It is fast becoming a norm in the country for serving leaders, their aides and public officials to perceive any critical commentary on their activities and performance as an orchestrated attempt to pull them down by enemies or the opposition. This attitude smacks of arrogance and reveals a latent despotic disposition that should be checked.
It is instructive that the strength a democracy has over other forms of governance is that those who are elected to govern are under periodic scrutiny by the people who elected them. Such scrutiny is done in varied ways ranging from the occasional voluntary or un-solicited commentary on the performance or otherwise of such elected leaders to the casting of votes for or against such leaders at appointed times.
Whenever elected leaders attempt to censor the manner, content and timing of the people’s assessment of their performance or stewardship or prefer to have a slavish or non critical electorate and citizenry, then such attitudinal frame signals a remarkable departure away from democratic ethos, and a tendency towards the trappings of despotism.
Criticisms emanating either from opposing parties or the populace in any democracy helps to shape the policies and direction of governments towards the successful pursuit of a common good within the specific tenure of a government, not at the expiration of a government’s tenure.
If Nigerians are bemoaning the unsatisfactory performance of the ruling elite or their failure to deliver on minimum provisions for the well being of the populace, especially in areas of infrastructure, human development and security of lives and property and government’s insensitivity or tardy pace, can expressions on these concerns be really termed to be antagonistic, unnecessary, mischievous or untimely? Must we all wait for the collapse of the entire system before our leaders are called to order?
The Chinese have a saying that the journey of a thousand miles starts with a footstep. If one has ten thousand miles ahead of him and yet has spent so much time trying to take the first footstep, should the people whose destinies lie in the successful execution of such marathon or sprint race fold their hands and wait till eternity before they can see that their hopes on the verge of suffering delay?
Nigerians have waited for so long and are weary of waiting. Ever since independence, successive leaders, governments and policy makers in the country have bored us all with sweet and ambitious budgetary and policy speeches, mesmerized the populace with impressive economic statistics that are at variance with the poor living standards of the people. Indeed, no one really expects that any singular administration would concretely fix at once all the problems bedeviling the Nigerian polity; Problems that have evolved as a result of decades of neglect, executive rascality and mismanagement. However, there has to be real signs of a deliberate, consistent and progressive move to take on these developmental challenges. If these happen, Nigerians will definitely perceive it.
However, democratic culture demands that elected leaders and public officials maintain a temperament that cultivates and tolerates critical reviews of their service. Such critical commentary or public disapproval should in no way be discouraged, jettisoned or considered in bad faith. If sifted properly, such critical reviews even when they emanate from perceived political foes can be used to enhance performance towards the common good.
It is age old wisdom for one to search for the black goat when it is yet day, for when night falls the black goat may roam unnoticed and it will be late at that point. Assessment is more timely and relevant when the negative trend can be reversed or can still be corrected rather than when redemption would not be tenable.
If Nigeria is a democracy, then Nigerians need not wait for Judgment Day to opine on the proper stewardship or otherwise of their leaders. And more importantly, leaders ought to be tolerant of criticism especially from those they lead or should serve. This is the beauty of democracy.