One of the dogmas that has refused to leave the average Nigerian’s mindset is that entering Nigerian politics will make you dirty. We often see phrases like “the murky waters of politics” used in public discourse daily. You are advised if you have built any form of reputation that you will do yourself the disservice of tarnishing your hard earned good name by venturing into the Nigerian political space. This paradigm of public service is the direct opposite of what obtains in successful democracies the world over. In those climes, it is this type of good name earned outside politics that qualifies you to aspire to serve your people in politics.
Unfortunately, over the years, the antecedents of the people with reputations we respect after they go into Nigerian politics has done an excellent job in reinforcing this dogma. Men who have spent a lifetime building their sterling careers suddenly get overtaken by a compulsion to undo their life’s work and go into self-destruct overdrive. I recall discussing with a deacon gentleman from my church who was a leading member of the Full Gospel Business Men’s Fellowship and the Gideons Association responsible for the very popular version of the bible. He knew Joshua Dariye very well before Dariye entered into politics and became Plateau State governor. Whenever he speaks about Dariye, you can hear the pain in his voice. He finds it very hard to reconcile the man Dariye he knew whose integrity he could vouch for and whose word was trustworthy with the Governor Dariye who became embroiled in corruption and was eventually disgraced out of office. Because of stories like these, a lot of successful people deliberately avoid entering politics in Nigeria in order to avoid tarnishing their reputation. This essentially deprives us the advantage of having our best brains involved in the running of our nation. And this is something we desperately need at this point.
This is especially true for my generation. I am one of those who have no illusions about how dire a strait we have worked ourselves into as a nation. And looking at the trajectory we have set ourselves upon, our continued existence as a nation is itself untenable in the long run. There are many smart people who recognize this too and on twitter where I’m active, many of them vocalize these sentiments. However, the point at which I beg to differ from them most of the time is where they insist that this outcome is inevitable. Such fatalistic reasoning tends to forget the most important of the elements that make us a nation. It is the first three words in our constitution. We, the people. We can turn around the nation. Other people have done this for their nations in the past, and we can do it for our own nation. And it is my firm belief that mine is that tipping point generation that will achieve this turnaround if we can get a sufficient mix of discontent with the status quo, belief in our mandate to turn things around and strategic takeover of leadership of the nation politically and economically. For this reason, I must commend young people that have taken on this task head-on. But, in order to ensure that we don’t have them going the Dariye way, or the Dimeji Bankole way, we must hold them to even stricter standards than the older generation, both in business and in politics. We must by holding our peers accountable, ensure we do not have a new generation of people who will go into leadership acting with the impunity of their predecessors and reinforce the oft repeated mantra.
It is for this reason it is important to call one of our own generation, Ohima Amanze, the Special Adviser to the Minister of State, Defense to order. It is commendable that he has dived headlong into politics on the platform of the ruling party, putting considerable effort into making a success of this. He must be careful to follow the example of his former boss, Bolaji Abdulahi who in spite of serving in the much maligned government of Goodluck Jonathan and maintaining loyalty to his principal Bukola Saraki (which cost him his job eventually), even his opponents will agree that his reputation was not tarnished by his actions and utterances whilst in office. In fact, it has strengthened his good name. This is a veritable lesson. It is possible to go into public service, even within administrations that are inept and corrupt, and serve meritoriously without damaging your own reputation. Akin Adesina has also performed creditably well as Agriculture Minister in the same cabinet that has the likes of Labaran Maku and Abba Moro.
So Ohimai would do well to eschew hubris in his communication and desist from intelligence insulting defenses such as the ones that came in the wake of the rampage of military officers in Lagos where they resorted to destroying public property and causing severe hardship to those they are assigned to protect. Asking citizens to provide pictures of the soldiers on rampage or shut up is not only wrong, it shows that he might not comprehend fully the burden of responsibility that his office reposes on him. Making gaffes like his “Hail Hitler” tweet during the Germany vs Brazil game are unacceptable especially considering he is the Special Adviser to the Minister of Defense on platforms like twitter. But as bad as that gaffe was, Ohimai’s response to criticism of his tweet was even worse. It showed an unwillingness to admit a clear wrong and attempts to justify it and finally a resort to the kind of impunity we see on a larger scale amongst politicians, a “I’ve done it, if you don’t like it I don’t care since you can do nothing about it and see, I even gained from the wrong” type of attitude. And this has been a consistent pattern.
Therefore it is important that one calls him out now, at this early stage. The road ahead is farther than the one he has taken so far. The purpose is for him and the people around him to whom he listens to see the need to correct these now. Ohimai, I believe, has the capacity and intelligence to be one of the builders my generation will bring to this nation. We critically need men like him not to fail or fall into the mould of those before. We are the turning point generation.
Tunde Leye @tundeleye is a fiction writer. He believes that the stories written form a priceless resource that is the basis of society, all the other arts (film, music, theatre, visual arts) and hence he is committed to telling stories out of Africa that show it as it was, is, and is going to be.
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