By Simbo Olorunfemi
The gentlemen who come into politics must remember that it takes more than a philistinic fidelity to one’s own ideas to attain power. Getting hold of political power involves a lot of negotiation, strategising, compromising and building bridges. It is a fallacy for anyone to assume ideas by themselves, without a ladder resting on the shoulders of a reliable financial base, which comes from proper engagement and collaboration, are enough to get hold of power.
Too often, the interrogation of Nigerian politics by our public intellectuals comes from a conceited perspective. It is easy to see condescension in reports from the field by those who venture into the arena. With a history of serial disappointment in politics, the intelligentsia readily fronts this nose-thumping attitude. With much of the thought rarefied, even on the part of those who profess to speak for the street, it is not difficult to place the gap in terms of expectation and understanding, between punditry and reality.
Painful and regrettable as the experience of our gentlemen who have ventured into the arena might be, there is no denying that many of the actors dashed in on the wings of naivety. At the base of the failure by many who venture from the platform of idealism into politics is that disconnect between their understanding of what is and what the reality is. Many have refused to embrace an understanding of where the people are and what their needs are, insisting on theorising and idealising out of context.
Politics, in a way, is like marriage. It is a night market. You never truly know what it is like until you get into one. You can be an authority on the outside, pontificating, only to get in to the realisation that you are actually a novice, with little or no knowledge of the intricacies of the game. It is easy from the outside to become an expert, seeing every move, knowing where every pass should go, but it is only when you are able to see with the eyes of those in the game or step into the arena yourself, that you get to truly understand.
Often, the more you think you know, the less you really know. It is when you get in that you realise that many who know hardly speak, and that many who posture in public hardly know. It takes having eyes of humility to understand the game. But then humility is not one of the strengths of the intelligentsia. Apart from a disconnect from the street, the way some members of the class who have stepped into the arena have handled their loss at the polls has hardly helped. It is telling, even if unnerving, to see how failure is processed and interrogated. It is always presented as the fault of the people, as they talk down on the street. It is always a query and thumbs-down of whatever choice the people have made. Once the outcome does not tally with their preference or expectation, it is explained as a by-product of poverty and illiteracy at the bottom of the pyramid. It is presented as a manipulation of the process by the other politicians. Hardly do we see a sober interrogation as basis for strategic engagement for the future.
The impression oft created is that of a heartbroken do-gooder who stepped out of his comfort zone only to have his gesture spurned by his people, out of ignorance or manipulation of the process. The loss, we are told, is not personal but one which the people must appropriate and take responsibility for, irrespective of the quality of effort by the candidate. Often presented is the account of a Messiah who, on account of rejection at the ballot, is swiftly moving on to other things, shaming the people to live with the consequences of their wrong choice or inaction. Yet, this loss even with its collective ownership, has a possible dimension bothering on a failure of process, methodology or strategy which the candidate ought to take responsibility for and interrogate.