In Nigeria, democracy is in turmoil.
Although it has been long in coming, the exodus of governors from the main opposition party, PDP to the ruling party, APC which has been steering the ship of state at a time that a vast majority of the population is experiencing crushing poverty, unprecedented insecurity of lives and properties as well as the deepest ethnic and religious divisions: the gale of defections by opposition party stalwarts into the ruling party tend to suggest that the fortunes of the APC is growing in leaps and bounds.
And it is a phenomenon that is stranger than fiction, simply because, if a ruling party’s scorecard is nothing more than a misery index of colossal misfortune that has befallen the electorate as opposed to a celebration of positive dividends of democracy which the masses should be enjoying, what qualifies the party to be attracting members like butterflies to nectar? By this time during the 2015 election circle, opposition parties were busy combining forces with a view to ousting the ruling party. But the opposite is the case today as the ruling party seems to have a magnetic force pulling opposition politicians into its orbit.
Presently, the reason for the strange phenomenon of PDP members cross carpeting in droves into the APC has been difficult to fathom by not only ordinary Nigerians, but even by pundits. And my goal is to figure out the piece of the missing puzzle in this intervention by scrutinising the cause and effect of such a phenomenon in the past, if it ever occurred, with the hope of unraveling the political development that seems as complex as the famous Bermuda or the Devil’s Triangle.
While the PDP chairman, Uche Secondus, has boiled it down to intimidation by the APC which controls the instruments of coercion-DSS, EFCC, NIA, Police Force, Armed Forces, etc. that are allegedly being used to clobber opponents in the head, President Mohammadu Buhari, in a recent whimsical comment, apparently believes that the exodus of opposition politicians into the party that he leads is a reflection of the love that Nigerians have for him.
That allusion was made in his speech while receiving the report from the summit on security conducted by the House of Representatives and presented by the Speaker, Femi Gbajabiamila. And the narrative about the great love that Nigerians have for president Buhari which is responsible for the good fortune of the APC has been reiterated by Garba Shehu, the presidential spokesman who made a comment to that effect during sallah celebrations in Daura, mr president’s homestead in katsina state.
In my view, the conclusions reached by both the PDP chairman, Secondus and APC leader, President Buhari as well as his image maker, Shehu are ephemeral and only skin deep.
The real reasons for the strange political developments in Nigeria are yet to be seen.
And l would like to argue that the shifting of the political tide in the opposite direction or against the run of play in Nigeria is simply a symptom of the fact that democracy as we are practicing it today, has lost its values, fervor and bearing. In other words, like a meal without salt and pepper which is usually tasteless, politics in Nigeria is now clearly bereft of philosophies or principles hence the traditional or natural lines between the conservatives and the progressives no longer exist.
And it is the underpinning reason that a majority of Nigerians have the mindset that the former ruling party , PDP (1999-2015) is fundamentally the same as the current ruling party , APC(2015-2021 and counting).
In fact, whenever APC leaders call out their PDP counterparts by labeling them as corrupt or inept, l instinctively wince or grimace. That is because it is a case of the pot calling the kettle black since Nigerian masses generally believe that politicians of both the ruling and opposition hues and persuasions are the architects of their misfortune since nothing differentiates them.
The Comptroller General of Customs, Hamid Ali, who is the leader of the vociferous Buhari support group had in the past lamented loudly that the former members of the PDP have taken over the APC. And apart from the splinter group of the PDP led by a former Vice President, Atiku Abubakar and a former Senate President, Bukola Saraki that merged with the APC during its formation stages , the continued exodus may be linked to the exhortation by the immediate past chairman of the APC, Adams Oshiomole and the presumed unwritten code of the ruling party, to the effect that those who join the APC would have their ‘sins forgiven.”
In plain language, the ruling party dangled a carrot to politicians from the former ruling party that if they join the current ruling party, the probes/ investigations into their period of stewardship would be dropped. Since it is a claim that has not been denied by the ruling party, and in fact, for those who have taken advantage of the offer, the promise has been kept, it goes without saying that the third arm of government is most likely being complicit in killing democracy via sleight of hand.
Against the backdrop of the foregoing scenario, it is not difficult to see why the ranks of the APC would swell and reflect more of the identity of the former ruling party PDP, which triggered Hamid Ali’s lamentation about the apparent blending of
the APC and PDP.
