If one must define the key term ‘politician’, well, that doesn’t give headache. A politician is a person who does politics. There is a new word for the same - a politician is called a ‘politico’. The meaning remains unaltered.
Come to the word ‘politics’! Here scholars clash and reasoning spill beyond philosophical, materialist, idealist and historical conceptions. They don’t agree on what ‘politics’ is. They dispute the meaning of the old, original word ‘politikos’ which meant ‘running the affairs of the state’. This leaves us with a question, ‘so, what is politics?’ Here, I leave each of us to his gun.
Yet I move to assert that lack of proper, agreeable definition of ‘politics’ is informative in itself. It tells that ‘politics’ is controversial, formless, ‘sizeless’, directionless and colourless however full its presence. Even politicians themselves cannot clearly elaborate what businesses they do. There is a technical phrase, ‘political dichotomy’ that means there is within politics ‘twoness’ say, a form of ‘twinness’ that makes a politician double – strangely - as a figure who is functionless apart from vying for taking power and subsequent to that becoming an authority that does serious ‘administrative’ business. For example on winning power, politicians make laws (parliament), subsidiary laws (ministries), command security and defence forces (commander-in-chief), discuss, set aside and allocate resources (economics of budgeting) and so forth. Politicking isn’t a professional undertaking yet politicians execute professional tasks.
Meaning of such a gap
The fact that politics isn’t a professional activity and thus it is done by whosoever wills – even ones who only know how to read and write – including high school dropouts, yet it works on intricately professional, competitive and time-driven assignments such as policy execution and subsidiary legislation (ministers), making laws and vetting budgets (legislature) and guaranteeing the state (president) creates a gap. The gap is that politicians are not suited to run ‘state affairs’ because they don’t fit the hallmarks. This fact, notwithstanding, politicians are at the helm of nations.
The foregoing has an implication. It means politicians ‘gamble’ with their countries and do mostly misstep. It explains why most politicians make costly mistakes they later regret when out of power. Does that mean they lack foresight and relevant counsel to know when they are misstepping? This question is easy to answer - they know when they are wrong.
So why do politicians commit mistakes that are otherwise avoidable? The answer is partly there in what I just noted on ‘dichotomy’ of politics. They double in affairs that at one hand are more than they can. The other part is in the nature of how politicians get to be who they are. This last is the trickiest - well understood by political scientists. When one reads author OKWUDIBA Nnoli, for example, one is stymied to learn that ‘politics is a game of who gets what and how’! This is, without blemishes, a submission that they know well what they do.
Partisanship and Patrons
Note that in the way politics operate one get privileges to be influential than meriting it. In politics of party system like a democracy, there is ‘a partisan spirit’ one must assimilate in order to get groomed and hence fronted as a candidate. Such a politician learns to represent party interests and traditions. But the interests and traditions of any party are the aspirations of the ‘leading elites’ – Karl Marx.
If one isn’t partisan, nevertheless, he arrives to a successful candidacy through appeasing some figures – the patrons. Politicking is ridden with filters and traditions such that one needs ‘patrons’ to arrive to a juicy role.
If one isn’t connected enough and trusted by those ‘heavyweights’ then he either has no chance or must sell-out to get through. This explains why emerging politicians betray their electorates more often.
Vested interests coach politics. They take forms of: traditions, false consciences and triangulation. Each politician has talks of grandeur before he is voted in but on joining the ‘pack’ he turns around to follow the stream. This is why majority politicians are without their words and do sell-out in a blink.