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State of the Nation : Politicians behaving badly

By Jide Ajani

Who has cast a spell on Nigerian leaders?

In a nation guesstimated to have a population of 190million supposedly rational human beings, you expect a better percentage to behave sensibly.   That is not a misplaced expectation.   Therefore, if many more are sensible, you expect naturally beneficial outcomes in the activities of the people in government and the mass of people.   Ironically, the people do not directly control the levers of power, nor do they directly influence the day to day macro decisions of those leading the government, . The decisions those in government take come with consequences that affect the lives of the masses.

So, the priviledged few who are charged with the responsibility of directing the affairs of the nation, those to whom the mass of the people have surrendered their  sovereignty for a term of office, are then expected to, in good conscience, mirror the aspirations of those to whom they owe that performance duty.

Unfortunately, due to either the complex interplay of forces, sometimes fuelled by greed or lust for the transient effervascence of short term benefits from a vice-grip hold on power, or both, the very few, less than half of one per cent of the population, do the greatest harm to that aspiration by conducting themselves in ways that are below par.   In short, it is about behaving badly.

To avoid the constancy of behaving badly, a plethora of which then leads to anarchy, in comes constitutional governance.

Between the arguments of Solon, the Athenian lawmaker, and Protagoras, the Greek philosopher, were the need to lay down laws that were to later act as the foundation of Greek democracy in the one instance, and the view that political justice, which democracy seeks to institute, is an imposition of human ideas and not a reflection of natural justice, respectively. These points of view dominated the public sphere between 594BCE and 450BCE. And while Aristotle suggested that constitutional government provided better ways to run the state, Cicero advanced, in  Da republica, the need for broader, more democratic form of government.

Even at that,a bad habit that has continued unchecked at the hughest levels of government, would make a mockery of constitutional governance in so far as there have been no sanctions against those behaving badly.

Bad Behaviour

According to Wikipedia, The Free Encyclopedia, a bad habit is “an undesirable behavior pattern”.

Psychologists agree that the earlier one recognizes these habits, the better it is to eradicate them. But psychologists, too, having studied the nature of man, also discovered that will and intention play a deciding role.

“A key factor in distinguishing a bad habit from an addiction or mental disease” psychologists contend, “is the element of willpower. If a person still seems to have control over the behavior, then it is just a habit.    Good intentions are able to override the negative effect of bad habits but their effect seems to be independent and addictive – the bad habits remain but are subdued rather than cancelled”.

But then, there is the role of reinforcers.    These reinforcers are the factors which trigger, as well as encourage, the persistence of such habits because “as you get older, it becomes more difficult to remove them because the many repetitions have helped with the building of the habit, and each repetition has unfortunately left its mark”.

More unfortunately, therefore, what was thought to be an undesirable behavior pattern appears to be very desirable judging from the number of altercations that have been witnessed lately in the polity, particularly between members of the ruling All Progressives Congress, APC, on the one hand, and that between the APC and the Peoples Democratic Party, PDP.

The  siege, the spin

So, what really happened last Tuesday, at the main entrance of Nigeria’s National Assembly?

As to what happened, there are two versions.   As reasonable Nigerians, you can choose to believe the one you want.

First, the Department of State Services, DSS, usually overbearing and known to be a tool in the hands of the executive, including disobedience to court orders, for which nothing ever happened, laid siege to the National Assembly entrance early, Tuesday, August 7, 2018.   Now, a certain Lawal Daura, a jolly good fellow, always full of humour, is the DG and a family member to President Muhammadu Buhari.   As the story goes, the presence of the hooded men was to allow for senators loyal to Buhari have access, go into the chambers, remove Abubakar Bukola Saraki and Ike Ekweremadu as Senate President and Deputy Senate President respectively, and instal their replacements.   First, those against Saraki’s removal would have carried that out by flaggrantly trahsing the 1999 Constitution.   But this would not be the time such would be happening.   Some thugs were brought into the Senate chambers, they stole the mace in broad day light, and no one is being prosecuted.

The other version, which has become a staple on social media, and which is being ferociously pushed by some operators in the Presidency, was that the Peoples Democratic Party, PDP, leaders, always given to sordid drama,  as well as some people against Buhari – while not mentioning but almost alluding to the opposition –   acted in collusion with the sacked DSS DG with a view to embarrassing the Buhari administration and the Nigerian state.   Daura, they now claim, appears to be a fifth columnist against his benefactor, President Buhari.   Choose what to believe.

Who were the other co-conspirators in that show of shame?   This second aspect exposes the shenanighans of Nigerian politicians.

What ought to be a celebration, that the Acting President, Vice President Yemi Osinbajo, who was not kept in the know, acted swiftly to stop the show of shame, is now being muddied by the attempt at spinning what happened, that the self-same Dauara, who had acted serially like an attack dog of this administration without check, is a fifth columnist.   Osinbajo is said to have acted with the consent of President Buhari. The interim report by the Inspector General of Police, Ibrahim Idris, has said nothing other than what members of the public already know.

But how did we get here?

Truth is, when you allow impunity in small doses, you’re bound to get bigger  dose of bad behaviour.   That is how bad habits are formed.   Had President Buhari been firmer with his appointees across board, calling them to order when necessary and not giving the excuse of never being aware of infactions and unconstitutional acts, perhaps, just perhaps, what happened last Tuesday wouldn’t have happened.   And had he also not been re-instating some that were either suspended or fired, may be a Daura would never have been emboldened to do what he did.

The serial bad behaviour started with the election of Saraki, leading to the rowdiness of his opponents in the Senate, the Code of Conduct Tribunal saga, the thugs who invaded the Senate to steal its mace – mind you, no one is being prosecuted for that – the manner of the conduct of even the All Progressives Congress, APC, National Convention, and some unrully behaviour that day; the seige laid to the residences of Saraki and Ekweremadu, culminating in the seige to the National Assembly. The only way to stop bad behaviour is to strictly adhere to the 1999 Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria as amended.

For as long as we refuse to abide by the law, choosing which aspects to obey and which to disobey, for so long will bad behaviour subsist.   It constitutes bad precedence. That is not good for a country of competing socio-political and economic interests like  Nigeria because it would merely create a fertile ground for a vicious cycle of crisis which is why we are where we are today.

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