Invariably, most Nigerians are struggling to come to terms with the reality that the APC and PDP are fingers of the same leprosy infected hands -apologies to Bola Ige, the assassinated former attorney general of Nigeria and one-time governor of Oyo State, who coined the phrase after a former Military Head of State, Army General, Sani Abacha, formed political parties to advance his intended transmutation from a khaki uniformed soldier to an agbada wearing politician, which never materialized due to his sudden death.
Bearing in mind that multiple political platforms with very distinct and diametrically opposed ideologies , philosophies and orientations had been present in the Nigerian political
environment since the formative years of the country from as far back as 1923 when the NNDP was founded and subsequently, NCNC, NPC, PRP, AG, as well as the time GNPP, UPN, and NPN sprang up, the current fusion of APC and PDP has been so seamless that the long suffering Nigerian voters are still trying to figure out how to distinguish between conservative and progressive politicians. That is likely why the recent defections by three governors and a host of legislators from the opposition to the ruling party have not been greeted with outrage and indignation by the electorate that should feel disgusted and betrayed by their unprincipled political leaders that are engaging in the musical chairs now playing out.
What this implies is that while the five legacy political parties-CPC, ACN, ANPP, splinters of APGA and PDP that merged to form the APC in 2013/14 with the sole purpose of snatching power from the PDP happened in the full glare of Nigerians, it would appear that after accomplishing the mission of taking over the reins of power at the presidency level in 2015, the APC seems hell bent on making Nigeria a one-party-state without the consent of most of the electorate. That is because the mission of attracting opposition politicians into its fold has been conducted in subterfuge as Nigerians were never invited to debate whether or not, one-party-state is their preferred political system. In my reckoning the process of reducing our beloved country to what is looking like a one-party-state was consciously or otherwise triggered by the Independent National Electoral Commission, INEC (currently subject to the dictates of the presidency and National Assembly if the amended electoral law is assented to by president Mohammadu Buhari) when it pruned down the number of political parties in Nigeria from 93 to 18 in 2020.
With that drastic reduction, the political space became constricted.
And combined with the ‘if you join the APC your ‘sins’ will be forgiven ‘sermon’ by then presiding high priest of the APC, Adams Oshiomhole, and buoyed by the invitation to treat by ruling party offered by mallam isa Funtua (of blessed memory) via his preachment on Arise tv on January 3, 2019 that the igbos have to ‘belong’ if they want a member of their ethnic group to be the next president of Nigeria in 2023 , the ruling party which is increasingly looking like a cult, is now bestriding the political environment like a colossus. Incidentally, the tantalizing invitation that Isa Funtua extended to the igbos has recently been re-issued by president Buhari in the course of his recent earth shaking interview with AriseTv when, in response to a question posed by his interviewer, Rueben Abati, he made a statement to the effect that if the igbos want to produce the next president, let them join the APC.
Given how irresistible the offer by Mr President is, Nigerians need no soothsayer to prophesy to them how the APC’s grand design to maintain her vice grip on the levers of political power in the foreseeable future is about to come to a full circle.
Be that as it may, it is gutting that the suspected intentions of the ruling party to hold tightly onto the reins of power far beyond 2023 may not be as a reward for their good stewardship.
Rather, it is increasingly looking like it would be via subterfuge or perfidy as signposted by the strange political phenomenon that has evolved in the past six years of the APC calling the shots in Aso Rock Villa.
Let me be clear.
The APC goal of remaining the ruling party for as long as it can keep winning the votes of majority of Nigerians fairly and squarely, is not the problem, if it was planning to accomplish the goal through her good work as a ruling party. But going by the prevailing circumstances in the polity: (1) no evidence of abundance of dividends of democracy such as peace through ethnic harmony and unity amongst the federating nationalities(2) no progress and prosperity of the citizens owing to high level of insecurity of lives and properties all over the country (3) no equitable distribution of political
power via inclusiveness of all ethnic groups irrespective of their creed resulting in the agitation for the break up of Nigerian (4) no tolerance by the federal authorities for dissent as reflected by the clamp down on protesters and arrest of protest organizers.
Given the political atmosphere described above , the chances of the APC being re-elected fair and square in 2023 is very doubtful.
Realistically, a political party that has midwifed the present atmosphere of anomie and anarchy that has taken hold everywhere in Nigeria, from kaura-namoda in Zamfara to Zango Kataf in Kaduna State; and from Nembe in Bayelsa and Bakassi in Cross River to Idiroko in Ogun State, can not expect to be voted back to Aso Rock Villa in 2023.
Without being unmindful of the fact that in politics anything can happen within a short space of time, it would appear that the mission of the APC to self perpetuate through it’s presumed plan to remain the ruling party after the exit of president Buhari in 2023 is likely to be executed through a perverted process.
