FEATURE ARTICLE

E O EkeWednesday, September 19, 2012
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ON POLITICS AND POWER IN A MULTI-ETHNIC DEMOCRACY

o confound men, you have to play god by being a genius, having power, or lots of money. Men are more difficult to reason with if they have a prior determined position, and if you urge them to do good because it is good. They are creatures of selfish interest that recognises the morality of acting selflessly. Therefore, they are prone to hiding their selfish interests behind selfless objectives. There has to be something in it for most people before they can commit to cause.


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Now and then, there are common interests like the need for a good government and wars which threaten the existence of all , when men can be persuaded to act in the best interest of all. The secret of leading men would therefore include knowing how to help them find selfish interests in most situations and at the same time, convincing them that they are acting in the best interests of all. No professions provide that opportunity like politics and the clergy and no others are more abused by insincere, selfish and unscrupulous men.

Therefore, to lead men, one must as Machiavelli said in the Prince realise that they are liars and deceitful. Moreover, at all times, one should know what one expects of men and how he would want them to achieve it. Most important, a leader must know those who would oppose him and be prepared to provide a coherent argument and evidence for his position and able to contain then them within the law, whenever they decide to act against him. However, while the critics and opposition wait, the leader must be, honest, just and fair to all to give them no reason to act out that which they would nevertheless do without reason. A good leader must also know those who are loyal and reward them in a fair and generous manner. What a leader must avoid is acting unjustly and vindictively. If a leader acts vindictively, he not only loses the affection of those who would not have opposed him but also gives those who would have opposed him reason to act against him.

A leader should from time to time show mercy to some who would not have shown mercy to him to convince those who he would not show mercy, that they do not deserve it. This is the act of leadership. To succeed a leader must have a political, cultural, social or economic organisation to create the enabling environment for the people unleash their creativity on the world and able to define clearly his reason for seeking power and what he wants t\o achieve. When the only reason for seeking power is to enrich one's self as it seems to be in Nigeria, leadership loses its appeal and becomes the attraction of the lowest of the society in terms of moral vaules, intergrity and understanding. Therefore leadership is both a science and an art which must be studied in other to use the privileges it offers for good.

Unfortunately, the structure we operate in Nigeria is one that stifles creativity and innovation and the actors seem to be motivated by the most of primitives of insticts and values. It makes the people subservient to the leaders. Disempowers them in the selection of their leader and compels them to curry the favour of leaders in other to get what is theirs' by right. This is a complete contrast to the way true democracies operate. In addition, the people are still oriented towards traditional and religious attribution system which have very little place for reason and evidence. Under this type of system, people feel pressured to declare their loyalty to the leader instead of the leader being tasked to gain the trust and loyalty of the people by their performance. It ignores the fact that true loyalty is earned and not bought. It fails to appreciate that power and right to lead are earned by the democratic process which leads to the emergency of leaders and that declaration of loyalty is only an issue in organisation where democratic process is subverted, like autocratic or tyrannical states and associations.

Any organisation where there is a single revered leader who cannot be challenged or held accountable is not democratic. Any society where there are issues which cannot be discussed or further elucidated but must be believed is primitive. It breeds an environment that stifles freedom of thoughts, creativity and innovation on which development depends. In addition it creates a fertile ground and minds for extremism to flourish. This is the type of society Nigeria has evolved to become. This lesson has been reconfirmed by the fall of communism and many tyrannical rulers and by the recent fall of Lehman Brothers and Mummer Gaddafi of Libya. The fact is that in political as in any other organisations, without freedon and presevation of individual autonomy and rights, disintergration follows. Organisations and societies that endure are aware that there would be disagreement between members within a group and between groups on principles and methods. A good viable organisation and country therefore make provision for effective mechanism for resolving conflicts and holding their leaders to account. This is the secrete of the success of the west. It is not rocket science.

Conflicts are inevitable in any origination or society where men have freedom of thought. The challenge is to put in place a just, fair and robust mechanism for resolving or containing it. This depends on every individual and group accepting, the rule of law, plurality of views and encouraging civilised debate which is the correct and proper way of showing the superiority one's position and persuading the members of the organisation or other groups on the direction the organisation or country should take. This is true democracy. In cases where accommodation of one's view is not possible within an organisation, the person or groups must be free to pursue or their ideological convictions lawfully without molestation from the opponents. This is the Beauty of democracy and liberty and why no people will ever know peace until they accept and become true to it.

