A Deficit Of Great Leaders, By Bámidélé Adémólá-Olátéjú
The entrenchment of machine politics is Nigeria’s biggest barrier to political progress, and it will take improvement in ethics to overcome it. Whichever political party we examine, what we see are a people with an atrophied sense of moral perspective.
This age, our age, has a deficit of great leaders. Leaders, like those from our past who fought for Nigeria’s independence and whose foresight gave rise to great hopes before our current state of despair. The ongoing and never ending dispiriting parade of scandals, theft, economic sabotage and general financial and political misbehaviour that confronts us daily in the media, reminds us that all we have are leaders of misfortune, mired in the lack of public ethics, political and individual morality. It is said that a people get the type of leaders they deserve. How bitter, how strange! Nigeria does not deserve the kind of rogues we have in the Eighth Senate. No! Nigeria certainly does not deserve a Dino Melaye. What we deserve as a people at this critical juncture in our nationhood are leaders at every level of governance with a commitment to who we are, what we care about and the decision to project our values through purposeful action.
What is it about our politics? Are there rules? If yes, does anybody play by the rules? What do Dino Melaye’s lies, certificate scandal, irreverent and anti-social behaviour say about who he is as a person and as a leader? What do Saraki’s tactics at the Code of Conduct Tribunal (CCT), his alleged duty evasion, his cornucopia of offences with the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC), his targeted extra-legal overreach as the Senate president say about his fundamental character? What is the meaning of economic sabotage when a senator like Hope Uzodinma is alleged to have falsified his import documents where he declared yeast instead of rice to avoid paying duties? How do we deal with issues of conflict of interest when senators summon the comptroller general of the Nigerian Customs and Excise on the pretext that he refuses to wear his official uniform because his men are working according to the rules? Where is hope when legislators openly flout the laws of the land?
It is early in the year but most definitely we are learning anew that elections have consequences, and we are reaping bountifully from the choices we made in 2015. A lot of President Buhari’s hangers on who are now tin gods in the presidency and the majority of representatives, senators and governors rode to power on the back of the change mantra and the personal integrity of Buhari. These ethically challenged politicians are not our brightest and best. They are not the face of our hard working men and women. They are the face of cronyism, nepotism and graft. They were bred and groomed by political godfathers and they came up through machine politics. Machine politics is transactional politics where there is immense rewards for loyalty and severe punishment for venturing off the reserve. If in doubt, check Dino Melaye’s profile. How did he find his way into leadership? Dino served the high and mighty during the military regime. He was a good boy, becoming a politician is his reward for towing the line marked for him. Dino is indebted to his masters, it is difficult if not impossible for him to serve his people of Kogi West. He proves it everyday in the Senate that no one can serve two masters.
The ideal of democracy demands that our efforts towards building a great nation must include reasonable, robust and well-enforced ethical standards and expectations for those we give the power to make far reaching decisions that impact our lives and future generations.
The politics of power and inducement, where candidates for political office are not examined on their character and values, shows we are politically naive. Nigeria will not evolve and prosper until we begin to consider people for leadership based on ideology, values and ethics. Much of our history in the last forty years was written by leaders whose values are suspect. It is proven that a leader’s politics may change over time but the core values that generates this politics does not change. It remains constant through life. We need to understand that when next we evaluate candiates for political office. As Nigerians, we need to develop a national character that will enable us care about our values and the values our leaders hold. Given the rate of decay in our national life, we cannot afford to be inattentive or agnostic when confronted with stories about the ethical misbehaviour of our elected officials.
From our current experience, our moral judgement should guide our political support in future. The entrenchment of machine politics is Nigeria’s biggest barrier to political progress, and it will take improvement in ethics to overcome it. Whichever political party we examine, what we see are a people with an atrophied sense of moral perspective. No one says we should seek saints for public office. What we seek are people devoted to serving our common humanity. We might be governed by flawed human beings, like we all are, but we must raise the bar of expectations for our public and elected officials. The ideal of democracy demands that our efforts towards building a great nation must include reasonable, robust and well-enforced ethical standards and expectations for those we give the power to make far reaching decisions that impact our lives and future generations.
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