War Starts When Reason Dies By Simon Abah

We judge people here not on the basis of their governing philosophy(ies) and, policies but because of their religious beliefs and heritage initiated only by the accident of birth. This is a backward way of scrutinising people: politics and religious belief do not mix and political persons who mix them are incompetent demagogues and do not have anything to offer the people. This not only unjust, but outlandish. If governance issues are only restricted to the centre and people do not bother to challenge state governors and council chairmen who hold Nigerians to ransom, how can our democracy work?

Nigeria needs leaders who are bridge-builders, go-getters and stabilisers. Genuine statesmen and strategists; men who understand their turfs and environment. But they also need to be helped to succeed. This is missing in Nigeria. It is imperative that the president holds regular sessions with the National Assembly to convey his vision to them. Similar sessions should also be scheduled for the civil service to reach out to all other sides to work together, for development. There need to be in place an agenda of economic programmes with coherent plans for their achievement and sustainability. Such programmes need to be implemented by visionaries with charisma and leadership skills who work for the growth of the country . Our political class (executive and legislature), must be judged by their governing philosophy and policies. Politics, after all, is about solving peoples’ problems.

Every member of the federal and state legislatures claims to have a local office where individuals or constituents can make an appointment for a one-on-one with their local member. A lot of these elected members do not send monthly newsletters to their constituents, advising what’s happening and asking for feedback. They hide away in the comfort of governmental privilege elsewhere. And in all of this, the constituents are too lethargically conditioned to care. The assembly should provide the ambiance for government assemblages like the military, the police, firefighters, schools, hospitals; law courts, etc. to have government advisory boards. Big businesses need avenues for making their concerns known to government and the main opposition party without recourse to strike actions.

How essential has our democratic surveillance been to our national life so far? We have failed to reason together. Charlottesville in Jim Crow’s southern part of The US erupted in violence recently. Here was where General Robert E. Lee a confederate officer surrendered his army to Gen. Ulysses S. Grant on April 9, 1865, at Appomattox (near Charlottesville) at the end of the American civil war. At the end of the war and long before the monument in his honour was erected in 1895, General Lee frowned against raising statues in memory of war heroes and commemorating the Confederacy. He posited: “My conviction is, that however grateful it would be to the feelings of the South, the attempt in the present condition of the Country, would have the effect of retarding, instead of accelerating its accomplishment; and of continuing, if not adding to, the difficulties under which the Southern people labour. All I think that can now be done, is to aid our noble and generous women in their efforts to protect the graves and mark the last resting places of those who have fallen, and wait for better times.”

Yet again when he was invited in 1869, “to help mark the positions of the troops in that 1863 battle with granite memorials,” by the Gettysburg Battlefield Memorial Association. General Lee declined and sent this reply, “engagements will not permit me to be present.” then he added, I consider it “wiser … not to keep open the sores of war but to follow the examples of those nations who endeavored to obliterate the marks of civil strife, to commit to oblivion the feelings engendered.” I wish the white supremacists and neo-Nazis saw these famous responses before their racist march in The US and I wish Nigerians can borrow a leaf from General Robert E Lee. Visible signs of war destroy instead of uniting a country and there is a limit to freedom.

Abah writes in from Port Harcourt, Rivers State