One of the most contentious issues that Nigeria’s political arena has always recorded has been the political succession agenda. The staccato of voices ringing across the political showground at this period is, therefore, not strange; and should be expected given the culture of political awareness of political leaders and sophistication of the political class, that are however being compounded by increasing levels of awareness of the citizenry. From the north to the south; and east to the west of Nigeria, what we are currently witnessing could be likened to what was christened as the ”rumble in the jungle” when famed boxer, Muhammed Ali fought George Foreman, in a boxing encounter that took place on October 30, 1974, in the Democratic Republic of the Congo.
Former World Heavyweight boxing champion Muhammed Ali was then a 32-year-old, ex-prisoner; loved by the multitude, but was not given high chances of winning the encounter against highly muscled George Foreman; a rampaging pugilist. Political battles are not being visibly fought by politicians. However, the same measure of skills and calculations are being employed by the political class, in an intense and furious manner, most probably vicious than those deadly blows of pugilists in action. Politicians too employ all manner of tricks to record technical knock-outs, and all manner of both acceptable and crude tactics to emerge victorious.
Very intensely and fiercely fought, political chess games in our clime are slightly different from what obtains in the First World. What we have in our country is a fight-to-finish approach with the contestants battling to ensure that opponents don’t survive onslaughts; if possible. Nobody wants or plans to be the loser, especially where ego is involved. You may not easily come across a Senator McCain who would concede defeat, even when the counting of votes was still on. It is no less distressing that Nigerian voters may be paid or rather bribed, to vote. And so, some of the strongest influences and considerations as the struggle for the emergence of the winners becomes frenzy are money and influence. Who cares about the emergence of the best candidate? Not even the electorate who stand the chance of being shortchanged for four years, and even, thereafter.
As it is on the political scene, so it could be in the corporate world. Leadership succession must be of concern to everyone who wants the best for his or her society. It is fought in all societies. Leadership succession has catapulted some nations like Singapore and Far Eastern countries to the forefront in the comity of nations. Accordingly, it is trite to develop a thoughtful succession plan that guide decisions when the need arises. Lee Kuan Yew, the founding Prime Minister of Singapore is highly regarded as a great visionary who has left behind a legacy of a modern and prosperous Singapore that is the envy of many nations. He succeeded in leaving his imprints as was regarded as one of the world’s most influential leaders. Why did he succeed? It is recorded against Lee Kuan Yew’s name that he led with passion and purpose.
THE INTEREST OF THE SOCIETY ABOVE ALL OTHER CONSIDERATIONS: The Malaysian experience is also a good example. One of the toughest decisions that Lee had to contend with was the decision of Malaysia to be independent from Singapore. Lee shed tears on public television. However, he never gave up but forged ahead with determination. Prof Sattar Bawany, in a paper submits that: ”One of the most enduring legacies was Lee’s ability to select and work with a team of equally dedicated men, all of whom shared one common characteristic: they loved Singapore and would put the nation’s interest above theirs. ”That more than anything drove the team to put aside differences for a common good. ”Lee and his team were obsessed with building a nation but they were never possessed by it. ”They never became personal or arrogant. ”Their obsession pushed them forward but they were not possessed by their egos.”
In the First Republic, the level of participation, commitment and dedication of political leaders, from what history records, was high and commendable. With the presidential system, representation became full-time, with accompanying hefty remunerations. The idea was that such rewards would attract the best minds and total dedication to the job; but, alas, this has not happened. Indeed, the quality of participation and representation has gone down, with mediocrity taking prominence over competence and merit. Where people come from, religious inclinations, ethnicity, tribalism and bigotry have taken preeminence over important considerations which should ideally throw up the best materials which would steer the ship of state constructively and admirably.
