What We Can Do With Power, By Jerome-Mario Utomi

Power properly understood is nothing but, the ability to achieve a purpose. It is the strength required to bring about social, economic, political cultural and religious changes. What is needed is a realization that power without love is reckless and abusive, and love without power is sentimental and anaemic. Power at its best is love implementing the demand of justice, and justice at its best is power correcting everything that stands against love.

From these words of Martin Lurther King Jr, it may not be a wrong assertion to conclude that; there is nothing wrong with power; that power could be used both constructively and destructively; that for man to function well in any given position of authority, he/she must identify that power is not a complete end but looks up to something further; it cannot itself be the ultimate goal; that power is valuable according to the use to which it may be put. And most importantly, power in the estimation of the Marxists is but the ability to protect one’s interest.

Chief among such examples of the destructive exercise of power include Pol Pot.  It was in the news that while in power in Cambodia between 1975 and 1978, he used his position to cause the death of more than two million people in Cambodia – a small country in Southeast Asia bordered by Vietnam and Thailand. This is a verifiable fact.

The story is not different here in Africa as it is factually backed that late Robert Mugabe in his quest to hold on to power, massacred over 20,000 of his people and not animals, destroyed the nation’s economy and watched with disinterest while his wife looted millions of dollars. Fresh in our memories are the Liberia episode in the early 1990s, Gnassingbe Eyadema of Togo and Mobutu Seseseko of Zaire. Specifically in Africa, there are even more accounts of gradual and silent encroachment/abuse of power by those in positions of authority, than by violent and sudden usurpations.

Conversely, talking about constructive use of power, the thought of Lee Kuan Yew, the Prime Minister of Singapore (as he then was), naturally comes flooding. It is recorded that Lee grew fifteen times, independent Singapore with a GDP of $3billion in 1965 to $46billion in 1997 and its economy became the 8th highest per capital GNP in the world in 1997 according to the World Bank ranking.

Back home is a similar account,  shortly after independence, Chief Obafemi Awolowo,  then Premier of the Western region, Nigeria constructively used his position to better the life chances of his people of the region-  infrastructurally, socioeconomically. And through quality and affordable education set the region on a hyper-modern pathway.

This feat or a combination of other people-purposed achievements, without doubt, explains why  four decades after his reign, he is daily remembered and used in virtually all the primary schools (both public and private), as an example of a great leader

Indeed, they defined power in the image of their actions

But today, that narrative has changed. National development is not only in trouble; rather education, power, health and infrastructure are the worst victims of the present ineptitudes.                                 

On the contrary, when you build down precisely what went wrong, one thing seems to stand out. It is the shocking reality that the same qualities that created success in the past are the same qualities that undermine success today.

In many ways, the present administration may have a sincere desire to move the nation forward, but there are three major militating factors. First, there is no clear definition of our problem as a nation, the goals to be achieved, or the means chose to address the problems and to achieve the goals. Secondly, the system has virtually no consideration for connecting the poor with good means of livelihood-food, job and security. Thirdly, though they constitutionally possess the political powers to improve the life chances of the governed,  government at all levels daily manifest non-possession of political will to perform                                                                                                                                                                                                           their constitutional responsibilities.

This is the only possible explanations for this situation.

Take the education sector as a living reality, globally, it is  a well-considered believe that that; with sound and well educational institutions, a country is as good as made -as the institutions will turn out all-rounded manpower to continue with the development of the society driven by well thought out ideas, policies, programmes, and projects.

Similarly, it’s been argued elsewhere that education is in fact, an extremely valuable strategy for solving many of the society’s ills. In an age where information has more economic value than ever before, it’s obvious that education should have a higher national priority. It is also clear that democracies are more likely to succeed when there is widespread access to high-quality education.

But despite these virtues, attributes and exceptions about education, here in Nigeria, the sector remains in the ‘valleys of the shadow of death’ occasioned by perennial underfunding. Standing as a telling proof to this claim is the budgetary provision for education in 2019 which got N620.5bn (7.05 per cent), an amount that is far below the United Nation Educational Scientific, and Cultural Organization [UNESCO], recommendation.

This failure speaks volume and points at FG’s unwillingness to engineer national development and signposts an administration that is not interested in using the power properly.

What about the state of the nation’s infrastructures-roads in particular? Definitely, it elicits but similar response-just recently, it was reported that Minister of Works and Housing Babatunde Raji Fashola(SAN), instead of telling  Nigerians about the efforts being made to fix the federal roads, told bewildered Nigerians that the roads in the country are not as bad as they are saying it. This cannot be further from the truth.  

To reverse this unpalatable demonstration of power, government at all levels must develop the political will to use power creatively and profitably by recognizing that the need to have the future of this country discussed has become eminently urgent.

Education must be well funded to help lecturers carry out scholarly researches promote smooth academic calendar; rid Nigerian schools of dilapidated and overstretched learning facilities and aid our tertiary educational institutions to produce graduates with the manpower needed by the nation’s industrial sector.

The nation must also come up with programmes to sustain the youths who for the moment have lost all fears of punishment and yielded obedience to the power of violence. Their fathers and grandfathers embezzled millions of naira meant for development projects. They used the money to acquire arms for electoral purposes. They have armed the youths to unleash terror on their perceived enemies’. The youths seem not to be interested in dropping the guns so easily. Particularly, the Alamajiris in the north must be reintegrated back to school, so should  challenges of the youths in the south-south whose farmlands and other means of livelihood have been destroyed through oil prospecting and explorations be  addressed, 

Jerome-Mario Utomi([email protected]), writes from Lagos.

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