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Place of morals in politics: Defection and honour in politics (3)

Published by Tribune on Thu, 05 Feb 2015

All religions consider it a sin to steal, destroy others, properties, maim or take human life. Yet, our politicians have over time consistently acted in ways indicative of the fact that have completely removed considerations of morality from the everyday exercise of their duties.'I have in the past two editions of this article discussed the role of morals in politics in Nigeria. Last week I referred to the seeming ease with which Nigerian politicians change political parties simply out of a desperate desire to occupy office without any thought to whether or not their new party shares the same manifesto or ideology with their original party. My decision to focus on this issue is not without reason. With a few days to the next general elections politicians have been busy campaigning in a bid to secure the votes of the electorate. In virtually all states of the federation, campaign posters are now common sights. In some cases, politicians have hired musicians to produce full length albums in their praise with the said albums being distributed free to the public. However, despite the diverse method these politicians have chosen to sell themselves, what remains common are the promises being made to Nigerians. Yet these same promises were made in the run up to the last general elections. This reality in my estimation, again brings to the fore the importance of morality in politics.DEBATE ON MORALITY AND POLITICS IS AS OLD AS MANKINDIt must be noted that the connection or disconnect between morality and politics has always attracted debate for centuries. The writer and philosopher, Machievelli is noted to have advocated a position similar to that expressed by the governor of Niger State. In his book'The Prince'Machiavelli stated the case for political expediency in its starkest, most electrifying form. He is associated with the divorce of politics from conventional morality and the justification of all means even the most unscrupulous in the quest for political power. As a result, he has been denounced as a man inspired by the devil, as an immoral writer, an anti-Christian, an advocate of cruelty and tyranny and a deliberate teacher of evil. But some see Machiavelli as amoral, a pragmatist who recognised the harsh realities of political life. Much later in time, others came along who appeared to share the philosophy of Machiavelli. Rather unfortunately most of these beliefs account for some of the devastating conflicts experienced during the twentieth century, including two-world wars.EXAMPLES OF POLITICALLY EXPEDIENT ACTIONS DEVOID OF MORALITYHitler and his Nazi Party saw nothing wrong in the murder of millions of Jews in their quest to dominate Europe and ensure the survival of what they termed a master race. Prior to the second world war, Joseph Stalin, leader of the Soviet Union, set in motion events designed to cause a famine in the Ukraine to destroy the people there seeking independence from his rule. As a result, an estimated 7,000,000 persons perished in this farming area, known as the breadbasket of Europe, with the people deprived of the food they had grown with their own hands. In four years of his rule, Pol Pot brought hardship, pain and sorrow to Cambodia the type of which had never been witnessed before. He presided over a totalitarian dictatorship that imposed a radical form of agrarian socialism on the country. His government forced urban dwellers to move to the countryside to work in collective farms and forced labour projects. The combined effects of executions, forced labour, malnutrition and poor medical care caused the deaths of approximately 25 percent of the Cambodian population. In all, an estimated 1 to 3 million people (out of a population of slightly over 8 million) died due to the policies of his four-year premiership.All the incidents stated above occurred due to a lack of morality in governance and politics and also a belief that political exigencies of the time dictated that they occur. As a matter of fact, Hitler rode to power on strong national sentiments and enjoyed a huge following and popularity.As I wrote last week, all religions preach one form of moral code or the other. All religions consider it a sin to steal, destroy others' property, maim or take human life.Yet our politicians have over time consistently acted in ways indicative of the fact that they have completely removed considerations of morality from the everyday exercise of their duties. This is why most will upon assumption of office set about corruptly enriching themselves to the detriment of the populace they were elected to serve. Some days ago a British Tabloid is reported to have described Nigeria as so corrupt that it would be better for Britain to simply set fire to its intended aid money rather than release it to corrupt government officials in Nigeria. Several months back a former public officer was convicted in the United Kingdom of corrupt practices. During the prehearing phase he was said to have been astonished at the order of the Judge that he be remanded at a place normally reserved for persons of unsound mind. However, it was remarked in some quarters that the judge must have come to the conclusion that only someone of unsound mind would even contemplate stealing the amount of money attributed to him alone.Yet government anywhere in the world is supposed to be about the people. The Nigerian National Anthem is one that calls on all Nigerians to rise to the call of the nation and act only in its best interests. By the words of the anthem, patriotism is demanded of every Nigerian. However ,a country that demands patriotisms from its citizens must continually be seen to be working in their best interests. The government of the country must always be seen to seek ways of making the lives of the citizens better and not otherwise. One can hardly expect patriotic ideals and conduct from a citizen who feels abandoned by his country and his leaders and who perceives that every governmental policy is designed to further compound rather than ameliorate his difficulties.This is where morality must come in and politicians made to realise the sacredness of electoral promises they make prior to election and the oath they take upon assumption of office. Vigilance must be the eternal watchword of not only Nigerians but indeed all those who are governed all around the world. Leaders must be held to the highest standard of morals just as obtains in other parts of the world. It is only by so doing that one can hope that politics without morality, the type of which was described by Governor Aliyu will in time become history in Nigeria.
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