This brings me to the rather unfortunate development in my state of origin Abia and the megaphone politics employed by some Igbos leaders to attempt to get one of them elected as the president of the country. The obsession with the presidency by Igbos is taking a very interesting turn. It has become a case of a people believing their belief and then not allowing it to be informed by knowledge and evidence. In fact, it would seem that the conviction by some Igbos that it is their turn to produce the president of Nigeria in 2015 is held with the same intensity and conviction with which fanatics hold their religious beliefs. They simply believe it is there turn in 2015 to produce the next president and therefore they must have it. It would seem that they have failed to study the political situation and cycle, and evaluate the factors that have enabled people from other ethnic groups to emerge as presidents. Igbo leaders of some political parties speak as if their party interest is synomymous with the interest of Igbos. Instead of promoting politics of values and principles, they have reverted to ethnic politics which appeal to the the worst of human's primitive instincts and this is very sad.

This claim that it is the turn of Igbos to produce the next president is riddled with illogicality. First, Nigeria is not operation a one party state and second Nigeria does not function as a true federation and multi-party democracy. Therefore any position or equation about Nigeria that does not factor in these two variables will be defective. It would seem to me that the Igbos who think that if they shout loud enough that the presidency would be ceded to Igbos have not taken these factors sufficiently on board. Nigeria democracy is a contraption for ethnic groups to jostle for power and resource control while pretending to be be motivated by what is in the best interest of Nigeria. For many years, it was done on the bases of who controlled the army. During that time, the north repeatedly carried out coups to replace any government they figured were not acting in its best interest. Now, it is still done on that basis but in a rather subtle way by ensuring that whoever emerges as president, will be acceptable to the military and allow it to retain many of its undemocratic powers and influence in government.

The fact which many Nigerians may be unaware of is that Nigerian security forces are not loyal to the nation but to the government in power. Moreover, they are not neutral during elections. If Nigerian military were loyal to the nation, they would have protested the way and manner elections have been rigged in the past years and not have supported the loss of Bakassi. The Nigerian military usually does whatever the government in power wants it to do. They are not motivated by the ideals of democracy, secular society or noble values. Ours’ is not a true democracy, but autocracy in transition. For instance, the security forces virtually ensured the re-election of T A Orji as the governor of Abia state ensuring that the votes of the people did not count. Since his re-election, he has depended on them to govern and conducted himself more as an autocrat than as an elected governor who is responsible to the people. The consideration and humility expected from a politician who derived his power from the people is lacking in his utterances and conducts. He treats his responsibility as a favour to the people and expects the people to be grateful because he is attempting in a very poor and unacceptable way and manner to do what he is elected to do. He becomes angry when he is compared with others in similar position like him who are performing far better and believes that the people are blind to the plundering of their treasury which has being going on in his watch. He denies reality and instructs everybody in his government to simply apply the same psychological defence. Sometimes, I wonder, where corrupt Nigerian politicians gets their audacity. I continue to say that Igbos should put their house in order and demonstrate that the they understand multi-ethnic politics before they can succeed in their quest to produce the president of Nigeria under the current circumstance.

The variables that determine outcome in Nigerian politics would suggest that the woes of Igbos may not be really due to marginalisation but the inability of their leaders to play politics aright. Since the end of the civil war, Igbos have tended to produce leaders who are corrupt with only a few who were great and honest. The result has been that the other ethnic groups have exploited the greed of Igbo leaders to get what they wanted. In the period, Igbos claim to be marginalised, every single Igbo leader has become a millionaire. They should account for their millions before they can make a credible case for marginalisation. Sam Mbakwe was able to do in the short time he was in power more that, Temi Ejoor, Ogbonnaya Onu, Orji Uzor Kalu and T A Orji have done for Abia sate. The underdevelopment of Abia state is personal to me, and I believe those responsible should be held accountable, if Nigeria is a true democracy. This is why I find it revolting that Nigerian institutions and Igbo communities in diaspora can find the justification to honour those who are responsible for the underdevelopment of Igbo land. It says so much about Nigerians and Igbos as a people. The most serious problem confronting Igbos is corrupt leadership and this must be dealt before any progress can be made. As the Bible says, righteousness exalts a nation but sin is a reproach.

