BrandArena: 'Politicians, Intellectuals Must Synergise For African Nations Development'

Wednesday 22 July 2015

'Politicians, Intellectuals Must Synergise For African Nations Development'

Former Ekiti State Governor, Dr Kayode Fayemi, has said that African nations must discard the false dichotomy between the intellectual and politician, but rather work out a blend of the two tendencies in order to rejuvenate public service and transformative governance that would lead to socio-political and economic advancement.

According to him, only when the two tendencies are approached as complimentary rather than contradictory would the public good, which is the essence of democratic governance, can be fully realised.

These formed part of Fayemi’s submission as Keynote Speaker at the 3rd edition of the President Atta Mills Memorial lecture held at the John Evans Atta Mills Centre for Law and Governance, Ghana Institute of Management and Public Administration (GIMPA), Achimota, Accra Ghana on Tuesday.
Dr Kayode Fayemi
Speaking on the topic: “Intellectuals in Politics and Governance in Africa: The lessons and legacies of John Evans Atta Mills”, Fayemi who noted the contributions of notable public intellectuals, including Nnamdi Azikwe, Kwame Nkruma; Julius Nyerere, Obafemi Awolowo and Leopold Senghor in the liberation struggle and early democratic governments in Africa, said the idea of philosopher king in the contemporary African politics is to “advocate  the marriage of politics and principle, and to yoke public policy to public intellection.”

“The good politicians may not need to be brilliant intellectuals, but they also should not have contemptuous disdain for the life of the mind”, said Fayemi, who advocated a hybrid of the two. “This is why perhaps the issue for us should not be one of transition from intellection to politics, but the extent to which we are able to achieve fundamental synergy between the two in the quest to add value to our society and our democracy”. He added.

The former Ekiti State Governor explained that the solution to the current democratic deficit that the African continent is experiencing could not be by posing intellect as a counterpunch to politics. According to him, for autonomous institutions to play a positive role in mediating citizens’ choices, their organic development must be combined in a more nuanced manner and a more systematic way with the use of public and state power.

“Am I then suggesting that an intellectual necessarily belongs in politics? Put that way, an impression is created that I consider it the duty of every intellectual to engage in politics at all cost. That is not my view. However, it is my profound conviction that Africa requires – today more than ever before – enlightened, thoughtful politicians with character and integrity who are bold and broad-minded enough to consider things which lie beyond the scope of their immediate influence and benefit. We need politicians willing and able to rise above their own power interests, or the particular interests of their political parties or states, and act in accord with the fundamental interests of today's humanity - that is, to behave the way everyone should behave, even though most may fail to do so. “

“A good politician need not be an intellectual but he should be able to explain without seeking to seduce; he should humbly look for the truth of this world without claiming to be its professional owner; character and integrity should be more important to him than academic brilliance; he should alert people to the good qualities in themselves, including a sense of the values and interests which transcend the personal, without giving himself an air of superiority and imposing anything on his fellow humans.

“In the realm of such politics, intellectuals should make their presence felt in many ways. They could - without finding it shameful or demeaning - accept political office and use that position to do what they deem right, not just to hold on to power. Or they could be the ones who hold up a mirror to those in authority, making sure that the latter serve a good thing and that they do not begin to use fine words as a cloak for evil deeds, as happened to so many intellectuals in politics in our continent and elsewhere.”

Saying that Ghana has had men of exceptional academic brilliance and intellectual rigour lead the country at critical democratic periods, Fayemi who noted that the mere possession of  outstanding academic qualifications remains the sole answer to a country’s challenge of deepening democracy, however said that the steady procession of Ghanaian leadership through such elite institutions of learning and their well earned credentials as intellectuals must have  had an effect on their nationalistic favour.

“That intellectual tradition may have been overcome by the anti-intellectual fervour of the 1970s and 1980s elsewhere in Africa but Ghana never strictly departed from it and as we all wonder about the positive democratization journey in Ghana which has become Africa’s success story, the most useful explanation is that with the correct orientation and attitude on the part of political leaders, public institutions and the citizens, good governance can take root in any society. Indeed, the transformation of Ghanaian polity and politics may be partially attributable to the fact that over the years, your intellectuals have remained engaged at the highest level and category of competitive politics, thus establishing a vigorous tradition of intellectuals as political practitioners.  “

Speaking to a large audience comprising top government officials, parliamentarians, academics, diplomats, politicians and activists, Fayemi also lauded the contributions of the late President Atta Mills to the socio-economic development of Ghana during his short but eventful tenure in office. Describing him as a gentleman and intellectual par excellence, who played a prominent role in the intellectual wing of the Rawlings revolution and whose three years as President of Ghana saw the country become the world fastest growing economy in 2011 at 20.15 per cent  and budget deficit reduced to 2 per cent of GDP from 14 percent of GDP in 2008.

Fayemi told the audience how the late President Atta Mills had predicted President Muhammadu Buhari’s election victory when the two leaders met in Ghana shortly after the 2011 general elections in Nigeria.

Fayemi who shared President Buhari’s account of his meeting with President Mills said : “When I informed President Buhari of this speaking engagement last week in the middle of a conversation about his on-going trip to the United States of America, I was curious when he became very quiet. A man of not too many words, when he eventually spoke, he said: “Governor, President Atta Mills was a good man; a very good man; one of the very best from our continent.”

“Not aware that he had had any close interaction with the late President, I concurred that yes, indeed, President Mills was a good man but went on to ask, “Were you close to him, sir?” He replied warmly: “Not really, but I met him in 2011 when I came to rest in Ghana after the 2011 general election debacle in Nigeria, and he was gracious enough to allow me stay at the Peduase Lodge, the Presidential retreat at Aburi in the Eastern Region."

“We spoke extensively during my stay in Ghana but two things he said to me during those conversations stuck in my memory. First, he was among the few, probably even the first to predict at a time that I had given up on contesting for the presidency, that I will win the next election in Nigeria if I persevered. He admonished me to take a cue from his example and remain calm but resolute. Second, he said to me at one point, ‘I came into this world with nothing. I shall leave it with nothing”.

Fayemi added that aside President Mills’ intellectual ability, his high level of discipline, integrity, humility and maturity as a leader, distinguished his administration.

At the diplomatic level, Fayemi said that the late Ghanaian President was a firm believer in  quite diplomacy, stressing that he was one of the voices of reason that was quietly nudging the Nigerian political authorities to permit an orderly succession in accordance with the constitutional procedures and democratic norms during the time of the illness and absence of the late President Umaru Yar’Adua.

Earlier, Fayemi in company with his wife, Erelu Bisi Fayemi and some associates had paid a courtesy call on the Speaker of the Parliament, Edward Doe Adjaho and later was a guest as a special parliamentary session in honour of  the late President Atta Mills who would have turned 71 on Tuesday.

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