FEATURE ARTICLE

Abiodun KomolafeWednesday, July 26, 2006
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Ijebu-Jesa, Osun State, Nigeria

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ELECTION ANXIETIES AND CELEBRATED CULPRITS


n his book, "Politics, Religion, and the Common Good", Martin Marty wrote: "religious citizens do not necessarily improve community life when they justify their actions on spiritual grounds." According to him, "some features of religion can tempt people to claim a monopoly on God or on knowledge of God's will - at the expense of the claims and knowledge of others" for "while religions claim to be resources for healing and reconciling people, they often serve as salt in old wounds or abrasions that cause new ones in the midst of community life." I have hitherto chosen to reserve my comments on Iyabo Obasanjo-Bello's recent interview with Sunday Sun but for its accompanying interesting ripostes.


In her article, stanchly captioned "My Father Who Art in Aso Rock", and published in the July 9, 2006 edition of the paper, Obasanjo-Bello, privilegedly, Nigeria's First Daughter and Ogun State's Commissioner for Health, freely and intellectually said it all about her life, her father and her politics. However, what is of utmost concern to me and indeed all well-meaning Nigerians was her resolve to wage total political wars against anybody who might dare attempt to cross her path in the forthcoming General Elections. One such person was Fola Adeola, the recently sacked Chairman of National Pensions Commission, PENCOM, as well as former Group Managing Director of Transnational Corporation of Nigeria Plc, Transcorp, and one such wonderful intervention, "That Iyabo's Interview, Nigerian Women, And 2007 Nigerian Elections", posted to (the) Nigeriaworld website on July 15, 2006, was from Femi Ajayi, a United States-based Medical Doctor.

Having said this, and with regards to Ajayi's fantastic piece, it is no news that some people might not have liked Obasanjo-Bello's guts simply because of her inclinations and affiliation sto Olusegun Obasanjo, Nigeria's president. That, of course, is their own business! Again, Ajayi's inability to exhaustively situate Adeola's person in his article as he did to Obasanjo-Bello vis--vis their "contributions" primarily to Ogun State further problematizes a sincere assessment of the lives and times of these two desperate Nigerians. This is because, as his piece technically revealed, Obasanjo-Bello did not do as much (if not outright anything) for the state until she became Commissioner and, since the constituency of a Commissioner is a whole state where he or she is appointed to serve, whatever he or she does or fails to do while her appointment lasted can hardly be adduced to his or her public-spiritedness or personal achievements.

Not that alone, Adeola's posited and appointed failure in contributing meaningfully to the development of, at least, his state, despite his "money, beautiful house and beautiful wife", is supposed to - and should - be a lesson in season for people in privileged positions that positions are ephemeral; they do not exist forever. In other words, even if Adeola chose not to use his money for the betterment of his immediate society, why did he not build beautiful houses in Ogun State or use his beautiful wife's beautiful face to curry developmental favours, as it were, for a state he would have one day loved to represent politically? After all, we have been told of - and have seen - situations where women were used to femininely bring developments to regions in need.

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Placing the continued desperation to occupy political offices in the country by Nigeria's political actors in perspective, one cannot but wonder why Nigeria as a nation state is fast becoming a disintegrating enclave, a culture of discordant policies, a convergence of very fascinating gobbledygook and a laager of prosperity in a quicksand of adversity. Like a barber's chair, motioning perpetually without any monumental movement, politics in Nigeria has become a rat race, nothing but a game of dubious smartness, or smart dubiousness. (Either choice is right; it is only a matter of semantics). Her stateliness has been prominently predicated on political conflagrations exacerbated by failure - or outright lack - of leadership, acute brinkmanship and paranoid thoughtlessness.

In our self-styled approach to governance, we ceaselessly hero-worship visionless leaders, arms-twisters, under-the-table grabbers, rabble-rousers, perennial deal-fixers, non-performing hell-raisers, professional pacifists, popular superstitionists and those who regard Nigerianism only "as a formalistic act without the traditional attitude of a sincere veneration." Hence the reason why there has been a threatening disconnect between the rulers (not leaders) and the ruled (not the led) and, as a result, while the young frolic in the vacuum of the wilderness, the old taper off in the doorway of abandonment.

Adeola's current travails also find space in President Obasanjo's thoughts and deeds as a national leader. All along, our president has failed to realize that there is hardly any leader without a home base. The sadder part of it is that he cocoons - and prides - himself in being a detribalized Nigerian even when he conspicuously feels, sounds and acts like a seventy-year old tribal-marked Balogun Owu of Northern Nigeria allegiance. That might have been responsible for his system(at)ic failure in grooming a responsible successor to take over from him, come the Year 2007, and one major reason why he decidedly squandered that wonderful opportunity of providentially consolidating a statesmanly achievement via the Third Term project.

