It may sound late or a revisit of the past in view of the eventual formation of former President Goodluck Jonathan’s cabinet to revisit some contentious issues in our body polity with specific reference to the interrogation of political tolerance and its utility in the development of our democracy.
Arguably, political intolerance is a vice in the polity. It manifests itself when political leaders refuse to give space to opposition politics through a rejection of different views.
However, political tolerance is a necessity by accepting and respecting the basic rights and civil liberties of the people and groups whose viewpoints differ from one’s own. All citizens, especially political leaders, therefore, have a responsibility to practice political tolerance in their words and actions as a key principle of democracy.
This is so because an ideal democracy upholds the right to differ as well as the acceptance of such difference by all. Democracy lets people speak their minds and shape their own future. Indeed that so many in so many different parts of the world are prepared to risk so much for this idea is testimony to enduring appeal of democracy.
Otherwise the crude desire to restrict the rights of a disliked person or group based on their differing views represents a threat of destruction to democracy.
Like in many other parts of the country, this enlightened perspective is no less relevant than the situation in Bauchi State where divergent political positions before and after the last gubernatorial election between former FCT Minister Sen. Bala Muhammed now (Governor) and his political traducers left in its wake some regrettable impressions. Although the Peoples Democratic Party, PDP was declared winner of the gubernatorial election and a government has been formed, Sen. Muhammed somehow became the issue of governance rather than the implementation of the manifesto of the PDP government.
All manner of accusations rented the public space. The media smear campaign was so much that a psyche of distrust already embedded in the people could possibly lend, some credence to the campaign since the character deficit in many political leaders, including the traducers was rife.
It became so vigorous a campaign that many cornered leaders from Bauchi State took notice and raised alarm to the effect that beyond the shenanigans being dished out, there was an ulterior motive to humiliate the amiable Bala Muhammed thoroughly to make his further rise in political leadership and perhaps public service impossible, at least in the new and next dispensation.
This is the reason for the daily orchestration about corruption and about such incredibly humongous allegations of owning several landed property in the FCT etc.
But it was all lies laced with hatred and blackmail, a calculated recourse to evil doing to tarnish a hard-earned reputation.
Initially, Sen. Bala never bothered because he knew his has a clear conscious and as such replying to such pedestrian accusations which can easily be detected as false could have amounted to frivolity. But it later dawned on him that when a lie is repeated overtime could register as truth in the estimation of the ordinary people. And he took the most appropriate step to protect his name and reputation.
It is worth reiterating that Sen. Bala’s travail in the hands of his traducers was purely political. It resonated in his political differences with former Bauchi State Governors and his loyalty to Presidents Buhari, Goodluck Jonathan and probably the Owu chief, Obasanjo.
And to compound “Sen. Bala’s sins”, the former minister was regarded to have contributed in several strategic ways to defeat the APC presidential candidate and hell was let loose. So the situation in Bauchi State was a proxy war of wits!
What we could not and did not overlook in the saga, however, was the fact that Sen. Bala’s actions were not personal but a realistic appreciation of his politics, founded on convictions, rather than any ethnic, religious or tribal leaning, to the effect that patriotism and the need for a virtuous and vibrant way to democratic and leadership renewal was inevitable. Of course, such is hard to fault in the context of the common good. Sen. Bala’s political pragmatism has defined him over the years.
Thus his inclusion in the Goodluck cabinet, in spite of the dirty tricks by his traducers, underscores his relevance not necessarily as a political gift but essentially as a measure of his leadership character and ability to add value to the former president’s agenda.
It was also an endorsement of his stewardship as former minister both in terms of integrity and performance.
Whether his political enemies like it or not, Sen. Bala’s legacy as a reformer will outlive him in the Federal Capital Territory (FCT) and about to stamp his foot-prints on the sands of time in his ancestral home of Bauchi State. His numerous landmark projects and development initiatives in roads construction, education, health, water, agriculture, and empowerment, remain imperishable especially in the hearts of the people who are the beneficiaries in the FCT.
Former President Goodluck who appointed him should also be commended for his clear sense of mission and objectivity by not pandering to sentiment and antics of talebearers.
Understandably, he must have done his due diligence to realize that the wholesale smear campaign was political without any iota of truth. It was a clear triumph of reason rather than the emotion-laden chorus of “betrayal” as every discerning observer could read along the line of hate politics in Bauchi State.
Sen. Bala’s present challenge, however, remains a call to service on a national scale which may dwarf his feat in the FCT. He has made his presence felt in the new agenda of national regeneration. Importantly, we must recognize as a people that a clash of views in politics is a good thing in creating a viable democracy. Many fledgling democracies have slid towards autocracy, maintaining the outward appearance of democracy through elections, but without the rights and institutions that are equally important aspects of a functioning democratic system.
And when we look closely we find out that the vice is a function of leadership character molded in intolerance and the quest for absolute power which invariably corrupts. We must learn to tolerate one another even when we hold opposing views.
The journey for the greatness of Bauchi state has started on a solidified foundation by the New Level brand of administration that believes so much in transparency, probity and the rule of law. The people lack any excuse not to support the pilot to pilot the affairs of the state to greatness that had for over four years eluded the state.