Acute cynism and perpetual analysis will results in solution paralysis, the author says.
The average Nigerian has the right to be cynical! This is what becomes of a people who have been made to endure years of unfulfilled expectations in governance. We are a people with a brutalised psyche. We have hoped for better days but got disappointment in return so we would rather not hope again. That sounds just alright until we realise that it is the nature of the human spirit to live in hope. To modify the popular title from the literary icon, Wole Soyinka, the man dies in him/her who loses hope! It is hope that makes us get up from the bed in the morning, that makes us try again, that makes us push on with life in spite of the odds. When we stop to live in hope, our mind is automatically reconditioned to a “failure” or “defeat” mode. Then, even though we live, the life we live become like mere shadow.
A mind in defeat mode is a cynical mind. Never believing, ever doubting. A mild cynical mind dismisses any suggested solutions with a wave of the hand. But I like to address the variant I call “acute cynicism”. The acutely cynical mind goes to length in analysing a problem only to show you why the proffered solutions cannot work. Unfortunately, one thing that escapes his radar of intellectual prognostication is finding the solutions that can work. He is therefore, a specialist in pointing out the impossible or implausible but totally helpless in pointing out or attempting to do the necessary. Simply put, the acute cynic lives in the paralysis of analysis. He has lost hope and his mind has been conditioned to see nothing but obstacles.
I have seen a wind of cynicism both of the mild and the acute types greeting the recent announcement of the major opposition political parties in Nigeria of their merger and formation of the all Progressives Congress, APC. Even those who have been involved in the search for political change in the country seem to have been caught up in this web of cynicism. Many questions have been raised, with accompanying analysis all aimed at just creating a doubt as to the viability of this move as an alternative to the PDP’s legacy of rudderless governance. In as much as I concede that the merger of the parties is not in itself a solution to our political quagmire, I believe that it holds the possibility of throwing up the space for more intense engagement by citizens who have good intentions for the greatness of our nation.
I’ll return to this point in my conclusion. Let me try to take some of the issues I have heard people raise.
Some say the new party is a marriage of strange bed-fellows. People who peddle this view seem to forget that there are good people and bad people everywhere, including the religious orders and houses. The parties in this merger are coming with all manner of personalities but we seem to forget that the product of the merger is a new party that will have its constitution, manifesto and methods of doing things. Before the new party takes a definite shape, there is a window of opportunity for the cynics to jump in and create power blocs through which they can influence the shape of the party. That is how to play politics, rather than just sitting there and criticising.
Another issue that many critics have raised borders on the Ideology of the new Party. “They don’t have an ideology”, says the critic, “they just want to grab power”. Unfortunately, people who brandish this “ideology talk” leave one wondering if they understand the meaning of political ideology. I have seen folks use the lack of ideology to write off any political movement without defining what they mean by “ideology”. They usually confine the meaning of political ideology to the American model of democrats and conservatives. What the cynic fails to realise is that an ideology is a value system that develops or coalesces over time. It is not merely a statement or declaration! It is an orientation to solving a perceived social, economic or political problem; hence, you have those whose political ideology is all about protecting the environment, emphasising traditional values (like monarchy), promoting racial, class or ethnic superiority, etc. If you define “ideology” in terms of liberal or conservative, socialist or capitalist, left wing or right wing, etc, with due respect, you have read a lot of books, and I’d counsel that you book the next flight to utopia. Real life situations are ever dynamic and cannot be fitted into ideological straightjackets. At this level of Nigeria’s development, I’d rather align with the candidate or party who has clear cut solutions to the pressing socio-economic problems of the country, than the one who preaches socialism or capitalism, liberalism or conservativism – all of which could just be high sounding clichés devoid of content. So when I see a person or party set to fight corruption headlong, I’m more inclined to get closer to him than to the one who regales me with empty clichés in the name of ideology. The traditional ideological mould which pitches socialism against capitalism has proven so inadequate in articulating and solving the developmental problems facing mankind hence the western world is becoming more socialist while China has become capitalist! So much for “ideology”
Therefore, when a group of persons, even though some have questionable antecedents, come together to say they are unhappy about the way the country has been run over the years and hold themselves out as capable of providing alternative leadership within the political process, the least anyone can do is to see how their thoughts and intentions develop into a concrete plan of action. Even at that, you are not obliged to agree with them but that must be based on intelligent reasoning. We shouldn’t go looking for “ideology” as if it is one esoteric cure-all portion. Let us rally round the ideology of fighting corruption, enthroning merit in our national life, providing the much needed infrastructure for socio-economic development, etc. Better still, anyone who thinks she/he knows how things ought to be done more properly should develop his/her own political base as a counter balance to perceived lack of “ideology”. The only true alternative to what you are criticising is what you are doing.
Similarly, I find it difficult to comprehend this talk about the merger being all about grabbing political power. Please, what else do people look for in politics if not to influence the way a society if governed? A political party is either in “power” or aspiring to take control of “power”. This is pretty elementary! Ok, should the merger be about cheering the present leadership? Should it be about settling domestic disputes? Organising owambe? Or sharing subsidy fund? It must necessarily be about “grabbing political power” – whatever that means, because that is the only way to show us what they have to offer in terms of alternative governance. It is either we have fundamentally misunderstood the nature of politics or we have sunk too deep into cynicism.
We are all agreed that there are fundamental problems hindering the progress of our nation, corruption, violence, incompetence in leadership, mediocrity, etc; except our mind is already working in the defeat mode, otherwise we should be proffering solutions and working towards solutions rather than writing off what another person is doing. Even our friends who are trying to “reform” the PDP are by far more honourable than the person who is paralysed in and by his/her analysis. For the acute cynic who is criticising and doing nothing, please, channel that same energy to productive engagement today. Pick up your broken pieces of hope and become a carrier of the message of a new Nigeria. Tell people around you about the possibility of a new nation and the role they must play in their private lives and little corners. For the persons who are involved in the search for change but who think they derive further legitimacy by writing off what others are doing even before they see the shape of it, I encourage you to conserve that energy and channel it into what you are building. It is the efforts of women and men of goodwill spread over time and space that can bring change in any given social situation.
Finally, a cynical mind is a defeated mind. It is only a helpless man who whines over a problem that demands solution. Perpetual analysis only results in paralysis. Once again, the only true alternative to what you criticise is what you are doing.