LECTURE DELIVERED BY HIS EXCELLENCY SEN. ANYIM PIUS ANYIM, GCON, AT THE RETREAT FOR PDP CANDIDATES FROM KOGI STATE FOR THE 2023 GENERAL ELECTIONS.
Let me express my profound appreciation to the leadership of the PDP in Kogi State for this retreat. The timing of this retreat, which is coming just few days to the commencement of political campaigns for the 2023 general elections, is most perfect. I believe that this retreat will prepare our candidates from Kogi State, for the various elective offices at both the federal and state levels, for positive engagements with the people towards responsible and effective representation and service delivery.
This is easily my first public political outing since after our presidential primary election in May. I am particularly excited about the topic assigned to me for this retreat “Returning power to the people” This topic, to me, seeks to re-invent our party slogan “Power to the people”. Returning power to the people is the only way we can deepen democracy, guarantee peace and unity and facilitate development. This topic, therefore, should be our collective goal as a people, political party and country. It should also be the main assignment for all our candidates when you are elected into office in 2023 by the grace of God.
The two major components of my topic are:
POWER AND PEOPLE
The concept of power (which is the governance of the social man) is a natural demand of the organized human society. At the primitive age, man was a lord unto himself and has no need to exercise rulership over another.
It is noteworthy that at creation, God did not make provision for man to exercise rulership (power) over another rather man was only permitted to rule over other creatures.
Gen 1:27-28 “So God created man in his own image, in the image of God created he him; male and female created he them.
28: And God blessed them, and God said unto them, “Be fruitful, and multiply, and replenish the earth, and subdue it: and have dominion over the fish of the sea, and over the fowl of the air, and over every living thing that moveth upon the earth.”
Please note that the language of rulership God prescribed is “Subdue and have Dominion”.
God did not wish that man should rule over the other because he knows that the heart of man is inherently wicked.
Gen 6:5 And God saw that the wickedness of man was great in the earth, and that every imagination of the thoughts of his heart was only evil continually.
The rulership of man over man became necessary as humans started to get organized into society. During the mediaeval era, it was believed that to exercise the role of rulership over another man is divine and only God confess such role on kings who then exercises power over the people. the origin of the idea of the power belonging to the people started with the concept of the equality of all humans. This could be traced to 539BC when Cyrus the Great (taken a queue from the Greece idea of democracy) conquered Babylon and freed the slaves and declared that all races are equal and free to choose their own religion.
Human history is dotted with the struggle to enthrone systems that guarantees the equality of all humans. One of the earliest is the introduction of democracy in ancient Greece in 507BC, Democracy is defined as the government of the people, by the people and for the people, the most notable attribute of democracy is the assumption that power belongs to the people who could in turn delegate the power to a few elected representatives.
The second remarkable assumption of democracy flows from the fact that since it is the people that selects their representative, that power belongs to them. The concept of democracy and the relationship between the government and the people have continued to gain more enlightenment over the years. In this wise Abraham Lincoln postulated that;
“No man is good enough to govern another man without that other man’s consent”.
The most operative word in the whole modern concept of democracy is “consent” it is this consent that actually constitute the real power. The word “consent” in this wise constitute the mandate of the ruler to rule over others and this mandate can be withdraw through an electoral process. The Universal Declaration of Human Rights captures it this way:
“Article 21(1) everyone has the right to take part in the government of his country, directly or through freely chosen representatives.
21(3) the will of the people shall be the basis of the authority of government, this will shall be expressed in periodic and genuine elections which shall be by universal equal suffrage and shall be held by secret vote or by equivalent free voting procedure.”
From The Universal Declaration of Human Rights cited above, I think four key factors that are of importance to us in this lecture are:
I shall discuss these four key factors above alongside the Nigerian experience and the roadmap to the promised land. But before I do that, let me note that human history is replete with the struggle to consolidate the principle that power belongs to the people. For time and space, I will only mention the following as part of the successes that delivered power to the people at various points in human history.
- Magna Carta 1215 in England.
- The Declaration of the rights of man and of the citizens of 1789 in France.
- American War of Independence.
- Universal Declaration of Independence.
- The struggles for independence.
- In Nigeria – The G34 movement to restore democracy in Nigeria 1998/99
ROAD MAP TO RETURNING POWER TO THE PEOPLE
The central issues for our discussion today as mentioned above are Government, Country, People, and Power. I shall here under discuss their roles in the successes achieved in other climes and then hedge them into the Nigerian experience and recommend a road map.
- THERE MUST BE A GOVERNMENT BY THE PEOPLE
I have mentioned above that Democracy is the Government of the people, for the people and by the people. The ordinary interpretation of this definition is that the Government must be by the consent of the people and its central objective must be to protect the liberty and welfare of the people.
It was Henry David Thoreau who said:
“The effect of a good Government is to make life more valuable – of a bad one, to make it less valuable”.
This no doubt is the objective of government of the people. it is natural that if the government is constituted by the people, it will commit to the objective of good governance because failing to do so, the people will replace that government. Here lies the power of the people i.e the power to elect a government and the power to vote out that government if it is not performing to expectation.
The struggle to restore democracy in Nigeria was a struggle to return power to the people. That journey was tortious, fraughted with danger to the lives of many people but because the people were resolute and had only one enemy – the military government that was not of the people, they succeeded in 1999.
Let me at this time pay tribute to our heroes of democracy on whose sweat we are here today. Namely Dr. Alex Ekwueme, Dr. Adamu Ciroma, Abubakar Rimi, Chief Bola Ige, Alhaji MKO Abiola and many others most of whom are now of the blessed memory. (May their souls rest in peace)
My charge to you today is that as you seek elective offices, commit to yourself and God that the labour of our heroes past shall not be in vain.
