By Setonji Koshoedo
It is interesting that, like some other people, I always take cognisance of the happenings around me; and I learnt the technique of doing this in a course on organisational culture that I once attended. People’s body language and words reveal volumes about their intentions, especially the traits and the words of key players in organisations. It exposes hidden facts about what the organisation stands for, whether corporate or political.
I got the prompt to put this piece together from one of such experiences I had recently in one of my political outings. I was in a political programme organised to encourage youths in politics, and I got the shock of my life from the presentation of one of the panelists; he happened to be one of the principal political actors from one of the states in Nigeria. This political leader/guru emphatically told the audience of innocent potential politicians that ‘politics is business,’ and that it has to be devotedly pursued as a business if one wants to succeed in it.
This statement generated a mild argument between this leader and his contemporaries who happened to be members of the panel of discussants. And I said to myself, “Oh my God, this is what politics in this state and Nigeria at large has become.” I have always assumed that other politicians, especially of that calibre, see politics as service to humanity. I then found out that I was completely wrong and that I had been living in another political world. The statement of this political guru revealed a lot to me about the hidden intentions in the hearts of similar key political game-players in Nigeria. This also told me that this was, and still is, the guiding culture in all our political parties.
Politics, by definition, is the activities associated with governance, which are aimed at improving the status of citizens, especially the common and poor man in the society who cannot, on his own, afford the basic amenities without the help of the government. But this has been turned into activities to improve the status of the privileged, who can survive without much intervention from the government, to oppress the ordinary man, piinching hadship and suffering on the already disadvantaged citizen. This occurrence is a result of how the major players of the game of politics understand the game. Is politics the business of amassing wealth for the players? Is it to gain more influence by the already influential members of the society? Or is it for performing essential services for humanity in a bid to improve the lives of the common man, and people in general? These are the questions we all have to provide answers to before getting to play the game of politics correctly.
For me, politics is about people. It can be defined as the set of activities undertaken to share, manage and distribute national resources, both human and material, for the benefits of the generality of the people. Putting our searchlight on this state in particular, and on Nigeria as a whole: Can one say that politics has attained its constituted role of benefitting and servicing the populace? Or has it been turned into a business for the privileged few to amass wealth? What we have is a situation contrary to the adage of the Lagos Eyo Masquerades which says “bu kan ko mi, bu kan ko ra re,” meaning “when sharing our collective resources, give me one and give yourself one.” But nowadays what we have is “bu kan ko mi, bu mewa ko ra re,” meaning “give me one and give ten to yourself”; a clear situation of politics as business
I feel sorry for the future of Nigeria if the youth are being taught how to make politics a business; cold spring water, they say, cannot come out of a hot source; neither can hot spring water come out of a cold source. It is no lie that as a man thinks, so he is. This agrees with the observable traits in our political lives as shown by the game players and the resulting outcomes in our polity. People are being short-changed and oppressed through the mismanagement of human and material resources by the style of politics practiced in this country. All their rights have been usurped! What people are experiencing is purely a style of robbing Peter to pay Paul.
The rich are getting richer, and the poor are getting poorer. Apparently, a state of a false and manipulative system of governance that is softly maiming and killing the ordinary man is the trend. This is a system that has made the worst unprincipled members of the society, who can go along to get along, to become better than they would have been in a regular and typical situation; this to the detriment of the patriotic and hard-working members of our society. Only political gladiators are garnering benefits, and they are using force to impose bad political candidates on the people.
Impunity has become the order of the day, and bad candidates are being made to win at all costs, even against the wishes of the communities. These are desperate moves, indicating that there is more to it than normal; making candidates win at all costs even if lives are wasted. Using electoral, security and judicial organs to perpetrate these evils; traits that show that politics is genuinely a business. The visible effects of these actions are observable all around us.
The outcome of this type of politics is a sharp gap between the poor and the rich, in which the poor lack essential amenities that the government ought to provide for their comfort, and the rich own the best properties in the country. They buy exotic cars, houses, etc., and waste the treasures of the country’s collective purse; committing what a writer calls ‘eusebeigenic’ sins, that is, the sins of the righteous. They also hide under concession laws to buy most choice government areas and property. Politics is, of course, real business for them, and a thriving business for that matter. But what has brought us to this unfortunate situation?
On the one hand, as a man thinks, so he is; and that determines his behaviour. The minds of these gladiators are so vain and their eyes so blind that they cannot see life beyond the vanities of life. Their craving for material things of life has no limit. They would die or kill for mundane achievements rather than leave behind a legacy of the good they had done while alive.
The weak minds of the key players are the ‘controllers’ of our nation Nigeria; this is a situation in which their mind-set has made them choose wrong political ideologies to the detriment of pure political purposes. And in this modern day of ours, this, of course, leaves the people in bondage, if not absolute slavery.
On the other hand, the people themselves are not blameless; they have their faults too. They have become so ignorant and gullible, and they allow themselves to be used and dumped. When tremendous wealth lies in the hands of very few, the tendency is that they have tremendous influence over the masses, but they are selfishly benefitting themselves. And the resulting impact on the society is that potentially affluent communities become underdeveloped and marginalised.
The traits of making politics a business is not far-fetched. It is first noticeable in politicians’ aggressive approach to politics. I have often wondered: Do I have to shed blood to serve people? Or do I need to destroy the systems of governance to serve? But these political gladiators do not care how their decisions affect the common man. The resultant effect of their unwise decision is a society of violence and uneven development which the government will have to spend taxpayers’ money to control. Undoubtedly, this is not the desire of the average Nigerian.
Contrary to making politics-a-business agenda, politics is service; in other words, rendering services that will create a conducive environment for a peaceful society where all citizens have equal rights to explore their God-given talents. The traits are visible in the systems of government which allow liberty, equality, and justice; a humane society where the ordinary man has access to essential amenities because he is treated as a human being and not something less-than-human. I believe that this is what Nigerians long to experience.
Choosing between politics for business and politics for service to humanity lies in the hands every one of us. It is our responsibility to make sure we play our role in the creation of a conducive political environment that we desire for our country. Non-politicians need to be knowledgeable and enlightened enough to discern the good and the bad of political ‘businessmen.’ And the politicians themselves must see politics as a service to humanity through which humans can prosper and have a near-perfect life. It, therefore, requires all-round participation; the right people with the right mind-set must be in politics. Citizens should see ‘politics-as-business’ as a problem that is capable of debarring them from reaching their goals of living good lives. They should, therefore, be ready to tackle the menace of bad leadership by engaging in political activities around them and insisting on legal and credible elections.
Another aspect whereby people get enslaved is the situation in which a single person bankrolls election activities; thus, politics automatically becomes the financier’s business, and he will do everything and anything to recover his money. Funding an election should be the responsibility of everyone. It provides for commitment and sincerity of purpose.
It must also be the responsibility of everyone to communicate with every other; sharing knowledge and ideas through effective communication must not be hindered.
It will be a good idea to sound a clarion call to all and sundry to revolt against making politics a business; it is our responsibility to imbibe this culture and get involved in chasing out negative ideologies and actors.