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By Emmanuel Onwubiko on 15/03/2014

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Donald T. Philips, an American inspirational author, did a beautiful book on the leadership qualities of the Black American Civil Rights Campaigner, Reverend Martin Luther King, Jr. aptly titled ‘Martin Luther King, JR. On Leadership’. In chapter four of this evergreen book the author narrated a story of how the late civil rights activist captured the imagination, admiration and reverence of the global community with his mastery of the art of public speaking.

The author who also penned the most admirable book on the foremost American President Abraham Lincoln titled ‘Lincoln on Leadership’ and who also founded the Non-Governmental organisation called ‘Fathers on Leadership’, told a story of how in the summer of 1956, Almera Lomax, editor of the Los Angeles Tribune, went to hear Martin Lurther King, Jr., speak at an event in Los Angeles. It was during the heat of the Montgomery boycott and the Reverend Martin was in town to drum up support for the movement against white supremacist rule and the aggressive apartheid era American society of that time.

Mr. Philips noted in his widely appreciated book that Mrs. Lomax was so inspired by the beautiful rendition of the civil rights champion that she had to write him a letter showering him with praises and expressed her desire to join his Baptist Church movement as an associate member even though she had been an agnostic since the age of 12.

Why the undue attention to this particular inspirational event that took place nearly five decades ago at a place that is several thousands of miles away from Nigeria?

I am citing this story to correlate it with an event that took place 24 hours before the Saint Valentine Day of year 2014 in the city of Abuja at the prestigious Catholic Secretariat of Nigeria near Apo Legislative Quarters in which the Deputy Senate Presidentm Senator Ike Ekweremadu, was the chief guest lecturer. Ekweremadu dissected a very thorny and highly explosive theme of succession challenges in Nigeria and proffered pragmatic panacea that in his considered thinking would resolve this singular issue that is threatening to tear apart the unity of Nigeria.

As the 2015 elections draw near, it is evident that some political elements from the Northern and Southern parts of the country are ever so divided on which of the zones should produce the next President of this fragile political entity which ironically clocked 100 years as a so-called united nation of Nigeria founded by the then British colonial governor Lord Lugard and his mistress, Miss Flora Shaw.

Here now is the correlation between what happened in Los Angeles as told by the author aforementioned and what took place at the first annual Catholic Social Forum in Abuja for the year 2014 at which the Deputy Senate President took the hot seat to canvass solution to the challenges of political succession facing Nigeria.

He, the chief lecturer, spoke so well and showed distinctive erudition in his legally loaded and intellectually rich paper that even those who disagreed with him among the choice audience applauded his erudition and deep philosophical comprehension of real politics in the context of how to bring about good governance and create avenue for the growth of democracy and participatory politics.

Ekweremadu, who gave what I may call the “Ekweremadu Panacea” to the disturbing conundrum of political succession struggle in Nigeria, also used the occasion to applaud the Catholic Church in Nigeria for, in his words, playing and living the heroic role as the intellectual standard and yardstick for Christendom.

He also encouraged the Catholic Church to keep playing the role of an independent voice to show the light so the leaders and followers in the nation’s political arena can follow for Nigeria to become a better society whereby harmony, peace and respect for human rights would become sacrosanct. Indeed, many who watched him speak said the people of Enugu State actually sent the best person to the National Assembly to represent them even as others “prophesied” that Ike Ekweremadu is destined for greater political office.

“I am really happy to be here today,” Senator Ekweremadu told the audience. “I thank the Catholic Secretariat of Nigeria for inviting me to be part of this Forum aimed at addressing the perennial challenge of political succession in Nigeria’s democracy, he further stressed.”  

He endorsed the Catholic Social Forum of the Nigerian Catholic Secretariat by stating that the forum is therefore a further proof that gone are the days when the church, which is divine and celestial, was reluctant to get involved in matters of politics, largely regarded as terrestrial, profane, and in some quarters, dirty. “I am glad that this particular intervention is coming at a time we are practically experiencing the problem we are trying to address,” he said.

