“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 midnight.
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 being 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 way 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 are. 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, mis-educate, un-educate, and infect us to death. 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 the 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 a 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 everyone has to throw away his mask”.
He must have rediscovered himself before discovering that indeed, there are people who recognize 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, strategicthinking, 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 nor 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 wellbeing 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.
●Egbo is the print media aide to the president of the senate n