he famous quote that power corrupt and absolute power corrupts absolutely is one of the truest statements ever made. I have watched many times how power transformed some of the nicest people I once knew into literarily monsters. I saw it in secondary school when people become prefects. I see it at work when people gain promotions and have seen it in many people I know who are in politics in Nigeria. In several African countries, we have seen power turn normal men into tyrants and evil geniuses. From Uganda’s’ Idi Amin through Zaire’s Mobutu Seseseku, Malawi’s kamuzu Banda , Our own Babangida, Abacha, Obasanjo and evolving Jonathan; to Zimbabwe Robert Mugabe to mention but only black leaders. These men are examples of what people can become when they acquire unaccountable power. Power does indeed corrupt and the more unaccountable it is, the more it can be abused and missed to serve lower instincts and evils. The use of power to enrich one’s self and relatives or to give them undeserved and undue advantage is perhaps the commonest way power is abused and misused in Nigeria.
When used to amass wealth in a corrupt and dishonest manner, power is wasted. It is misuse of one of the opportunities to do good. When we understand the true meaning and essence of power we will see the evil of the ways and manners it is abused, misused and misapplied in Nigeria. When a president or governor uses power to alter the economic equation in favour of a people for the reason that they share the same ancestral origin he undermined the unity and cohesiveness of the country he is elected to unit and sow the seed of mistrust and unrest. He acts in a dishonourable, unjust and unfair manner. His action undermines his integrity and he loses respect and trust amongst the other ethnic groups. With the loss of respect comes contempt and loss of civility. This is one way corruption damages the society.
Many people who abuse power believe that their personal conviction that what they are doing is right, is enough justification for their behaviour. However what they do not seem to understand is that a personal conviction about a problem does not give anybody the right to impose it on others; no matter how convinced one is about its correctness or relevance to the cause. No man has any right to impose a solution on another without his or consent. No law gives another right to impose his will on another who is in his rightful mind without his approval. Even the appeal to God does not give any man the right to violet other peoples individual liberty of conscience and choice. Therefore, no group of people have any right to impose a solution on others in a democracy without the mandate of the people. This is because legitimacy is a necessary ingredient of power when exercised over others.
Therefore those who wish to change the society for good must first of all, secure the mandate of the people to acquire the right to act in their best interest. It is perhaps the failure to respect this fundamental truth that organisations fail in spite of their good intentions. There are people who only judge themselves by their good intentions and as long as they convince themselves that they are acting out of good intention, they believe that they can do anything and the end justifies the means. They are prepared to lie, cheat, deceive, or use subterfuge in their attempt to do what they believe is right. These are the kind of people who lead bloody revolutions. Their mantra is that they are fighting evil. Because of this, they justify evil. They do not understand or know that their action instead of ending evil only ensures that evil endures. This is because the evil they claim to fight perpetrates it's self in their action. Often when they defeat the evil, they go on to become perpetrators of greater evil having gotten accustomed to using evil method to achieve good. This is how societies are corrupted. These kinds of people which are quiet large in number, forget a fundamental truth which is that Evil can only be overcome with good. Evil cannot be overcome with evil. Those who believe that by killing, lying, deceiving and bullying others, that they can achieve good because they have good intention, deceive themselves. Therefore, I believe and insist on due process and peaceful methods in achieving my aims and objectives. I cannot therefore support an armed struggle except when it becomes necessary for me to fight or be killed. I believe in peace but recognise and takes seriously the necessity for all lovers of peace to prepare for war because often the great values which make us civilised are preserved and protected by fighting those who hate them and would like to banish them. I believe it is a privilege to have the ability to speak that which the people may not want to hear but which one is convinced is correct and true.
There is no greater cowardice than that which compels a man to keep silent because he fears that the majority of the people and the powers that be, would be offended. Courage includes the ability of one to say that which he knows would be unpopular but which he or she believes to be true. As I have often said, a man or woman who must only say what the people would like to hear and always ensures the he or she offends no one by his speech should be keep quiet. Power, especially when held in trust, is something that should only be exercise in a way to do good to others. The use of power to achieve personal objectives is abuse of power. Therefore those who believe in a particular system of government or religion and are prepared to kill or mime others because they believe in the good society they want to create are evil. Legitimacy is a necessary ingredient of the exercise of power. Without it, no one has any justification to exercise power over another no matter how good his intentions.
This is something majority of Nigerian politicians are yet to grasp. few months ago, the world was reminded how necessary it is, as France underwent transition of power from Sarkozy to Holland. Few days after the election, the incumbent, Sarkozy invited the incoming president to attend Remembrance Day celebration with him. After the bitter campaign, that pitched Sarkozy’s unrestricted free Market ideology against Holland's social democratic capitalism, Sarkozy conceded defeat and congratulated Holland and not a single French citizen was killed during the campaign. In America we have watched Obama win a second term and saw the best of Romney in defeat. These are examples of how politics should be played. A game of reason and ideology, where people depend on the superiority and force of their argument and not on their ethnicity, religion, money, use of terror or evil genius to win. A contest in which contestants get opportunity to argue their world view in a fair, peaceful and civil manner. This is a necessary element of democracy which is currently lacking in the evolution of Nigeria politics. There was also no case of election rigging which goes to show how independent, organised and fair, their electoral bodies are.
Only a true and honest Nigerian leader can sow and or water the seeds that would grow into true democracy. A leader who is prepared to act only in the best interest of the country and not one who acts in best interest of his ethnic group, religion or political party. Such a leader would grasp the necessity if not the urgency in making the electoral commission an independent agency deriving its powers from the constitution and not at the mercy of the party in power. This is perhaps the most important electoral reform any honest president of Nigeria can make to strengthen our nascent democracy. The idea that an electoral commission that depends on the good will of the government in power can conduct a free and fair election where the party on whose good will it depends would not be accorded some undeserved advantage, is difficult to sale to critical minds even though possible. It would seem that those who designed our democracy had only their need to hold on to power in mind. The Nigerian system seems to have been designed by those who could not imagine that they will have to hand over power to those they disagree with. If not, how can one explain a system that appears to be extremely efficient at diverting the rules of good democracy, protecting those who abuse it and making accountability impossible?
I hope that President Jonathan would include strengthening our democracy in the things he would like to do for Nigeria. Otherwise, Nigeria has no future and our democracy would soon run out of gas and succumb to the forces of corruption, prejudice, intolerance, and terror. God forbid.