He then delved into the fundamental causes of political struggle in Nigeria, which is bitter, and affirmed that “Nigeria’s democratic experiment has always been truncated as a result of succession crises that have arisen at different times. The examples are well known to us. The current dispensation is again being threatened by the succession malady. The question then is, what factors are responsible for this?”

To him, the major cause of the so-called bitter and quarrelsome political succession struggle boils down to political elites with no national and public interest at heart fighting and jostling for the spoils of office and political power just as he blamed the lack of political parties with strong ideological discipline for the near-anarchy that has been unleashed by different amorphous political interest groups scrambling to grab political power in 2015.

To Senator Ekweremadu, because of the overwhelming lack of political literacy and sophistication among the followers in Nigeria, the political elites have become so adept at playing up certain mundane sentiments to position themselves as champions of the political interest of their people. He thinks that the heterogeneity of Nigeria has also been used as a gimmick by ruthlessly undisciplined and conscienceless political elite to divide the people along ethnic and religious lines just so that they can capture political offices for themselves. 

Ekweremadu is right because if we watch the various “political war lords” from the North and South dishing out threats against the corporate entity called Nigeria if they failed to achieve their myopic political goal to capture the Nigeria’s Presidency in 2015.

His words: “The diversity of Nigeria, which is supposed to be its greatest asset, has unfortunately become the most potent instrument of manipulation in the hands of the political elites. Thus, the selfish ambition of a few are easily articulated and sold as group, religious, sectional, and ethnic interest to the citizens.”

Ekweremadu, who spoke out his mind in his personal capacity, was quick to sum up the symptoms of political succession struggle and challenges facing contemporary Nigeria as follows: “The symptoms of an ailing political system in Nigeria are evident in all facets of Nigeria’s political landscape. From the debilitating crisis rocking the Governors’ Forum to the internal crisis of the ruling Peoples’ Democratic Party (PDP) and most other political parties, to the mergers by existing opposition political parties, the defection and cross-defection by elected politicians, the threat by militant groups and radical sects and groups all over Nigeria relating to the issue of who succeeds the President in 2015, it has become obvious that the country and her democracy sits on a keg of gunpowder, which if not properly handled, could leave a sour taste in the mouth of everyone.”

He then canvassed single term for all executive political office holders as the fastest panacea to the challenges of political succession in the country because in his considered opinion, Nigeria’s democracy is relatively young, and that one of the things that emerging democracies have going for them is that they have the failures and successes of older democracies to learn from. He cited several instances of nations in Latin America whereby the executive tenures were constitutionally changed/pegged to reflect the needs and aspirations of her people before those democracies stabilised.

To quote him again: “For instance, it is a fact that the Latin American democracies faced the same challenges we are facing today in the 1970s. As many of them transited from military and autocratic regimes to democratic regimes, they discovered that the politics of succession, including incumbents’ penchant for self-perpetuation, was overheating the system, thus threatening their democracy.

“As a solution, they adopted the single term presidency until such a time their respective democracies matured and stabilised. Some of the countries even fixed the period of time, which the singe tenure system would last. And indeed, now that they appear to have a stable democracy, virtually all of them have returned to two terms of office for executives.”

Well, Senator Ekweremadu has offered his solution. But I think Nigeria needs to build the institutions that would sustain democracy, Rule of Law and end the vicious circle of impunity than pay much attention to political succession struggle because if democratic institutions like the electoral commission, police and the judiciary are consolidated and become effective to end the regime of impunity, Nigerians will not think much about which zone produces the president since good governance will then take center stage.

RIGHTSVIEW appears thrice a week on Mondays, Wednesday and Saturdays. The Columnist, popular activist Emmanuel Onwubiko, is a former Federal Commissioner of Nigeria’s National Human Rights Commission and presently National Coordinator of Human Rights Writers’ Association of Nigeria (HURIWA).

Source News Express

Posted 16/03/2014 02:32:18 AM


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