The Next President-General: Neither Machiavelli nor Ivan De Terrible

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Mazi George Ezuma

The build- up to Nzuko Aro general elections is gradually picking momentum. In less than a year, a new executive committee of the influential cultural and development union will emerge to pilot the affairs of our community. Not surprisingly, there is a resurgence of interest in the election as demonstrated by the swelling number of interested candidate. Of all the positions to be contested, who becomes the next President General is dominating discussions among Aros both in Nigeria and in Diaspora.

Understandably, heightened interest in the elections underscores a few emerging facts in Aro traditional politics. Three main categories of contestants are emerging with different motivations.  First, those, who, hitherto, was disinterested in local politics are reawakened to the fact that they cannot make any meaningful contribution to the development of the community without a political platform provided by Nzuko Aro. Second, the election is offering a dress rehearsal for those who want to test the murky waters of national politics as a basis for launching their wider political ambition using the Nzuko Aro platform as an entry point. Third, there are those who are completely disenchanted with the happenings in the community in the past few years and therefore are determined to effect a change through the opportunity offered by Nzuko Aro platform. Therefore, In the circumstance, the challenge facing Nzuko Aro electorate remains how to sift the “stone” from the “Christmas rice” before it is cooked, but  it is not going to be as simple as it looks.

In recent times, the Aro society is becoming more sophisticated than people are willing to notice. Many Aro Diasporeans are beginning to return home with various ideas about how to make the community work better. They are not only interested in replicating their urban castles back home; they are investing in social infrastructure such as hospitality and education. They are developing more than ordinary interest in a political model that will not only protect their investments but will also guarantee them  some level of  security to enjoy their locality. Unfortunately, having watched Aro slip from one crises to another, and seeing so much ineptitude on how simple community disputes are mismanaged, they are no longer willing to be passive participants. They are asking this simple question “Why is it that no crises in Aro gets resolved easily by Nzuko Aro. It simply grows from worse to worst” when in actual fact resolution to such minor crises are as uncomplicated as they are forced to be. My take on the later development is that it has to do with the kind of leaders that our militarized and monetized election throws up. Therefore, this election must offer us the opportunity to demilitarize and demonetized our electoral process and return Aro to our quaint ways of picking our leaders based on their character traits and their track records in private and public service.

In my opinion, the next president general must be a man who actually wants the position not because he needs it, but because the community needs him. He must be one that will command respect from across the board and must be prepared to rise above pettiness in all matters concerning the community. His impartial disposition to everyone must be palpable just like he will be versed in the mechanics of the intricate traditional authority relationships. The new president general must be a modernist who will command respect from our highly educated elite. He must be a man of ideas that will mobilize the entire kingdom for development, but has the capacity to translate visions to concrete outcomes. He must be one who has distinguished himself in his career and has the right temperament to withstand provocation. He must not be ruthless and manipulative in his dealings with the people. The next president general must neither be a Machiavellian nor Ivan the terrible and I will explain shortly.

Nicoli Machiavelli (1521-1559), was  an Italian Prince who developed a ruthless political theory that shaped  leadership for the  medieval ages, until it become anachronistic a few centuries ago. His conception of power as an absolute personal possession led him to prescribe some very brutal remedies on how a “Prince could earn and keep power in his kingdom”. Here are some of his paraphrased political theories.  For the Prince to earn and keep power, he should seek not to be respected but rather feared, because fear elicits obedience more than respect. The Prince should be completely intolerant of opposition- no matter how good the opposing view may seem. If the Prince has any internal problem in the kingdom, he should seek for an ally with a more powerful force outside the kingdom, even if the force was  his  enemy- it is better to have an enemy whose interest is not your power than one within whose interest is to appropriate your own power at home. As a way to keep power, elevate divide and rule to a state of art- make sure that all forces that have the capacity to threaten you are kept divided. Don’t be driven by community interest, because you need to safeguard your position first before you have opportunity of talking about community interest. Entice those who you think could oppose you with perquisites so as to ensure that they are bribed out of their genuine views. Never be driven by public opinion as what matters to you is to earn and keep power for its sake, even if community interest is sacrificed. Be constantly guided by the political philosophy that “The end justifies the means”

