by Mark Amaza
About a couple of months ago, a well-known Nigerian politician and former public office holder joined twitter and became an active ‘tweep’. This politician who has been severally accused of corruption across the country engaged people and often made known his stance on contemporary issues such as education, child marriage, etc. Personally, I found my perception of the politician improving, something which I made known once, to which someone responded that it was a matter of time Nigerians conferred on him sainthood not deserved.
This made me start thinking: given the choice between the squeaky clean politician unable to drive change in an area passionate to you, and the politician whose integrity is questionable, but has the ability and desire to bring change, which one would you pick?
One shortcoming of many educated young Nigerians is that they believe only saints can bring change in Nigeria, either wholesale or in specific areas. As a result, they cast away every other person who falls short of their standard for sainthood.
However, the reality is that there are hardly any saints in Nigerian politics, and in the process of waiting, not even searching for saints, we lose the opportunities of aligning ourselves with the politician whom we can influence to bring change in an area, even though he is not squeaky clean.
Contrary to popular belief, not every action of a politician is motivated by pecuniary benefits. Many times, they are without people around them who will point them to the right direction, or bring their attention to the urgency of an issue. This is so because while many of us have folded our hands and judged them as being corrupt, without integrity, and hence, of no use, those who make the choice to be around them care less for the general public, but rather for only themselves.
Contemporary Nigerian politics is awash with examples of politicians who while not entirely clean, still brought about a lot of positive development during their time in government. Whether it be an ex-governor of a North-Eastern state that ended up being investigated by the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) despite immense infrastructural development to his state, or his then counterpart in a South-Western state that raised the revenue-generating capacity of his state, while he is stupendously rich today.
This means that if there is an issue that you are passionate about today for the benefit of the larger society which can be made possible by the involvement of government, you do not have time to seek only saints to help you push the change you desire. Rather, you should seek out those with the influence and ability to bring forward that change, engage them and apply the necessary pressure on them.
This is by no means an endorsement of corruption. Rather, it is coming to terms with the reality that while we keep waiting for angels in our government and politics before we commence engaging them, those that already know their ways around the ‘devils’ will continue to have their way and we’ll immerse deeper into the filth of lack of direction that we are in.
Also, we should keep in mind that engagement goes way beyond protests, blog posts and tweets. While this can come in handy, we should try to incorporate other methods of engagement, the most potent of which is seeking to meet one-on-one with said politician, cutting through the clutter and noise that is protests and social media.
Let us remember that our politicians are first of all human before anything else. Hence, they are not immune to being pressured and lobbied.
After all, it was still our National Assembly in 2006 that surprisingly voted to kill the third term agenda of former President Olusegun Obasanjo, when almost everyone thought that they were going to be bought.
So what is that issue you are very passionate about? Who are those in government that you believe can influence a positive change in it? What have you done to engage them and influence them?
It is time to begin a new way of working for change.
– Follow this writer on Twitter: @amasonic