Opinion: 2019 elections and national interest – By BOBSON GBINIJE
IF liberty and equality, as is taught by some, are chiefly to be found in democracy, they will be best attained when all persons alike share in the government to the utmost” -Aristole (384-322 B.C) Every society and nation that wants to make palpably tangible growth and progress must ensure that it is super structed on the pedestal of unity, self-abnegation, people-driven ideas and patriotism. But when a nation is encapsulated in the throes and keels of negative ethnicism, regional affiliation, Neanderthal sentiments, corruption, leadership inertia, solipsism, nepotistic proclivities and godfatherism, etc. it is singing its own nunc demitis.
Nigeria is a nation formed as result of the agglomeration of different heterogeneous groups of people. It is a cockpit of multiculturalism and the melting pot of ethno-linguistic, political, historical and religious pluralism. Since the 1914 Lugardian albatross that led to the amalgamation of the Northern and Southern protectorates, Nigeria has been and is still orchestrating and fine-tuning governing formulas that will truly take the Nigerian nation to the El dorado of socio-economic and political greatness. The political engineering process has taken us through over ten constitutions and periods of military interregnum. Nigeria is a nation where political, socio-economic, educational and historical policies are defined along the primordial contours of ethnicism and corruption etc.
Ethnicism is the pathological and psychotic belief in the values, supremacy, characteristics and norms of one’s ethnic group. It degenerates overtime to ethnocentricity- a process whereby an ethnic group uses its own value system to assess the culture and values of different groups, the result of which is often the misunderstanding, dominance and misrepresentation of the culture of other groups. The late great sage and political colossus chief Obafemi Awolowo once said “I will first be a Yoruba man, before being a Nigerian”. The legal luminary Afe Babalola re-echoed the same sentiments a few years ago on a television programme and great Nigerians like late Chief Emeka Odumegwu Ojukwu, the late Oba of Benin, the late Orodje of Okpe, the late Olu of Warri, the late Mukoro Mowoe, the late Obong of Calabar, the late Emir of kano, the late Tafawa Balewa and the late Ahmadu Bello spoke and conducted themselves in the same vein of ethnicism and ethnocentricity. We are not saying that displaying love, interest and passion for one’s ethnic group is completely wrong, neither are we saying that showing concern for ones culture and religious interest smacks of clogging the dynamic engine of development and unity. We are saying that when etnicism is put to negative use to project and propagate parochial élan above national interest, it becomes deprogressivistic and mundane.
The vast majority of Nigerians claim to belong to their tribe, village, town, wards, local government and state before being Nigerians. This is correct, but to what extent, can it be sustained vis-a –vis the national interest? In Nigeria, elected leaders owe their first responsibility to their constituencies, villages, towns, local governments, ward, etc. This is superficially correct because they are answerable to those who elected them. But who are those answerable to the Nigerian people who have no constituencies by virtue of the fact that the systemic Machiavellianism that is operative does not take due cognizance of their existence. That is why leaders, especially some state governors have decided to develop their own villages, relations and friends to the detriment of the totality of the state. The inability to draw a line of how ethnicism, should not be used to scuttle national and generic interest remains the greatest clog to our national development. Ethnicism has been glorified as the fundamental objective and directive principle of state policy in Nigeria. It is masqueraded as federalism, patriotism, regionalism and consummate political formula, hence in our bid to balance the leadership pendulum we have resorted to geo-politicizing the political, social-economic and educational landscape. We have for the purpose of sharing power the six geo-political zones which politicians intend to use in sharing power amongst themselves, that is, political syndicalism, individualism and power cartelism. But can it ever work in the midst of ethnocentricity, greed and corruption. The exclusion of ethnic religious format from the census format must be commended. The geo-political zones are south-south, made up of Akwa-Ibom, Delta, Edo, Cross River, Rivers and Bayelsa states.
