10th February, 2014
By Raymond Oise-Oghaede
To say that the Nigerian Polity is presently heated-up is an understatement. There is confusion everywhere and the situation is gradually getting out of hand. Selfish and unpatriotic interests have taken the place of national interest in the minds of the people that are steering the affairs of the country. The issue of the wellbeing of the people and the future of the country is now meaningless to those who should vehemently and unequivocally protect and uphold same.
The crises rocking the nation are so numerous to the extent that it would be an endless exercise to make references to them in this review. Be that as it may, it is only an unpatriotic and inconsiderate fellow that will say all is well in the country. This situation is not entirely the fault of the people at the helm of affairs, we all have our own share of the decadence. That is to say, that as citizens of this country, we should also be blamed for some of our actions or inactions that have pushed the country deep into the present state. The question that will readily come to mind at this point is ‘What should we do to right the wrongs? It is based on this premise that I have chosen to identify some of these vices for review and also draw the attention of Nigerians to their potency in undermining the sustenance of democracy. However, it need be mentioned at this juncture that this piece is not aimed at a particular personality or group of persons but a general and objective criticisms of the happenings as my own little contribution towards salvaging the situation without fear or favour.
Prominent amongst these vices is the popular concept or practice that is presently ravaging the country’s development. That is the ‘PULL HIM/THEM DOWN SYNDROME’. Politicians have adopted this weapon against perceived political opponents and the government in power. In as much as democracy allows for people to form opposition against the ruling party or government, the aim is for the electorate to have credible alternative and for the people in the opposition to act as checks on the rulers for the benefits and development of the polity. Opposition is not all about the destruction or pulling down of people at the other side of the divide for our selfish interest.
In view of the aforesaid, opposition to government policies and actions should be done in form of ‘constructive and objective criticism’. Proffering of workable and better alternatives should be the principle rather than irrational condemnation and agitation for violent change. Politicians should learn to put the interest of the nation first in all their actions and utterances. National interest should supercede religious, ethnic and political affiliations/connotations. Everybody has a role to play to protect and sustain the country’s democracy. In as much as all political parties have their different and in most cases conflicting manifestoes and agenda, the most important thing is the realization of the objectives which is ‘to serve the people and move the country forward’.
If a particular policy or action of government is detrimental to the wellbeing of the populace or the development of the polity, it is the responsibility of the people in opposition to ‘objectively criticise’ such policy or action and then proffer workable and better alternative for the government. If truly, the suggested or recommended alternative or solution is better and more meaningful, it will be open for people to see and judge. However, criticisms should not always be done on the pages of newspapers or in form of press conference. Leaders of the opposition should conduct themselves in an orderly manner when criticising the government. They should be seen as partners in progress and not enemies of the State. Our leaders should constantly consult widely on major issues before making statements.
I don’t want to believe that there is a government that will want to stick to an unpopular and bad policy or action when it is obvious that a better alternative has been put forward by the opposition for considerations. If there is any government in this category (that refuses to embrace better suggestions and submissions of the opposition for the fear of being termed as a weak or government without clear direction), then that government would have successfully sent a message or signal to the people for revolution or imminent change of government in the elections to follow. This is because governance is not all about the people at the helm of affairs or party affiliations but all about a common goal and objective which is the wellbeing of the people and betterment of the country.
It is very important to stress at this point that the opposition should also support the government in educating and enlightening the masses about some policies and actions that are taken in the best interest of the people and country. Though such actions and policies might have some negative or pressing effect on the polity in the short run but which would have lasting benefits and positives in the long run. Development of the polity is a continuous exercise and there are some developmental policies and actions which have short term pains and long term benefits. In this situation, the opposition should be objective and also take it as a challenge to explain the fundamentals and benefits to the people. By doing so, the people will be more relaxed and commit themselves to making and enduring the sacrifices rather than feigning ignorance of the facts and blowing the short term pains beyond proportion just to give the government a bad name and make it unpopular in the eyes of the people.
It is also pertinent to advise the people in government not to always perceive the opinions and criticisms of the opposition in bad light. A popular adage says ‘if we close our eyes and turn deaf ears to happenings in our surrounding with the excuse that we do not want to hear or see evil or unfriendly things or advise, by the time the good and beneficial ones will pass by, we will not also see or hear them’. In this case, our situation will be worse off. Putting it differently, government should not always conclude and perceive advice and criticisms of the opposition as misleading. There should be a Standing Committee of selected experienced men and women who should always critically analyse the position of the opposition on issues and advise the government appropriately and accordingly. The order of the day where some aides of government functionaries are put in place to counter or return fire for fire on all utterances and criticisms of opposition will not bring forth positive results.
Today, so many people have constituted themselves into political jobbers and nuisance that attack the perceived enemies of political office holders. They are praise singers who play to the gallery to drum up support for people in government even when it is obvious that they are derailing. To them, the leaders are always right and any opposition is seen as a crime against the state. They make inflammatory statements without being reprimanded by their political godfathers. This development is very unfortunate and dangerous to the sustenance of our democracy. The unity of this country should not be toyed with for selfish interests. The general protests and revolutions that rocked some parts of the world lately are pointers to what unchecked utterances and outburst can cause.
So bad is the situation in the country that some people are now seen as ethnic or regional warlords. It is not out of place for people to support or promote the cause of their tribal or ethnic affiliations, but such should not be done at the expense of unity of the country. For a country to achieve greatness, the citizens should be ready to make sacrifices to sustain her unity. As it is difficult and almost impossible to break a bunch of broom, so it is when the people are united in the pursuance of peace, stability and development of their country. As the saying goes, ‘United we stand and, divided we fall’.
We should always have it at the back of our minds that a lot of sacrifices were made to achieve this democracy. Therefore, we should do everything to protect it. It will not do us any good if by our actions or inactions we allow the country to slip into a state of anarchy. We should not be carried away by the present patriotic and professional dispositions of the men in uniform and toy with this golden opportunity of protecting and sustaining our democracy.
A lot of people paid the ultimate price for us to get to where we are today. Generations to come will not forgive us if we misuse this opportunity and fail to consolidate as a result of our selfish and unpatriotic interest.
Let us transform the country to become the pride of all.
•OISE-OGHAEDE, a political analyst, wrote from Surulere, Lagos. Tel.: 08023116867, 08099405562