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Politicians and their ways

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THAT politics is the branch of social science that deals with the allocation of power to a few individuals, to use as they deem fit, on behalf of the majority of the people is no longer news.

What is baffling is how these few have perfected the art of circulating power amongst themselves. Vilfredo Pareto, the French born Italian philosopher termed it ‘the circulation of the elites’. They are found everywhere; in the military and para-military, business, civil service and yes, governance.

Once in a while, people of the lower cadre smuggle or work themselves in there and when they get there, they help to perpetuate the status quo. That is why, in a country like Nigeria, almost everyone who has found himself in position of leadership is from modest background. These are individuals whose town unions or government have helped to pay their way through schools. Most of them also took over leadership positions from the white men. One begins to wonder why, in spite of their personal experiences and backgrounds, the ordinary folks have been unable to enjoy the benefits of their leadership?

The answer is in Pareto’s circulation of the elites theory. Simply stated: it implies that the outcome of a group activity is majorly determined by a small few in the group, usually in the ratio of twenty to eighty(20:80) percent.

It can be interpreted into various field of human endeavour and studies and, if I am to relate it to the Nigerian political situation, the few controlling the flow of governance are not even up to one percent. And, usually, their interest supersedes all other interests, including that of the nation. That is why, an Olusegun Obasanjo for example, will pick Umaru Yar”Adua and Goodluck Jonathan to become president and vice of the country, despite their initial reluctance to contest for the presidency.

In real life, power is in the hands of these elites. According to Vilfredo Pareto: “Men follow their sentiments and their self interests, but it pleases them to imagine that they follow reason.

And so they look for, and always find some theory which, a posteriori, makes their actions appear to be logical. If that theory could be demolished scientifically, the only result would be that another theory would be substituted for the first one, and for the same purpose”. As a result, in every action of man, there is a logical explanation to it, especially for those in the disciplines of explaining human behaviour. There is no generally accepted path on how human beings should govern themselves and this has given the politicians excuses to take the people for granted.

They are the same all over the world. Ambrose Bierce says: “Politics: A strife of interests masquerading as a contest of principles. The conductor of public affairs for private advantage”. Still in this line, Wiston Churchill says: “Politics is not a game, it is an earnest business”.

I am referring to all of these quotes, to bring the reader’s attention to the behavioural patterns of politicians, as one who should not be trusted. For example Dung Larson says:”instead of giving a politician the keys to the city, it might be better to change the locks”. Even the Ronald Reagan said this of politics: “It has been said that politics is the second oldest profession. I have learned that it bears a striking resemblance to the first”. Another quote credited to Aesop, has this to say: “We hang the petty thieves and appoint the great ones to public office”.

If we understand the ways of politicians, we would not be fighting ourselves unnecessarily. According to Cal Thomas: “one of the reasons people hate politics is that truth is rarely a politician’s objective, election and power are”.

When one examine closely the spate of accusations and counter accusations from the PDP and APC, one demands an explanation for all the trouble? But there’ is none forthcoming. This is what Ross Perot, former United States independent presidential candidate has to say: “War has rules, mud wrestling has rules- Politics has no rules”, and Bernard Barunch goes further: ” Vote for the man who promises least; he will be least disappointing”.

Now this from George Mcdonald: ” it is not in the nature of politics that the best man should be elected. The best men do not want to govern their fellow man”.

You can now see why in this election campaigns, none of them is telling us how they intend to carry out the change we so much desire. In this moment of drop in the federation’s revenue, insecurity, impositions and oppression of all types, they are not telling us how they will execute these changes.

That is why none of them is addressing the restructuring of the federation to reflect its true position, because they are afraid, they will hurt some people’s feelings. That is why they are not addressing the imposition of democratic structures that will make the people live true to standards. Institutionalised structures, not person focussed structures but enduring structures that will outlive all of us and our great grand children after us.

That is the way of the politicians, they fear to take the right actions because it will affect their electoral fortunes. That is why Gore Vidal says: “By the time a man gets to be president material, he’s been bought ten times over”. That is why extreme conservatives and progressives are now one. To quote Mark Twain “Principles have no real force except when one is well fed”.

But are grateful to God, there are very few exceptions. Charles de Gaulle said: “In politics, it is necessary either to betray one’s country or the electorate. I prefer to betray the electorate”.

When shall we have our own De Gaulle?

Mr. Sunny Ikhioya, a commentator on national issues, wrote from Lagos.

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