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Redefining Nigeria’s Political Socialization 

A man, they say, is a product of his environment. This is so because the environment of a man has a great influence on his life. A man, whether consciously or otherwise, internalizes the various trends in his society, and his interaction with society is strictly influenced by such trends. When a child is born, the family brings him up in a way that will equip him with relevant knowledge of the society and its culture, so as to make him become a worthy member of such society. As the child grows, he goes to school, makes friends, joins groups, and is further exposed to happenings in the society. He gets to know the norms, values, beliefs, and traditions which make for the approved pattern of behaviors of such society. This process of learning about one’s society is what we call socialization.

Political socialization is therefore the process through which an individual internalizes or learns about the political culture of a political system. From the foregoing, we see that this knowledge of the culture of a political system is not gotten overnight, it is through a gradual process from childhood to adulthood. This political socialization is done through some agencies like the family, schools, mass media, political parties, government institutions, and voluntary organizations and groups. 

Through the various agencies of socialization, the individual acquires knowledge of his/her fundamental human rights, rights as citizens, as well as civic obligations. The individual learns the political processes of the polity, what form of government is in place, how the interested may get involved in governance, and through proper socialization, he learns how government policies affect his quality of life, his hopes, dreams, and aspirations. Political socialization plays a significant role in how an ordinary citizen relates to political events and political actors, whether he worships them, fears them, or stands up to them when they fail to do that which they were put in office for. 

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Political socialization shapes the mind of a public office holder and influences how he/she handles the privilege of serving in public office. Basically, social engineering – which is a continuous process – and the prosperity or otherwise of any society largely revolve around its socialization process. Is there a perfect example of political socialization? No, because the drivers of the process – humans – are not perfect beings, and are always evolving. But in the absence of a perfect example, there are numerous encouraging ones to learn from. While these countries are not perfect and can improve, which they are always trying to do, Denmark, Norway, Sweden, Switzerland, Japan, and some others are great examples to learn from. 

It is no accident that these countries are constantly ranked high on the list of the best places to live in the world. A close observation of their culture, tradition, and practices shows a people deliberate in their social engineering. Despite her unrivaled greatness, especially in the last hundred years, the United States of America still has a lot to learn from these countries, especially in the area of managing interpersonal friction. It simply makes no sense that despite America’s education, advancement, and opportunities – which afford you a chance at the “American Dream” – a simple disagreement with your neighbour can ultimately deny you a chance to achieve that dream, as your offended neighbour may be one of those who think that dispute is solved only by the use of a gun. Here, Switzerland – with comparable access to guns – might be able to teach some lessons in socialization. 

Our focus in this piece is not America, though. The above is just to give us a picture of the role of socialization in any society, and with the progress we have made till this point, any observer of the Nigerian socio-political history can tell how the country has done in this critical area. Our families, schools, political parties, government institutions, and the mass media have collectively failed in creating an encouraging political culture. The continuous decline in the value of the Naira, the worsening inflation, the ravaging insecurity, and the shamelessness of public office holders who have so degenerated that they can open their mouths and accuse monkeys, snakes, and other innocent creatures of stealing desperately needed public funds in their care, are all results of a disgraceful socialization process. 

It is laughable – for want of a more appropriate description – to see Nigerians pretend that good character is a part of their culture, when in the same country if you go into public office and come out without stealing public funds, you’d be tagged dumb and even be insulted by your own people. Irresponsibility is so celebrated on the Nigerian political scene that people who deliberately sabotage the country’s progress demand respect from the ones who are directly impacted by their wicked ways. Most times, these rogues do not even have to demand respect, we reward them with chieftaincy titles, your reward only depends on the level of your misbehavior. And because these rogues know that there’s little resistance to their madness, they can easily intimidate anyone who dares to call out their shamelessness.  

Nigeria’s North, despite its huge potential, is today synonymous with everything that the human society should not be, no thanks to men and women charged with the privileged job of running the region’s affairs, but who only care about the “painted paper”, and who derive their sense of relevance from impoverishing the people. Now, the whole country is being made to pay for the irresponsibility of a few individuals who consistently refuse to see the beauty and pride of being nation builders. They are not alone though, they have brothers and sisters in the country’s South. Yet, these rogues arrogantly expect Nigerians to keep quiet or pretend like they’re doing well. The former Emir of Kano, and perhaps Nigeria’s best Central Bank governor ever, Sanusi Lamido Sanusi, refused to keep quiet and was dethroned by the naively misguided one widely described as “gandollar”, who found willing slaves masquerading as state legislators to use in his failed attempt at demeaning Sanusi. 

