By Sulaiman Akinosho
THE word politics is generally used in describing the activities of the people who occupy public office as well as the process of getting them there. It is believed to be synonymous with the process of managing the affairs of society. That is why anything that has to do with governance is regarded as politics and anyone that occupies any public office by election or appointment is a Politician.
This perspective makes the practice of politics such a huge necessity in the lives of any set of people. Since they have to be managed one way or another, it stands to reason that politics would be needed for the peace, order and sanity of society; and for the general wellbeing and prosperity of the people.
But this is actually a deceptive projection of politics in its true essence because in the practical world, the word politics describes those things that inhibit effective management. Whereas management is a disciplined process that involves rational decisions aimed at achieving some useful benefit for an institution or its members; politics comes to play only when an individual or a few undermine the system to benefit themselves. While effective management is about beneficial purpose, politics is about unbridled power and egotism.
One may even venture to describe politics as the embodiment of all that is evil about man. It is the repository of those blind and negative emotions that usually obstruct reason. Where management calls for competence, politics delivers nepotism and favouritsm. Where character is required politics renders greed, corruption and arrogance; and in place of courage politics presents timidity, fear and hopelessness. The principles of management are clear but there are no scruples in politics. It is guided by self-centredness and vain pursuits.
The more politics is played in society, the less the quality of life of the people. Even within families and businesses, bedroom or boardroom politics is often a pointer to some failings in the humanity of the parties and is usually counterproductive. Across time and space, politics has done nothing other than nourish the dark side of man. Man has only managed to make progress at such times that virtue is allowed to triumph over the vice that politics is.
Should we not then kill and bury politics so that virtue may thrive in the general interest of humanity? Or at least find a way to stifle it so that the world at large may fare better than it currently does. This may sound like wishful thinking but at some point humanity will have to come to grips with this necessity if our world is to be preserved. The universe can never be livable for as long as politics is allowed to overshadow public-spirited governance.
There is the need to isolate the virtue of management from the inanity of politics. Politics is actually dispensable. Societies can be properly managed without the prevailing abundance of politics. As individuals and groups we must begin to take steps to deoxygenate politics while invigorating management in the public sector.
With particular reference to Nigeria, the first area to look at is the recruitment process of public officers. The business of government is as serious a business as the management of any conglomerate if not more serious. It is curious then that the process of getting people into public offices is usually treated with levity. Why should the selection process of the people running the affairs of the entire country be an all comers affair where any sort of miscreant is welcome, when business orqanisations take every care to pick the best as their top executives.
And this is where one may enter some reservations about the utility of democracy in facilitating the emergence of the right kind of people. Really, there is no way the cankerworm called politics can be dealt with without some re-evaluation of democracy as a concept. It is not likely that the best set of people or the best decisions would arise from a process that relies so strongly on mere numbers.
We have to reopen the democratic box and do a dispassionate audit of its contents for real value. No concept or formula should be taken as given where our collective interest is concerned. What we need is a rigorous process of selection that clearly describes the job, specifies the skills and competencies, the deliverables as well as the evaluation parameters and timelines. If this has worked for the private sector over time, there is no reason why it cannot be applied in the public sphere even if with slight modifications.
Also, the media can weigh in against the dominance of politics by embarking on a silent protest that involves blacking out on the words politics and politicians especially when describing public office holders and their activities. It seems that those words have a way of fostering the vanity in people while in the position of power; so do all those high fallutin titles that have evolved more or less into symbols of power.
Public office holders in whatever positions are managers or supervisors first and foremost and they must be made to see themselves as such. It may even be useful to have more ordinary titles to replace president, governors, ministers and commissioners in order to focus their minds on the responsibilities of their offices.
Whatever it takes, let us begin the process of separating the pollutant called politics from the virtuous activity of statesmanship. Politics does not build societies. It is people with a purpose, knowledge and determination that make things happen. If our lives are important enough to us then we must arrest the tide of vanity that is sweeping across the theatre of governance by evolving a new engagement model that would bring value to public office.