Vanity asks the question- is it popular? Conscience asks the question-Is it right? -Martin Luther King Jnr.
Very recently, I stumbled on a document where Havard Political Professor, Samuel Huntington, in an address at Taipei, on August 1995, contrasted Singapore leadership model with the democratic model in Taiwan.
He smartly summed it up this way; ‘the freedom and creativity that President Lee has introduced in Taiwan will survive him but the honesty and efficiency that Senior Minister Lee has brought to Singapore are likely to follow him to his grave. Warning that authoritarianism may do well in the short term, but the experience clearly shows that only democracy produces good government over a long haul.
Significantly, neither Taiwan nor Singapore is the interest of this piece as I cannot expressly explain the exact side of the divide (authoritarian or democratic) we are presently situated as a country.
However, the awareness of the inherent consequence of allowing authoritarianism to thrive on our shores as warned above should form useful lessons for those making life in Nigeria quoting Thomas Hobbs, become nasty, brutish and short.
From Sheik Ibrahim EL-Zakzaky protracted detention in contravention to court directives to violent protest by his followers which left so many people dead and embarrassed the government. From Omoleye Sowore call for revolution and clamp down on peaceful protesters by a combined team of security forces, to the intensified mindless killing of innocent Nigerians by the member of the Boko Haram sect and other criminal elements yet to be identified. What about hunger, and excruciating poverty?
Apart from these happenings exposing the consequence of our past failures which have erupted in the present uncontrolled experiment with attendant risks and indefinite outcome, it is obvious that nations currently going through civil wars are now safer than our country.
Regrettably but expected, in the face of all these unpalatable experience, supporters of government justified the actions and argues that when crisis blows up, there isn’t time to plough through hundreds of pages of the constitution to know what the rule says, as crisis incites anxiety and conditions of high stress- forgetting that war which is considered legal violence has its rules.
That not withstanding, the truth as we all know is that what is happening is but governments’ habit of disregard for democratic ethos.
Precisely, with this myriad of sociopolitical contradictions which have conspired directly and indirectly to give the nation unenviable tag of a people in grief, no nation-best typifies a country in dire need of peace, justice, equity and equality among her various sociopolitical groups than Nigeria.
Why this calls for concern is that before the nation enthroned democracy on 29th May 1999, political pundit had always accused the military of being intolerant, immature, corrupt, unserious, unpatriotic and tribalistic. But today, the political classes of our land have acquired these qualities and went ahead to become a tool for other national vices which currently dominates as well as threaten the country.
What is more? Less hope for the future.
As to factors fueling this appaling situation, there is no single answer to it, but there are possible explanations.
First, close to the entrenched distrust of the political leadership and inability to manage diversity which characterizes our sphere is the national vexation by the people who once lived in comfort and loved to stay alive as life was never a burden.
But today, life in their estimation has become a burden with the cost of living comparatively high and national security now a problem, our value system which used to be sound has gradually been eroded and people no longer have value for the sanctity of human life
The country is currently a direct opposite of what it used to be.
As succulently captured by one writer; recently, in Ogun State, Nigeria, a life was brutally taken without a court trial, simply because of broken windscreens. This is very instructive against the background that on 17th July this year, a 32-year-old Nigerian destroyed several vehicles at the High Commission office in London and is alive today to answer charges. If he had done what he did in Abuja or any other town, he would be long dead and Nigerians would have rationalised his death’.
From this account, it is certain that we are a country where vanity as against conscience rules. And it’s not only in contrast with what obtains in developed nations but provides answers to why the current administration promotes democracy everywhere except where it hurts.
Unquestionably, this is happening because as a nation, we have developed a ‘culture’ of lawlessness and practice leadership model that no longer appreciates people who speak their minds, without fear or hesitation. But honours all that tell leaders that they are right all the time, while deep in their hearts, they have another opinion.
This fact has consequentially created an atmosphere where constructive debate is no longer valid, deferring political ideas perceived as destructive to the nation’s interest and the masses call for national dialogue seen as a challenge to the leaders.
Lamentably also, while other nations view their citizens as the most precious asset and most important factor in the progress of their countries, here, human life makes little or no meaning.
But of all these, the most worrying aspect of the narrative is that while other nations see leadership as possession of abilities for making successful decisions based on deep consideration, consultation and research, here leaders search for consensus as an alternative to moulding consensus. And enforce national unity instead of its promotion.
It has not only led to the destruction of social infrastructures relevant to a meaningful and acceptable level of social existence for our people but propelled Nigerians to conclude that there is something deeply troubling about leadership in Nigeria.
In my views, this assertion may not be wrong looking at the government’s approach to handling issues, their disdain for facts and rule of law, and lack of curiosity for new information that might produce a deeper understanding of problems and policies.
What the handlers of Mr President failed to remember is that so many nations are great today because their leaders promoted a tradition of education combined with social and political actions among their citizens that ensure sincere national unity.
Finally, aside from studying the actions of the eminent men, to discover the reasons for their victories, for us to move forward, we must learn to protect the robbed and punish the robber.
*** Jerome-Mario Utomi, writes from Lagos Via; firstname.lastname@example.org