Many Nigerians like politics but pretend they don’t. If you doubt this, take a stroll to the vendor stand. The members of the Free Readers Association of Nigeria (FRAN) you will find at the vendor stand (many of them unemployed youths, some lowly civil servants, and some, touts) are very likely to be discussing two issues: Football and Politics. If there is no vendor near you, no wahala. You can try the pepper soup joint down the road. You will find very robust political discussion. Even if you are too “tush” or too “ajeboish” for these places I have mentioned, you can go to twitter facebook or play around with your remote for some local TV station and you will still find a high level of political discourse from your fellow countrymen.
We love to discuss politics. And football. But then ask any member of such a “panel” or forum to run for political office. His response will be “I don’t like politics”. If the man who daily discusses politics and political office holders does not “like” politics, then who does? And when he finds someone he knows making a move to become involved in politics, he goes, “ah, politics is dangerous ooo”.
So, the typical Nigerian shies away from running for political office and discourages loved ones from doing same. Yet this same Nigerian loves power and the benefits that flow from the corridors of power. Most are quick to criticise those at the helm of affairs for bending rules or circumventing the process. Yet when an opportunity to circumvent the process presents itself, these same critics hardly think twice about it. They think it doesn’t matter. I can cite several familiar examples. Have you ever been in slow-moving traffic and then out of nowhere emerges a siren-blaring convoy with gun-toting and horse-whip-waving uniformed men trying to create a way for a “big man” hidden behind tinted glasses? Have you observed that as soon as this convoy successfully creates a way, many buses, taxis and other vehicles struggle to join the convoy and get out of the gridlock? What do you see on the faces of fellow countrymen trying to do that? You see excitement and smiles.
I understand that power sweet. It can even be exhilarating to find oneself receiving preferential treatment. Nobody likes waiting in a queue. Many do not enjoy following the process. But to change things, we must endure these basics. The popular position is to lampoon politicians and blame them for all that is wrong with our society. There are excesses among the political class alright. Their behaviour is very repugnant, to say the least. Foreigners coming into our country for the first time receive a kind of shock (yea, culture shock, if you will) when they see the lengths of convoys of political office holders and the sheer number of aides that mill around them. Even more appalling is the way they conduct themselves. In many fora across the country today, the talking point is what happened in the hallowed chambers of the Rivers State House of Assembly of recent. Yet, the problem is deeper than that.
Somehow, I wonder whether we condone impunity because impunity is latent in us. We have come to a stage in our national life when we must begin to re-evaluate our value system. It is important to note that in defining a value system, the keywords are “consistency” and “ethics”. In otherwords, we must be prepared to apply the same rules of conduct on a consistent basis.
I love politics but I am not aware of a separate assembly line for producing politicians. What political office does basically is to accentuate the hidden character flaws in a man. The man who may not be holding political office may actually be doing as much harm as the man he criticises. I am not against calling on political office holders to be accountable and to behave responsibly. We must do that and more. We must embody the behaviour we expect of others and the larger society. He that comes to equity must come with clean hands. Let us think. Surely, we can stand for something positive.
Have a great week!