Let us begin with what politics ought to be and not what it has been turned into, with a right conception of politics and not with its monstrous misconception. Politics is about how people regulate their common life. It is about working for the good of our common life by intelligently regulating our actions. It is about how we strive, individually and collectively for or against the common good. It is about taking responsibility for our common life.
There aretwo ways of relating with the common good, namely, the way of selfishness and the way of selflessness. So, we have two manners of politics-politics of selfishness and politics of selflessness. If I practice politics of selfishnessI would constantlyseek only what I can get from the community. I would live a life regulated by a sense of entitlement.I would seek my good in ways that are detrimental to the good of others in the community. If, on the other hand, I practice politics of selflessness, then I would seek my personal good by working for the common good. The way of selflessness is the way of the person who recognizes that our common life is the roof over our heads. A society where there is no roof, or where the roof is leaking because of pervasive self-centredness, is a society whose members live in insecurity and poverty.
It is in the light of what has just been said that we must inquire: what are our politicians up to? Given what politics ought to be and not what they have turned it into, can it be said that what governs politics in Nigeria is a search for the common good or a search for the attainment of selfish interests? Is it a quest for power or a quest for service? Our experience in the past few days make these questions pertinent.
The integrity of the political process has been and is still being violated, and the violators are to be found across party lines. We have seen politicians defect from one party to another. We have witnessed vote-buying. We have been treated to the use and abuse of institutions of state to harass political opponents and sway the outcome of elections.We watch helplessly the blatant disregard for the principle of separation of powers in a democratic polity.By virtue of that principle, it pertains to the legislative arm of government, not just to make laws, but to make good laws for the land. It pertains to the judicial arm of government to interpret the laws in ways that protect the constitutional rights of the citizen. The judiciary is the primary protector of the constitutional order. No arm of government is to interfere in the way another arm carries out its functions. It is a way of saying no office in the land has absolute authority. All exercise of authority must conform to what the constitution stipulates. A nation whose government or citizens disrespect court orders is a nation that courts anarchy and disaster. Where there is anarchy there is insecurity, where there is no insecurity there is poverty, and, in a dangerously reciprocal manner, poverty further aggravates insecurity.
Events of the past few days warn us that our democracy is in grave danger. For years we clamoured for it, for years we fought for it. In that fight to liberate ourselves from the abnormality of military rule, many lost their lives. But what was paid for at the price of blood is being damaged by politicians lacking in democratic temperament. Everything seems to suggest that we are back to military rule.
Party affiliation ought to be predicated on the philosophy of parties. But do our parties have philosophies? The answer is manifestly negative. Do they practice democracy in intra-party activities? Again, and sadly, the answer is in the negative. In the absence of philosophy and in the absence of intra-party democracy, we end up with political peregrination and nomadic politicians. Political affiliation in Nigeria is a matter not of conviction but of convenience. Of course, there is a correlation between the absence of party philosophical orientation and the absence of intra-party democracy. A political party's mode of selecting its candidates flows from the political philosophy of the party. Where there is no philosophy, there is no objective criterion for nominating candidates for elective offices in the land. A political party bereft of philosophy is ipso facto a political party without internal democracy. There is no level playing field for candidates. You may win the primaries within your party. But another person may be declared winner. In anger, you storm out of the party and decamp to another party that will offer you the ticket. It is a matter of seeking out greener pastures. And greener pastures are where your ambition to be in office is fulfilled.
Politics is about public service. At least that is what it ought to be. To be called upon to serve is a privilege, not a right. And responsibility is the prize of privilege. If you wish to serve the people, present yourself to the people and let the people make a choice. A servant does not impose himself on the one he is to serve. You do not resort to thuggery and vote-buying because you want to be in office. Those who do so are not going into office to serve the people. They will not be accountable to the people. They will lord it over the people. This is what we have been witnessing in Nigeria, and the population of self-serving politicians is on the increase. Our political office holders are not accountable to us. Confident that they can manipulate the electoral process to their own advantage and to our disadvantage, confident that the outcome of elections does not really depend on the real voters but on their powerfully influential godfathers, they act and speak in ways that betray them as utterly disrespectful of the populace.
As we descend into 2019, we are being treated to all types of incivility. And what is most worrisome is the widespread perception of corruption of institutions critical to the vitality of our democracy. It is a perception that has bred skepticism. More and more Nigerians are beginning to doubt that we can ever get it right. In this climate of skepticism, there are many who, rightly or wrongly, doubt the neutrality of security agencies today. There are many who, again rightly or wrongly, do not believe in the neutrality of the electoral commission.Times like these require of public officials to clearly show that their loyalty is not to the political office holder who appointed them but to the people of Nigeria. Nigerians are worried that what they are seeing points to the opposite.
The state of a nation is mirror of the state of the souls of its citizens, and the state of the souls of its citizens is mirror of the state of a nation. The absence of justice from our personal lives will translate into the absence of justice in our national life and vice versa. The practice of justice in our personal lives will translate into the reign of justice in our land.