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Misunderstanding the meaning of political loyalty

By: Kali Gwegwe
Published February, 11th, 2010

This writer is among the community of Nigerians who have argued that President Yar’Adua is human and should therefore be seen and treated as such. It is for this reason that I have not seen anything wrong in the president falling sick. However, events in the last two months have cast huge doubt over our understanding of the real meaning of political leadership in a democratic society. This unfortunate deficiency has led to actions and comments that have not only helped to heat up the polity, but also created deep disaffection in government circles in recent times.

Rather than put national interest first, most of those who have key roles to play in uniting and promoting democratic ideals in this country are known to have indulged in defending their nocturnal interests. It was through such negative culture that tribalism and corruption took root and destabilised the Nigerian nation immediately after gaining political independence from Britain in 1960. There is no gainsaying that the Nigerian Civil War of 1966 to 1970 was ignited by unreasonable political and tribal sentiments. Forty years after, Nigeria has not still recovered from the loss brought about by that avoidable conflict. This is the strongest reason why this writer was worried about how the Aondoakaas handled the issue of the president’s illness.

For the sake of this piece, an Aondoakaa is a government official that does not know where loyalty should be directed. The National Pledge is explicitly clear about this:

I pledge to Nigeria my country
To be faithful, loyal and honest
To serve Nigeria with all my strength
To defend her unity
And uphold her honour and glory
So help me God.

No mention was made of the president. What most of the nation’s Aondoakaas are doing with regards the ill-health of President Yar’Adua is nothing but sheer eye service. There is actually no need for such in a healthy democracy. In fact, eye service is mostly practiced during military dictatorships, where the rulers assume maximum powers. Dictators are usually so hungry for power that they are prepared to do anything possible to be on the driving seat. As a result, people do many unthinkable things in order not to be seen as being against the system. But unlike the unfortunate picture the Aondoakaas are painting all over the place, neither Musa Yar’Adua nor Goodluck Jonathan are power hungry. The Aondoakaas have only taken undue advantage of the opportunity of the president’s ill health to bend his gentle will to protect either their personal and tribal interests.

The decision by the Aondoakaas to drive the Nigerian vehicle with a flat tyre even when there is a dependable spare speaks volume. It has revealed two critical issues: Nigeria’s Vice Presidential institution has been utterly rubbished. This is undemocratic and capable of distorting the history of this nation. Furthermore, the devaluation of the exalted office of the vice president will deny Nigeria the benefits of “two good heads are better than one” theory. Secondly, the narrow gullies dividing the nation’s numerous tribes would be widened. Tribal concerns are now being considered first before national interests. It only points to the sad fact that Nigeria’s political and traditional leaders have rested the foundation of this country on very weak pillars.

One question begging for answer is: Will the Aondoakaas be glad to see Nigeria disintegrate in the very near future? The unity of a multi-tribal country like Nigeria cannot be sustained by mere rhetoric. It would require high dose common sense, justice, and fair play. Unfortunately, we are very far from it!

Whether the nation’s Aondoakaas like it not; the highly suspicious signing of the 2009 Supplementary Budget by the president in his sick bed in Saudi Arabia and the swearing-in of a Chief Justice of the Federation by a serving Chief Justice have unarguably jolted our fragile democracy. Rather than portraying leadership as an ideal platform to serve humanity, the Aondoakaas are making many to see political power as a potent weapon to advance nocturnal interests.

All the goodwill Nigeria lost by way of a poorly organised general election in 2007 would have been redeemed with a matured handling of the president’s illness. By this alone, the international community has once again confirmed that Nigeria is not ready yet for democracy. South Africa and Ghana are not waiting for us.

When Yar’Adua assumed the presidency in 2007, many Nigerians were very hopeful. He was bold enough to openly accept that the elections that ferried him to Aso Rock was far from being credible and promised electoral reforms. More than half way into his four year tenure, no one is sure if the issue of electoral reform is still important to him. According to recent newspaper reports, what is upper most in President Yar’Adua’s mind now is how to handle the issue of domestic and international terrorism.

It is no longer news that the much talked about 7 Point Agenda too has failed. This failure has nothing to do with health status of the president. President Yar’Adua is a victim of his own actions. He made the greatest mistake of his political career by surrounding himself with a squad of Aondoakaas. A president does not need to be 100% healthy to deliver the dividends of democracy. Franklin Roosevelt of the United States is a good example. Steady electricity, motorable roads, functional hospitals, well funded schools, and social security for the unemployed are products of good governance. President Hugo Chavez of Venezuela is not a superman. He is just an ordinary mortal like anyone else. While a litre of petrol sells for just N6 in Venezuela, those of us in oil producing communities in Bayelsa State buy same quantity for N150. Education is free at all levels in that South American country.

Yar’Adua’s ill-health and go slow culture is not the problem with Nigeria. It is the Aondoakaas that is our problem. This writer believes that the making of Goodluck Jonathan as acting president has further demonstrated that democracy has the capacity to promote the unity and development of this country. Nevertheless, justice and fair play are the pillars of democracy.

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