Demagoguery In Politics: The Cause, Result And Backlash – By Malam Naini Musa
Politics in Nigeria has long been viewed as a dirty game played by dirty minds. This sort of thinking has kept the really ethical people away and swayed the hyenas into joining. This sort of apathy is not Nigeria specific, a report published by PEW RESEARCH CENTER in the United States found out that two thirds of US citizens believe that there is a decline in trust of government and leaders in general.
That is a huge number considering the United States is the world most famous and most popular democracy, prompting many countries to use it as a model for structuring their own democracy and mode of governance.
Recently, Europe is having a surge of fascism, the entrenched political structure is losing support in an unprecedented manner whilst the populist that were once viewed with disgust are gaining ground, a worrying issue for those who see the world as a global village in a new world order. France, a revolutionary country that once thrived as a society based on freedom, free speech and tolerance for all is today unravelling as the likes of Marine Le Pen openly undo those values as they openly spread hate on Muslims and immigrants, an issue once seen as political suicidal in the PC obsessed society we now live in.
The old order is shrinking, the old boys club that once held the blessing of how politics is done is being challenged.
All these changes are as a result of a society tired of monopoly of power and direction. Choices are being made in board rooms, executive meetings and political round tables that affect the lives of millions but with very little consideration for the plight of the common man.
This has always been the ways of the elites in the old autocratic days, but democracy has brought its own ways by empowering the common man on the street with rights to speech and a right to determine who rules him, siphoning concentrated power from the formerly all-powerful elites into the hands of the people. When the battleground changed (from the court of monarchs), the tactics changed, today, our leaders are not birthed with rights to rule us. Rather, we choose leaders from a pool of hundreds or even thousands of politicians.
These people are to a large extent not given anything, they have to earn it through complex and challenging art of persuasions.
However, people come in variety of age, height, weight, interests and opinion. So the politician class are faced with the dilemma of pleasing the expectations of a wide range of expectations. We all know that it is extremely difficult to find a way of addressing everyone’s expectations or even impossible for that manner. This gives birth to the demagoguery we see in our politics today.
These people tailor their political message and approach according to their audience. They win elections by pretending to be what they are not, so when they find themselves in the seat of power, they simply cannot fulfill the miracle of delivering whatever they promised on the campaign trail. Example, It is near impossible to fulfill the needs of the conservatives and liberals at the same time, unless one of the group concedes, in which case they have foregone their need for that particular time. As it was famously put “whenever two people agree, one is not necessary”.
This article is not implying that all politicians are liars and that we only have to look forward to doom and gloom. No, there have been some phenomenal political leadership throughout the world. Leaders that have achieved tremendous things and changed societies forever. In Northern Nigeria, Sir Ahmadu Bello springs to mind. These people are not demagogues though, they stood for something right from the beginning and are known to be extremely popular amongst the groups they resonate with, whilst being deeply hated by their rivals.
The grandson of the revered Shehu is probably the most loved and revered figure in all of Northern Nigeria’s Political history, however, when you cross the divide, his image is not so peachy. He is seen as a tribal jingoist, a bigot and a staunch regionist. He was so much hated, that he was killed alongside other top political leaders of his party and other alliances. And some people not only justified it in writing (years later) but celebration erupted at the announcement.
Great leaders who used unpopular ideas and implemented them for the good of the greater society, knowing fully well they are going to step on some toes and they are definitely going to pay for it in so many ways. It could be in bad publicity, loss of votes or even the threat of aggression or violence etc. these leaders are sometimes deliberately pigeon holed and misunderstood. However, they are the ones that get things done. A classic example is the founding leader of Singapore, Mr. Lee Kuan Yew. This man was criticized by both capitalist and communists, even though he subscribed to the ideology of the former.
Today, history has whitewashed him as a great nation builder and one of, if not the greatest leader of modern times. The same media that celebrated him, berated him for his strong stands for decades. Had he folded and conceded to their criticisms and personal attacks, Singapore would not be the successful country it is today and he would not be the great architect of a modern state as he is celebrated today.
Nation building is extremely difficult and it is not for the two faced. These good looking, sweet talking pseudo-altruist are nothing but trouble. They have brought as many problems as they sought to eradicate. We will continue to slide into confusion and tragedy should we continue to play their game. They are anything but good for us. We must stay away from them and the type of politics they play. Rather, we should identify with people that go down a difficult route, a route we dread taking but know to be the right route.
No one has ever won in life by doing solely what he wants, fostering his every whim.
Mallam Naini Musa
Mallam Naini Musa is a writer, creative writer
and a social critic.