#Midweek Discourse

Setting the goal: Elite collective

If the elephant cannot have its fill, and the buffalo goes hungry, the Yoruba believe, the forest should bow its head in shame. In the same vein, if the economy remains in a shambles, and the political system is not viable, the elite should take the blame since they are the pivot on which these systems subsist. The elites are the category of the selected few who are capable, and are in possession of the right and acumen to supreme leadership.

According to Pareto, every society is ruled by a minority that possesses the qualities essential for ascension to economic, social and political power. We are talking about those successful persons who rise to the top in every occupation and situation of society. There is an elite of business people, an elite of journalists and elite of lawyers. Certainly, there is an elite of teachers. Pareto expatiated further that there are the governing elite and the non-governing elite. We are interested in the elite class, that it has a responsibility to give shape to the aspiration of the community by formulation of the general policies that combine interests and by recruiting personnel to a particular pattern of society. This is interest aggregation, a function essentially carried out by political parties. The All Progressives Congress, Peoples Democratic Party, Social Democratic Party, African Democratic Congress and over eighty others are expected to concern themselves with this onerous task as governing elite.

This task is made easier by interest groups which would have processed various interests into manageable and sensible units. Residents’ Associations, ethnic and sub-ethnic groups, religions organizations like the Christian Association of Nigeria, Islamic Movements, Traditional religious organizations, all have members of the elite class as leaders who meet at various fora like Akure Recreation Club, Senior Staff Club, Old Students Associations, even professional gatherings. These are platforms to project different needs and expectation on the political system for authoritative allocations of values in the forms of motions, resolutions, bills, and particularly Appropriation Bills. An effective machinery for communication is activated by an elite class and active members of the society who have been able to form a synergy between individual; group and national interests. When a sense of interdependence has been established, elites rarely contradict themselves except in methods approaches and specialisation. In a stable system, discrepancies have been so reconciled that in some systems there are two broad categories as in the United States of America where Republican Party and the Democratic Party are two statutorily recognised institutions accommodating socio-economic preferences. For the United Kingdom, the Labour Party, and the Conservative Party are the major institutions which may enter into alliance with less endowed parties to form government.

When, like in Ondo State, the elites demonstrate signs of unseriousness, it affects the quality of leadership in the community, the public office and the economy. An elite class of serious minded members would have an up to date knowledge of state revenue, the potentials of their people and territory, which they match with the needs of their people and community. They set priorities, and those who seek public office must prove themselves capable and competent. Those they elect into public office have a memorandum of understanding because they understand the enormity of the assignment they seek to be appointed to carry out. They sign a contract with the people to deliver. Not a few members of that community are aware that the staff club is a powerful forum for discussion and initiation of policies in the University of Ibadan, University of Lagos, Obafemi Awolowo University, Ile-Ife etc. Many economic and political decisions affecting the fate and destinies of groups and individuals in Lagos State are considered and settled in Ikoyi Club, Ikeja Club and Yoruba Tennis Club.

The elites have time for leisure but they employ it in an informal atmosphere to generate ideas that would define development and adapt it for domestic, national and global implementation. In essence, there is an urgent need to initiate a debate on what constitutes development at the various levels in Nigeria. We must come up with itemization and codification of how it may be achieved. We should be able to state clearly what contributions are expected from farmers, technicians, market persons, politicians, civil servants, teachers, parents and children. In return, we must be able to project what returns should be expected in rural areas as infrastructure, how urban areas would be renewed, how to expand cities, what steps would be taken to halt environmental pollution and degradation, and what tangible benefits would accrue to members.

This exercise is beyond, but does not foreclose national and academic conferences. This is about a subtle and effective mobilization of elites to arise and assume their rightful place in social responsibility. It is when we have begun this that we can hope for an organized society ready for development.

Unless and until the elites begin to perform their essential services to the society, hope for economic and national development would have been misplaced. And if they refuse to chart and lead us on the path of development, the Nigerian elite would have failed their creator.

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