“There comes a midnight hour when everyone has to throw away his mask”…..Soren Kierkegaard.
In an attempt to fairly interrogate the above quote, one needs to find out first, what happens when the mask is discarded and why it has to be at the midnight hour.
Figuratively, the midnight hour represents a transition time or the end of an era and equally the beginning of another. It is that crucial moment of quiet introspection when one is driven by firm convictions towards unusual decisions and actions. And similarly, because a mask is about displaying a false appearance, mask removal thus is synonymous with embracing the truth or accepting the reality, eventually.
Hence, whenever the mask is removed, remarkable things happen: minds and thoughts are liberated from every form of bias, dogma and subjective judgement, wherein it dawns on them that in every circumstance, there is always a difference between appearance and reality or opinion and truth. Equally, new opportunities emerge for growth and development because people and situations are eventually assessed and evaluated sincerely and objectively.
Then, relative to this discourse, mask removal unravels the correlation between an office holder and the office itself. People begin to realise that either the occupant defines the office by their character or the office defines the occupant by its dictates, or that it is the disposition of the leader and the system supporting the position that interplay to determine the quality of leadership dispensed by way of good or bad governance.
Furthermore, mask removal confers some sort of specific inspiration that enables one to rediscover themselves and the world around them.
It is in this wise that a former Nigerian minister, Iyorwuese Hagher, observed that “we have a military-contractor-political complex eating up Nigeria and masking as retired generals, businessmen and democrats in the daytime. At night, the masks are removed and all we see are desperate crooks. This is exactly what the Nigerian elite is. White-washed sepulchres. They cover their rottenness with noise and flourish.
They lie gratuitously. They smile without feeling and ruthlessly destroy our common patrimony and impoverish, miseducate, uneducate, and infect us to die. But they too die and all we have is a legacy of tribalism, corruption, bigotry and anomie”.
Except for the masked mind, this is an apt description of present-day Nigeria.
The country is at war with itself. Primordial sentiments, mutual suspicion and bloodletting reign supreme. The citizens are in penury and misery. Everyone is desperately seeking escape routes. There is a mindless obsession with how things ought to be rather than a commitment to tackling the prevailing situation. There is a trust deficit between the government and the masses sequel to varying assumptions and illusions that accompany public offices, which in most cases, are complicated by the conduct of the occupants. There is a heightened prejudice and apathy for which opinions now overshadow the truths while appearance diminishes reality. Similarly, the just are demeaned while the crooks are dressed in borrowed robes and also, selfish leaders pass as dedicated servants while sectional interests tower above national interests in all aspects of policy and governance.
And then, quite sadly, the elites are not relenting in their conspiracy to shield the masses from reality. They have a way of empowering every segment with specific consciousness for mutual hostilities to keep the masses down and divided. Their tools include religious, ethnic and partisan considerations, which they deploy to divert attention from the crucial issues of which they are succeeding because the masses are still limited by the masks.
Another salient feature of this inglorious mask is the constitutional status of the legislature. Except one is not being real or truthful, the National Assembly is as powerless as it exists at the mercies of the executive. All the powers, especially the supervisory roles, listed in the constitution, are merely academic and theoretical because there are no functional mechanisms to exercise them effectively. If for instance, the Presidency is vetoed on any matter, how does the legislature enforce it? Does the legislature enjoy any constitutional control over the law enforcement agencies or even the treasury, let alone the cabinet ministers, who are appointed by the president? Again, if the legislature withholds accent on sundry Presidential requests, particularly relative to borrowing, does the constitution provide for definite consequences for non-compliance?
Therefore, it is only when the mask is thrown away that the overriding need to review the country’s constitution is embraced dispassionately. Otherwise, this is the major area where the elites are still inflicting harm on the masses. And sadly once again, the mask will not allow for a clearer perception of the difference between civil rule and democratic governance.
However, the vintage Abraham Lincoln, was not only visionary when he noted that “for every selfish politician, there is a dedicated leader,” he must have experienced that “midnight hour when every one has to throw away his mask”. He must have rediscovered himself before discovering that indeed, there are people, who recognise politics as simply an avenue for sincere and selfless service to humanity.
But like eagles, dedicated leaders are rare to come by. They are what they are called to be. They are people-oriented, visionary, strategic-thinking, ready to make sacrifices, solution providers and above all, driven by national interest and unity.
Instructively, they do not have to be saints. Yes, nobody is a saint and no leader is perfect. None has ever been.
