Time For Professionalism In Politics

Former President Olusegun Obasanjo
Former President Olusegun Obasanjo

By Ogbaegbe Michael

At the one-day trade fair seminar organised by the Kaduna Chamber of  Commerce recently, former president, Olusegun Obasanjo, made a  statement that insinuated that his generation failed to translate the enormous resources available to them to opportunities for the present generation. He said this as he traced the leadership of Nigeria since independence.

“Look, don’t worry unduly about the mistake the generation before you hadmade. We must accept that we are human,” Obasanjo said.“When people talk to me and said yes, you are wrong. I will accept that my generation had done a number of wrong things. But, we must have done some good things as well.”

One can rightly infer from this remark that Obasanjo accepts that they (his generation) failed Nigeria in terms of leadership and politics.

However, The Governor of Ekiti State, Ayodele Fayose, responded to the former President, saying that Obasanjo’s assertion that his generation had failed Nigeria was false. For Fayose, it was Obasanjo personally and people like him who failed the country.

“Obasanjo, truly, has failed this country many times over but not all members of his generation failed this country,” Fayose said. “There are shinning lights in that generation that have served the nation well.”

Fayose listed the patriotic Nigerians of Obasanjo’s generation to include: Wole Soyinka, Fela Anikulapo-Kuti, Emeka Anyaoku and Professor AyodeleAwojobi.

One may agree with Fayose that these people were outstanding in their fields of endeavor, but it is obvious that they were not in the league of people whom Nigerians refer to when we say our leaders have failed us. Our politicians are the leaders who failed Nigeria. Obasanjo knew what he  was saying.

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The primary problem with Nigeria as has already been highlighted by many prominent Nigerians is leadership. Chinue Achebe said it in the1980’s, and Obasanjo reiterated it few days ago. We all know, we Nigerians know that we have not had the right people in leadership positions in the country. What we are yet to agree on is: “in what areas of our national life are these leaders lacking?”

So I wish to state that our problem is not lack of professionals in different fields of life, but political generals who can properly galvanize our professionals for the growth of our country. We lack the people Bishop Hassan Kukah described as charismatic political leaders who can get the populace enchanted and inspire respect with their wisdom. So to clarify issues, I believe when Nigerians say we have leadership problem, they mean we lack sound political leaders.

Fela Kuti, WoleSoyinka, Emeka Anyaoku strictly speaking cannot be called political leaders in this country. They are professionals who have done well in their fields. But their fields are not the area holding Nigeria to ransom. We do not lack experts in music, literature or economics, we lack experts in politics. Though growth in this other areas resonates and translates to growth in every other aspect of our life, yet they cannot overwhelm our bad political policies, neither can they transform them into good ones.

Our problem in Nigeria is lack of professional politicians. By professionals I do not mean individuals who have carried membership cards of their political parties from time immemorial. Or some who pride themselves as having suffered all the politically motivated persecution for their party. Rather, I mean people who have been educated in politics, and so know how to create political policies. I mean individuals who have studied and now understand the complexity associated with our system of government: Liberal Democracy.

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We Nigerians have continuously denied ourselves sound political leadership by inserting square pegs into round holes. We think, ignorantly though, that politics is a field that needs no professionalism. It is either we do not know or we underestimate the complications associated with our system of government: Liberal Democracy.

Our politicians think politics is about winning election and sitting in the Chambers to chit-chat. How many of our legislators can properly relate with names like Karl Marx, Karl Popper, Robert Nozick? How many of them know about John Lock the father of modern democracy? How many have read about the innovations and reforms liberal democracy has undergone underJohn Rawls? How many know about the thoughts of Francis Fukuyama and his idea of a Strong Modern State? How many can discuss the current issues in liberal democracy?

This is not an attempt to denigrate any group orindividual. I respect our politicians, yet I think the desire to do things rightly should supersede individual benefits. I think it is high time we started giving politics the attention and professionalism it requires. Politicians rule the world, so ignorant politicians will definitely ruin Nigeria. The subtle distinction between political policies, economic policies and religious rules in a liberal democratic state has to be acknowledged in Nigeria.

Political policies are different from economic policies and even social ones. Political policies are like the foundational policies upon which these other policies are built. And these policies must emanate from the fundamental theories of liberal democracy; though not neglecting the background political culture. I think this entire confusion started in that elusive synthesis of the 21st century, when democracy promoters and development practitioners became increasingly interconnected and the distinction between the two communities became blurred. So issues concerning economic growth, infrastructural development and liberal democracy became so intertwined that you can hardly grasp the distinction between the trio.

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What we lack and urgently need in Nigeria is strong and modern political institutions that will serve as the foundation upon which these other very important institutions of the state can function effectively. What we need is sound and grounded political policies that will unshackle the hindrances we experience in our socio-economic development. As much as I do not deny the complementarity of market economics and liberal democracy, the distinction between the two must be identified. Our ignorance of the growing overlap and interconnection between liberal democracy and market economics is what landed Nigeria into recession.

This is because ours is a scenario where individuals who are not educated in market economics, nor know the tenets of liberal democracy, make decisions used in running both institutions. Unless we acknowledge this disparity and act on it the confusion and delay we experience in making big decisions that will bring about political stability and socio-economic development will persist.

Ogbaegbe Michael is an author, and holds a Masters Degree in  Philosophy from the Nnamdi Azikiwe University Awka. He can be reached on michaelogbaegbe@yahoo.com