The Fallacy Of Power


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October 3, 2007 - December 2, 2007



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The Fallacy Of Power



Kunle Sanyaolu




culled from GUARDIAN, November 19, 2006


History continues to reenact itself around us in the absence of indication that any of us remembered anything. It has been business as usual for political leaders. They behave and talk as if tomorrow will never come. If only they are able to cast their mind back slightly, they will take a second, even a third look on Alhaji Atiku Abubakar, the country's vice president who confessed recently of how hard a time he was going through. His condition is not difficult to imagine.

Here is a man who for the past seven years has been as busy as a bee. If he wasn't accompanying the President to important occasions scheduled on a daily basis, he would be representing the President or himself on numerous other occasions. Back in his office, he had various portfolios to manage, as assigned him by the President. Between these activities are various meetings lined up daily, ranging from Federal Executive Council meetings, to Security meetings and board meetings of parastatals. Suddenly, these activities ceased. No representation, no meetings, no portfolio. The vice president confessed that he had been rendered redundant and that all he does now is to eat and sleep. His case is so bad that no one speaks to him from the cabinet. Members do not wish to give impression that they are on the side of the vice president. What this means is simply that power is transient. It is a fallacy for which no one should delude himself. Today you are powerful and possess great authority. Tomorrow, you are so ordinary you don't know what to do with your time.

Atiku Abubakar's travail is happening notwithstanding the fact that the presidency's case against him is controversial. He was accused and indicted by an administrative panel, of conversion and dealing illegally with public fund. He in turn maintained that he did nothing of such as the fund in question was intact, even with bank interest. Abubakar has his supporters and fans, like the president. But this hasn't reversed the slip of power from his fingers. Certainly, the rich also cry. Abubakar is not alone as the powerful man that finds himself without power. In the current democratic dispensation, it happened to Diepreye Alamieyeseigha, one time governor of Bayelsa State and acclaimed Governor General of the Ijaw Nation. Alamieyeseigha was popular and powerful. It was a reflection of his power that even when he was arrested in London for alleged money laundering, he could not believe his eyes. He learnt with shock that the constitutional immunity that had shielded him for six years at home against anyone accusing him of wrong-doing was not potent in London. In fact, it was non-existent, according to the London court in which he was arraigned. Still, DSP Alamieyeseigha was powerful. While in detention abroad, his cabinet feared him even more than when he was at home. It was as if he had a haunting aura that tormented his officers. His deputy at the time, Jonathan Goodluck was not keen to call himself acting governor. He maintained his profile as deputy governor covering the duties of state in the temporary absence of the governor. As if to climax his invincibility, Alamieyeseigha miraculously showed up in Yenagoa when he was supposed to be observing a strict bail condition that confined him to a limited area around the London court. There had been rumour as to how the former governor beat the security network in London. He himself said it was an act of God, as hundreds of Bayelsa people trooped out to the streets to welcome him back. For all they cared, Alamieyeseigha was so powerful the London Police could not keep him. Realising the enormity of his action to have jumped bail, his deputy, Goodluck actually ran away from the state as soon as the House of Assembly started impeachment proceedings against the then governor. However, as soon as he was pronounced impeached, even under controversial constitutional circumstances, his authority and power vamoosed. He became ordinary, and he was arrested and put on trial.

As Ekiti governor, Ayo Fayose was a powerful leader. In three years of his rule, he did and said enough to put fear in the mind of people. He left no one in doubt that he was in charge. And he had been known to employ terrifying tactics to soften his critics. Following the report of the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) on him and the subsequent decision to impeach him, Fayose was all threat. When he saw that threat would not work, he simmered down and began to preach on why he should not be impeached urging the state legislators to allow good reason to prevail. As transient as power is, Fayose lost all his bravado when power slipped away from him. He simply disappeared when he still had constitutional protection. Up till now, no one knows his whereabouts. His disappearance was anticlimactic of his tough assertions that no one could impeach him. Again, it is a manifestation of the transient nature of power. Similar scenarios were presented in varying degrees by the other impeached governors, particularly, Rashidi Ladoja of Oyo and Peter Obi of Anambra. Compared with Fayose and Alamieyesiegha, Obi and Ladoja were less brazen. But they still called their opponents names, only for a pall of silence to envelope them soon after they were impeached. In all cases, the story is the same; tough-talking governors became meek once they lost out on power. Plateau State has not played out differently. As in previous cases, Dariye's impeachment process was fraught with monumental unconstitutionality. Having lost out however, he ran away, practically like a common criminal.

The lesson is visible, if the political leaders will permit themselves to see it. Governors are not going to be remembered by how tough talking they could be, but by what they achieve for the people in concrete terms. The irony in most of the given examples is that the processes surrounding them are largely in breach of the constitution. A section of the populace cried foul, but was unable to bring the leaders back to power. It is late now, considering the elections on the card next year. But if governors and the president had been wiser, they would have devoted their entire time, energy and state resources on developing their constituency. It is a shame that in virtually all parts of the county, the development of infrastructure is far from being commensurate with money expended. It is a shame too that the political leaders in a matter of a few years have each amassed so much wealth that they are all multi-millionaires and billionaires, all at the expense of the people. Many local government chairmen deserve public execution for their criminal neglect of their council areas. Some of them have not built a single road for seven years while their maintenance of existing roads are next to nothing. As we approach 2007, political leaders should genuinely search their conscience as to whether they have been fair to their subjects, and whether they are morally justified to be seeking re-election next year. Power is transient. A time will come in this country when each leader, no matter the level, will be asked to account for his stewardship. And those with unsatisfactory account will be punished.

For those seeking power for the sake of it, rather than for public service, there are ample reminders in this country that power should not be an end, but rather a means to an end. And that end should be for the good of the majority. It happened before, and it will still happen. Gen. Yakubu Gowon was Nigeria's Head of State for nine years. He relinquished power involuntarily when he was overthrown by General Murtala Muhammed, after his (Gowon's) infamous declaration of 1976 being unrealistic. From the moment he lost power, he became an ordinary Nigerian and 1975 became realistic. Gowon's grace in the country's polity now is that under him, the country grew in infrastructure, things worked beautifully. The civil service was functional. Corruption was low. Accountability was high. The Railways worked and the environment was much cleaner than what presently obtains. Alhaji Shehu Shagari lost power abruptly. He is able to keep his head high today because, despite his shortcomings, Nigeria was much better under him than now. When Gen. Muhammadu Buhari and Tunde Idiagbon sacked Shagari, they too never had time to vacate governance willingly. Today, Idiagbon is no more while many Nigerians still remember Buhari for his era of discipline as well as despotic rule. Things that men do live after them. In fact, the things do live with them in their lifetime. Gen. Ibrahim Babangida is alive today. If he expresses satisfaction on one thing that he believed he did right as military president, he must be tormented about several things he did wrong, chief of which was the annulment of June 12, 1993 general elections, acclaimed up to now, to be the best and freest ever in the country. Gen Sani Abacha is dead; he too left power against his personal wish and desire. These things happen. They will still happen. Those presently in power should beware, in their own interest.



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