And that presumption or perception by a cross section of Nigerian public is validated by the action of APC legislators that before proceeding on sallah break voted against electronic transmission of results of elections in the course of amending the Electoral Act 2010.
Without any doubt, that action clearly puts democracy in Nigeria on a slippery slope .
And little by little by more, the ruling party would be quietly killing democracy.
That is assuming that president Buhari signs the bill as it is.
But I’m optimistic that in light of the public outrage against it, the ideal and honorable thing for mr president to do is send it back for review by a conference of the legislators of both the upper and lower houses of parliament in the full glare of all Nigerians via a live television broadcast of voice vote by all the 109 senators and 360 members of the House of Representatives.
It is one way that transparency and legitimacy can be conferred on the system and president Buhari can sustain his ‘Mai Gaskiya’ persona that has become so sullied by the actions and inactions of his henchmen that are being attributed to him and which owing to his reticence are hardly debunked, as such they are sticking to him like a badge of dishonor which is avoidable, more so because he had a burnished image before dabbling into the very dirty world of party politics.
It may be recalled that in order to confer credibility on its election process in 2013, members of the powerful governors forum resorted to an open voting system in the full glare of Nigerians via a live television broadcast of the event when the battle for the chairmanship of the politically strategic forum was fought between then incumbent Rotimi Amaechi, then Rivers State governor and the arrow head of the dissident governors that fell out with then president Jonathan, preparatory to the exit of the PDP stalwarts and their joining of then main opposition party, APC.
Since the National Assembly is currently in a similar space as the credibility of its process of canceling e-transmission of election results is being called to question, the least that the lawmakers have to do now is strive to win back the confidence of citizens.It can do that by showcasing their sensitivity to the interests of their constituents in order to prove the efficacy of democracy as a veritable vehicle for progress and prosperity through a revisit of its position on e-transmission of election results.
Evidently, most Nigerians are now accustomed to the reality that the majority of our politicians are only pursuing their personal interests driven by self survival or the quest for the next job/ public office to occupy after the current one. That attitude is antithetical to the pursuit of the broader agendas of instituting policies and programs that would be in the best interest of the majority of Nigerians for the greater good of society which is the mandate that they swore an oath to uphold . While l have no doubt that president Buhari is intent on ensuring that APC remains the ruling party (at least that was implicit in his Arise Tv interview)l am not convinced that he is privy to the suspected plots to make it happen by hook or crook. So l am optimistic that he would align with the feelings of majority of Nigerians who would like him to weigh in with a view to building on the improvement of the integrity of elections in Nigeria that president Umaru Yar’adua of blessed memory started by instituting the justice Lawal Uwais committee that was charged with the responsibility of strengthening our electoral laws after he admitted that the elections that ushered him into Aso Rock Villa in 2007 were flawed.
It may be recalled that it is based on the work of the Uwais committee, that the immediate past president, Goodluck Jonathan also introduced the concept of electronic accreditation of voters using the Permanent Voters Card, PVC and the Electronic Card Reader Device which was used in the 2015 election that ushered Buhari into office as president. Obviously, there were instances whereby the card readers failed to function effectively (even in Otuoke, Jonathan’s voting unit) yet the election was deemed to have been successful and creditable. It is even alleged in some quarters that over half of the results that were relied upon for the declaration of Buhari as the winner in the presidential polls in 2015 were obtained after substituting or overriding the card reader machine with manual accreditation. And the process was prevalent in the northern part of the country which was then candidate Buhari’s political base.
According to a report citing one of the democracy monitoring civil society organs, the incongruity was enough to cast doubt on the legitimacy of the election of president Buhari back in 2015. But rather than do that, one of the five concepts of democracy “Acceptance of The Necessity of Compromise” was allowed to take precedence.
As such, despite the glitches from the card readers, the election was adjudged to have been successfully conducted and therefore acceptable. So what accounts for the current determination of the APC and her lawmakers to renounce the confidence that they had reposed in the use of technology-PVC card readers machines- which the party leveraged for a ride into Aso Rock Villa in 2015?
Is it not sheer hypocrisy that the same pattern of protests via rallies and the use of social media which the APC as an opposition party leveraged to hound the PDP out of office are now being outlawed with anti hate speech law in the making , even as a yet to be ascertained number of #Endsars youth protesters were allegedly killed by the military at Lekki toll gate and around the country in October last year?