Far from being sectionalistic, I have been a living witness to some of Nigeria's leaders from the Northern oligarchy who went many steps farther than their constitutional mandates to make things happen in the North at the expense of the South and nothing happened. Mohammadu Buhari and Sani Abacha are two such examples. In our own case, however, Lagos-Ibadan and Lagos-Abeokuta Expressways readily stare us in the face. In this wise, placing Adeola's 'non-achievements' in Ogun State side-by-side Papa Obasanjo's passive response to infrastructural development in the Southwest, were Obasanjo-Bello to have a sincere choice, would she have voted - or will she still prefer to vote - for her father who had once schemed to live in Aso Rock, perhaps, till eternity?

As Nigeria's political turf gets tougher and her quest for a successful transition within transition heightens, there is a compelling need to redefine and redirect leadership in a way that will conform to the yearnings and aspirations of the people. It is the inalienable duty of Nigerians to wholeheartedly confront that crudity that has reduced them to mere supporters of an ecosystem. As such, any redefinition and redirection must be reconstructed to recapture the economic sentiments of the masses who unarguably constitute the nucleus of any sane society. Indisputably, it is because of the way our system has been working that we have been where we are; it is because of the way we are that it has been difficult for brothers to trust brothers. Unquestionably, democracy, not elections, is about governance; it is about productive and sustainable leadership. Elections only serve as (the) entry point.

But, with the peculiarity of our own situation, neither good governance nor credible elections count simply because, even if people refuse to cast votes, votes will still be 'cast', 'counted' and the masses would still end up being 'ruled.' Only God knows the mysteries behind it! We all know how those who are in power today actually got to power in the first place. Nigerians are yet to get over the inertia of the by-election brouhaha ignominiously perpetrated by the ruling bourgeoisies in Ekiti State. In our own clime, even as politics has successfully crept into the church and mosque, police will arrest suspects and still tutor suspects on how to implicate complainants. Added to this is the way some people have been going about politicking as if their survival is ultimately dependent on producing a successor to President Obasanjo. Of course, Nigerians are abreast of the reasons behind such desperation!

On a sincere note, the issue of contributions to national development should transcend ethnicism. I do not know Adeola and I have never been privileged to have anything to do with him other than beholding his 'handsomeness' on the pages of newspapers and televisions screens. However, in situations like this, one needs to ask what Adeola has all along used his money to achieve for the nation. To the best of my knowledge, I am yet to be aware of any, other than his being a former Managing Director of Guaranty Trust Bank Plc.

The simple truth is that Nigerians prefer flaunting wealth in the midst of a poverty-stricken populace. Come to think of it: it was just N19,000.00, spread over a period of four years - between 1992 and 1996 - that eventually transformed my life from a state of hopelessness to a ray of hopefulness. Thanks to the Good Samaritan. Other wise, I might have probably ended up being a dropout against my desire. This is what we call contribution to a society. Any other thing, to me, seems trite. In all honesty, Nigeria should be - and is tired - of mere dancers who see in - and treat - her as a discotheque where sorrows are 'respectfully' yet wantonly danced away. What she needs are erudite administrators and sincere technocrats who can constructively engage her in a - and in her - virile struggle for survival.

Essentially speaking, having been geo-politically and socio-economically bruised and battered, Nigeria deserves to heave a sigh of relief, her inhabitants deserve to get not only the best of what their country can offer them but also the best of whatever form of livelihood that is available anywhere else. Nigerians do not need to be angry for being Nigerians or have to run away from their country before they can survive. Indeed, they do not have to look, feel or sound inferior just because they are Nigerians.

While it cannot be denied that Nigeria is a strange nomenclature mendaciously concocted by her colonial manipulators, it is incontestable that the Nigerian nation state is run by Nigerians, not foreigners. That is why Nigerians must have to take their destiny in their hands, not by romanticizing the past with dubious antecedents but by facing the future with untainted equanimity. Our destiny no longer lies in the hands of those who delight in experimenting and dramatizing non-performance with despondent mixing-maxing, zigging-zagging and ominous jaunts of archaic illogicalities and one sure way of ensuring this is by having credible elections, come the Year 2007, bearing in mind that a man who receives inducements to cast votes is as guilty as an Esau who sells his birthright for a pot of porridge for, when the porridge goes extinct, hunger becomes instinct; anger and suffering pronounce and spiral and the end result is better imagined!