The Shame of Bayelsa

The Shame of Bayelsa

It was Thomas Carlyle in Heroes and Hero Worship 1, 1840 who said; the illimitable, silent, never-resting thing called Time is rolling, rushing on, swift, silent, like an all-embracing Ocean – tide, on which we and the entire universe swim like exhalations.

Perhaps, deriving from the above, it is also true, that Bayelsa State was a creation of late Gen SaniAbacha on October 1, 1996. Short history: But to paraphrase the German poet and playwright, Hohann Wolfgang Von Goethe, ‘Bayelsa has time enough, if only it applies it well’.

The truth is that Bayelsa is yet to apply time well. However, the short history of Bayelsa and its snail pace of development is not the point this piece is devoted to. It is the lack of proper persons interested in the governance of the state that has raised my blood pressure.

As we all know, Bayelsa has produced Dr. Goodluck Jonathan, President and Commander-in-Chief of the Armed Forces. Furthermore, President Jonathan is PDP, so also is Timipre Sylva, the incumbent Executive Governor of the State. And to a large extent, the state is PDP. Yet when INEC initially published the names of parties and their candidates for the forthcoming governorship election in the State, PDP, and its candidate, was not listed. It took the court an extra-mile to pronounce a candidate for PDP in the State. I am at a loss as to how low we can allow Bayelsa (go) descend.

On January 13, 2012, my friend of many years, Dele Agekameh, publisher, accomplished journalist, writer, public affairs analyst, drew my attention to page 17 of the Nation Newspaper which featured the list of Bayelsa State Gubernatorial candidates as released by the Independent National Electoral Commission, INEC. In the list, even though there could be errors, the published qualification of some of the candidates, at least, ninety per cent of the candidates, according to INEC, holds the First School Leaving Certificate, WAEC, NECO or at best a Diploma.

Before I proceed on the importance of education to politics and governance, let me add that I am aware that KemelaOkara of Action Congress of Nigeria, ACN, is a lawyer. Dr. ImoroKubor of the Change Advocacy Party, CAP, has a PhD in Aeronautic Engineering, and has served as a Permanent Secretary at the Federal level and the PDP Candidate Hon. Henry Seriake Dickson, is a lawyer, who has served as commissioner and now at the National Assembly. Of course, there are a few others with University Education.

Agreed, section 177(b) of the constitution pegged the minimum age at 35 years for governorship and section 177 (d) stipulates that the minimum qualification is the West African School Certificate, not even the downgraded, baseless NECO, yet a state with sufficiently educated people, PhD’s and Professors, has been overtaken by those who have no business in governance.

Could Aristotle, the Greek Philosopher, be right when he said: “Democracy is a government in the hands of men of low birth, no property, and vulgar employments”, or Gilbert Keith Chesterton, the English writer when he stated that “democracy means government by the uneducated, while aristocracy means government by the badly educated.”

I agree with the philosophy that the foundation of every state is the education of its youth. So how can the illiterate or poorly or badly educated ruler (for there is no leader yet) lead its people. According to Malcolm Forbes, “education is the replacing of an empty mind with an open mind”. The 6th President of the United States of America, John Quincy Adams further said: “to furnish the means of acquiring knowledge is the greatest benefit that can be conferred upon mankind. It prolongs life itself and enlarges the sphere of existence”. 

The English essayist in the Spectator of 1711 said: “Education is a companion which no misfortune can depress, no crime can destroy, no energy can alienate, no despotism can enslave. At home, a friend; Abroad, an introduction; In solitude, a solace; and in society, an ornament to genius. Without it, what is Man? A splendid slave, a reasoning savage.” An illiterate or a half educated (WAEC/NECO) governor, will be a splendid slave or a reasoning savage or a man that will be afraid of having educated, experience and exposed minds around him. His appointees will be mostly criminals, cult members, militants and of course, sycophants. This is the pain and the poverty of Bayelsa. A man, especially a governor or a commissioner, with little knowledge is a dangerous thing. Prejudice, it is well known, are most difficult to eradicate from the heart whose soil has never been loosened or fertilized by education; they grow there, firm as weeds among stones.

Those who think running illiterate government, or reducing the educated to nothing, must know that education makes a people easy to lead, but difficult to drive; easy to govern, but impossible to enslave. This being true, the people of Bayelsa must embrace education and knowledge, must insist that their children get education, must insist that the government must be populated with men and women who are really and properly educated, so that they can be teachers and leaders.

The Italian novelist, Umberto Eco said: “Learning does not consist only of knowing what we must or we can do, but also knowing what we could do and perhaps should not do”.

