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Wednesday, 7 November 2012

Putting People Before Politics

Congrats to Obama on his winning! I have been following American Politics for a considerable number of years now. It is always appealing running through the debates, and campaign messages of both wings. But there is something striking, to me, about the just concluded presidential election, which I think is recommendable to Nigerian politicians, particularly. Obama and Romney displayed this, though in distinct directions. Putting people before politics has always been part of the American politics over the years but it seemed more glaring in this elections than before.

No doubt that Nigeria is a complex state. But we are united by and for a common purpose- We are one Nigeria. Yet, despite a common belief we share together; a belief that instructs social principles such as solidarity, opportunity for the poor, option for the women and hope in children and youths, our politicians are always at variance notably over how to address the existing and persistent economic wants of our time. Lawmakers make caricatures of our pressing needs in their sessions arguing disgracefully over whatnots. The Executive acts more or less like a stooge favouring unquestioningly and non-constructively whatever approach dished out by its cabinet and the lawmakers.

Old generations often tell us stories about how pleasing their childhood was; how comfortable and snug they felt growing up in an environment they lived freely and commonly. Not that there was no poverty or unemployment or somewhat hardship, after all part of the hardships we bear today is what they handed down to us, but they had politicians who were more concerned about addressing economic issues from the outlook of human dignity than what they would get out of the system. This was the value laid down by the founders of Nigeria; the vision espoused by our Hero’s past- the likes of Herbert Macaulay, Obafemi Awolowo, Tafawa Balewa, Alvan Ikoku, Nnamdi Azikiwe, Ahmadu Bello, Aminu Kano, etc. They recognized and championed selflessly the need to marshal Nigerian resources for the service of Nigerians. They put Nigerian people before politics.

Today’s politics has changed. We have a mixture of old pundits in the game who never get tired- new wines in old bottles, and new breeds; all with a common motive- to grab as much resources as they can. Gone are the days when people’s welfare was at the center stage of politicians’ plans; gone with the history are the days when politicians put people first in any national issue. My question is when will our politicians begin to have at the heart of their campaigns some fundamental questions about the economy? Such questions as: “What does the Nigerian economy do for Nigerian people? What does the Nigerian economy do to Nigerian people? How do/can Nigerian people participate in the Nigerian economy? are really important in our quest for progress in this contemporary time.

Some people may have their reservations on these questions and may rationalize their positions in this regard, but the point is that over the decades we have been advocating for what we can do for our country, and the politicians are feeding on our illusions and fattening their pockets. Now, just take a minute at the second question. Put it in this way: what does, say, financial crisis do to Nigerian people? When the economy shrinks as a result of crisis, there is always smaller number of activities going on in the economy, which ushers in increased unemployment and hardships. The upshots are wide ranging but includes, increased incidents of hypertension, alcoholism and drug abuse, suicide, child abuse, and domestic violence. For example, the family of the unemployed registers recurrent sickness which often has a long duration time. Then pundits on government’s payroll who claim the issues of the economy are theirs now track down figures and begin to shower us with watery promises and guarantee us that in the long run the economy will return to normal. But for believers in the short run like me, we look at the hardships people are facing and the efforts families are making to eke out a living and insist on short run reliefs. After all, Keynes said, “In the long run we are all dead.”

Nigerian politicians often claim they take lessons from the America’s experience, I hope that the Obama spirit- putting Americans first in every economic issue- will touch their soul that they will begin to see the significance of putting Nigerians first before politics. Frankly, morality demands that politicians put people before politics. I also hope that Nigerians will begin to develop and advocate for the Nigerian Way, just like the Americans will say: “There is no way like the American way.”

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