WITHIN two decades, Borno has transformed into a State of pains, tribulations and misery but it had not always been so. It used to host one of the best University Teaching Hospitals in Nigeria and, in ancient times, one of the grandest African civilisations in the Kanem-Borno Empire. Its biggest bequest to contemporary Nigerian politics, perhaps, is not the most disturbing Boko Haram experience but “politics without bitterness” exemplified by the great Kanuri, Alhaji Waziri Ibrahim; founder and leader of one of the political parties that participated in the 1979 Presidential Election – the Great Nigerian People’s Party (GNPP), a new party then that did not metamorphose from any that existed in the First Republic.
Any set of activities that is targeted at decision-making and invariably determines resource allocation, status, power-relations and so on in any given group or community is nothing other than politics. This takes place right from the smallest human unit, the family, up till the nation and the world community as a whole, which is why – believe it or not, like it or not – every man or woman is a political animal except he/she is an outcast, as explicitly stated by Aristotle.
Democracy in general, especially in Nigeria, involves political activities that lead to constitution of government: political party formation, registration, internal elections, election of candidates and contest against candidates of other political parties in general elections at the three tiers of government – Local, State and Federal. Ordinarily, the ultimate end of these activities should be the common good – services rendered by those elected (and appointed) that lead to the betterment of the society, at whatever sacrifices of self demanded. The passion and desire to serve the people should, therefore, never become a do-or-die affair, and is not something that can only be done when in government. Being in government, for men and women of exceptional ideas and capacities only makes them serve better.
In Nigeria, a multitude of aberrations in the last six decades have largely turned the concept of public service upside down, exactly to its opposite – self service at the ruinous expense of society: the most culpable of which is long years of military rule that completely ended our being a republic and a federation. It gave birth to military mentality, arbitrariness, nepotism and corruption, while promoting foreign culture, religions, economic and political models and lack of self-esteem, value and beliefs.
In that climate of concentrated (unitary) power, considerations for fellow humans is lost, much else service to community and society. Service became mere lip-service, a cosmetic façade for attaining public positions for self-interest. How then will the struggle for good political location not become cutthroat?
The greatness of Waziri Ibrahim and a few exceptional politicians like him was their commitment and powerful examples to returning politics to its original objective – service to the people. If the primary motivation for political engagement is genuine interest to serve the community, oppositions are not enemies but simply fellow competitors in the quest to serve, whosoever’s ideas, programmes, articulation and charisma catches the people’s fancies the most wins the most votes (even if he/she is not the best), and begins to serve, while being monitored, criticised and challenged by the opposition – in view of the public interest and the next election contest. It is an Olympic in which participation is what is vital, and sportsmanship the glory.
Let us not accept that “gone are those days,” just as we should not accept that in Nigeria, there are many times more people outside waiting their turn to steal than the people currently stealing, fainting, and offing the mic. The contemporary “soro-soke” and “not-too-young-to-run” generation, if sincere and not just a smokescreen for freedom of fraud and violent crime, must reenergise themselves with the best examples of political engagements from our local history, and from global best experience and realise that there is no escaping politics as the ultimate engagement for social transformation – be it an end to police brutality, reform of the Police or #EndEveryBadThingInNigeria. A new year is around the corner. There is no better time to begin any good thing than right away and as they say “the sooner begun, the sooner done.”