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When Desperation Drowns Conscience


By Chuka Nnabuife 

I ALWAYS note the vital roles past and present experiences play in determining the future whenever I encounter the ancient Greece philosopher, Socrates's popular dictum, “the unexamined life is not worth living.”

I do not fail to note that Socrates said "unexamined" in that statement he made at his trial for impiety and corrupting youth, for which he was subsequently sentenced to death. Even at the threat of death, the great thinker was convinced that a good life for a member of the intelligentsia is informed by a sincere look back to identify mistakes made earlier and probe of the present to ensure that life is made better for the living. 

That is also the philosophy behind the native Ghanaian concept, 'sankofa'. Among Igbo corpus, one reasons that taking count after several falls helps the one with experience to know the best way to forge ahead in life ' _agadi nwanyi daa nda ada n'ato, o guo ife o bu n'ukpa onu_ .' It is important to note that our Igbo forefathers did not advise anyone who is encountering problems on his journey through life to engage in imaginative conjectures and 'futurism.' So, when members of the intelligentsia abandon their roles in society in desperate embrace of partisan politics as several now do in Anambra State, there is need to consider the implications of the development.

A society is actually 'finished' when its frontline persons and intelligentsia opt to be preoccupied with banters and discourses on who wins or loses the next election instead of engaging in healthy interrogation of policies, governance and collaborations between state, institutions and persons. Often, history informs us that it is better to leave partisan politics to politicians but never to abandon governance to them because they do better in the earlier and worse in the latter. A land is 'dead like dodo' whenever those who should think and push for better social, economic, political and cultural conditions abandon it for the lure of partisan politics. Wherever there is a dearth or misapplication of the activities of the intelligentsia, the society suffers. Such duties as ideation of the progress of society, keen examination and participation in governance and organisation of formal and informal groups are the responsibilities of the intelligentsia. Whenever they leave those chores to rush into politics, the vacuum yawns.

Indeed, not every person is endowed with the capacity to live on the edge until plots mature like politicians. They have the spirit of patience to wait until maturity of plots, especially when they are in the hearth of challenging times. 

Although, according to Aristotle, "man is by nature a political animal," not every man is a politician. Not many are endowed with such inexplicable street-smart understanding of the mundane nature of humans as practicing politicians. And they are always adept in exploiting other humans in the most crude and cruel manner.

What distinguishes an elite with integrity or member of the intelligentsia class or just an elder statesman from ordinary folks or the typical dyed-in-the-wool politician is his higher level of concern for the society and the experience he has garnered overtime through his active involvement in the affairs of the land. This arms anyone who is identified among the intelligentsia with respect and dignity. With the benefits of the plethora of bitter or sweet lessons he learnt from the past encounters in life, particularly, the harsh and hard knocks, he is expected to  have valuable views on the affairs of the land.

Therefore, whenever those so regarded in society abandon the crucial responsibility served them by time and providence to pursue errands that are not theirs, they disrupt divine equilibrium which leads to problems for everyone as the land suffers their conspicuous absence on duty post. 

The hobbling together of people who ordinarily, should be social thinkers, informed activists and elder statesmen with desperate politicians bodes no good. Rallying with politicians in quarters where they play sage and soothsayers and 'act Nostradamus' over the next election whereas their is a pressing task of making the people elected in past elections deliver democracy dividends to the society is playing the ostrich. For whatever reason, commiting ideas, energy and zeal to the  next election when a just-enthroned government has not even ran half way is incongruous. Who then would monitor and appraise the activities of the state for the people's betterment?

Even if the idea of everyone's collective loss does not bother the erring social thinker, does past experiences of degeneration of society, caused by similar developments not worry him? 

As Nigeria experienced in the middle of the 1980s when the military rule of President Ibrahim Badamasi Babangida (IBB) cleared the political scene of old politicians and ushered an era of 'new breed' politicians, many members of the academia and the intelligentsia rushed into politics. Some survived. Many failed. But the biggest casualty was Nigeria.

Given the plunge of many of the egg heads, cerebral scholars, journalists and activists into the arena as active political operators,  the quality of social engagements, policy interrogation and public discourse that preceded the Third Republic sharply dropped. In sectors like education, media practice and political activism, standards dropped and continue to date. Even the new breed leaders could not prove their mettle as the outstanding leaders of the first and second republics because they did not cut their teeth in politics.

Therefore, the trend of the intelligentsia ditching their posts to plunge into partisan politics as we find now in Anambra State, calls for concern. Aside making them play into the hands of shrewd politicians whose terrain elections are, it is like day light robbery of the society of her entitlement.

There is no price for correctly predicting the outcome of the current scramble because it always ends up same way. At best, the surely very knowledgeable members of the intelligentsia would be nutmegged by the adept field men in politics. They would have opportunities to fantasize and engage in events that would massage their egos and suit their escapism. After attending one or two meetings that would add toy trophies to their cabinets (of which they would someday point at and boast that they were part of this and that meetings), they could end up dribbled and left distraught. IBB dribbled too many of such folks in the Third Republic, and they were wrecked permanently. One prays that the ones in the current Anambra scramble for politics would fare better but history has a way of being funny and stubborn.

It is also interesting to note that even in their most visible successes in such venture, the intelligentsia, only in very few instances, achieve the enthronement of new governments. Sadly, that, most times, occur belatedly, when they would have, out of dereliction of responsibility, joined in destroying the society through acrimonious partisan politics.

Ultimately, the real politicians and the merchants of political crises would gain more of the proceeds of all their efforts. The latter would plunder the land and ride roughshod over everybody including the same elites who would soon return to their caucuses, and without recalling their earlier folly, begin giving themselves headaches over another forthcoming election.

This is an avoidable error should the thinkers think early and act early. Even if in desperation, acting without thorough examination of situation is not an excuse. Should they ruminate deeply over their social contracts with ndi Anambra, than the lure of politics, the wise option would be easier to arrive at. Moreover, one should not, in a bid to go and change things, worsen them for the society and himself. Ndi Igbo say: " _oburu na m eburo ibu, ka m ha ka m ha_ " (better be sure the mission will make things better or stay where you are).

Without doubt, any person with zeal for a better society who beholds Nigeria as it is now, would jump at any opportunity to be involved that comes his way. But even Satan tempted Jesus Christ with seductive offers in the wilderness. Hence no one, no matter how high-placed, is immune from temptation.

Therefore, being circumspect amid such options is the wisest thing to do. In his End-of-the-Year message of 2023, the head of Catholic Diocese of Sokoto, Bishop Hassan Kukah urged the need to watch before one leaps irrespective of how bad things are turning in Nigeria.

Dr. Kukah's words: "We concede that there are millions of decent men and women who genuinely wish to serve but are crushed by the deadweight of corrupt ogas at the top who use corruption as their oxygen!... 

“Good politics and good politicians can bring about change, but all of these require the commitment and honesty of citizens to be honest at all levels."

Pause and ponder: Is the move for honest intentions? Is it in sincere heed to their divinely allotted missions? Will it make Anambra State better?

• _*Sir Nnabuife* , FNGE, FSNA wrote from Awka, Anambra State_

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