Politicians And Their Reputation


By Isaac Asabor

An online lexicographic website, www.Oxforddictionaries.com defines reputation as the “beliefs or opinions that are generally held about someone or something.” It further defines it as “a widespread belief that someone or something has a particular characteristic”.  It can also be defined as the beliefs or opinions that are generally held about a social entity (a group of people or an organization).

A good reputation, no doubt is an asset and it is the most favourable goodwill which any man ought to have. Jesus Christ at a point in his redemptive mission on earth asked his disciples in Matthew 16 verse 13, “Who do people say the son of man is?”

In the light of the foregoing, one is compelled to ask if our politicians carry out opinion survey from time to time in their constituencies to ask, “Who do people say I am?” Left to me, the answer to the foregoing question would be “No, they do not”. If they do, the trust which the people reposed in them would not have been betrayed as it is today. They would have at all times be conscious of their reputation by exhibiting responsible behaviour. Since the beginning of the on-going democratic government, hardly a day passes without a politician getting into one controversy or the other thereby bringing himself into ignominy.

Party politics and politicians have been defined from various disreputable perspectives by world renowned thinkers, writers, philosophers and leaders. H.L. Mencken in one of his definitions of a politician said “If a politician found he had cannibals among his constituents, he would promise them missionaries for dinners.” Charles de Gaulle in his own definition said “since a politician never believes what he says, he is quite surprised to be taken at his word.” Analytically put, most politicians just mount the soap-box at campaign rallies and begin to make promises they can never fulfil.

It always beat me hollow each time I realise that many  politicians do not care about their reputation. In  Christendom, the need for people to be reputable is exemplified in the Bible. For instance, Ecclesiastes chapter 10 verse 1 says “As dead flies give perfume a bad smell, so a little folly outweighs wisdom and honour. In the light of the foregoing scripture, there is no denying the fact that many politicians have spoilt their good works and reputation through their anti-people activities. Be that as it may, given the definition of reputation that “It is the beliefs or opinions that are generally held about someone or something”, how does an average Nigerian see a politician? Or simply put, how does an average Nigerian perceive a politician?

There is no denying the fact that an average Nigerian does not see a politician as a truthful, trusted or sincere person. He sees him as an unrepentant liar and schemer. You may say these are not kind superlatives to use in qualifying a politician, but they are the actual words which the masses often use to qualify a politician. The politician may not know this as most of them hardly interact with those they snobbishly refer to as common men.  If millions of Nigerians were asked to define a politician in their own words, they may variously come up with a plethora of definitions that may be considered befitting enough to be entered in any world-circulating dictionary.

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Most people may define a politician as “One who promised to build good roads in his constituency if elected into political office but ended up junketing from one city to the other by means of air transport without constructing or fixing any road. “A politician is one who promised to build hospitals in his constituency if elected into political office but ended up seeking medical solutions in Germany, India, USA among other medically advanced countries for himself and family members at the expense of public funds.” He is also “the one who promised to build qualitative and affordable institutions of learning if elected into office only to resort to sending his children and close relations to schools in Europe and America.” To others, a politician is “the one that is entitled to a huge amount of money as security vote allowance even when his entire constituency is under the siege of insecurity.”

In the same vein, some see a politician as “the one that often prods his wife to host jamborees called First Ladies meetings and to accept civil service appointment even when his wife is not a career civil servant.  No doubt, a politician is seen from different perspectives by different people. In this part of the world politicians are not bothered about how the people see them.

In Europe and America, politicians are very mindful of their reputation that some of them cannot do without communication experts who are hired to manage their reputation.

In my view, politicians are so important in the society that they should be very mindful of their reputation. No doubt, the conduct of a politician would determine whether he would have a good reputation or bad reputation. For instance, it is very sad for a politician that was once regarded as a man of integrity to suddenly become a man of “integreedy” while holding political office.

Politicians should avoid trouble, controversies, scandals and serve the people that voted them into various political offices. The reason for this cannot be far-fetched as politicians are very important facilitators of national development, and they are the pivot around which socio-economic and political activities often revolve.

Meanwhile, I using this medium to encourage our politicians to begin to be mindful of their collective reputation. The reputation of a politician is the barometer which members of his constituency use in knowing how bad or good he is performing. Earning a good reputation is not by throwing money around but it is a function of good conduct.   Politicians should stop exhibiting an I-don’t-care  attitude while in power as they would always go back to their constituencies to beg for votes.

•Asabor wrote in from Lagos. •E-mail: [email protected]

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