When Gen. Yakubu Gowon left office in 1976, he went to Warwick University in the United Kingdom to read Political Science and eventually obtained a PhD. Admiral Mike Akhigbe who became second-in-command to Gen. AbdulsalamiAbubakar, after serving as Governor of Ondo and Lagos States went back to the University of Lagos to study Law and eventually went to the Nigeria Law School and was called to Bar. Today, he is a lawyer. I am trying to highlight the importance of education as emphasized by these leaders. Therefore, it is important that some of these gubernatorial candidates with tall ambitions should make use of the fees paid to the parties for the application forms to improve on their poor education and in some cases, recommended to go back to basics. This is the path of honour and progress for the Bayelsa people and Bayelsa government. Ambition should be graduated. It was the 20th President of the United States of America, James Abraham Garfield in his letter of acceptance in 1880 who said: “Next in importance to freedom and Justice, is popular education, without which neither freedom nor justice can be permanently maintained. Absolutely!

We all know what happens to people who stay in the middle of the road. They get run over. There is active evil not speaking when a man should – Franz Fanon. The very essence of a free government consists in considering offices as public trusts, bestowed for the good of the State and the country, and not for the benefit of an individual or party.

That list of candidates for governor is an indictment of how low and cheap politics is in Bayelsa State. A State of the proud warriors of the Ijaws, a state of people as distinguished as Prof. Ayebaemi Spiff; Prof. KemseOkoko, Late Theodore Ibibiye Francis distinguished professor of medicine and first vice-chancellor Federal University of Technology, Akure; Prof. DieteCookey; Prof. C.T.I Odu; Late Ernest Ikoli, Late Prof. Ogionwo, one-time Secretary to Government of old River State, cannot be so rubbished by all manners of people of low academic cum intellectual qualification.

There are times when silence is golden. This is not one of the times. This is the time to speak. How come, these semi-literates dare dream to be governor in a state of so many intellectuals. They will be governor and rule by force, by coercion, divide and rule – the blind, leading the blind. Jesus wept! The Chinese Philosopher, Confucius (King Fu-tzu) once said: “An oppressive government is more to be feared than a tiger. In the past, our government is more of conservatism; discards prescription, shrinks from principle, disavows progress; having rejected all respect for antiquity, (age and wisdom), it offers no redress for the present, and makes no preparation for the future. Albert Einstein, German-born mathematical physicist was right when he said that: “The State is made for man”, not man for the State. In today’s Nigeria, I cannot but agree with Ralph Waldo, an American writer in the Conduct of Life (1860), he said, “Politics is a deleterious profession, like some poisonous handicrafts. Men in power have no opinions, but may be had cheap for any opinion, for any purpose. I hold it, that a little rebellion, now and then, is a good thing, and as necessary in the political world as storms in the physical”. Alexander Hamilton, American Statesman asked: “Why has government been instituted at all? The passion of men will not conform to the dictates of reason and justice without restraint.

I make bold to warn that we must be careful those we allow by default, compromise, act of commission or omission, to rule us. We must stand up and speak. Today, I believe one man with courage can make a majority. Bayelsa, as a state, need spiritual deliverance. Men and women of God must pray for the redemption of the State. Since the creation of the State, since the proclamation of Egbesu, Bayelsa has lost its spiritual faith and has been, above all else, a State in search of a future. But what experience and history teach is this, that people and government have never learned anything from history.

Those who aspire to govern must know that the care of human lives and happiness and not their destruction, is the first and only legitimate object of good government. Let everyone know that, he that would govern others first should be the master of himself. The first duty of government is to see that people have food, fuel, and clothes. The second that they have means of moral and intellectual education.

 A new race of men is springing up to govern the nation; they are the hunters after popularity, merely ambitious, not of the honour so much as of the profits of office-the demagogues, whose principles hang lazily upon them, and who follow not so much what is right, as what leads to temporary vulgar applause. According to Jonathan Swift, Irish-born English writer: “Politics, as the word is understood, is nothing but corruption’’.

God give us men of education, honour, integrity, the wisdom to know and select good men to join them in governance. I remember what Bill Gates, the American billionaire said: “My talent starts and ends in selection of men that work for me. Uneducated, inexperienced and unexposed rulers are afraid of intellectuals, afraid of men and women who can contribute to governance because they are afraid of exposing their ignorance and half education. The 26th American President, Theodore Roosevelt said that “the best executive is the one who has sense enough to pick good men to do what he wants done, and self-restraint enough to keep from meddling with them while they do it.”

 This is what happens in America. In Nigeria if you know, if you are brilliant, you are a threat. This is probably the main reason, why men of honour and integrity have left politics and governance in the hands of the uninitiated, who thinks more of their stomachs and wallets. They do this simply because their heads are empty, bereft of reasoning and sound judgment.  Bayelsa should not be allowed to take this daunting route to perdition. A word, they say is enough for the wise!

Prof Steve Azaiki, OON, is the National Co-coordinator, National Think-Tank Initiative.

 The Guardian: January 24th, 2012