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« Two Nigerians Apart Naturally | Main | President Obasanjo might not Attain the Outright Victory that he Hopes for »

March 27, 2006

Our Hedonist Leaders Lack Local Voters' Desired Qualities

by Farouk Martins, Omo Aresa --- Nigeria has been blessed with local populist leaders displaying impeccable qualities that can rule any country in the world but they have failed to win national elections. We end up with National leaders in variance with our desire who sometimes appoint our local leaders.

If all politics are local, it must not have taken almost the end of term for Appeal Court to confirm Peter Obi as the Governor in Anambra. There are many local heroes that you would vote for like Peter Obi in Nigeria and that have never made it to the center.

These unknowns were very much like Aminu Kano, Michael Imoudu, Udo Akpabio, Sam Mbakwe, Adelabu Adegoke. While they did not occupy the center stage, they were heroes that were respected in their chosen areas worthy of their causes. This is not about their wives, children in Abuja, Houston, Kent, or Cairo. It is not about Peter Obi per se or leaders that have been written about too many times. It is about local heroes. The way to understand why these patriots never became the ruler of Nigeria is to look at someone in your village, a local hero as Aminu Kano but undiscovered. How can they lead Nigeria?

Their impacts are better felt only at the local levels throughout Nigeria. The difference in US or Britain is that local leaders in those countries gain local prominence that propel them into center stage where they have been able to use their program for the benefit of the majority of the population. Their politics is local, with the Federal interest. Tafawa Balewa apart, our appointed leaders compete with local heroes, displaying Federal might.

Many of those who made it to National level anywhere else contested locally but could not take populist idea for granted as shown by Walter Mondale and Ronald Reagan debate. Those who thought Mondale won and would win the election were wrong, it wasn’t him they wanted. The same could be said between the debate of Al Gore and Baby Bush. When Harold Wilson left as Prime Minister of Britain, some of those who desire someone like him later got Edward Heath and Margaret Thatcher. Throughout these reigns, the populist whose program could have benefited the poor and the down trodden, lost elections. Petroiska and the fruit of glasnost failed the populist in Russia.

There are certain amount of self righteousness, arrogance and complacency on the part of the populist that they can appeal to the basic instinct of fairness of their people and just win elections as in Western Nigeria in 2003 or Lagos State with the election of Otedola. They ignored other factors that were also important thinking they could take us for granted with populist label. In Nigeria most people will tell you that they want a good leader, not necessarily their ethnicity that has not benefited them. Sure right!

One factor that is very common amongst conservative is symbol of nouveau riche. They dangle it with the hope that each and everyone can attain it if they try. They also preach prosperity by displaying their heavy weights that had made it. Who no wish for better days? Indeed, many Nigerians will tell you frankly that if they get there, they will chop.

Whether we accept it or not, hedonism is an intrinsic part of us, a doctrine of Aristippus that pleasure or happiness is the best thing that ever happens to man. John Milton exploration of the means and ways of its attainment has been questioned even amongst Yoruba whose philosophy I am more familiar with that predated foreign philosophers we quote. Simply put, the means does not justify the end. So when politicians display their own hedonism, we buy into it without thinking about if it will last us until the day after.

There was this story about Aminu Kano. He was offered a generator in his modest house. He said he did not like the noise, so they offered him one without noise. He asked them if everyone in his neighborhood would get one, if not he did not want any. The fact is he never wanted it in the first place. He did not want to live in comfort in the midst of poverty. His followers and admirers could have bought him off to a luxurious life. In case some of you may not know, there are houses in Nigeria where once you step in, forget you are in a slum until you step out again. You would think you are in Potomac, where those rich Nigerians we envy buy houses in US.

The same story can be told of Michael Imoudu who suffered physical abuse in and out of jails while leading the labor movement or Adelabu, a lawyer who prefer the company of the so called “illiterate”. Sam Mbakwe was labeled a crying Governor because of his heart felt message of his people. We have even forgotten Ibang Udo Akpabio, a prominent man who went to the same Lincoln University with Azikiwe. None of them were propelled to the Country leadership. Do they lack the appeal of the heavy weights that sunk Nigeria because they are populist, not hedonists?