Sulla- the man who ended the Republic

When the historical Roman dictator Sulla captured Rome, his first prey was the Roman Senate, which was filled with largely cowardly men that feared for their lives and submitted to Sulla’s unkind rule. They didn’t see that in their cowardly fear, they had stopped living already, and were merely existing, even so at Sulla’s mercy. But it was not only their fear that made them prey to Sulla, it was largely the fact that they were in the Senate for only their own interest. If you are wondering how that was the case, the answer is in one of the versions of the Roman empire’s stories. During one of the senate sessions, in the early days of Sulla’s reign, Sulla entered the senate chambers and met Cato talking about how the people could be at peace only if they have a senate representative. In response, Sulla asked, “Since when did the Senate ever represent the people?”, but none of the senators could answer Sulla. So he answered his own question, and said, “You’re all aristocrats. Your feet have never touched the ground, and your ass has never touched a horse. How can you possibly represent the people, whom most of you have never even met?”. 

Nigerians have had senate representatives since 1999, but peace has continued to elude them, which confirms Sulla’s position that the Senate never represents the people. Unfortunately for Sanusi, he’s no Sulla and was easily dethroned by gandollar and his pretentious legislators. According to Sanusi, who spoke recently at an event in Lagos, they sought to punish him for speaking against their evil ways, the consequences of which the whole country is groaning under today. Sanusi, in that beautiful speech, expressed his agony over how decades of misrule have jeopardized Nigeria’s chance at greatness. He said they expected him to keep quiet because, to them, a monarch should not call out the government’s shortcomings. But Sanusi said he’s not programmed to keep quiet in the face of destruction that will annihilate everyone if not halted or reversed. More so, he cannot keep quiet while watching saboteurs destroy the little efforts and progress made by a few ones like himself when they served in public office. 

And I completely agree with Sanusi, it is a disservice to Nigeria if people keep quiet in the face of political irresponsibility. Unfortunately for the country, those who should call public office holders to order have either eaten from the forbidden apple or are waiting to eat, and so they keep quiet while the country burns. What gandollar and his likes fail to understand is that those who call them to order are the ones they should appreciate, not the mischievous sycophants who encourage them on their path to perdition. They should learn from Pompeii, who was Sulla’s second in command, and who could have saved Sulla from self-destruction had Sulla listened to him more than he did. When Sulla ordered the killing of his political foes, Julius Caesar tried to help one of them, Cinna – Caeser’s father-in-law – to escape. Caesar was then incarcerated and awaiting his punishment. 

One day he was summoned to the presence of Sulla, who told him that his mother had come to plead his course. But Julius Caesar was unmoved and bold in his conversation with Sulla, despite how risky it was. When Sulla indicated that he had considered Caesar’s mother’s plea, Caesar asked him what his freedom would be in exchange for. First, Sulla said he’s not a man without compassion, then he said that his freedom would be in exchange for divorcing his wife, Cornelia. Julius Caesar instantly refused, even though it could cost him his life. Sulla’s right-hand man, Pompeii, was moved. Even Sulla was confused and didn’t know how to process Caesar’s courage, so he asked Pompeii for advice. Pompeii suggested that they let Caesar go, but Sulla asked why. Pompeii said, “He [Caesar] speaks plainly. It is the ones who smile and flatter you should worry about”. Gandollar and his likes should heed Pompeii’s advice, for their own good, and for the good of the country. 

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However, Nigerians should also learn from Julius Caesar, to not keep quiet when evil reigns in the land. Political aides should also learn from Pompeii, to not encourage their principals in doing evil. Every Nigerian should listen to Sanusi’s brilliant speech, and learn how to relate with their public office holders, who were elected to serve the public good. To encourage them when they do well, and to call them to order when they misbehave. It has been a while since I listened to such a brilliant speech, especially from a Nigerian. In the speech, you could see, among other things; the concern of a citizen for his beloved country’s plight in the hands of rogues, the cowardly disposition of the people, and how it encourages the status quo. You could see the undying hope of redemption for a country that is perpetually immoral. You could see the folly of the naive, largely empty Nigerian politician who thinks the world revolves around him while in power, forgetting that time happens to everything. 

You could see the dignified pride of one who has had rare success, complemented by humility to acknowledge privilege, or what the religious would call grace, especially in a graceless environment. But to learn these things, we must redefine our Socialization process, to create a national orientation that equips citizens with the history of the country, at least from the amalgamation of 1914. A national orientation that equips citizens with relevant knowledge of their fundamental human rights and their rights as citizens of Nigeria – including their rights to peaceful protest – as well as their civic obligations. Obligations like obeying laws, conducting themselves in ways that promote the peace and stability of the country, payment of taxes, protection of public infrastructure, among others. Nigerians must be made to know that they are not to worship public office holders, and that they are not to be scared of their so-called representatives. They must be made to know that relations between citizens and public office holders should be based on mutual respect.

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