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When a sick Nation beget sick Rulers

By: Chris Onyishi  

 Published December, 20th, 2009

I have watched, with tremendous trepidation and wildest disappointment, how some very selfish Nigerians of various social classes and status, including the upper legislative house members and Governors, argue in favor of not disallowing our sick president to bow out of power in order to be able to take a good care of his failing health. And I think these praise singers and hangers on do not mean well for Mr. President. They are only not certain of what will become of their position in the event that there is a significant change in the status quo.

Their fear derives from the fact that they are aware that Nigeria is a land where the constitution and rule of law is not respected. And since they know how they came into power - through shoddy elections - they fear that anything can happen in the next election.

Each time, what comes to my mind is that Nigeria and Nigerians have not gotten the ruling class they deserve and I vehemently refuse to identify with those who say that a people only get what they deserve.

My thinking is that God would not have massed up these resources in Nigeria, both human and material, only to punish them or subject them to a very inordinate and irresponsible leadership when there are very many places with very inquisitive and creative leaders looking for how to harness God’s gift for the benefit of mankind.

One common thing is that at every point in time, the leaders or rulers are in unison against the wishes of the led or ruled. And this is because most of them got to power through one dubious means or the other and to that extent they do not owe any form of allegiance to the electorate rather they are always favoring the ruler who awarded them their position. And this is why it has become very imperative - more than anything else - that the much touted about electoral reforms should be pursued vigorously by all well meaning Nigerians. If our leaders emerge as a result of our votes for them, they will be more likely to gyrate towards our wishes in critical situations.

And here again we may be helpless as the very reckless and very irresponsible ruling class will be deciding what should be given to Nigerians as it relates to the electoral reform and the already comatose Freedom Of Information Bill.

My sense is that we have got more than a civil war to deal with if we must get the rogues in power to allow the electoral reform to come to fruition as enunciated in Justice Uwaise report. When you see most of these national assembly men and women argue about any national issue, and you try to compare their porous argument, on anything, against their counterparts in other parts of the world, you will only become more and more astonished as to what manner of people they are. If only they will attach the kind of importance and vigor in other issues that decide our faith as they recently did in the case of the venue of the joint budget presentation, Nigeria would have been a heavenly place to live in. They become very astute and determined in interpreting the constitution when it comes to very minute and senseless things.

Recently, Speaker Bankole was defending their exorbitant overseas trips expenses and you would see a very defiant and arrogant man prattling over how this period alone Nigeria has become head or chairman of this – one of which he bragged that he is - or permanent member of that. And according to him, we should try to weigh expenses against achievement. His posturing was even more offensive than his baseless argument. It’s only in Nigeria that miscreant leaders come down talking tough whenever they are reminded of their directionless and wasteful exercises.

When our nation is almost at the precinct of total energy collapse, a youthful speaker is prattling over what he calls achievement as if his being the Chairman of Conference of African body of Speakers is what we want and need to achieve the MDGs and become a major player in an industrialized 21st century.

And if you saw how subdued and humbled – some even stepping aside - most British MPs were when their claims excesses were mirrored in their media some four months ago, you would be forced to think that we are still being ruled by people with less intelligence than that of monkeys.

For eight years – 1999 to 2007 – Chief Obasanjo lived in Aso Rock prattling with one joke or the other while the nation was drifting into abyss. And some hoodlums clapped for him. He even nearly roasted all of us alive when he embarked in one madness called third term. Every body that was on the way to his third term agenda turned instant villain. Eventually when his plot could not materialize, he then bequeathed us one Musa Yar’ Dua whose health was then in question.

There is nothing wrong with a human being falling sick once in a while. So our President’s illness should not have been an issue that will warrant people calling for his resignation. But we all remember how it all started and how it has been since the campaign days in 2007 to this point. The president is really sick. This country is difficult to be ruled by even a healthy bull but here we are with a president that cannot stay two clear months without being rushed to a hospital abroad. So the seven point agenda he came with which included health, etc has not provided any answer to his sickness locally.

I cannot remember now what has happened to Ariel Sharon of Israel but I remember those weeks upon weeks when the best medics in the land kept teasing us with his stabilizing health until his Lihkud party replaced him with his deputy, Olmert Huid - who acted on his behalf - in an election. So its not new any more to begin to say one thing while another thing is happening. We remember the ebullient former Katsina governor, who was hand picked by our then powerful president who also admitted that nothing embarrassed him, was rumored to be not very sound, health wise, to have been considered being laden with the Nigerian political load. We all wished then that it should just stop at rumor and never be true.

If Israeli or American president’s deteriorating health condition is pruned down or completely hidden from the public, it is well understood. The Palestinians will be wishing an Israeli president dead while Iranian leaders will be wishing American President dead. But who will be wishing a Nigerian President dead. Is it the Cameroonians who do not need our President dead before they take over Bakassi Peninsular or Ghana that has been celebrating 50 years of power stability or South Africa that could be regarded as the un announced petit giant of Africa?

If anybody is wishing a Nigerian President dead, and I do not think so, it should still be fellow poor Nigerians who would always wish for a catastrophe to see whether the turmoil that will follow will be able to spark of a revolution that will usher in much awaited reforms. Whereas Americans can celebrate such things as Tiger Woods extramarital activities or President Clinton’s inappropriate sex, they will never pray for calamity to befall America. But here, people are so much frustrated because of factors ranging from poverty, corruption, injustice, etc that they are always looking for an alternative avenue to bring about reforms and if that will mean not caring about the health of their leaders, so be it. It is an unconscious reaction to a very hopeless situation.

But what is important here is that, there is no magic we expect from the President which another person cannot offer. The life of over a Hundred and Fifty Million Nigerians are always put on the balance each time we speculate about the President’s health and from all indication, we do not see this stopping very soon unless there is miracle from God which is not impossible though, but Nigerian already impoverished children and aged men and women should be spared further suffering before this miracle. So why must children, old, young suffer before our President decides himself that the burden of leadership and state functions may even exacerbate his problem. And if the constitution has taken care of this kind of situation why are we not taking the option. This is another glaring case of our leaders using constitution as a mere document that has no hand in the orderly running of a state.

Most people will quickly reason, from the title of this piece, that sickness is only physical as in the case of our president but, as far as I am concerned, I have seen sickness in the mentality of most of our rulers from 1999 when Chief Obasanjo emerged the president of Nigeria till today. A nation becomes sick – in my opinion – when her rulers or leaders are bereft of ideas that will create atmosphere for industrial revolution which will ultimately engender meaningful existence - in terms of healthy living, good infrastructure, constant energy supply, etc - to a majority of her citizenry.

And this inability to usher in a fertile ground for development has been seen in the quality of people ruling this country since the beginning of the third republic. When other nations are looking for water in the moon, we are here grappling with unstable power supply for domestic consumption and the venue for joint assembly presidential budget presentation. All these are because our country is saddled with sick leaders, from the executive through the legislature to the judiciary. But I must single out the judiciary here as the only arm of government that has, once in a while, risen up to their constitutional roles of checking the excesses of individuals and groups within the polity. But for the judiciary’s occasional palliatives, the Nigerian project would have been a forgotten venture a very long time ago.

While we pray for quick recovery for our president, we should also be praying for quick recovery of all other mentally sick leaders or rulers within the system. We should also pray so that our sick rulers or leaders will see reason in adopting the Justice Uwaise electoral reform report - wholesome - which will give rise to fewer bunches of sick leaders in the future.

Chris Onyishi
Lagos Nigeria

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