Good men are scarce: ask any woman. But they are even more difficult to find in politics, and not just of the Nigerian or African variety. Ask the Americans. In 2010, the Good Men Project Magazine began a quest to discover good politicians among elected officials in the United States of America.
Its criteria for ‘good’ included “integrity and intellectual honesty”, “men who respect their political opponents, treat their constituents like the adults they are, and promote openness and transparency in government.”
It also included “men with compelling ideas—and the ability and vision to turn those ideas into action,” “men who can see beyond the next election cycle and who have the political courage to lay the foundation for America’s future success—even if it means making unpopular decisions today”.
It further considered “men who are willing to work in good faith with those from across the aisle in order to get things done.”
Most importantly, the project looked for “men who aren’t completely full of shit.”
It took the magazine months to compile a list of its Top Ten Good Men Politicians. And this was before the Donald Trump presidency era.
Like Vice President Oluyemi Osinbajo noted on August 27 during the Nigerian Bar Association (NBA) Annual General Conference, all politics is local.
Were such a search to be carried out in Nigeria, it would take as long, if not longer, to identify the contenders, because of the public’s poor perception of the country’s politicians.
Despite his ephemeral stay in the saddle of national political power, it would be hard to justify such a list – for federal level politicians – if it didn’t include Osinbajo.
It is not hard to make that conclusion.
Perhaps it is even a misnomer to call the law professor a politician – intelligent, moral and compassionate, without being power hungry – he does not fit the mould of the average Nigerian political elite.
Osinbajo alluded to this a few years ago when he stated that despite his journey into politics and regardless of his position in government, he was only giving himself as a loan to the political world.
It is an interesting perspective in a country brimming over with sit-tight career politicians.
But the Vice President knows where he was before politics and what he is returning to afterwards, so, unlike many of our desperado political elite, he doesn’t seem to be crazy about the easily corruptible perks of political office.
He must know the sacrifices he has had to make – suspending his spiritually rewarding work as clergy and taking a leave of absence from a thriving law practice – for the mentally, physically and emotionally tasking job of serving, with integrity, a near impossible-to-please people.
The frustrating thing is, for someone like Osinbajo, you cannot just up and leave, no matter the unfair criticisms, barrage of fake news, pull him down syndrome, one is routinely subjected to.
Every day Nigerians lament the absence of good people – competent, honest and compassionate – in politics. Thus, churches, mosques and other good leadership advocacy organisations now regularly encourage such people to seek political office and try to change Nigerians’ lives from government.
So, if they succumb to frustration and leave, it is likely that more people will suffer in the hands of members of the political elite who put personal gain over service.
It is a situation many honest people in positions of power must be familiar with. So, people like Osinbajo often have to stay back in toxic environments and the midst of political sharks, no matter the personal and professional discomfort.
If I were in his shoes, what would probably hurt me the most is when the very same ordinary people I stay back to fight for, and intellectuals who should know better, buy the misinformation of mudslingers.
Well, that must be one of the reasons why it is said that uneasy lies the head that wears the crown.
Nevertheless, many Nigerians know a good man when they see one.
That was why even his critics applauded his response to the nationwide protests of 2017 against “unfavourable government policies”.
“We hear you loud and clear, those who are on the streets protesting the economic situation and even those who are not, but feel the pain of economic hardship.
“We hear you loud and clear. You deserve a decent life and we are working night and day to make life easier,” Osinbajo said.
It was unusual of a top government official to show such empathy with the people and even order the police to not bother the protesters.
I recall that in Lagos, the then Commissioner of Police alongside his men, walked along with and provided police protection for Charly Boy and the other protesters as they marched from the National Stadium Surulere to the National Theatre.
It was unheard of and excited Nigerians took to social media to pour their admiration of the Osinbajo brand of politics. It gave everyone hope that perhaps, at last, we may have found one of the type of politicians that the country desperately needed.
Many Nigerians also know what will happen when we have a man “with compelling ideas—and the ability and vision to turn those ideas into action.”
They saw it in the Vice President’s intervention in Nigeria’s business environment. Stakeholders know that this intervention was critical to improving the ease of doing business in the country.
On Tuesday, during the first year ministerial performance review retreat, the Vice President admitted that despite the government’s best efforts, the Coronavirus pandemic had negatively affected the economy and the poverty situation in Nigeria is deepening daily.
Discerning Nigerians will recognise that this kind of truthfulness could only have come form a good government official who isn’t “full of shit”, “can see beyond the next election cycle and who has the political courage to lay the foundation” for Nigeria’s “future success—even if it means making unpopular decisions today.”
Okon, a public affair commentator, wrote from Calabar