Sunday, July 07, 2013

Thirty Lessons from Cairo for Nigeria By Abimbola Lagunju

Morsi is out! The people got their way in Egypt. In less than two years, the Egyptians threw out two pharaonic behemoths. While many advanced democracies were still scratching their heads and searching for appropriate words to say, Nigeria was quick to condemn Morsi’s ouster – it was one of the first three countries of the world that pronounced judgement on the outcome of events in Egypt. Tunisia and Sierra Leone were the other two countries.

The purpose of Nigeria’s hasty condemnation beats any rationality – Is Nigeria trying to teach Egyptians democratic values? Is Nigeria trying to portray itself as a paragon of democracy? Is the declaration a coded warning to Nigerians and the Nigerian military that Egypt-like events are not welcome in Nigeria? Is this a sign of fear, a coded rejection of an undesirable wind in the Nigerian political space?

Nigeria’s condemnation was more than off-mark. A comprehensive study and analysis of the situation by the Nigerian political class would have been more appropriate in order to learn lessons from Morsi’s experience.

Whatever the intentions behind the declaration to the Egyptian people on our behalf, one can only hope that our rulers see this event as a case study.

Here are some obvious thirty lessons learnt from the Egyptian rulership experience. True enough, Morsi did not commit all the crimes implicit in these recommendations, but one is compelled to adapt the Egyptian experience to ours.

1. Majority at elections does not translate into majority one year later. Learn from the US ubiquitous independent polls to feel the pulse of your people.

2. And if you commission your own polls, know from the beginning that they will tell you what you want to hear. This is tantamount to self-deceit. The people have their own mental polls.

3. Listen to the voice of your people. Those who voted you in cannot be your enemies unless you make enemies of them by yourself.

4. The people come before your political party. You are there to translate the ideology and their manifesto of your party into actions. Do it ! If your party’s ideology is inimical to the people, change course. And if your party is devoid of an ideology or ideas, invent a people-friendly one, not a friends-friendly philosophy.

5. Speak with you people in a language that you thoroughly master. All Nigerians speak pidgin English and two or three indigenous languages. Choose any that suits you. There are many interpreters out there. Can you imagine the President of France or Japan speaking in any other tongue except French or Japanese respectively?

6. Native intelligence is better that borrowed intelligence. Use your own intelligence.

7. Our commonwealth is not a private property, don’t covet it.

8. Always feel the pulse of the civil society and the free media, they know better than your own media outlets, and they tell the truth more times than your own channels. And remember, in a showdown, while you have everything to lose, they have nothing to lose. They are not bound by a limited mandate. They will always be there.

9. Majority vote at one election does not make you an untouchable almighty. Do not even dream it. A cat that sees itself as a lion in the mirror is still a cat.

10. The people are not horses; do not try to ride them. They will throw you over, kick you and stamp on you.

11. Never, ever take the majority for granted. History has shown that that is a dangerous mistake.

12. Peoples’ handshakes are not contagious, move out of your lair, meet and shake hands with the people. You will be surprised how much goodwill this will engender.

13. Remember that majority is a dynamic concept; do not deceive yourself that it is static.

14. Stay always on the side of the majority; they are your shield and umbrella.

15. Your aides are your closest enemies. Beware of them all. Watch they do not waste whatever goodwill capital you have with the people.

16. You do not need attack dogs, attack cats or lions. They are useless in the event of people power, a recall by revolt or a coup. The aides are always the first to run away. Afterwards, they write silly memoirs in which they dissect you to pieces.

17. First-ladyism is counterproductive to your political well-being. Rein in your wives. People are averse to non-constitutional weights being thrown around.

18. Gangster-like twenty-five car convoy is unnecessary. Who are you trying to impress? Those who voted you in when you came in a two-car convoy to canvass for votes? Please!

19. Delete, yes, remove and delete permanently all political locusts that surround you. If you do not know them, listen to what the people say.

20. Never deep your hand in a recycle bin to fish for political appointees. Once in the dustbin of time, leave them permanently in the dustbin.

21. Discard anyone past 60 years from your administration. Wisdom is not synonymous with competence.

22. Good economy is about food on the table for everyone not macroeconomic abracadabra.

23. Electricity is about lighting homes and powering electrical appliances and not a megawatt discourse.

24. Good road network is tarring visible roads and not tar on paper. The people do not need multi-billion Naira artworks.

25. Security is the protection of every Nigerian, not appropriation of the Nigerian police for guarding a few political and economic elites.

26. The Rule of law is the respect of the law, not law ruled on paper.

27.  Hold town-hall meetings and hear the people. Answer their questions honestly. Do not play God. The people know you more than you know yourself.

28. Fulfill whatever promises you make. Know that you cannot do everything even if you had many mandates, but whatever you do, do it well. You will be remembered by this.

29. Transform present rulership into leadership; you will be surprised how willingly Nigerians will follow you.

30. Finally, Your Excellencies, My Lords spiritual and temporal, your Royal Highnesses, First ladies and Last ladies, always remember that the hand that fed you always reserves the right to slap you. Some call it people power, others call it a recall and yet others call it a coup. Whichever it is, you get slapped out. And when it happens, it has happened.

Follow these recommendations and Tahrir Square will be far from your nightmares.

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