Of Pragmatism and Heroism, By Hussaina Ishaya Audu
A man came to my office today. The moment I heard his voice booming from the reception I had already passed a judgment. I tend to assume that people who need to announce their presence in other people’s offices by speaking so loudly when it is quite unnecessary to do so have an exaggerated sense of their own self-importance. I was right. He had come to make an enquiry but he did all the talking, and in the space of 15 short minutes he had dropped the names of prominent politicians he knew, had just finished meeting with or was going to meet later on in the day.
Even without his saying so, it was obvious he was a politician of sorts. He was so typical. Which is why gentlemen like Nuhu Ribadu, Governor Fashola, Nasir El-Rufai and Governor Fayemi are so refreshing in their simplicity. Frankly speaking, one is not surprised when the likes of Tom Ikimi break ranks, but Ribadu…
At first, I was as disparaging of Nuhu Ribadu’s desertion from APC as the next person. I agreed with all those who called him a turncoat. But as I thought about it at length, it occurred to me that Mr Ribadu and I may share a common trait. Let me explain. If you ask me which EPL team I support, I will tell you I support Tottenham. Today. But I may change my mind on Saturday. It depends. I can’t understand all those die hard Arsenal fans who cling to the false hope, year after year, that Arsenal will clinch the EPL title. Let it go! If they can’t see that Arsene Wenger has lost the plot then all I can say is: ‘sad!’ It is obvious that some people have a strong emotional attachment to certain causes or interests for no apparent rational reason. It doesn’t make sense to me.
Does that make me a traitor? I wouldn’t say so. I would say it makes me a pragmatist. I think too, that Nuhu Ribadu is a pragmatist. He did not actually desert APC. It was just ‘a tactical maneuver’ to PDP. I totally understand. Where we differ is that, after publicly disparaging Arsenal as I have done, I can never publicly claim to support them if they should happen to top the table hereafter – except if it happens after Wenger’s demise. (I say demise because it’s obvious Wenger has no intention of resigning and Arsenal has no intention of letting him go. Between Wenger and Arsenal, it’s till death do them part.)
In the same vein, I empathise with the 480 Nigerian soldiers that fled to Cameroun in the heat of battle with Boko Haram. I agree with the army spokesperson who described this as ‘a tactical maneuver,’ though not for the same reasons. Why should they lay down their lives for a country that would send them out to war like sheep being sent to the slaughter? Why should they lay down their lives for a country that cannot guarantee the welfare of their families were they to die on the battlefield?
Why would anyone want to lay down their lives for the cause called Nigeria? I think you would have to be a politician to claim that you want to do that. You see, politicians tell us that the reason they are desperate to get into power is so they can serve their fatherland. Yeah, right. They claim they want to serve but what they actually do is serve themselves. And then pay the police and soldiers peanuts to risk their lives to protect a nation they themselves will flee when the going gets tough.
Have you noticed though, how the people who actually serve their country are those whose cause is not Nigeria but Nigerians? Like late Dr Adadevoh, for instance. I don’t think she did what she did because she was thinking of ‘Nigeria’. She was simply thinking about people. She just couldn’t let Sawyer infect innocent people. She was passionately devoted to a cause and it had nothing to do with politics.
And Prof. Dora Akunyili. As the Director General of NAFDAC when her commitment was to protect Nigerians from fake or adulterated food and drugs she was an unstoppable amazon. That was when her passionate commitment to a cause distinguished her and won her numerous accolades. It was for her work in NAFDAC and not as Minister of Information that she will be remembered.
True servants do not need to make any claims about wanting to serve their country. They simply devote themselves to a cause bigger than themselves: people. These are Nigeria’s true heroes. Claiming to want to serve Nigeria is politics. That is also where I differ from Nuhu Ribadu. He is a pragmatic politician. I am simply pragmatic.
Ms. Ishaya Audu, a lawyer, school administrator, and member of the Premium Times editorial board maintains a Friday column on politics, policy, culture, and the Nigerian life. She writes from Abuja.