Going into records, it is to be noted that the commencement of the Second Republic still had the traits of party supremacy and internal democracy that are clearly lacking at present. The principles of checks and balances are not to visible in the running of political parties. The bubble first burst as the nation prepared for the 1983 generation elections. And the proverbial dogs, in most situations, no longer responded to the hunters’ whistles. Politicians defied not only their political parties, but also respected leaders on account of desire to contest elections on political party platforms.
THE RECIPE: The problem of godfatherism (manipulation of political rulers by powerful interests) has taken a prominent place with politicians now relying on godfathers or notable political figures in their various constituencies to be able to secure the tickets of political parties for electoral contests and to be able to garner the support of the people. The resultant effect is that such politicians seeking elective offices and appointments now owe allegiance to politicians who assisted them in getting elected instead of the electorate who voted them into power. This very dangerous development has precipitated crises among politicians, especially in situations when those who sought assistance in political contests attempt to extricate themselves from the webs of influential politicians or fail to abide by the terms of agreement reached with their political mentors or god-fathers. In most cases, the problems have been caused by the sharing of the spoils of office and political patronage.
The inability of those involved in the intricate art of governance to take rational decisions without recourse to their leaders and their political parties has been one of the banes of good governance. Politics is largely now seen as an investment with huge amounts going into campaigns by politicians who naturally nurse the ambition of recouping their investments after winning elections of securing political appointments. Again, politics has been greatly monetized such that many who engage in the vocation now view it as a do-or-die affair. These have resulted into allegations and counter-allegations of sharp practices by contestants. Regrettably, electoral contests have been fiercely fought not on the basis of issues but with every conceivable dirty manner which has consequently generated bad blood among the contestants.
LEADERSHIP & GOOD GOVERNANCE TO THE RESCUE: It is to be noted that a good leader will produce a good vision and mission. Leadership, therefore, constitutes a critical determinant of good governance. However, the leader must be supported by good hands to whom powers and duties could be delegated for the overall success of the team. An assemblage of knowledgeable, dedicated and committed hands would undoubtedly prove beneficial to the society and for team work and blending. Experience in the early days of the attainment of nationhood indicates that the best materials were fielded by political parties and the various constituencies of representatives of the people. However, some other considerations like religious and ethnic considerations have crept into the selection process, throwing up mediocrity, instead of merit and competence.
Where does the influence of political parties end, and when should the political parties loosen their hold on those elected into political offices to govern? Again, to what extent should those in government allow themselves to be influenced by political party considerations? It should naturally occur to politicians that, once elected, they should be able to defend the whole of their constituencies, instead of obeying a few individuals or championing narrow and parochial interests. Those who are elected into political offices must avoid divisive tendencies and shun politics of exclusion in the interest of the larger society, particularly the constituencies they represent. Over the years, the influence of political parties on their elected members has been too suffocating. The leadership of political parties are in the pockets of a few people.
Such developments have resulted into bitter rivalry and acrimony that have contributed to the nation’s experiences. Political parties all over the world remain the veritable vehicles for the translation of the ambition and aspirations of members of political parties to occupy elective positions. The manifesto of the political parties are quite naturally expected to be followed to the letter so that the different parties may be able to approach the electorate again to seek their support for their candidates. This factor, however, should not preclude elected and appointed political office holders from holding opinions based on personal convictions while taking decisions that are of public interest. In the past, such moves have been classified as anti-party activities, with those found guilty of what may sometimes be considered as trumped up charges occasioned by vendetta being victimized by party chieftains.
Lastly, the political arena will know peace only when we learn to conduct ourselves peacefully and truthfully in accordance with regulations guiding our conducts. It is always important that we all conduct ourselves dispassionately in public interest, and with the fear of God. Justice and fair play are critical ingredients without which the rumbles will continue endlessly. Nigeria will become a better country only when we start paying particular attention to the quality of representation as a function of good governance. Once elected, political functionaries should be above petty and party politics in public and national interest. And it is important that we support those in government to work and achieve meaningful results to show us at the end of their four year tenure.
Nigeria’s dry bones shall surely rise again.