Like every crisis that has its dangers and opportunities, this piece stems from a recent discussion I had with a very unique Nigerian–a man that has spent his time and resources serving others in Asaba Delta state capital. That was a few days after the gubernitoral election.
For one thing, I was surprised and delighted that in present reality, aside from his possession of a ‘sharp mind and a sharp tongue to march’, there was no intrinsic difference between his views and that of another intelligent but self-contained Nigerian I interacted with during the presidential election-a discussion that later formed my recent piece titled; A Lagos Polling unit conversation.
Essentially, this man that I would call Joseph listened with disciplined attention while I commend Nigerians for their pragmatic demonstration of resilience and resolve during the last general election. In fact, there can be no gainsaying of the fact that a great ‘political revolution’ is taking place in Nigeria today to help deliver our nation from the snare of delusion that will enable move into the future.
I acknowledged and condemned the reported irregularities and pockets of violence in some states. That notwithstanding, I went ahead to praise the electorates for resisting the asymmetrical arguments of some clever politicians, and electing fresh leaders-particularly federal lawmakers that will ensure a rancor-free 9th assembly.
But to this man, my explanation was a mere intellectual understanding and appreciation devoid of substance.
We have advanced in some areas, he noted, But Nigerians failed to recognize that for us to move forward, the ‘ease of complacency and self-interest must give way to the more difficult task of rendering judgment on what is best for the nation and for prosperity’.
On the issue of a rancor-free 9th Assembly, Joseph stated that if Nigerians considered the activities of the current assembly a problem, that of the forthcoming assembly may be a crisis- that will rob Nigerians the opportunities they have fought and deserved.
Adding new punch and power to his argument, he stressed that apart from research sufficiently supporting conflict over issues as natural and even necessary, one unhappy truth all must identify is that in governance, there is no time for ‘romantic illusions’.
To explain; ‘reasonable people who make decisions under conditions of uncertainty are likely to have honest disagreements over the best part for the future of their society. Groups whose members challenge one another’s thinking develops a more complete understanding of the choices, create a richer range of options and ultimately make the kinds of effective decisions necessary in today’s competitive environment.
Continuously, he stressed that honest disagreements, checks, and balances are political tools that make our democracy stronger by ensuring that decisions will be tested, studied, reviewed and examined through the processes of government that are designed to improve policy. And the knowledge that they will be reviewed prevents over-reaching and checks the accretion of power.
Remember! ‘Whenever power is unchecked it almost inevitably leads to mistakes and abuses. And in the absence of rigorous accountability incompetence flourishes. Dishonesty is encouraged and rewarded’ he opined.
I honestly believed his explanations with one side of my mind. And In that despair, I asked, what is the way forward?
Waxing philosophical, he explained that the outcome of the election typifies a mere illustration of acts that cannot positively reshape the nation both politically and socioeconomically. The reason he added is that mankind has learned through painful experiences that ‘power concedes nothing without a demand’. Noting that this below average performance will continue to trend due to the non-possession by the electorates the ability to question the so-called settled political answers or hold the disciplined culture that supports discipline political actions.
And once the electorates ask the wrong questions, he added, the politicians don’t have to worry about providing the answers’. He concluded that until Nigerians perfect the act of asking solution-oriented questions, expecting a solution-oriented response from our leaders will be difficult if not impossible.
Crucially, when the masses become effective in confronting their leaders with the right questions, leaders on their part shall develop the right capacity to figure out without delay; ‘what needs to be done and what is right for the people, and develop action plans that will lead to people purposed results, he stated.
Indeed, I cannot categorically say that my friend was right or wrong in his postulations. But the present instinct in the country explains two things- more work to be done and more reforms to be made. Secondarily, the solution may not be readily available but there are a few places that a nation committed to growing its democracy can start from.
To catalyze this process of finding a solution to our current national challenge, we must team up to demand answers to; why ‘power is given to our current leaders has not been used to end the suffering and environmental pollution in the Niger Delta or used to transform the lives of the peasants in Northern Nigeria? Nigerians must within this space demand for an explanation as to why the power that is freely given could not provide employment for the millions of unemployed youths in Nigeria or used to reduce the level of poverty in the country?’
While we await answers to the above, it will be highly rewarding if Mr. President in his second term learns a useful lesson from countries such as Singapore and establish a first world standard in public and personal security, health, education, telecommunications, transportation, and services. This, when achieved, will turn our nation to a base camp for entrepreneurs, managers, engineers and other professionals who had business to do in the region while solving our unemployment problem’.
Finally, if we honestly evaluate the just concluded general elections with particular emphasis to what played out in Rivers, Akwa-Ibom and some other states, it will not be an overstatement to characterize the event as tragic as It is a living reality that blood is on the hands of those that halt the political progress of our nation and frustrated the advancement of the people by violence. But for now, our responsibility to them and our dear nation is prayers.
Utomi, (firstname.lastname@example.org) is A Lagos-Based Journalist.