This brings me to the new organisation C21 which seems to be a right move for the wrong motive. It is very clear that the situation in Igbo land is very serious. If the pronouncements coming from the political leaders and what they have been able to achieve with the resources at their disposal are anything to go by, there is need to get the leadership right before embarking on anything. A look at the way and manner Igbos has been conducting their politics shows complete lack of strategic thinking. The moves have been either reactive or a spore of the moment action without prior deep thought and analysis it would seem.

I know that some people would not be happy, but I suppose it is important to tell ourselves the bitter truth, if we will succeed, especially if what is at stake is the future and welfare of the people. We cannot continue to make decision shaped by the political ambitions of few individuals which puts the long term interest of the people at risk. Politics should be about doing what is in the best interest of the people and not bending everything to enable a few achieve their lifelong ambition at the expense of what is in the best interest of all. For once we should be making decisions on the basis of evidence and what is in the best for the people.

A look at the political equation and permutation in Nigeria would clearly show that Igbos leaders are already making the wrong moves before the race. It does not seen to me that Igbo leaders realise that even though Nigeria claims to be a multi-party democracy that what actually takes place during presidential elections is ethnic struggle for power. Under such a system, consensus building, forming alliances and ability to negotiate without antagonising are imperative. This is why I am surprised at the utterances and political development in Igbo land.

It would therefore seem to me that the attempt by Igbos to produce the next president does not seem feasible in view of the political calculations and political cycle. It is very unlikely to succeed. The variable already on the ground would make it impossible. In my opinion, Igbos should forget about 2015 and concentrate in 2019 and use the time to plan and strategise. This is because the north and Jonathan would be locked in a dare devil struggle for power which would be probably won by Jonathan as an incumbent who would be going for a second term. Without Igbos support, Jonathan is likely to pledge his support to the north in 2019 to gain their support for 2015. Moreover, the north is already strategically positioned for 2019 in the post of the vice president. However, The activities of Boko Haram has isolated the north in Nigeria, and Igbos need to figure out how to benefit from this politically and joining the race in 2015 and antagonising Jonathan is not one of the ways. To shift the tectonic plate of Nigeria politics to deliver a president of Igbo extraction in the years ahead, Igbos must exploit fairly the activities of Boko Haram and price Igbos have paid in the name of one Nigeria.

If Jonathan secures his party’s nomination for a second term, Igbos in PDP would naturally support him and then seek the support of the other parties in the East to enable them negotiate with Jonathan on what he would do for Igbo land. Igbo leaders should be considering how to exploit this most probable outcome and not engaging on a wild goose chase. It would offer them an opportunity to secure the support of Jonathan and south south for Igbo presidency in 2019. This will be strategic politics at its best. If Igbos in PDP joins the race for presidency in 2015, they would be losing friends and antagonising south south whose support an Igbo candidate would need whenever he or she emerges as the party’s presidential candidate. This does not stop any other party in the country from selecting an Igbo or any other person from any ethnic group as its presidential candidate. However, to speak and act as if all Igbos belong to one political party is simply naïve, to say the least it does not demonstrate that the people making these utterances understand how multi-ethnic politics is played. They must remember what happened to the antelope in 'things fall' apart which started to dance before the contest began.

Therefore, instead of wasting resources in a group that wants to produce an imaginary Nigerian president in 2015 who is Igbo, Igbo leaders should concentrate in making their parties the dominant party in Nigeria and Igbo land so that they can have the political capital to negotiate in the years ahead. Power is not secured by issuing press releases and praising leaders, even though this is important. It becomes sycophancy when it is the only thing. If Igbo leaders are serious and honest, and not just part of the contraption to gain power for personal gain, they should demonstrate that they believe in politics of ideology, polices and values. At the moment, there is very little to show that the hope of producing an Igbo president is anything, but wishful thinking. I hope that Igbos would be humble enough to use what they have to get what they want. They can choose to listen and rethink their strategy or mistake bravado for courage and go ahead loose, and become even more irrelevant. Igbo leaders must demonstrate that they understand that they cannot achieve anything without the support and coperation of other ethnic groups in Nigeria. No one ethnic group in Nigeria can produce the president of Nigeria without doing the ground work necessary to secure the support of other ethnic groups. It is time for intelligent politics.

E O Eke is qualified in medicine. At various times he has been a General medical practitioner, Medical missionary, Medical Director and senior medical officer of health in Nigeria. He specializes in child, Adolescent and adult psychiatry and lives in England with his family. His interest is in health, religion philosophy and politics. He cares for body and mind.

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