“The difference between a politician and a statesman is that a politician thinks about the next election while the statesman thinks about the next generation,” James Freeman Clarke
Am looking for statesmen but most of who I see on stage are politicians, making promises and sanctimonious speeches I know they do not have the intention to keep and will never keep. I see a credibility gap. I see serious incongruence between what I am told and what they are doing or not doing. It is always about the next election, the jostling and hustling for positions in the corridors of powers, to have a grand and an enviable place in the sun. The style is demagoguery, the appealing to emotions, the cajoling of the gallery, what we want to hear. The honest man does not last. He gets run over. Man and woman may not be prefect but there is something call integrity or character that both man and woman forsake at own peril. And my grandmother argued that politicians and ‘character’ are strange bedfellow.
There are stellar citizens though, a microscopic minority, you may call statesmen or stateswomen; a little group of men and women upholding what is right regardless of the popularity or unpopularity of their positions. They are not on a vote-canvassing mission; their eyes are not set on the next elections. They are actuated by nothing but the desire to grow society.
Since politicians eye the next election, there is often a disconnection between them and the people, between what they are looking at and the people’s realities. Thus, there is often a widening gap between the facts of national life and what the government assumes them to be; between what the people think they want and what the government gives them. The schism between the people and their politicians can grow wider. The time for citizenship is nigh then; to ensure the politician stays on track and that the space between our now and their next election is not filled with despair and disappointment. Eternally vigilance it will require. Insistence on accountability and transparency should be our way. From that moment to the next election, we should be speaking truth to power and to each other and insisting on nothing but the truth. It would time for patriotism, supporting the direction of the politicians when right and standing up for the right when they veer off. When we allow politicians to rule over our lives, to direct, to shape and control; when we become apathetic to how we are ruled, we may suffer the fate of the Athenians:
“When the Athenians finally wanted not to give to society but for society to give to them, when the freedom they wished for most was freedom from responsibility then Athens ceased to be free and was never free again.” Edward Gibbon
In case we want to hero-worship or develop a cult around a politician or have sacred cows or forget the great sacrifice others made, the torture at the hands of our Gestapo, the privation, the exile some were forced into, the torturous Mile 2 that some were sent to, our equivalent of a gulag, the disappearances and the kidnappings by night, the horrendous end that some innocent souls met, the trauma and despondency that families are still nursing and the children who will never see father again, we should remember this:
‘….a people may prefer a free government, but if, from indolence, or carelessness, or cowardice, or want of public spirit, they are unequal to the exertions necessary for preserving it; if they will not fight for it when it is directly attacked; if they can be deluded by the artifices used to cheat them out of it; if by momentary discouragement, or temporary panic, or a fit of enthusiasm for an individual, they can be induced to lay their liberties at the feet even of a great man, or trust him with powers which enable him to subvert their institutions; in all these cases they are more or less unfit for liberty,,,,,,,,.’ John Stuart Mills
With a paucity of statesmen and stateswomen, we ought to keep our eyes on the politician, the one whose mind is always set on the next election, whose ulterior motive is to gain political capital out of everything, even human misery and catastrophe. There are no good or bad politician; just men and women who know their interest, often to have ‘power’, ‘control’ and influence over all else, and go to get it through elections and other means. Now that is cynicism, you may say. But the truth is, at least my truth, that self-interest, more than the public weal, actuate most politicians. Give a man power and see what they will become; they will either grow or swell. As said by Aristophanes:
“Look at the orators in our republics; as long as they are poor, both state and people can only praise their uprightness; but once they are fattened on the public funds, they conceive a hatred for justice, plan intrigues against the people and attack the democracy.”
Well….. Politicians rule the world….. We must make them honest and credible, after assuming political offices. There lies all our problems.
Author: Njundu Drammeh