Political History, A Challenge To Nigeria’s Leaders


In the age of globalisation news travel very far and very quickly. So it becomes rather unacceptable to feign ignorance of what goes on across the world not least when important news breaks. Many years ago, it could take weeks or years to know of happenings in other parts of the world. In fact, in the 19th century, most British people depended on Christian missionaries to hear news from Africa. In the same manner, many Africans might wait for years to read about what had happened in a part of Europe. So we have modernisation to thank for the connection that now exists all over the world made possible by satellite and cable network, telephone, radio and television and lately, the internet.

The positive thing about this is that it is possible to learn good things from other parts of the world. Sadly too many negative influences come through these media. The real question that this poses here is whether our politicians and leaders are learning any good thing from other parts of the world in spite of their travels and access to modern information technology. Ordinarily these opportunities should influence our politics and politicians for the good of the masses and our land.

Many times I have had the argument that parliamentarians earn well in Europe and so it is good to pay our parliamentarians well, to reduce the chances of bribery and corruption.

Sadly, Nigerian parliamentarians have now taken this to the extreme to the extent that most of the money that could have gone into developmental programmes is now converted into personal and overhead uses. Needless to say that the argument is not a convincing one, as you can always guess the real intention of such arguments right from the moment they are being conceived and presented.

Now it is rather disturbing that Nigerian politicians hardly take on board any positive thing from other parts of the world save only those that can enrich or benefit them. Nonetheless as I would hope that all is not lost, I wish to commend to them the farewell speech of Mr. Gordon Brown as the British Prime Minister. This is very instructive especially now that Nigeria prepares for another election come 2011. I dare ask whether they would learn from Gordon Brown.

When the time came for Mr. Brown to leave 10 Downing Street, he not only admitted defeat of his party and government but acknowledged that they could not persuade the other party, Liberal Democrats in this case, to join them in a coalition party. The implication was that his leadership of the party would be called to question by some forces in the party. Instead of Mr. Brown to wait for this, he offered to resign with immediate effect and to pave the way for his party to choose their next leader. This is not only a bold, patriotic and honourable step, it is also one that takes into account the fact that the leader (Mr. Brown in this case) does not have the answer to all the problems of Britain and certainly that of his party which had lost the confidence of the British electorate. He said, “As the leader of my party, I must accept that that is a judgment on me. I therefore intend to ask the Labour Party to set in train the processes needed for its own leadership election. I would hope it would be completed in time for the new leader to be in post by the time of the Labour Party conference.”

How would Nigerian politicians respond to this or deal with it if they were to be found in the same position. The reader may recall how long it took before Dr Olusegun Agagu finally vacated the seat of power for the incumbent Governor of Ondo State even though it was obvious that he and his party had lost their fame and popularity and the mandate to govern the people of Ondo State. How long will it take before our politicians learn positive lessons from other parts of the world?

Apart from this, it was what Mr. Brown had to say about his own position regarding the election of the next party leader that I found most interesting and instructive for Nigerian politicians. About this Mr. Brown said, “I will play no part in that contest, I will back no individual candidate.” This is incredible. It is a statesmanlike thing to say and whatever anyone feels about Gordon Brown, I find this to be truly inspiring.

That would create a level-playing field for all contestants and it would surely or most likely produce the people’s choice as the next leader of the party. There would be no manipulation in favour of the outgoing leader’s candidate or choice. It will not be the outgoing leader’s choice, but the choice of the party. Now this is significant and it is one on which our politicians continue to falter in Nigeria. In my opinion, this is also the cause of many crisis rocking political parties and the politics of our land. Outgoing leaders or incumbents/governors not only rule for 8 years, they also want to influence who succeeds them. Sometimes I cannot help thinking that this is because they have a personal interest to protect.       This is understandable when one considers that they were themselves not the choice of the masses in the first instance. But as we expect our democracy to grow, one can only hope that our leaders will also grow into the selfless leadership that we want. The partisanship of outgoing leaders or governors is mostly responsible for the mess that results following their disengagement from office. In reality they try to continue to rule by proxy and when this is not allowed, such parties break into factions and instead of concentrating on the business of governance and service to the people much time is taken up with attempts to patch the cracks in their party and in maintaining the uneasy truce in their party’s rank and file. Unfortunately, it is the masses who suffer in consequence.

If democracy is to thrive in our land, we must confront the scourge of leaders choosing their own successors. Rather, they must allow in each case the choice of the people to emerge-people whose allegiance will be to the electorate and who would have the mandate of the people to rule. These are the ones who would feel responsible to the people and who could come up with credible programmes that will benefit the masses. Each candidate should have a level-playing field.

They should present before their parties their own programmes for the state or country and the best among them should emerge who can represent effectively to the Nigerian people the political ideology of the party in question and who would be expected to deliver accordingly. It is the only way the Nigerian masses will have a say in the choice of their leaders, and it is the only way the parties can have credibility with the people.

 It should not be the business of the outgoing president or governor to determine who succeeds them as if they know it all. In fact Nigeria’s recent experience with the process that led to the choice of the late president should have shown us the folly of such a practice. If indeed we live in a global world, Nigerian politicians, I am sure are already aware of Mr. Brown’s speech, it is whether they have learnt from it and whether they could summon the courage and the will to follow in this approach that Nigerians, including myself, earnestly and desperately wait to see.

Fagbemi writes for NAN.


Stephen Ayo Fagbemi