Nigeria’s Politics of Demagoguery

July 18, 2018 Nigeria , Opinion , OPINION/NEWS , POLITICS

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Jerome-Mario Utomi



Senator Ed Muskie of Maine, United States of America while speaking on national television the night before the 1970 election, addressed the real choice confronting the voters. According to him, there are only two kinds of politics; politics of fear and the politics of trust.


The first says you are encircled by monstrous dangers. Give us power over your freedom so we may protect you. The other says the world is a baffling and hazardous place, but it can be shaped by the will of men, just cast your vote and trust in the ancient traditions of this home for freedom.


A virulent position but then, back home in Nigeria, considering the past political events that unfolded, the table of philosophy can only but elicit legitimate fears for obvious reasons.


Regardless of what others may say, the God of history and of course the vast majority of Nigerians, the real victims of the broken political promises can without labour situate that politics, as played over a decade, has neither tasted the truth nor saved the soul of the country- thereby making demagoguery a native.


Wisdom born from experience tells us that demagogues the world over thrive on the ignorance of the people and depend solely on half-truth as a vehicle for actualizing their establishment and consolidate their reign.


In the process, this robs the nation of authentic leaders, exploiting the people’s fears for private political gain while leaving for the masses a forlorn society that neither underwrites social justice nor promotes social mobility; but leads to a systematic dismantling of our socioeconomic system.


Increasingly, by choice or by accident, this is the role that our nation has taken, a role that has made the protection of lives and property difficult if not impossible.


As if the weight of the above on the lives and health of Nigerians was not crushing enough, another burden of responsibility was again placed on already traumatized Nigerians by the Senior Special Adviser to the President, Chief Femi Adesina who against all known logic urged Nigerians to consider forfeiture/donation of their ancestral lands for ranching as they can only have ancestral attachment when they are alive; an outburst Nigerians with discerning minds described as a pragmatic demonstration of demagoguery.


From the analysis of his remark, making such a request for a business that is wholly private and unconnected with the public interest has again postured him and the FG as a group lacking the willingness to secure lives and property. And, not interested in inspiring Nigerians to manage through their fears, but instead, exploits it for selfish political gains.


As an incentive, while Adesina was busy urging Nigerians to relinquish their land for private business, Lee Kuan Yew, a former Prime Minister of Singapore left for the world a documented and pragmatic approach used to tackle a similar challenge in his days; an account I consider useful to this discourse.


In his words, ‘I called a meeting and spelt out an action plan to solve this problem. We gave owners of cows a grace period of 31st January 1965, after which all such stray animals will be taken to the slaughterhouses and the meats given to the welfare homes. By the December 1965, we have seized about 53 cows. And very quickly, all cattle disappeared from the streets.’


This in my understanding is leadership and a lesson our leaders must draw.


Another indicator supporting the belief in some quarters that the FG may not have exhausted their known strategies in securing lives and property in the country is the supersonic dexterity used for deploying different security personnel to Ekiti state for the just concluded gubernatorial election in the state, contentiously fuelled by their burning desire to win the state- a capacity that was conspicuously missing in Plateau state during the herdsmen attack and lately in Adamawa and Sokoto states.


But as this is ongoing, one towering truth we must however not overlook is that these exploitative tendencies of our leaders are interrelated irrespective of party affiliations as the recent activity of the newly formed Coalition of United Political Parties (CUPP) revealed.


A telling proof to this assertion was the party’s undiplomatic outburst of their intention to wrestle power with the current administration without a word on how to salvage the country or better the lots of the suffering Nigerians forward.


This has caused a great concern among Nigerians and barefacedly portrayed the party as a bunch with inordinate ambition and incurably blind to public opinion with no interest of the people at heart. To CUPP in my view, it is not about the people but about personal aggrandizement and selfishness.


Instructively, this baffling disposition prepares the ground for the ‘leaders’ exercising of power and responsibility, not as a trust for the public good, but as an opportunity for private gains.


This also further provides the answer as to why the recently published Brooking Institute report on poverty highlighted that in Nigeria, 87million people live in extreme poverty and lack the opportunity to make meaningful choices that will sustainably improve their lives.


As we know, Poverty according to reports has various fallouts; increased insurgency, clashes and struggle for land and other resources, youth restiveness, increasing crime and mortality rate.


Fundamentally, this is the underlying obstacle why the nation cannot accelerate economic growth, make social progress, or collaborate in agriculture – a fact that confirms the abiding fears that the poverty of African leaders certainly does not mean material poverty, but lack of commitment to duty, lack of vision and greediness characterized by corruption.


For us to be lifted from this fear-drenched state, it is imperative that we understand as a nation that earning democracy dividends could be likened to seeking freedom which can never be given voluntarily by the oppressor without a demand by the oppressed.


We have very wholesomely forgotten that ‘the man who creates laws makes an indispensible contribution to the greatness of the nation, but the man who questions power makes a contribution just as indispensable especially when the questioning is uninterested, for it is through this means that we discover if we use power or whether power is using us.


To play our role fully well, therefore, the only actionable step that is needed from us is the non linear brain power to elect as leaders come 2019 those that can demonstrate passion for their purpose, practice their values consistently and lead with their hearts as well as their head; that will establish a long-term relationship and have the self-discipline to get results.


In the same breath, we must become politically active; Nigerians must be guided in this direction because we need political strength now rather than before as most of us have been made too poor to have adequate economic power and others too rejected to be part of the political system.


Indeed, dislodging these demagogues from our nation’s political theatre with our votes come 2019 and having them replaced with the authentic leaders, will be a little action that we can collectively take as a people that will yield a bountiful result for our nation.





Jerome-Mario Utomi

Jerome-Mario is a Social Entrepreneur and an alumnus, School of media and communication, Pan Atlantic University, Lagos, Nigeria.

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