However, while his political philosophy served European despots of his time, it certainly have no place in modern leadership where consensus building, democracy  and public opinion shape interaction of both the leadership and the led; where communication is used to bridge valleys of misunderstanding and where community interest is paramount over personal leadership ambition. In the days of Nicolai Machiavelli, the European despots thrived in conquests and annexations, invasion of kingdoms and expansionism were rife and laid the foundation for colonialism. The leadership theories of Nicholi Machiavelli provided the ingredients with which the British invaded Aro in 1902 in order to, not only annex, but attack our cultural institutions and ensure that  Aro kingdom was   kept as  an outpost of colonial heritage. Guess what? It is the united resolve of Aros and their ability to leverage on consensus of opinion buoyed by effective communication between the palace and the people that ensured that we resisted them and kept them bewildered on the sources of our leadership, community strength and cohesion. Therefore, resurrecting Nicolai Machiavelli in Aro today is bound to backfire from all cylinders like it did in the medieval times.

Ivan the terrible (1533- 1584) was a Russian Czar who was the architect of a centrally controlled Russian state with such brutality and personal vendetta that was unparalleled in modern history. He appointed a council of advisers who he chose based on their absolute loyalty to him and who would never question his authority. Sensing that he needs to create an enabling environment to assure the rest of the independent Russian kingdoms of his time come together, he introduced self government in rural areas, reformed tax collection and instituted statutory law and Church reform. In foreign policy he aimed to conquer all the remaining independent regions and created a larger, more centralized Russian republic.

Unfortunately, in order to ensure that his programme was successful,  Ivan disrupted the entire political and social institutions in his country and imposed despotism that respected no law, no culture, no personal liberty no traditional institutions, nor sanctity of life and property. He seized private lands, created a police force with instructions to crush opposition. He punished traitors (those who do not share his views) with execution and confiscation of their property. He appropriated the definition of progress and prosperity through his parochial personal desires and ensured that anything that happened in Russian republic bore his insignia of authority without which it will be crushed, irrespective of whether it serves the interest of majority of Russians or not.

Out of uncontrollable personal rage, he smacked his pregnant daughter in-law and forced a miscarriage of a 6 month old child, and killed his own son out of anger. But, before his death, he prepared the stage to hand over to his eldest  son to ensure that he keeps the reign of terror and anguish aglow in his personal estate, the Russian republic, while he is gone . He was wrong! The Russian state survived under the reign of Peter the Great and in 1989, the Soviet Union disintegrated and became a second rate power in global affairs. Since then, the dreams of Ivan de Terrible remained a foot note in modern Russia. Surely, he is an unhappy man in his grave. .

As we approach the election of next President General of Nzuko Aro, I urge our people to be weary of whom they vote into the position and those to occupy other executive offices. We should strive not to vote a Machiavellian for he would strive to perpetually keep our women divided, notwithstanding their role in community development and social progress of the kingdom. He will keep the Eze Ogo’s out of power and curtail their rights for peaceful assembly; he will make sure that any dissenting voice is either bribed out of genuine convictions or intimidated to give loyalty against his private wish. He will ensure that our traditional institutions are kept in public opprobrium and attempt to reduce the palace to a Zombie. On the other hand, if we elect an Ivan the Terrible, he will ensure that he defined Aro interest from his parochial selfish lenses that  satisfies his egocentric leadership instincts; he will ensure he hands over to his anointed successor who will ensure that he rules from behind several years after he had left office. Please, Aros “shine your eyes” when electing the next President General of Nzuko Aro and his executives. A word is enough for the wise. See you in Yule tide.

About author

Kanu Ohuche Ph.D

Mazi Kanu Ohuche holds a Doctorate in Development Economics, specializing in Institutions and growth, from University of Nigeria, Nsukka ( UNN). He holds a first degree in Economics and Masters in International economics from the same University. Dr. Ohuche also holds a post graduate Certificate in Budget and Public Expenditure Management from Duke University Sloan’s School of Public Policy in Durham North Carolina, USA and was a University Lecturer .He was the IMF Country Economist for Nigeria for four years and has been Adviser to Four Economic Advisers to the President of Nigeria. Currently, he is the Special Adviser to Dr. O. J Nnanna, the Deputy Governor in charge of Financial System Stability in Central Bank of Nigeria. Dr. Ohuche is married with four kids and resides in Abuja.

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