In the defense of conservatives, they appeal to orderliness, just and normal society free of aberration. They ask for status quo. While their opponents get too tolerant of permissive society, they hold on and warn of Sodom and Gomorrah. We all know the role the fear of homosexuals in Ohio African Churches played in 2004 Presidential election in the US.

We are now glorifying the return of military men and colonial masters! In the case of the military men, they established law and order which the society needs to function. We missed the colonial days where planning and sanitation reigned. It seems some have given up on themselves, lost their confidence and would function better if we were ordered like zombies. We still have a vigorous press that are not maimed and killed at will militarily, but still muzzled. At least activists live in, and travel into the Country.

No matter what, justice delayed is justice denied; Uba is happy, but local winner Obi lost valuable time. We can not be proud of the way our courts of law are being disrespected and its ruling ignored or intentionally misinterpreted, laying a very bad precedent for future democracy in our Country that may come back and hunt this Administration. The same way its precedent decrees were used against it in the past. Every dog has its day.

This attraction of the conservative in their feverish principle of what they believe in, not necessarily what they practice has its faults. We have the case of religious schools that discriminate against certain segment of the society. Yet, we are all children of God. There are countries that proclaim one religion but are ready to invade other countries with their religion. There are those who prescribe castration for rapist only to find out they take the wife of followers and sodomize children. By their belief and devotion, no one questions their hypocrisy and lacks of populist ideas but they espouse conservative values we love.

It is with the same passion they win elections. They know their goals and make calculated plans of how to achieve it, then, worry about the consequences later. This is what we have in Nigeria. I have been told since the seventies that Nigeria will never elect a progressive government. A progressive government may flourish at the State or regional level but not at the center. All it takes are the display of wealth of the party members, expensive gifts and promises during the election and if any of these do not work, the use of the Supreme Court as in the US, or outright rigging. They overshadow local heroes.

Religion is meant to educate, civilize and instill the fear of God in us; so that we can be kind to and love one another. It has been hijacked as instrument of war in the name of crusade and jihad by those seeking superiority complex. They clad themselves in religious robes, cassock, military uniforms only to find out with time that they are hedonists worse than those they replaced.

Communication across our Country is much easier now than it has ever been. We have educated people in any language, religion or cultures all over Nigeria. We have discussed these problems as we should in the newspapers and on the internet. It is about time we discuss solutions. How can we transfer our desire to our leaders so that local ideas can be reflected in the decision making of our Country? Start village and grassroots discussion.

Some years ago, while engaged in one of that academic diarrhea of the mouth, one of my cousins asked me if those at home in Nigeria were better than me. This was in the days we had a burden of guilt if we did not go home as soon as we finished school. My own guilt never rested until I got on the soil and started working.

Alas! Situation has changed. People do not say, come back home before you kill your mother anymore. They ask you to get them out of here. When you are at home and it gets to a point where you start complaining about the bags of gari, rice, beans and corn flour being depleted too fast, which you never did before. They know it is time to go back and make money overseas, if you still have the citizenship you obtained to get certain grants, scholarships for school or for certain jobs. Today some dangle citizenship to inform us they have pledged to take up arms against Nigeria. What else would they do?

As long as we go on generating conversations about our views and misconceptions and start looking for ways to solve it, we may start propelling local political heroes who would do what most of us wanted instead of taking care of their hedonistic values. Nigerians are now sponsoring politicians from overseas to go home and reflect their views. Some of them get elected and some of them come back empty. If we do not want to get into politics personally, we can make our views and ideas known in the villages and our neighborhoods. Someone may be motivated to run and express those ideas.

Farouk Martins, Omo Aresa

Posted by Administrator at March 27, 2006 04:19 AM


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