It is to be noted that clearly, something is wrong when everybody thinks the same way given the principles of objectivity, subjectivity, selective perception and retention; that combine to shape human image and thoughts. And for harmony to be witnessed perpetually, there must be unanimity of purpose, in line with Nelson Mandela’s statement that: ‘’A good head and a good heart are always a formidable combination.’’ Governance is not a tea party as it tasks the ability of people in power. It is easier to criticize than to make plans work down the line — first, second, and third line managers because it is impossible for bosses to be everywhere the same time.
This is the reason why Dr. Nnamdi Azikiwe, on emerging the first Ceremonial President of the Federal Republic reacted this way: ‘’As in the past, I shall not have consideration for personal comforts or safety or even life itself; if these are the prizes that I must pay for leadership in order to preserve the freedom and unity of my country.’’ It is also for same reason that the ‘’buck stops here” an expression popularized by United States 33rd President Harry S. Truman applies down the line. Truman kept a sign with that phrase on his desk in the Oval Office. The phrase reminded him of the notion that the President has to make the decisions and accept the ultimate responsibility for those decisions.
Wisdom and good governance are some of the requirements for success in private and public sectors. Sheikh Muhammed Al-Ghazali al-Saqqa,, an Egyptian prolific writer in one of his publications asserted that: ’’Governance is a trust which everyone who chooses to accept would be questioned about. ‘To accept the responsibility to govern therefore is like accepting to bear the burden of everyone else on one’s head so that when others are resting, you are working and while they are sleeping you are watching and if anything goes wrong you will be held accountable even when you were not directly culpable.’’ Governance is not restricted to political governance. It is exercised directly and indirectly in both the public and private sectors, and even family units, in which the husband is the governor, and the wife is the deputy-governor. It is for this reason that proponent of good governance — Nelson Mandela is quoted as arguing that: “A good head and good heart are always a formidable combination. ‘’But when you add to that a literate tongue or pen, then you have something very special.” The past few months have been characterized by fireworks on both divides – government and the governed. We will start with positives.
PATRIOTISM & MERIT: This evaluation must open with the conduct of the federal government on the support accorded Dr. Akinwumi Adesina who got reelected as the President of the African Development Bank Group and the current deft diplomatic maneuvers for Dr. Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala, Nigeria’s candidate for the position of Director-General of the World Trade Organization. Because the buck stops on his table, President Muhamadu Buhari takes the credit for those commendable moves. It is important to note that those positions might have gone to other nations had Mr. President’s official and unofficial advisers on the support for those two brilliant achievers been myopic and never adopted a cosmopolitan and patriotic frontal and behind-the-scene approach. It was possible for the United States to have succeeded in her efforts to prevent Akinwumi Adesina from being reelected had government and patriots outside government failed to move to protect the interests of Nigeria. I am also sure that had the arrangement in place before Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala’s entry into the race for the DG of the WTO remained, and another candidate was fielded, Nigeria would have crashed out of the competition. I reason this way, not because the former contestant, Dr Agha is not competent and brilliant, but because so many factors go into such competitions of global reckoning. Nations that field candidates for such high offices must strategize.
DISPASSIONATE CONDUCTS For the reason of being advantageously positioned in the past, I know as a matter of fact that Nigeria lost some positions of influence in regional or continental bodies, as well as in multilateral organizations because candidates without the clout were fielded by Nigeria. This is one reason why Mr. President’s official and unofficial advisers (I don’t know them) deserve to be commended and why merit must continue to be accorded due consideration in our fight for global prominence under the sun. I am not in any doubt that Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala will emerge the WTO DG by the grace of God. Asian nations will not be sleeping but support the other female contestant. Momentarily, let all Nigerians, for the sake of patriotism and global trade concerns unite for Okonjo-Iweala to emerge, even if it involves enemies dining together to realize this objective. Nigerians rose stoutly when Akin Adesina was to be robbed of his position. Our media and aides of Mr. President who worked out this ‘’winning formula’’ must step up interventions for the international community to adopt Okonjo-Iweala as the DG of the WTO. As patriots and because we believe in her competence and candidacy, we have done many pro-bono campaigns for this great daughter of Nigeria. We adopted this same patriotic stance of unsolicited pro-bono services when attempts were made by powerful forces and interests to prevent Nigeria’s Akinwumi Adesina from being reelected as President of the African Development Bank Group in the national interest.
