the social class or education of the past leaders, no single one has been able to live a permanent political or economic philosophy behind.  The leaders of the First Republic were what could be described as ‘enlightened despots` or benevolent and charismatic personalities.

They established Universities, built stadia for sports development and offered scholarships to the children of the poor.  But they were lords of all they surveyed and they suffered fools not gently.  Under those leaders, the problems of, Northern domination of the country, the Ibo Question and Yoruba Agenda surfaced and still remain intractable.

Significant impact
However, very unfortunately the current problems of the country are still corruption, ethnicity, insecurity, violence and poverty.  Since the return to democracy, the ruling parties have failed to make any significant impact on these problems, either through party programmes or performance in governance.

Citizens are constantly fed with shouts of political and economic reforms in the last 12 years without any concrete evidence on ground.  It is a case of assumed economic growth and deepening poverty. In essence, progress is interpreted as a repetition of past projects badly executed and being done again at a higher cost.

For example, roads, which gulped millions of naira and certified as completed would in the following year exhibit pot holes of frightening dimensions and would require other contracts to fix them.  It is a sorry sight of abandoned projects after the collection of full payment for the contract.

The question now is what could be done in a country which has tried all sorts of leadership – low and high, thin and fat, illiterate and lettered, saint and sinners (as a respected columnist recently noted )?  The answer to me is simple but unambiguous.  The tragedy of our electoral process is that a winning party provides the government and the government is made up of members of the winning party, irrespective of quality.

So, it could be a question of the blind leading the blind into a dark valley of retrogression.  How could you explain a situation where a party fails to provide adequate electric power for industrial expansion, maintaining more than 20per cent unemployment and poverty up to about 70per cent population and such party winning landslide victories in elections?

It is either that the majority of the people are `nuts` or that the electoral system is imperfect and inadequate.  This is based on the assumption that no party in a civilized environment would proudly present itself to win an election in a situation where unemployment is more than 3 per cent and more than 70 per cent of the people are very poor.

In a country where insurgency is affecting political and economic stability, where the disease of corruption is endemic and where abject poverty is deepening, the answer lies in the formation of a genuine national government.  The expectation is that the best in the country should be able to tackle effectively the cancer eating terribly into the country`s soul and body.


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