There are two types of politicians in the world – the self-serving, do-nothing, incompetent, no do-gooders and the well-meaning, life-changing, competent, able and well-prepared, do-something, do-gooders.
In Nigeria, in all my adult life so far, I have found it difficult, particularly at the presidential level, to be certain what the drivers of our politics and politicians are.
Nigeria is one of the most unfortunate countries in the world where leadership at the national level has been lacklustre, uninspiring, driven by self-service and a complete lack of the full meaning of the place of this great nation in global events, especially as well-placed leader of the black race! Yes, those who are expansive in their view of the world know that if Nigeria was fortunate to have just a generation of competent, broadminded, able and prepared leadership at the national level, she would be larger than life; she would be a self-sufficient country where people would be queuing for visas to come here, while our people would stay here and think, like Americans, that Nigeria was the world and they would call USA North America!
Yet this tragedy that seems to have befallen Nigeria is not because it lacks able and competent people all round. In fact, it has too many able and competent people, both here at home and in the Diaspora.
For if it were an all-round tragedy, then Aliko Dangote would not be such a success and the toast of the global world of business and finance; there would be no Mike Adenuga, making success in the world of telecoms; nor would there be Jim Ovia, Oba Otudeko, the Dantatas, Subomi Balogun, Rasaq Okoya, Cosmas Maduka, Deinde Fernandez, Fola Adeola, Pascal Dozie, Umaru Mutallab, Tony Elumelu, all of whom are in the world of business.
Outside these successful businesspeople, we also would not have people like Wole Soyinka, Niyi Osundare, Ben Okri, Bartholomew Nnaji, Oliver Mobison, Iya Abubakar, Anya O. Anya, Eme Awa, Alexander Animalu, Ibrahim Umar, Ibrahim Gambari, among others, who have shown competence and expertise in different fields of endeavours.
Indeed, it has to be observed at this crucial juncture in our political history, especially after about 16 unprecedented long years of uninterrupted democracy, that for far too long in this country, people who have the capacity and capability to positively influence things in this country have been selfish to do the right thing – make that crucial and positive intervention.
I personally think that at this point in the life of this country, especially as I realise that I am no better or older than many people I know who have already died this year, it is time to speak up about how I personally feel by opening my mouth (pen, if you may) and say this: If you are an economically and politically powerful man or woman and are not doing something about making your influence and power matter in terms of the calibre and quality of people who lead this country politically, then it is outright selfishness; especially for sitting down there and allowing incompetent people sit down at incompetent meetings and select equally incompetent people and foist them on all of us as president, governors, senators, representatives, legislators or even governors.
For how can this country have the richest man in Africa living in this country, who travels all over the world and meets with global political, business and economic leaders, and his country doesn’t have high speed railways, roads are terrible, the Apapa Wharf area of Lagos is a nightmare for citizens going in and out of the area, and a new city like Abuja doesn’t have modern mass transportation system able to move most of the citizens who live in the outlining outskirts into the city for work, just because politicians who lead have chosen to be indifferent or are rather incompetent to know the right thing to do?
And here’s the reason why I am writing like this. Last week I wrote this column from Davos, Switzerland, and I displayed my anger at the deceit that is often replete in the statements that often gush out from the mouths of our elected leaders. And because a larger percentage of our people are denied access to quality education, if any at all, we generally lack the capacity to critically discern the nonsense that they spew to us; and we are also often powerless to challenge them as we should. They often take it as their stock-in-trade to debase and disrespect us by their lack of incompetence and their unwillingness to leave the stage for others to deliver the good goods of governance.
As I have just returned from Davos, Switzerland, where I participated as a World Economic Forum (WEF) Media Leader, I thought it wise to look at another dimension to this pain (call it burden) that we all bear as citizens of this country – assaulted, almost forever, by this gross incompetence, arrogance and drunkenness of those in power who understand little or nothing about governance, yet like to perpetuate themselves in power! The meetings are essentially, and firstly, about how to get powerful political and economic leaders to try and make the world a better place for humanity; and secondly, but much more germane to the Nigerian situation, it is about how powerful and influential economic and businesspeople try to influence the agenda of political-economy discourse around the world to benefit society.
This global forum’s meetings have been holding since 1971 and this year’s was its 45th edition. The meetings have become a super draw for world leaders across business, economy, politics, academia, not-for-profit organisations and influential people in entertainment.
It’s a gathering for canvassing positions to make the world a better place. For many years now, Nigerian business and, occasionally, political leaders (for instance, last year President Goodluck Jonathan led a large entourage of government officials to the meetings), have been attending and interacting with their counterparts from around the world. Our top businesspeople who have made success of themselves and their businesses have been co-opted, accepted into because they are recognized for being authentic leaders in this country and indeed, Africa.
One truth you cannot take away from the WEF meetings is that they are deep and thought-provoking. As a WEF Media Leader for this year’s meeting, the group that I have been co-opted into, the International Media Council (IMC) of the Forum, had briefings from world leaders, so I had the privilege to listen to the 40-year-old prime minister of Italy, Matteo Renzi, and at the general forum to French President Francois Hollande; as well as hearing ministers and business leaders from different countries. You get blown away by the deep understanding these people have of their people, the countries, their economies and their interconnectedness with the world. You come away with the conclusion that we truly have a long way to go.
As a people and as a country, we are heavily short-changed by our leaders. But my real dilemma is that we are also been short-changed by our influential business and economic leaders, especially those who have the opportunity to meet quality world leaders, go to places where things work and who see how business and economic leaders make their influence count in the political and governance space, and then just fold their hands and take the nonsense that incompetent politicians are dishing out to us.
I sometimes shudder and ask: “What is wrong with our people?” Is selfishness now considered an honourable path to so willingly tread? Is that selfishness driven, indeed, by the instinct of self-preservation? Why should an influential business leader not care so much that once he leaves his palatial environment, going to the airport in Lagos to hop on his private jet, notwithstanding the super duper shock absorber of his car, he is driving on roads that should be much better; that as he or she is prevented by the tinted windows of his or her car, there are thousands of Nigerians without proper mass transit system, when there should have been a fast-moving train running in the country to make life easier for the people.
And all this happens because influential business and economic leaders just think it’s not their business what political leaders we have, so long as they have access to these incompetent leaders and do their business… as usual!