professional-politicians

We must shun the idea of a professional politician who has nothing to return to if he loses an election. We must disavow any politician who is fixated on power, wants power for its sake and one who seeks financial reward. If we don’t do these, we will continue to face the affliction of rudderless government and the nebulous circle of one government plan after another, going wrong.


One of life’s most distressing experiences as a Nigerian is the quality of our leadership – those who preside over us and determine our destiny. There are more intelligent people involved in buying and selling in Dugbe market or attending a Church service on Monday morning somewhere in Lagos than the people making decisions that impact on us and the future generations in the House of Representatives and the Senate. Looking at them, stupidity proclaims itself from almost every face in the legislative chambers. That is when the chambers are not half empty or when majority of the lawmakers are not sleeping through proceedings. Some governors and ministers don’t look much brighter either. Most of them lack the intellectual rigour to govern and some are simply oblivious of the challenges of the new millennium, what it takes to be a modern nation state and what development trully means. One can argue that appearances are often deceptive, with examples of a few razor-sharp minds among the politicians; but those are often exceptions. A cursory look at both chambers of the National Assembly reveals a gathering of the uninformed, the closeted in thought and a skein of legislators not drawn from the upper echelons of the nations’s intellectual elite. Of course intelligence is not the foremost virtue for holders of public office. In addition, we should value character, courage, experience, wisdom, integrity and decency as high requirements but those attributes are also in short supply.

What happened to us? Are we less smart than we were at independence? Are our current politicians inferior to the founding fathers of this country? I can hazard an explanation. The loss of culture happened to us. The loss of values happened to us. Unbridled materialism happened to us. Certainly we no longer have a sense of shame like we did 50 years ago, and our politicians have grown dumber, several standard deviations from the population mean. There have always been stupid politicians. The problem is that they have multiplied and are now in majority. Everything has gotten worse because of greed, primitive acquisition and impunity.

The federal budget for 2017 is N7trillion. The 469 Representatives and Senators want N1.4trillion of this for constituency projects. It is totally absurd! With this kind of greed and short term focus, it will be impossible for Nigeria to build modern infrastructure, invest in education, healthcare, create jobs in advance manufacturing, reduce poverty, grow the economy e.t.c. With the level of myopia in government, Nigeria is a tinderbox guaranteed to go up in flames sooner than we think.

Our curse is the modern professional politician who has lived on running for one office to the other, right from school, or has lived an errant life in the service of a godfather, who later rewards him. Most of them have never held a job outside of politics. Such people often turn out to be underperforming public officers.


The bad news comes in daily. A few days ago, a building collapsed and scores perished. No one will pay for the atrocious violation of the building code (if any) and the structural integrity of buildings. Who will champion education and halt the falling standards where education is dumbed down to produce barely literate graduates who are not employable? Who will be the avatar for our hospitals that are either consulting clinics or where people go to die? While Nigerians are groaning under the weight of the recession, lawmakers took delivery of exotic cars. While the 2016 budget is largely unimplemented, they are angling for a fifth of the national budget. It is a travesty!

Every new week throws up newer execrable standards in the unfortunate crop of stories that attest to general governmental incompetence. It is so bad that Nigerians have come to expect their leaders to foul up and are genuinely surprised at flashes of brilliance and good dividends. Nigerians are very smart people. They understand that governing can be challenging. They know there are trade offs in politics, and some problems in politics may just be intractable. They understand that the best plans can go awry. What is striking is that most difficulties besetting the Buhari’s administration, is from self-inflicted wounds. The Presidency and its appendages are brilliant at creating problems for themselves where none should exist.

How can the minister of communication be unaware of the rate hike that was later revised? Who is in charge? We can simply blame civil servants all we want, but strong, competent ministers can beat civil servants into shape and overcome many of their shortcomings. Civil servants take a few weeks to figure out their accounting officers. They only dominate and dictate to weak, incompetent or inexperienced ministers. Many non-performing ministers may be bright on paper but they are callow and inexperienced.

What can be done to attract more informed, intelligent, upright and well rounded people into politics? It will take a change in culture. A repudiation of our culture of graft. It would require an understanding that we can do better and we must send our best and brightest to represent us.


Our curse is the modern professional politician who has lived on running for one office to the other, right from school, or has lived an errant life in the service of a godfather, who later rewards him. Most of them have never held a job outside of politics. Such people often turn out to be underperforming public officers. If they had gone into business, rather than politics, they would have climbed their way up before attempting to run the country. Like in the People’s Democratic Party (PDP), the All Progressives Congress (APC) has its fair share of dullards and professional politicians with little experience of a broader life.

What can be done to attract more informed, intelligent, upright and well rounded people into politics? It will take a change in culture. A repudiation of our culture of graft. It would require an understanding that we can do better and we must send our best and brightest to represent us. It will take a general acceptance that a few years as a political adviser do not constitute an ideal grounding for our future rulers. We must shun the idea of a professional politician who has nothing to return to if he loses an election. We must disavow any politician who is fixated on power, wants power for its sake and one who seeks financial reward. If we don’t do these, we will continue to face the affliction of rudderless government and the nebulous circle of one government plan after another, going wrong.

foraminifera

Bámidélé Adémólá-Olátéjú a farmer, youth advocate and political analyst writes this weekly column, “Bamidele Upfront” for the PREMIUM TIMES. Follow me on Twitter @olufunmilayo