As regards President Obasanjo of Nigeria, whenever circumstances and chance strengthen his hand in dealing, for instance, with corruption, however selectively, I personally think the best thing for progressive minded people to do is to encourage him. Let him know they are behind him and in his support of that specific action. Where he acts without regard to the rule of law, all should again let him know that he is transgressing acceptable bounds.
Reflecting on Professor Rita Edozie's position quoted at the beginning of this piece, it is to be wondered at why the many radical academics turned politicians, the populist political agents, leftist and social democratic activists, many of who have espoused wonderful visions of prosperous, independent, truly democratic Nigeria, have never been able to turn their ideas into popular positions that millions across Nigeria's ethnic and religious canvass would embrace. Since the end of decolonization politics, there has been no successful popular and effective mass mobilization of cross cutting political and social constituencies around nationalist democratic goals in any African country. This is unfortunate.
Whatever may be the specific calling or vocations that these famous sons and daughters of Nigeria have fashioned for themselves, for as long as they keep moaning or crying out for the need to have a truly transformed Nigeria, they more or less bear some responsibility in ensuring that their philosophical arguments, political theorizing and denunciations of governmental ineptitude find an appropriate meeting point with popular and effective activism. Indeed, history of successful revolutionary transformations everywhere tells us that both must inform each other in order to not only better understand but also transform reality.
The failure, since the end of anti colonialism, to conceive of effective strategies for the mobilization of the diverse elements of the nation is no doubt a problem with many sides to it. I believe one of the problems is of ideological or theoretical nature. There is an ideological deficiency - (the general absence of an original, thoroughly researched, discussed, and propagated view point that is inspiring enough to catch a nonpartisan attention of the masses of the youth, the women, the workers, the peasants across Nigeria, regardless of religion, ethnicity) and help push forward the nation around democratic and developmental goals. This on the other hand may also be due to inability to come up with authentic indigenous and autonomous categories of thought and analysis to complement the Western based knowledge base on which African theorist base their ideas and visions.
Another problem, related to the first but autonomous in itself, I will place at the cultural level. There seems to be a certain fatalistic element in the responses of many Nigerians, including academics, with a general political position that is short term and based on the hope that some unnamed nemesis would catch up with the bad leader, or that some angel of a leader would somehow be bestowed by providence on the people. It is then expected that such a heaven sent leader would right all wrongs at once. And if such a leaders turns out to be less than angels they've been made out to be, we yell and holler and that is all about it! Worse, this seems to be a substitute for a genuine commitment to painstaking planning, activism, building of democratic countervailing institutions and cultures, organizations, bodies, movements, associations, unions, that are able to effectively develop progressive followership culture and structures. Such a followership body would have its every action over the long haul based on principled, ideological, democratic rules and would in itself be the best breeding ground for responsible, responsive, and democratic leadership. Its structure and culture would be more rationally capable of guiding, constraining, and restraining the actions of those who emerge leaders in the polity.
Other problems of course may include the generic poverty that has afflicted the rank of people who one may have expected to take up such a vocation. It may thus be difficult funding such movements in the midst of a desperately poor people-without the assistance of some upper middle class or bourgeois class with progressive nationalist and democratic agendas and willing to commit what Marxist have called class suicide.
When most of those who have been deemed progressive or radical in Nigeria, including many who are renown and praised internationally for their social activism, progressive thinking and sundry professional and academic achievements, engage with Nigerian politics, they seem to me, in most cases, to have always relied on preexistent political structures. These are of course raw, unreformed, untransformed, corrupted and undependable structures to depend on for any transformative end. I do not know of any that began their entry into politics or activism mobilizing from bottom up or able to populate the organizations they join with their own masses of recruited, educated, motivated members such that they could thereby restructure and transform the principles by which these organization operated. The whole idea of joining a political party and expecting that it can then be transformed overnight into a radical progressive force that will sweep the polls and change the nation may smack of opportunism.
It is no wonder that many became ineffective at best, or at worst, got sucked into the corruption of the structures and the undemocratic, sexist, patriarchal, ignorant culture that these untransformed organizations personify. Without the rise of new structures built from the base on authentic and revolutionary ideas; able to capture the imagination of the majority of the youth and the middle class; without the effective organization of such bodies and their infusion with solid principles of accountability, responsibility, transparency, honesty, justice and fairness; and the accumulation of practical experience within these bodies through the application of all these principles in their operation over a period of time; and without an embedded design to these organizations that can pass on to succeeding generations of youth the culture of political responsibility, the best we would have are leaders whose performance are based on chance, foreign propping and support, internal survival calculus, and sheer whim.
Its not just enough to have a leader who is good or honest or has good intentions or who demonstrate seriousness in his intention to instill sanity into the polity. The savior capacity of such messiah figures only exists as an ideal that are never realized. What we need most is a political structure that is not only efficient because its agents are well educated, expert in the various fields they operate in, but also because it is undergirded by a political culture that must of necessity constrain actions of agents along "popularly accepted" lines; able to rein in, as a matter of course, whimsical, tyrannical or corrupt tendencies; and possessed with mechanisms capable of disciplining a errant leader. I submit that we need a good political structure and a corporate political culture, a followership culture that is so good, that it is able to easily relieve the polity of bad leaders, neutralize them, or correct them. We need systems that are so good that thieves, robbers and the like are caught, however smart they are.
We need a followership structure with a political culture that automatically decries all instances of corruption, oppression, misdemeanors, errors even when these are committed by our own members, our own leaders, our own comrades, people of our ethnic group, members of our religious community, etc. We need structures and culture whose solidity ensures that any allegation, conflict of interests, grave accusations levied against a public officer would of themselves be sufficient to get the officer to voluntarily step down, step aside or at least offer to step down, failing which, mechanisms within the followership structures would spring up and take in tow all organs of justice and security and all other civil society bodies such that it would be pointless for the recalcitrant leader to insist on his wrong and wrongful wishes.
There is a need for a strategic plan for establishing civic, political and activist structures that operate such a culture as described above and which engage the entire nation in very intensive, stimulating, challenging "enlightenment" discourses around all issues ranging from the role of religion in politics, gender, corruption, policing, soldiering, gender roles, power and resource sharing, nature of education, usefulness or otherwise of studying sociology and mass communication, etc. With such a conditioning followership structure, it should be possible to foresee in a short time, the rise of "enlightened" rulers, with enlightened followership, bound by very progressive, democratic, responsive political culture, held to the tenets of that culture; and by default, willing to act on the basis of the principles that are manifest in the same culture and by which the structure is upheld.