Senator Ahmad Lawan is certainly not a saint neither is the President of the 9th Senate perfect. Both as a person and a public official, he may not have met the expectations of all, which incidentally is impossible. But one thing that cannot be removed from him, both ways, is that he has a place among the league of leaders that Nigeria needs, particularly in this precarious era.
By every standard of objective analysis, especially given his public leadership trajectory, Lawan remains very relevant to this generation. Aside from sound education, he has the right mix of a passion for national unity and development, emotional intelligence, knowledge of history and a clear understanding of policy and governance issues. In particular, he is experienced and versatile in the workings of the legislature and with sufficient understanding of the limitations of the 1999 constitution. The ideals and aspirations expressed in his speeches and the energies driving his actions portray him as truly the people’s advocate.
While assuming the leadership of the 9th Senate, Lawan had vowed that “in the laws we enact, in the oversight and representations we undertake, the well-being of the Nigerian people will always be our priority,” thus implying that he would not be interested in churning out bills just for the sake of numbers but would focus on the ones that have direct bearing with the people.
Hence, he deployed that rare combination of leadership personality, intelligence and creativity in galvanizing his colleagues towards working for the people. Under him, the defining attributes of the senate are unprecedented camaraderie, unity of purpose, bipartisanship, commitment to national interest through people-oriented legislation and willingness to make patriotic sacrifices.
And despite being tagged with a series of labels, diligent research shows that Lawan takes a principled stand on every critical issue of governance. Be it about national unity, electoral system reform, restructuring, development of the Niger Delta region, insecurity, National Social Intervention Programme, constitution amendment, economic revitalisation, almajiri system of education, women and youth inclusion in governance, improvements in the power, education and health sectors as well as transparency in service delivery, Ahmad Lawan has distinguished himself truly as a good governance advocate.
Also, despite championing a harmonious relationship with the other arms of government, any informed and objective critic agrees that Lawan has never lost his voice on issues of good governance. Although as highlighted earlier, public office holders are viewed with suspicion understandably due to past experiences, and again, he may not have lived up to the expectations of all, there is so far, no proven case of legislative compromise against Ahmad Lawan or the 9th Senate. His conduct and actions are guided by his well-publicised legislative agenda wherein he conspicuously underscored his willingness to collaborate rather than confront them so as not to further impoverish the masses as was the case with the immediate past assembly. Once again, the 1999 military-imposed constitution has no veritable protection for the legislature.
And until the mask is thrown away, it will be difficult to understand that Lawan embodies the views and opinions of his colleagues as he has never been accused of acting against their interests in any form. The overwhelming ballots that made him the president of the senate have since translated into overwhelming respect, cooperation and support he enjoys among his colleagues. The patriotic manner he provided pragmatic leadership concerning the electronic transmission of the election result and also the passage of the 2023 budget among others are eloquent testimonies of his commitment to working for the people.
Instructively also, even when public office comes with its dynamics, Lawan remains who he is. His national leadership responsibility could not affect his resolve to faithfully serve his constituency. For what it truly means, Lawan is a true representative of his people. In the area of community development through legacy projects targeted at rural roads, hospitals, and schools in addition to empowerment schemes through scholarships, bursaries, capacity building, job placements as well as special interventions in agriculture, families and grassroots economy, Senator Ahmad Lawan has verifiably made outstanding marks across the lengths and breadths of the Yobe North Senatorial District. The record is indeed indelible as validated by this week’s presidential visit to the state.
And for the umpteenth time, it is only when the mask is removed that the truth is known. It is then that the real trouble with Nigeria, which unarguably predates the Lawan-led 9th National Assembly is unveiled for lasting solutions. Then particularly, concerning the ongoing leadership recruitment processes, it is after the midnight hour that we can realise that indeed, we have a country to fix, an economy to repair and a citizenry to protect. Only then can we reason beyond the same old rhetoric and partisan affiliations to make the right choices. Again, it is only when reality triumphs over appearance, that the just shall be celebrated and the villain shall no longer be dressed in borrowed robes.
Then finally, it is only when one is free from prejudice or apathy through diligent research that Ahmad Lawan can be fairly assessed and acknowledged as one, who by his passion for a prosperous Nigeria, is truly a signpost for national unity and statesmanship as well as one, who through firmness of character and patriotism, really blends with the dictates of the Senate Presidency, even though the prevailing faulty constitution defines his powers and spheres of influence. But until that “midnight hour when everyone has to throw away his mask” to appreciate the difference between appearance and reality or opinion and truth, this is wishing him a happy birthday as he turns 64.
By Mon-Charles Egbo, the print media aide to the President of the Senate.