By Segun Dipe
If you ever come across the phrase, “nasty, brutish and short,” then you would remember the book titled “Leviathan,” in which Thomas Hobbes expressed his views about the nature of human being and the necessity of governance and societies.
Leviathan itself is a sea monster. Hobbes used it as a metaphor for absolutism, which is the political doctrine and practice of unlimited centralized authority and absolute sovereignty as vested in a monarch or dictator.
Hobbes lived around the 16th-17th Century and couldn’t have lived up to the 21st Century. While he might have had a low view of humans in those years, his description would still not have had more effect then than it had in 2020. Yet, his description of life as “nasty, brutish and short,” is apt enough to describe the outgoing year.
2020 is one year no one can exhaustively talk about. It was a year of upheavals – social, economic and political; a year like no other, when people were oscillating psychologically between sanity and insanity. To be sane was insane and to be insane, sane. Life was truly solitary, poor, nasty, brutish and short. Death came down to a penny per piece. History would remember 2020 as a year when human beings were made to stay indoor and isolate from one another for the better part, while animals freely move about and interact.
The pundits have a name for 2020. They call it the year of “new normal.” Well, it is unlikely this would change in Year 2021.
No one is anticipating the new year to deviate much in terms of social disintegration. After all, the second wave of the COVID-19 pandemic is here already and it does not appear as if it will decimate any less, neither will it abate too soon.
But with the ravaging nature of the pandemic comes a new realization. While it appears to be disruptive in ways no one could have imagined, there is the positive side to it, which is in redefining leadership among the human race. It is calling for a more human-centric and radically driven leadership style, as opposed to the usual egocentric one.
In Nigeria, even as we join the large world to stay away from one another as prescribed by the COVID-19 Protocols, the year would foist on the citizenry some form of chaos – information chaos. Signs are there already that Nigerians would be more misinformed than informed politically in 2021. So while COVID-19 is busy ravaging the people, bigotry will also take its toll and the people should be looking forward to the true meaning of what Hon. Patrick Obahiagbon had hitherto described as “Political Higi-Haga.”
Generally, it is fashionable to describe the Nigerian political landscape as a swamp. Everyone claims to know what is good for Nigeria, and would always explain it from the perspective of selfish interest. Over the years, democracy has turned to a vulgar spectacle of deceit, ambition and opportunism. Trust in the political institutions has sunk to its lowest, with the politicians held in greater contempt.
As if this is not bad enough, some people have continued to compound the squabbling with an unnecessary narrow-mindedness. In 2021, such cranks would capitalize on the fact that while the social-economic life keeps depreciating, politics would be the only solace for the people to surrender their hope. To paraphrase Leon Trotsky, you may not care about politics, politics would care about you in 2021.
Predictably, the political space in Year 2021 will not be occupied by the players themselves. They will take the back seat, allowing the bigots, who have mastered the art of lying in the name of packaging and de-marketing to take the centre stage. Those ones are good at turning information upside down for the citizens who want to be informed and make the latter to gullibly believe any and every information. Of course, the people, would be information hungry, and would care less as to whether or not they are being informed or misinformed. They would accept every opinion as fact, notwithstanding its veracity. They may not bother to check whether or not most of such opinions are falling short of true knowledge, let alone wisdom.
The sad reality is that these bigots will not like to be addressed as bigots, either because they don’t realize that they are true bigots or because they would want to convince themselves that their bigotry is perfect for people’s consumption.
While the country’s presidential election is still two years from 2021, the real war for the throne has actually started and will hot up in this new year. As an election-obsessed country, people love to be seen as carrying a champion on their shoulder, and they would decide who the champion is by applying three qualities of (1) deep pocket, (2) political trajectory and (3) imprimatur, a la Baba so pe…
Well, every other quality has always been relegated to the back burner, while those “acceptable” parameters would only keep pushing the country further into years of misrule, massive corruption and squandering of development opportunities.
It is in human nature to route for someone of preference in any contest. Good or bad, man is a cliquish species. If humans were prone to agreeing spontaneously about their common life, there would be no need to exercise power and no need for politics. But if the above parameters were permissible in the past, the bigots who are already showcasing their talents should realize that they are no longer fashionable in today’s Nigerian democracy.
According to the ancient Greek philosopher, Aristotle, what makes human politics unique is that we struggle not only for power, but also for justice. Other animals can communicate pleasure or pain, but only human language can express the differences between good and evil, right and wrong, justice and injustice.
Thus, while the bigots continue to circulate their misinformation in 2021, the citizenry must not be gullible. They must be willing to throw those old parameters into backwaters and start asking for new parameters. In their attempt at selling their rotten apples, they, the bigots, now on the prowl, should know that they would be heightening negative emotions from the people, and should be prepared to meet their match. Nigeria requires in the coming election those who have already unlearned the norms that had been stifling its success and have learned what can shape the country, not only for the new normal of today, but even for the next normal of tomorrow. So, bigots beware!
•Dipe writes as a political analyst.