Political concepts, cliches and nation building

A review of Praxis of Political Concepts in Nigeria's Fourth Republic: Essays in Honour of Dr. Mu'azu Babangida Aliyu by Khamar Hamza.

The book, Praxis of Political Concepts in Nigeria's Fourth Republic is a collection of essays in honour of the Chief Servant of Niger State, Dr Mu'azu Babangida Aliyu. There are 30 essays that explore issues in politics as they relate to the fourth republic. These essays were written by scholars who studied Nigeria from different angles. Most of the issues discussed are related to peace and conflict resolution.

Political philosophers have looked at human nature with a very pessimistic view and in their reflection on it, they have suggested different framework through which the state could be a platform for every individual to display his prowess and to live a happy life. The reasons for the pessimistic view which they expressed are due to the privilege, enjoyed by those in positions of authority and the weakness or humiliation suffered by those not opportune to be in position of authority. Promised on the above, the book, Praxis of Political Concepts in Nigeria's Fourth Republic: Essays in Honour of Dr Mu'azu Babangida Aliyu will be assessed. The editor, in the first chapter, looks at the kinds of concepts and clichés that emerged in the Fourth Republic:

… Concepts and clichés which extol romanticise, celebrate but sometimes question the Nigerian democratisation process, shape beliefs that sometimes incite people into action in addition to stirring up thinking and ideas about the political world in which Nigerians now find themselves (p.1).

The idea of adopting servant leadership philosophy which the Governor of Niger State proclaims is a concept reinvigorated by Robert Greenleaf. It has been there from the 4th Century BC as espoused by Chanakya (an Indian Strategic Thinker). Lao Tzo, Jesus Christ, Prophet Mohammed (SAW) and Shehu Abdullahi Fodio of Sokoto Caliphate all proclaimed the philosophy of servant leadership. The concept re-emerged because there are inadequacies that have characterised Nigerian politics which is due to human nature. The concept now challenges leaders who see themselves as the overall boss in their domain. Thus the concept of leadership is now reassessed and given new interpretation.

The dilemma in reassessing a concept is that if the idea embedded in a concept is not imbibed by the one who proclaims it, it will fall into the drains of cliché, because emotions will be attached to it to make it loose its meaning. The danger is that the confidence of followers will be eroded and the consequence is that the leader will fail woefully. The editor, Albert, therefore emphasise that ‘Nigerians have now reached the zenith of distrust for their leaders' wining them back would require new leadership styles' (p.314).

The fact that leaders in Nigeria like to usurp the privileges due to citizens, M.K. Yahya wrote on ‘Deliberative Democracy and Jama'a Forum in Niger State to explain a traditional framework used in Africa before and even after the colonial role. He posits that democratic governance
"Acknowledges the centrality of voting and parliamentary representation in democracy but goes further to question what citizens should do when the political class becomes self-seeking and fails to meet the needs of those that voted them to power (p.318)."

To correct the inherent exhibition of human lust for power and all the good things that come along with it, he explains how servant leadership has tapped into the foregoing model of democracy:
"Apart from being able to tap into age-old institutions for public discourse at the local level, the Jama'a Forum has been geared such that it can streamline its interventions to tally with other mechanisms and processes of popular empowerment in the larger Nigerian nation-state (p.323)."

The ideals of deliberative democracy is to check the leader and to create a forum for direct feedback which is a major problem in Nigeria. Sycophants always praise leaders and block genuine feedback from getting to them. The Jama'a Forum is an antidote to this problem.

Election is supposed to be a framework for choosing aspiring leaders into position of authority, but the Nigerian case is different. This is what Kabir Mato wrote on, using the entitled ‘Explaining Irregularities in the 2003 and 2007 General Elections in Nigeria'. He observes that:

"The pattern of political bitterness and desperate pursuit of political power, which has long characterised Nigerian politics became more horrifying in 2003 elections. In particular, political assassinations reached a scary level during the period… The most horrifying was the collusion of security agencies with unscrupulous politicians in manipulating the outcomes of the election (p.18)."

However Kabir Mato recommends that the country's electoral process should be reformed the fact that those who are seeking for political office are not doing it in order to serve the people, any framework put in place in order to have peaceful transition will fail. Beyond electoral reform those seeking for political office should be made to do courses on leadership and be acquitted with the provisions of the constitution regarding elections and the duties they are supposed to perform when elected.

Irregularities in elections have consequence on the development of electoral laws and the constitution as a whole. Wahab Egbewole's Burden of Proof in Election Management and Festus Okoye's, The Jurisprudence of Electoral Decisions: Technicalities and Substantial Justice are essays that dwell on technicalities regarding post election battles in courts. Egbwole observes that:

"What has been shown is that the political class needs to be educated more about the peculiarities of election petitions. It appears most politicians approach elections with a view to rigging. Those that "outright become the winner (sic) while why it is usually difficult for even the petitioner to come straight in attacking the conduct of the election in totality. So they devise to keep the ones where they successfully rigged intact (p.38)."

Looking at the problems inherent in technicalities regarding electoral decision and the issue of substantial justice, Okoye suggest that:

"Based on the challenges of conducting democratic elections in Nigeria, it is imperative to amend the 1999 constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria and Electoral Act, 2006 to remove some of the lacuna and ambiguities in the constitution and the law. There is also the need for consistency in the decisions of the Court of Appeal in relation to election petitions. The Election Tribunals and the Courts must make it clear to Nigerian politicians through their decisions that elections must be free, fair and transparent (p.55)."

Egbewole and Okoye's views among other writers on Nigerian politicians inform the uproar that the immunity clause under the Nigerian constitution has always received and this is treated by Godwin own and Muhammed Tawfiq Ladan.

Onus in his article "The Immunity Clause in the Constitution: Challenges and Ways Forward" posits that structures and institutions of governance are not self-automating and that loopholes could be created in them for the purpose of abuse as such, we should ‘abrogate the immunity clause from governance process by deleting it from our constitution' (p.173).

In "Immunity Clause under the Nigerian Constitution: Implications for Governance, Ladan explains that ‘Nigeria's recent experience with massive looting by former military Presidents and suspected cases of state sponsored assassinations for acts of illegality. Ladan further posits that ‘cases that raise fundamental issues like accountability of elected officials under the constitution provided challenges for the development of the law and certainly deserve a more robust analysis' when placed before a higher court.

As immunity clause confers more privileges on those in position of structural authority, Ayantayo, Oladosu and Omotola try to drum ethics for assuming moral authority into the ears of politicians. Ayantayo locates the root of the problem in the absence of economic empowerment skills lack of honesty and collective responsibilities in both family and public life. Oladosu sees the erosion of cultural, spiritual and moral values as the root of our underdevelopment even in the midst of abundant human and material resources. He posits that:

"Politically, Islam sensitises office holders to the transient nature of their positions. Whether they are presidents, heads of states, governors, ministers, commissioners, etc. they are alerted of the fact that sovereignty, power authority and absolute control belong exclusively to Allah (p.94)."

Omotola's article "Political Godfatherism" also portray some Nigerian politicians as people who "Can also resort to the negative use of the usually stupendous wealth, military/security links, and private security outfits such as political thugs at their disposal to pervert the cause of political fariness, equity and justice in favour of their client (p.102)."

The collection of articles in this anthology has really looked at Nigerian policy in a holistic manner and this is done with the intention of interpreting the place of concepts, ideas and political action in the political space. No doubt the recommendations made by the authors will be of great value to Nigerian and beyond.