“Death is a very dull, dreary affair, and my advice to you is to have nothing to do with it”, so wrote W. Somerset Maugham. But for millions of people around the world, Tuesday March 5th 2013 is remarkable only for one significant event – the death of Hugo Chavez, revolutionary leader of one of the World’s largest crude oil producing nations – Venezuela. In the demise of one of the World’s most significant charismatic leader, most people have once more come in close contact with the much dreaded concept of death.
President Chavez succumbed to the cruel hand of death after suffering from a deadly cancerous affliction for which he underwent series of surgical operations in Cuba and in his homeland.
For fourteen memorable years, Hugo Chavez, a former military officer, presided over the affairs of governance of one of South America’s most populated and resource rich nations – Venezuela just as he achieved popularity and respectability among his local people for working vigorously to uplift their living standards.
Chavez extensively worked as the president of Venezuela to show that leadership is all about improving radically the living conditions of the greatest majority of the populace and to lift them to their better selves.
Hugo Chavez for me exemplified the teaching of the founding fathers of utilitarianism who anchored their belief system on the intellectual plank that political leadership is all about serving and indeed actualizing the greatest happiness for the greatest number of people of a given society.
As a thorough bred political communicator, Hugo Chavez remained in constant communication with his beloved citizenry even till the point that he reportedly gave up the ghost.
Chavez rose to prominence when he assumed the presidency of Venezuela from 1999 up until he died in hospital in Caracas, Venezuela on Tuesday 5th March 2013, and fundamentally drove a political and radical economic process/regime that departed from the Western neo-liberal ideology and he indeed renounced the global dictatorship of the United States of America just as he advocated a just and fair World whereby the interest of one uni-polar powerful nation would not constitute the dominant global agenda.
Wikipedia, the online encyclopedia recorded that he was born as Hugo Rafael Chavez Frias on July 28th 1954 and became the leader of the fifth Republic movement political party from its founding in 1997 until 2007 when he became the leader of the United Socialist party of Venezuela.
As a political leader per excellence, who assumed office after a beautiful and illustrious military career, he vigourously implemented the political ideology of ‘Bolivarianism’ and what is called “Socialism of the 21st century” under which he undertook sweeping economic reforms with the core interest of the civil populace in mind.
Part of the larger home – grown economic reforms which brought his government into constant conflict on the World stage with the American political establishment, was his government’s policy of nationalization of several strategic industries in which Western dominance in the ownership pattern was hitherto remarkably noticeable.
His popularity blossomed among the populace when his government consistently invested substantial financial resources into the Health care sector which significantly improved the health standards of the poorest of the poor and he proceeded to introduce a new constitution which spelt out in broad terms, certain participatory democratic norms which saw the ordinary people gained ownership of the political process.
The West spearheaded by the United States Government waged unrelenting campaign of calumny against Hugo Chavez particularly for his penchant in associating closely with some political leaders in the middle East like the Iranian Ahmadi Najad, considered as a big enemy of the West and the United States of America. Chavez voiced his support for the Iranian right to enjoy the benefits of nuclear energy for which the Western nations feared that Iran is developing nuclear weapons to confront Israel considered as a core ally of the United States of America.
He also mingled deeply with the political leadership in China just as his verbal political battle with the United States reached a dramatic twist when it emerged that he has cancer which he immediately accused America of the responsibility for his ill health. At death, his successor accused the United States of responsibility in the circumstances surrounding Chavez’s cancer.
Political historians recorded that at his inauguration on February 2nd 1999 for his first presidential tenure, Chavez deviated from the exact words encapsulated in the then Constitution and invented his own pro-poor statement of oath taking which goes thus; “I swear before my people that upon this moribund constitution, I will drive forth the necessary democratic transformation so that the new republic will have a magna carta befitting these new times”.