The South-East made up of Anambra, Abia, Ebonyi, Imo and Enugu states. The South –West geo-political zones is made up of Lagos, Ondo, Osun, Oyo and Ekiti states. The North-Central geo-political zone is made up of Jigawa, Kaduna, Kano, Kebbi, Sokoto, Zamfara and Katsina states etc. But what the political algebra and socio-economic calculus show is that one arm of the so-called geo- political zone will continue to dominate the administrative hierarchy in Nigeria , hence the continuous clamour for power shift in Nigeria? The administrative convenience that we seek will continue to remain an illusive variable and mirage as long as negative ethnicism continues to remain the fundamental mantra of Nigeria’s political class. Let our leaders and the citizens begin to see Nigeria as a nation of one people with one interest that our all-embracing cardinal focus should be our National interest and let it taper down constructively to other areas and not the reverse trend. Let our leaders in every stratum of government begin to see our National interest first and back it up with the accoutrements of patriotism, altruism, Benthamism and Aristotellianism- which is, the pursuit of the greatest good for the largest number. The essayist John Locke calls the National interest the “common good” w
hile Rousseau describes it as the “general will” but the wickedly greedy political class, equates national interest with their own interest. This must stop. We have to re-invent, remodel and re-negotiate our enthnicism and ethnocentricity in Nigeria to reflect our collective national interest. In his book Maid of Orleans, the writer Schiller (1759-1805) said “The nation is worthless which does not joyfully stake everything in defence of her honour” and this is corroborated by George Washington (1732-1799) in his Letter to Congress in 1778 he said “It is a maxim founded on the universal experience of mankind that no nation is to be trusted farther than it is bound by its interest”. Recently, one of their own and occupier of the hierarchical echelon of the Peoples Democratic Party, Chief Tony Anenih admonished the political class thus “I want to caution, in particular, all of us in the political terrain to be wary of undermining our sacred opportunities in pursuit of our petty and transient ambitions. This country is greater than all of us and its resources are vast enough for everyone. We should therefore eschew destructive politics and embrace the virtue of selfless service, without which our people will, in large numbers, be perpetually excluded from the benefits of their citizenship. It is only through dedicated service to the people that we as politicians, can respond positively to our calling.”
We hope the political class and elite are listening. The political brou-haha, social entropy and religious antagonisms reflected in Ekiti State, Ondo State, Oyo State, North Eastern Nigeria etc. are great pointers to the fact that Nigeria is standing at the precipitous epicenter of political annihilation. We admonish that this will precipitate the great cocooning of Nigeria in throes of the esplanade of Yugoslavia and the commencement of the count down to the Nigerian revolution and its ultimate dismemberment. The essayist Alexander Pope observed that “Let the ends of things disjoin, it is the whole world that suffers”. The political history of Yemen, Ethiopia, Sudan, Yugoslavia, Czechoslovakia, the Soviet Union and Libya etc. are glaring cases in history that Nigeria as a nation should learn from. They are unmistakable exemplifications of nations that became divided and plunged into political, socio-economic imbroglio because of their sanguinary proclivities and heedlessness to the shrill voice of political restrain and wisdom. The English playwright William Shakespeare observed that “Mischief thou arth afoot. Take what course thy willeth”. WILL NIGERIA SURVIVE THE 2019 ELECTIONS?
Finally, as we approach to 2019 elections, we call on the political elite, the Nigerian Government, politicians, the PDP, APC, APGA, UPN, LP and the Nigerian people to develop an attitudinal re-orientation towards the Nigerian nation, elections and what leadership is all about. Let us down-play the mundane sentiments of ethnicism and begin to look at other civilized standards of picking our leaders. Let us imbibe political cosmopolitanism, commitment, passion to serve, honesty, track records of patriotism, the verve of National interest and submission to our national interest to be our leading light. We have fought a civil war in climbing towards the heights of national development and another civil war will take us to the political purgatory and socio-economic limbo of tsunamic proportion. Let us begin to think of what we can do to concretize the bases of Nigeria’s greatness and national cohesion and not how to destroy our dear Father Land. WILL NIGERIA SURVIVE THE 2019 ELECTIONS? Vanguard
- Mr. Gbinije, a social critc, wrote from Warri, Delta State.