- THERE MUST BE A COUNTRY
A country is a geopolitical entity with definite boundaries. In all the examples mentioned above, they people are committed to their existence within a definite geopolitical entity. They believed that they have no other country and so redeeming their leadership is a matter they have no choice on. The Americans, though a collection of diverse people, believed that they had no other place to return to and so determined to liberate themselves and set for themselves the American dream. In the case of the United Kingdom, all the communities under the king’s influence resolved to unite to redeem their leadership and so came together as a United Kingdom to wrestle power from the King. In Nigeria, the G34 rose in 1998 to the challenge of recovering power from military. They stuck together in their determination to save their county. They stuck together in their belief in Nigeria as there only country and were able without arms to wrestle power from the military in 1998/99.
Today it has become fashionable for people to exude pride in being a regional leader; speaking for their region, fighting for their region, defending their region, protecting their region, and therefore, there is no country. It was Chinua Achebe who wrote the book “There was a Country”. For the people to have power, there must first be a country. The struggle for power is a patriotic duty. Absence of Patriotism is indication of no nationality consciousness. Nigeria as a country has become a gaming theater where people come to scramble for what they will take back to their regions. Policies are made and broken to satisfy regional or personal interests. An average ‘successful’ Nigerian man will prefer to secure in another country, what he has gotten from the theater call Nigeria, because he does not believe he has a country.
Nigeria will never make good progress until we resolve to build a nation for our collective wellbeing, progress and growth and not as a no-man’s land where people come to scramble for their personal interests and those of their families and tribes. So, the number one road map to returning power to the people is for each and every one of you when elected to commit to building Nigeria as your only country.
3. THERE MUST BE A PEOPLE.
The people must not be of one tribe or community but must have been bound by one destiny or one dream. They must be united towards achieving that common destiny. They will never be divided by tribe, religion or sectional interests.
In England – the English, Scottish, Wales etc were united in one purpose. It did not matter to them that the King was Scottish or their brother or tribes’ man.
In the case of America – the thirteen colonies were united under a single purpose: New-York, New Hampshire, Massachusetts, Rhodes Island, Connecticut, New Jersey etc, In-fact they formed the United States of America to defeat the British.
Of particular interest to this paper is the success of the G34, that gave birth to the democracy we enjoy today. The political leaders of the day were united across board. They were not divided by tribe or religion. Dr. Alex Ekwueme was the Chairman but Alhaji Abubaka Rimi, Alhaji Adamu Ciroma, Chief Bola Iga and others across the country were all the key drivers. They did not call regional meetings. They saw themselves as one people struggling to secure the rights of Nigerians. No doubt they succussed.
Today there are no “Nigerian people”. You have the Fulani, the Yoruba, the Igbo or the North, the South or the Christian and the Muslim. The people’s power has become elusive because there are no “Nigerian people”. To the Northerner, a leader from the North can do no wrong and so must be supported in all circumstances and at all times. The same goes for the Southerners. This is the Nigerian tragedy and if you like the, sabotage of the people. The people are divided on the basis of mundane considerations and as such collectively endangered. For the people to retain power here in Nigeria, there must first and foremost be a “Nigerian people” who would be bound together by common destiny or if you like by a common national dream. The G34 saw the military as the enemies of the people and where united against them. Today, the people have become their own enemy, so the people have sabotaged themselves. “The third road map therefore is that all of you must commit to seek to reinvent the Nigerian People.”
- EQUALITY, EQUITY AND JUSTICE
In all the examples above, one thing was common; they were struggles to enthrone equity, equality and justice, the peoples power consists on the desire of the people to enthrone equality and equity. Any society or human system that is not able to enthrone and sustain equity, equality and justice will certainly not command the peoples patriotic commitment to any cause. The reason is simple, you cannot get justice through injustice. The power of the people in democracy is anchored on the need to deliver equity, equality and justice to all by reason of their nationality. In our case of today in Nigeria where equity and justice appear illusive, peoples power is certain to be absent as oppression and manipulation will never allow the people to be united. Let me reiterate that capacity and competence are important national assets and wherever they are down played, it is sure to jeopardize the wellbeing of the society.
5. THERE MUST BE NATIONAL DREAM
In all the examples of the pursuit of the peoples right (power) above, the primary purpose was to build an egalitarian society with property rights, Human dignity, anchored on citizenship and the need to protect the rights of citizens as national assets. These and more constitute the national dream which must be pursued with patriotic commitment from both leaders and the citizens. You often hear in developed countries that public officers resigned because they were accused of breaching the trust of their offices. Here in Nigeria, people from the tribes of the indicted public officers will rise to their defence.
We will need to re-create the spirit that propelled the G34 movement. To them, it did not matter to the Northern politicians then that the military rulers were from their region. Now, tribal jingoists would go the extra mile to destroy what otherwise should be harnessed as national assets simply because the owners of such assets are not their tribes’ men.
Nigeria can only make steady and sustainable progress when we consciously pursue a common national dream that will convert every resource or endowment in every region to national assets in the interest of all and sundry.
Distinguished ladies and gentlemen.
- Whenever I look at the dream the founding fathers of PDP banqueted us.
- Whenever I look at the umbrella signifying accommodation for all on the basis of equality.
- Whenever I look at the slogan of our party – Power to the People.
- Whenever I look at the principle of power rotation as the basis for equity, justice and fairness…
I remorsefully come to the conclusion that my generation have betrayed the trust of the people.
To all of you seeking the mandate of the people to serve them in various offices, I urge you to resolve to commit to contributing your individual and collective quota to implementing our National Anthem.
I thank you for your attention.