HANDLING CRITICS & CYNICS: People in the corridor of power receive punches constantly because they are accountable to the populace for whom they hold power in trust. Nobody gives consideration to the fact that the most talented and experienced individual outside the system may not fully understand the workings of Government until when afforded the opportunity of having a practical hands-on-experience as a key participant in the process of governance. Cynics and critics may be poor performers in government. But we must listen to everybody as stakeholders, including those regarded as professional critics and cynics because they never put themselves forward to carry the burden of the citizenry. That is their inalienable right guaranteed by the extant Constitution of the Federal Republic. Mistrust, is one element that has strongly worked against smooth administration of bureaucracies generally. That is why you may have two or three camps of people working for the same boss, competing for attention. Their actions that breed working at cross purposes affect morale and the type of inputs the big boss receives.
SARS & LABOUR CRISES The greatest problems currently confronting government are political and economic issues now heightened by COVID-19. The good thing is that all these problems are surmountable. A couple of times, Vice-President Yemi Osinbajo has tried to wriggle out of the quagmire in media interviews granted on behalf of his principal on very contentious issues of poverty alleviation, the SARS protests, police reforms, and labour crises. And labour leaders, all over the world are known to be obstinate. William Shakespeare it was, who asserted that: ‘’uneasy lies the head that wears the crown’’ that translates into: A person who has great responsibilities, such as a king, is constantly worried and therefore doesn’t sleep soundly. It is certain that even where one is adjudged to have taken a wrong step, it is still okay if the action was not deliberately and foolishly taken. And aides are there to always shield their bosses based on the principle of collective responsibility. That is one reason why government deserves to be commended for being responsive by not talking tough, though steps taken ought to have been adopted much earlier several years ago.
HANDLING PROTESTS & PROTESTERS: Part of the beauty of democracy is the divergence of opinions. It appeared those protesters were ready to die! It is now clear that we must pay huge attention to the feelings of the governed to reduce incidents of friction to the barest minimum. More importantly, it is very important that actions are taken in good faith, national interest, and for the sake of posterity. Not all actions are to be seen as coming from adversaries or enemies of opposing sides on the political plane. And not all reactions justify the response of ”fire for fire” We are still not too far ”from the approaching gales” to borrow the words of Prof. Olusola Adeyeye. How to contain these protests that are refusing to go away should be our common concern. That protesters descended on the palace of a royal father as viewed on television calls for concern. It takes memories back to the days of the June 12 political crises when royal fathers watched their utterances for fear of being attacked by irate mobs.
THE MASS PROTESTS Suddenly, too many people appear to be aggrieved, and the staccato of voices ringing out appears to be very disturbing, especially not only on account of the fact that they threaten national cohesion and stability; but could be interpreted to be sounding like drums of war. The reaction of the masses through the SARS protests was rather unsettling. Through telecasts, I saw the way and manner protests were spreading like bush fire and never understood what was happening. I have always taken the pains to be careful and avoid being misrepresented. I only called a friend, a veteran media practitioner to find out what exactly was happening when the protests spread to major capitals of the world. Whoever holds a prominent position of responsibility in government and exits without health challenges like hypertension must thank God.
Diversity is one of our strengths. In the words of Aberjhani: “Diversity is an aspect of human existence that cannot be eradicated by terrorism or war or self-consuming hatred. ‘’It can only be conquered by recognizing and claiming the wealth of values it represents for all.” In the words of Mahatma Ghandi: ‘’Non-violence is not a garment to be put on and off at will. ‘’Its seat is in the heart, and it must be an inseparable part of our being.’’ And as for all Nigerians, we must always bear in mind that every problem has a non-violent answer. The leadership, in gravitating towards fulfilling the objective of entrenching an enduring democratic culture must also constantly bear in mind that the responsibility for sustaining democracy in the country is that of the people. And having successfully emerged from a long period of military rule that most of the protesters witnessed and imbibed, the nation must be assisted to evolve the best possible means of installing representative government that embodies the collective hopes and aspirations of the citizenry.
The Creator knows that governance is a most difficult assignment and Biblical Apostle Paul is recorded in an exhortation in the Book of Timothy 2: 1-2 as stating that: ‘’I exhort therefore, that, first of all, supplications, prayers, intercessions, and giving of thanks, be made for all men; 2For kings, and for all that are in authority; that we may lead a quiet and peaceable life in all godliness and honesty. 3. For this is good and acceptable in the sight of God our Saviour.’’ This charge is very clear and unambiguous. God told the Israelites in exile to pray for Babylon: “Seek the peace and prosperity of the city to which I have carried you into exile. Pray to the LORD for it, because if it prospers, you too will prosper” (Jeremiah 29:7). Romans 13:1 says, “Let everyone be subject to the governing authorities, for there is no authority except that which God has established. The authorities that exist have been established by God.” Paul requested prayer “for all the Lord’s people” and for himself. There are many lessons to learn and pray about from this story. First and foremost, we must pray for our leaders, because when God’s judgment comes, even the innocent may not escape the outcome. Secondly, children of God must always know whether any assignment they are given is of God or of the devil, and they should ask God for wisdom to go about it.