He was more or less a man of action who proceeded from mere ideological communication to the pragmatic implementation of those far-reaching economic reforms that practically bettered the lives of his people in the long run
From Wikipedia, the online encyclopedia, we learnt that this charismatic leader of Venezuela made several alterations to his presidential privileges scrapping the presidential limousine, giving away his entire presidential wage of $ 1,200 USD a month to a scholarship fund and selling off many of the government owned air planes, even though critics also pointed to a life of extravagance which he allegedly lived alongside his immediate family members and cronies.
But the above criticism does not take anything away from the good leadership example which he set for the rest of the World, especially the African continent and Nigeria in particular to emulate if we must move away from our current situation of massive economic and political crimes by the political elites which resulted in the excruciating poverty afflicting nearly 80% of the Nigerian population today.
Known for his fiscal conservatism, Hugo Chavez nevertheless was reported to have successfully implemented economic reforms that on the long term were primarily targeted towards poverty alleviation for the working class just as he invested massively in public works which also contributed in creating millions of jobs for the unemployed youth.
Dan F. Hahn in his book “political communication; rhetoric; government and citizen”, has the following to say about ideology and communication for which Hugo Chavez perfectly represented, if you ask me.
Hahn wrote thus; “Ideologies cannot be developed, sustained, or challenged except through communication. And communication cannot occur without reflecting the ideology of the speaking individual and the society for which [s]he is a member”.
He was such a great leader that even at his death, his erstwhile political adversaries in the United States and Europe paid glowing tributes to his heroic leadership style which remarkably witnessed the transition of most peasants from poverty to sustainable employment.
For instance, the United States President Mr. Barrack Obama who never saw eye- to- eye literary(in political parlance) with Hugo Chavez also expressed the sentiment that goes to convey a certain sense of apprehension that the demise of president Chavez constituted grave challenge to the people of Venezuela.
Obama stated thus; “At this challenging time of president Hugo Chavez’s passing, the United States reaffirms its support for the Venezuelan people and its interest in developing a constructive relationship with the Venezuelan government. As Venezuela begins a new chapter in its history, the United States remains committed to policies that promote democratic principles, the rule of law, and respect for human rights”.
Plato one of the best known philosopher had listed the attributes of a good leader some of which were in large supply during the life and time of Hugo Chavez as the Venezuelan President for fourteen years.
Plato said in a straightforward term that the ruler should be the one who has been fully educated, one who has come to understand the difference between the visible world and the intelligible world, between the realm of opinion and the realm of knowledge, between appearance and reality. The philosopher king’ is one whose education, in short has led up step by step through the ascending degrees of the divided line until at last he has a knowledge of the Good, that synoptic vision of the interrelation of all truth of each other.
Most important of all, Plato, the quintessential philosopher, affirmed that “the ruler must come as close as possible to a knowledge of the Good, for the well being of the state depends upon knowledge and character”, (see, S.E. Stampf, page 76-79).
Unlike in other climes whereby political appointees are quick to betray their leaders especially in their times of trial and tribulation, the leadership that was put in place by Hugo Chavez during his absence up until he died, headed by his vice President Nicholas Maduro remained consistently loyal and committed to defending the integrity and credibility of Hugo Chavez and his unique school of thought.
In about a month time, the people of Venezuela are expected to vote in a substantive president in compliance with their extant constitution, to elect a president to replace the departed leader who was so loved genuinely by his people unlike in other political environment like Nigeria whereby political leaders pay and hire crowds of hungry people to stage solidarity rallies in Abuja.
One huge task for the people of Venezuela is to show a unity of purpose when they go out to vote and ensure that a surrogate of the Western interest is not put into office so that the monumental people- friendly economic reforms put in place by the departed leader are not speedily reversed under the heavy weight of influence of the Western neoliberal and neocolonial promoters who are already warming up to unleash their influence on the political firmament of Venezuela with the sole objective of predetermining the outcome of the coming election.
Venezuela must not return to the position of a ‘guinea –pig’ of the Western powers like most nations in Africa including Nigeria whereby the huge crude oil wealth are cornered systematically by the tiny clique of political rulers who transfer these massive public wealth to their private bank accounts in the Western World.