CHIEF Obafemi Awolowo, Dr. Namidi Azikiwe, Mallam Aminu Kano and Alahji Ibrahim Waziri saw politics as fundamentally, an instrument of service.
They did not only understand what the people wanted, they went beyond that to articulate what the people did not actually know they needed.
Chief Obafemi Awolowo, using the instrumentality of the Unity of Nigeria (UPN) articulated a four cardinal objective – Free education, Free Health care, Full and Gainful Employment and Rural – Urban Integration. At campaign rallies Awolowo told Nigerians, how he intended to use this programme to take the people away from backwardness and launch them into social economic emancipation, He meant every word he said and never deviated from letting the people know that governance is about people and not self.
Though, he did not become President of Nigeria, his UPN governors in Lagos, Oyo, Ogun, Bendel and Ondo States ensured that his four cardinal cardinal programmes were implemented. Awolowo was the master of issues – based politics. At regular intervals, he drew the attention of the Shargari-led Federal government to some fundamental problems facing the economy. He did not end there, he proposed options to avert imminent crisis, Shagari ignored him to his own Peru.
Zik, was simply a Nationalist, highly urbane, libral and patriotic to the core. Zik’s vision was to see a Nigeria that would champion the cause of Africa. His passion for National Unity underlined his political sermons. Zik believed that the basis of National Unity should be on the realization and acceptance of the fact that the colour of man, the language he speaks or the religion expouses should not be the instrument of assessing him. His dream was to see an economically strong on and stable Nigeria, that will not only be able to make life meaningful for Nigerians but that will also serve as haven for Africans.
And for Aminu Kano, he was simply a man of the people – the Talakawas of the North; it was like father – children relationship he established with the poor. His doors were always open for 24 hours for anybody who wished to see him for anything. For him, there was no geographical location of poverty as it cut across ethnic, tribal and religious groups. So, Aminu Kano’s ideology was simply to elevate the poor from misery to prosperity irrespective of ethnic or tribal back grounds. His political party (PFP) became very popular among the poor in the north especially Kano.
I recall an incident, sometime in the 80’s, I told a friend I wanted to know Aminu Kano’s house. when he asked me why I told him I loved the man and his philosophy about life. He took me in his car and we drove there. After about ten minutes he stopped, I asked him why he stopped. He pointed at a house and said “that is Aminu Kano’s house,” I was terribly shocked, there was nothing about the house to show that it belonged to a man who had served as Federal minister and had been in politics for decades. The house was just like any other common man’s house. There was no special architectural design to reflect Aminu Kano’s social and political status. When I came down from the vehicle, I walked straight to the front of the house, where over 150 commoners were eating sitting on the bare floor in front of the house. When I asked my friend what was happening, he said: “This is what Aminu Kano does on daily basis, feeding the poor.” And yet the same Aminu Kano does on daily basis, feeding the poor.” And yet the same Aminu Kano was not in government, he had no access to national cake having rejected invitation by NPN to become part of the ruling party government. He decided to be in principled opposition offering advice when necessary.
And for Alhaji Ibrahim Waziri of the GNPP he was the apostle of politics without bitterness. He told his colleagues that politics should be based on issues not persons – and that electioneering should be ideas – propelled: there was never bitterness in his utterances and he deliberately refrained from making statements that would harm the image of his opponents. He kept telling Nigerians that he was the best candidate and that he had ideas that would make Nigeria a great nation.
When ever I reflect on the politics of this period dominated by these men, I feel pained at the madness that has inflicted politics in Nigeria today. Politics is no longer based on issues, it is now desperation while crash propaganda has taken the central stage.
Today, we have been launched into the arena of raw propaganda which is simply defined as information, ideas or rumor, deliberately cooked and spread to harm one another. We are being treated to character assassination and unbridled rumor mongering. Ideas no longer flourish. Issues have been pushed to the background because our politicians seem to have run out of ideas.
Are there really nothing to talk about other than what a man eats before he goes to bed or the way he smiles. What about the economy? What about the power sector? What about the unprecedented youth unemployment and the rising tide of youth unemployment. How do our politicians who intend to rule us want to address these issues.
In the early 80’s the naira was stronger than the dollar, one dollar is sold at over 200 naira in the black market, Nigeria is the only oil producing country in the world that has no capacity to refine its crude thereby importing fuel. Iran, Venezuela, Saudi Arabia etc are some oil producing countries with highly sophisticated refineries. The refineries in Warri, Port Harcourt and Kaduna are working below25% installed capacity. Nobody is talking about that, nobody is telling us how to get Nigeria back on track and put her on the path of sustainable development.
Five years after the so called power reform deal, Nigeria is still in darkness as epileptic electricity supply has made life very uncomfortable, while some manufacturing companies have relocated to smaller Africa countries.
What Nigeria wants is simply good governance and anybody that gives it to them is their saviour, irrespective of where he comes from and that is why they want to know what the politicians have to offer.
They want a clear picture of how the problems besetting the country can be solved – a kind of blueprint that if patriotically nourished would launch Nigeria into the comity of great nations.
Perhaps, some of our politicians may not know that propaganda has its own limitations which could be self-immolating. When we leave issues and begin to dwell on lies, a time comes when we reduce ourselves to palace jesters only to be applauded by adolescents. It is better to keep quiet if we have nothing to say than to plunge into the distortion of facts in order to score political points.
There is no doubt that this is the toughest and most keenly contested election in Nigerians political history. The level of political awareness and sophistication has increased. Nigerian, more ever before, are beginning to realize that they don’t have to be dictated to in making their political choices.
The prayers of people like me, for the emergence of two strong major political parties of the American variant has been answered. Incumbency factor is no longer a ticket to automatic electoral victory. Voters will now score contestants on their performance.
If SDP and NRC created by IBB were allowed to flourish, we would have by now gone a long way in realising that what makes democracy flourish is the efficient reciprocal clash of ideas from which good governance emerges.
Once upon a time there was an era, dominated by the Awos, when politics was issues – driven, a sharp contrast to the madness of today, which is characterized by raw propaganda simply denied as falsehood, deliberately cooked and spread by politicians in order to harm the image of opponents.