Nigeria: Elder Statesmen as Political Salesmen

Recent developments in Nigeria points to one reality: the need for the intervention of true fathers of the nation, not national opportunists and irritants, to arrest the raging socio-political and economic crises in the land.

But the pertinent question is whether we have such ‘fathers of the nation. And if we have, do we recognise them as such? if we do, shall we listen to them?

 In India, Jawaharlal Nehru is regarded as the father of the nation. He is late now. In Pakistan, Muhammed Ali Jinnah is also regarded as a father of the nation.

Theodore Herzl, regarded as the architect of modern Israel, also qualifies as a father of the Israeli nation, even though he did not witness the actualisation of the Zionist state. Malaysians consider Dr Mahathir Muhammed as the father of modern Malaysia too, and so they voted for his return to power when the Southeast Asian power was derailing.

There are quite a number of the builders of America, especially George Washington. In Ghana, Kwame Nkrumah was such person. There was Mustafa Kamal Attaturk in Turkey.

We have our own Dr Nnamdi Azikiwe, Chief Obafemi Awolowo and Sir Ahmadu Bello, all of blessed memory. For their sacrifices and their sayings which have come to be taken as the foundation of their countries, all these individuals became great statesmen.

They live in the hearts of their land. We refer to their books for solution and guidance at critical moments. But they also have followers who perpetuate their heritage and hoist their flags, brilliantly, after their demise.

In Nigeria, wither these worthy successors again?  Are they entirely wiped off or have they lost essence and souls that what is left of them are bereft of any worthy ideals?

What happened that it seems the glorious heritage has withered completely?  What seems to be left of the promising past is a vague future. This is the time for us to go back to the wise counsel of our founding fathers. This is the time to see how faithful we are to their vision, the great statesmen that have emerged from our land.

Unfortunately, those we should regard and revere as the new statesmen in Nigeria are today the real problem of the country. Rather than call to unity, they call for anarchy. Rather than plea for amnesty in the land, they revel in distractions of their successors.

Rather than promote amity, they are the vanguards of separation. Yet, these men at the brink of their graves who should be bowed in penitence, seeking redemption of their souls are neck deep in evil machinations of implosion.

So if those we pride as fathers of modern Nigeria begin to fan the embers of national dissolution, they cease to qualify for statesmanship again. We must seek to consign them to the pages of our history books as fathers who got inebriated with the adoration we showered on them and so sink into senility, beyond recovery.

We should shroud them in infamy and dump them in the swampy section of our national mortuary without a tombstone, forgotten or erased from our memories. We have no apology if they rot or roast in the pit of hell.

While on a journey to Ibadan few years back, I had the luxury of time to go through some parts of one of Chief Obafemi Awolowo’s books, Path to Nigeria’s Greatness. It breathed with patriotism, with an uncanny nationalistic fervor, with an unusual faith in the sustainability of the Nigerian nation.

But I also, from that book, had a glimpse of his pains and concerns about Nigeria, his political travails and betrayals from some of his closest aides. This is the lot that many fathers of the nation or statesmen go through.

Often, many fathers of the nation did not get to the Promised Land, nor do they have the time to lead their nations for long. But it remains a huge honour for them that they remain the pathfinders of their homelands, the ones in whose vision their nations are built.

Whether they live long or they live to see the actualization of their vision is not the issue. The most important thing in the pursuit of the goals of fathers of the nation is the clarity of their vision, the sincerity of their intention and the depth of their sacrifices.

However, the problem with many fathers of the nation is that they hardly recognise when ovation is loudest for them and want to remain perpetually dictating the direction of the nation when they should be interested in building or discovering successors.

This contradiction which questions their sincerity therefore leads to accusation of hypocrisy and selfishness and  breeds an army of enemies for them as they become too partisan or are involved in dirty, murky politics of their countries as party leaders rather than being regarded as consultants on the cause of the nation or the custodians of the nation’s values and public interest.

Today, Nigeria is at the cross road of defining or acknowledging who the true fathers of a New Nigeria are or who qualify to be called great statesmen of our country. Even when we have them as father figures, we don’t consider them great enough to earn our unalloyed respect.

This is because we see them taking certain positions which polarise the country instead of unifying her. They make tendentious statements that inflame passions and promote hate that hurt the nation.

We see them as camp leaders rather than being bridge builders. We see them still being the real political players and god-fathers when they should be the guardian philosophers or sages of the age.

We are suspicious of them when they go about as political salesmen instead of projecting themselves as worthy statesmen. So we can’t find in such statesmen again any virtue of statesmanship as we are more conscious of their brinkmanship as political brigands as nation wreckers.

Now, Nigeria is crying for the rise of sincere fathers of the nation who will work beyond the political turf, fathers who will aggregate all the positive values of Nigeria of our dream and statesmen who will represent our collective national interest.

As things are now, we snigger at these expiring fathers and laugh at their counsels because we see them as mere opportunists and sectarian political jobbers, not the great statesmen whose wisdom and counsel should heal our wounds.

They need to go and rest in peace before we disgrace them to their graves NOW, because they have outlived their relevance or usefulness in our polity.

By Abdulwarees Solanke, a 2007 Commonwealth Broadcasting Association scholar in Public Policy at the Universiti Brunei Darussalam & Assistant Director Of Strategic Planning & Corporate Development Department, Voice of Nigeria, Ikoyi Lagos,

Abdulwarees Solanke
Assistant Director
Strategic Planning & Corporate Development
Voice of Nigeria
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