The golden age of Nigerian politics By Sabella Abidde
There are several meanings and or definitions of “The Golden Age,” but metaphorically speaking, the golden age refers to a period of great achievement in the life of a nation vis-à-vis the arts, sports, culture, science and technology, literature and philosophy – and even politics! In this instance, I concern myself mainly with politics: The golden age of Nigeria’s political life. Nigeria has had two such eras: A decade or so before independence and up until the period before the senselessness that led to the 1967-1970 Nigeria-Biafra War; and the Second Republic – the period between 1979 and 1983.
Frankly, not many would think of these periods as golden ages. That’s understandable! After all, again, there were the events leading to the war. Also, there were all sorts of political and economic foolishness. And especially in the case of the Second Republic, how could one forget what one of Africa’s truly greats, Fela Anikulapo-Kuti, said about “maladministration and corruption,” “authority stealing,” “suffering and smiling” and the sheer recklessness of the political and economic class? It was the beginning of the mess that Nigeria has become.
Dr. Nnamdi Azikiwe, Chief Obafemi Awolowo, Tafawa Balewa, Ladoke Akintola and the rest of them were not infallible. They were politicians, not saints. Through it all, however, these were men, and women, who spent time thinking about how to build a nation, how to make their country better. They understood politics and power and how to put it all together. And so, their mistakes were tolerable; their follies understandable and forgivable. But, if you look at the big picture – if you look at the totality of the high and low crimes that were committed then, and when compared to what has been going on since 1999, you will have no basis for comparison.
Today’s crimes and political wickedness are so impetuous, so brash they defy any kind of explanation or justification. In other words, the 1950s and 60s, and the crimes and transgressions of the 1979/1983 era, pale in comparison to the Obasanjo-Yar’Adua-Jonathan eras. The previous eras look lame and tame. The worst criminals of those eras, when compared to their post-1999 counterparts, look like drunken sailors and misguided boy scouts. Most were like teenagers left alone in the candy store. The majority of today’s politicians are sociopaths, psychopaths, and whatever and however else you want to describe and or define them. This is a heartless bunch running amok in a collapsed political system.
What is clear – what is very clear – is that politically, Nigeria’s golden age came to an abrupt end in 1983. And things have not been the same again since. Do you remember these names: Ahmadu Bello, Margaret Ekpo, Nnamdi Azikiwe, Abubakar Rimi, Michael Okpara, Dennis Osadebay, Michael Ajasin, Samuel Akintola, Dappa Biriye, Aminu Kano, Ernest Ikoli, Balarabe Musa, and M.C.K. Ajuluchukwu? They and many more helped to chart our collective path; took time to contemplate our collective destiny. But unfortunately, six to seven decades after these men and many other women risked their lives so Nigerians can be free from the manacles of humiliation, servitude and oppression – we are back to where we started: struggling!
Today, we struggle against tyranny and want; we struggle against fetid social conditions and diseases like malaria, polio and the latest kid on the block, Ebola; we struggle against ignorance and mental slavery. We struggle for the most basic of all basic human needs. And so, one cannot but conclude that the seat and blood and labour of our founding fathers have been in vain. Yes, in vain indeed. The gains we made in the 1950s through the 1980s have basically evaporated.
As I told you last week, practically no one who is a member of a political party has the time and or the aptitude to contemplate answers and solutions to our collective problems and challenges. All they want to do is self-service, remain in power or the corridor of power and steal and or engage in sharing the people’s wealth. This is so because “politics is no longer about serving the people; but about economic gains and self-glory.”
In 1966, Awolowo counselled that, “A truly public-spirited person should accept public office not for what he can get for himself – such as the profit and glamour of office – but for the opportunity which it offers him of serving his people to the best of his ability, by promoting their welfare and happiness.” How many folk in the All Progressives Congress or the Peoples Democratic Party, Nigeria’s main political parties, remember this? The few people who are genuinely interested in the people and their welfare and happiness are being denied ascendancy. Ironically, the masses – the poor, the excluded, the exploited, and those in the margins – are themselves too weak and too gullible to truly know and understand and appreciate their true friends and supporters.
Compared to the Awolowo, Azikiwe and Balewa era, what we have are counterfeit politicians: Presidents and governors who do not know how to tackle economic or national security problems; men and women who know very little about foreign policy or welfare policies; and politicians and public servants who are not serious about tackling poverty and injustice and inequality and who are indifferent to the plight of the underclass and the underprivileged.
This is a nation that has steadily been declining since 1985. Olusegun Obasanjo was in office, first, from February 1976 through September 1979, and again from May 1999 to May 2007. That’s almost 12 years! Goodluck Jonathan has been the substantive president since May 2010. That’s four years and counting. In between was the late Umaru Yar’Adua. At the federal level alone, that’s several trillions of naira wasted! And most folk still live in poverty!
Now, look around and tell me: Has your living conditions improved since 1999? Tell me, tell your neighbours: Is power supply reliable? How good are our roads and hospitals and water supply and security? What are the chances of your dreams and aspirations coming true today compared to the days of Azikiwe, Awolowo or Balewa? How many of your state governors are as smart as Samuel Ogbemudia, Sam Mbakwe, Mobolaji Johnson or Lateef Jakande?
Before 1990 or thereabout, many of our universities were as good as any in South America and South Africa. Today, what we have are mausoleums of structural decay and intellectual laziness. Politicians not fit to be chairmen of their local governments are today state governors and federal ministers. Everything is in decline. Above all else, our political system is dysfunctional – thoroughly dysfunctional, thoroughly sickening and thoroughly embarrassing. This is the age of sheer recklessness and absolute stupidity. Permit me to announce to Nigerians that you are in the Stone Age, not the Golden Age!
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