FULFILLING OBLIGATIONS OF THE GOVERNMENT & THE GOVERNED The strength of any government lies in its ability to fulfill its mandate to the citizenry. It is easier to destroy than to build. While Governments are in place to manage societies on behalf of the general citizenry, people must realize that they must always hold their representatives in governments accountable in a responsible and civilized manner. It is also incumbent on citizens to fulfill their obligations to the State. Part of the social responsibility expected of the citizenry is respect for the provisions of the constitution by being socially responsible and exhibiting behaviour that would promote national development and cohesion. It happens quite often that many citizens compare Nigeria to the developed world and lament that the nation is yet to develop appreciably, without necessarily bothering about certain indices, including whether or not such people are fulfilling their obligations to the country. The society and government must collaborate to implement policies on long range visioning and planning that would cater for development.
In a representative democracy, leaders will be criticized, castigated and vilified for many reasons. Many people do so patriotically, conscientiously and also either out of ignorance, misinformation or lack of knowledge. We must not be disturbed in as much as these actions are within the ambits of the law and leadership is a sacrifice that entails a costly, difficult and hazardous burden. Let us all do away with the feeling that ‘’Government’s business is nobody’s business’’ and be prepared to bear some pains to allow for the evolution of a better tomorrow. But the pains must be felt by both the government and the governed as a way of encouraging the people to bear pains without complaining. We must provide adequate security as prime catalyst for stability, cohesion, peace, and development by investing wisely on security, because without law and order, peace and security, there can be no development. In a country where ethnic sentiments run deep and every public position is seen as an opportunity to re-enact primordial ethnic conflicts, it is significant that no one complained about an Agah a former aspirant for the DG-WTO position, being replaced with an Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala as candidate for one of the world’s most visible positions. It is important to continue in this vein by putting only competent people in positions of authority and accommodate all people of good-will in policy participation.
YOUTH DEVELOPMENT Prof. Akin Mabogunje in a treatise submitted that: ‘’In governance terms, democracy is not just about how representatives are chosen. More importantly, it is about how the citizens are regarded in the decision-making process – whether they are believed to be individually the equal of those making decisions and have the freedom to accept or reject any decisions made on their behalf or whether they are inferior beings on whom any decisions can be imposed. ‘’Accountability of elected representatives to those who elected them at each level of government and not to any other body however highly placed, is thus central to the operations of a democratic system.’’
Therefore, let us pay particular attention to the development of those young ones who appeared on the streets for several days protesting relentlessly against SARS. In the words on Nnamdi Azikiwe: “If you want to know the future of any nation, take a look at what the youths are doing presently.” Elsewhere, Eleanor Roosevelt, who was the longest-serving United States’ First Lady recognized the importance of youth acting on time; and hence stated: ‘’Probably the happiest period in life most frequently is in middle age, when the eager passions of youth are cooled, and the infirmities of age not yet begun; as we see that the shadows, which are at morning and evening so large, almost entirely disappear at mid-day.’’ It becomes necessary to adopt measures that would totally prevent recurrence of any build up of the gathered storm against socio-political development that occurred in the past few days. How do we prevent the situation from degenerating into avoidable crises? We must do away with issues that drive the society backward, including religion, ethnicity, tribalism, nepotism, and related ills, that have combined to constitute formidable barriers to development.
MANAGING PROBLEMS CREATED BY VIOLENCE What are the probable causes of all these regrettable incidents created by SARS and the SARS protests? Xavier William, in his book: ‘New Age Tantrums’ describes violence as ‘’an act arising from fear, anger, frustration, greed and/or other causes that lead to injury or damages in real or mental terms to persons and their reputations, animals or property.” Feelings of fear, anger and frustration give rise to violent acts and these acts in turn fuel the fears, anger and frustration into a vicious cycle of spiraling fear, anger and violence. Elsewhere, The United Nation’s ‘World Report on Violence’ defines violence as: ‘’The intentional use of physical force or power, threatened or actual, against oneself, another person or against a group or community, that either results in or has a high likelihood of resulting in injury, death, psychological harm, mal-development or deprivation.”Frictions threaten stability, cohesion and development.’’
KEEPING FRICTION AT THE BAREST MINIMUM It is, therefore, the responsibility of everyone in all societies; Government and the citizenry, to keep friction at the barest minimum. What should be of concern is how to collaborate for development. In the words of Harry S. Truman, “The president is the representative of the whole nation and he’s the only lobbyist that all the two hundred million people in the country have.” And that was why Mr. President had to make that broadcast to soothe the nerves of people who are annoyed about the misconduct of police personnel paid to protect precious lives.
May the Good Lord Bless Nigeria.