Why is it that peaceful protest organizers like Omoyele Sowore are being arrested, brutalized and arraigned just as the organizers and attendees of the recent Oduduwa nation campaign were teargassed with one person reportedly shot dead in the manner that thousands of lgbo agitators for the creation of a nation of Indigenous People of Biafra, IPOB are reportedly being hunted down like animals and killed in cold blood? Do the highlighted instances not amount to trying to kill democracy by the denigration of its values by the ruling party? Are these acts of perfidy against democracy isolated or a coordinated effort (including the disregard for the principle of federal character enshrined in the 1999 constitution in the appointments into public office) to convert Nigeria into a one-party state or an Aristocracy or even a monarchy like Morocco or Saudi Arabia?
It is unsurprising that there is a consensus of opinion amongst Nigerians cutting across ethnic, religious and political platforms that it is the improvement on the electioneering process that helped largely in restoring the interests and most probably faith of most Nigerians in the fidelity of the political process.
But disappointingly most of the electoral reforms made in order to restore the confidence of Nigerians in democracy by the duo of Yar’Adua and Jonathan are being eroded by the egregious and outrageous acts of bastardization of the electoral system by the current regime via this latest assault on democracy reflected by the reported goading of APC legislators to vote against e-transmission of election results.
Even INEC has categorically stated that it can transmit results electronically nationwide and with veritable proof of having done so during previous electioneering processes, yet the legislators of the ruling party who voted according to party dictates, choose to impose their own alternative reality on hapless Nigerians.
It won’t surprise me if the two PDP senators who voted on the side of the 50 ruling party senators and the 28 PDP lawmakers that excused themselves from voting might have been influenced by the need to selfishly protect themselves by not being antagonistic to the ruling party so that their ‘sins’ may be forgiven if they feel compelled to cross carpet -especially those of them that have pending cases of alleged fraud in EFCC or the law courts.
Even as the wheels of democracy are getting unhinged worldwide, with the grand norms of the concept of government of the people, by the people and for the people, supposedly in practice in our country, now increasingly looking like government of the powerful, wily and rich (Aristocracy), l hasten to point out that political musical chairs in politics is not an anathema in the Nigeria’s political environment.
That is because it has been with us since the imposition of Western governance system by Britain,our colonizer.
The assertion above derives from the fact that there are historical accounts of defections in the western house of assembly, between NCNC, AG, UPN, triggered by political gladiators like Awolowo and Azikiwe, S.L. Akinsola, etc. The ugly consequences of the defections are poignant reminders of the firestorms of the past characterised by the infamous ‘wetie’ episodes in the politically conscious and highly volatile western region.
Unfortunately, the ideological differences anchored on good conscience that was the driving force of politics in the days of yore have now been replaced with ethnicity, religiosity and what is now popularly referred to as ‘stomach infrastructure’ in Nigerian political space.
To be frank, it is very curious, perplexing and inexplicable that
as opposed to meeting its obligations or social contract by keeping to its campaign promises, the APC is a party under whose watch our country has witnessed the worsening (in multiple folds) of the crisis that it promised to end or reduce if given the opportunity to call the shots in Aso Rock Villa, yet it is dominating the political space. No matter how spin doctors try, it is trite to state that under the watch of the APC, our dear country has recorded the worst indices in human development. These range from the unprecedented level of insecurity, validated by the fact that UNICEF has reported that over 1000 school children have been kidnapped for ransom from their schools since December this year till date and the economic doldrum that the nation is now caught in is also confirmed by the world bank narrative that our country is passing through its worst unemployment crisis.
Before the current sordid situation that has cropped up in the past decade or so , school children had never been kidnapped for ransom in our country and unemployment has never been at 33%. But since the abduction of Chibok school girls in 2014 under the watch of the immediate past regime, stealing kids from their school dormitories is fast assuming the dimension of a pandemic.
In Kaduna state alone, in a period of about six months, which is January till June, the authorities reported that lives in excess of 500 have been violently extinguished due to acts of violence either by religious insurgents, bandits or herdsmen.
Unarguably, no calamity of the current magnitude has befallen Nigerians before. Not even during the civil war period spanning 1967-70 (except the catastrophic effect of hunger and starvation suffered by the igbos in the eastern region, the theatre of the war) did Nigerians become so impoverished and hopeless.
Not the dark period of queuing up for ‘essential commodities ’ between 1983-85 arising from the sanctions slammed on the country by some Western countries as reprimand for human rights violations by the military government in power at that time .
My friend and Thisday newspaper columnist, Dele momodu shared the following frightening data in his opinion piece of Saturday 24th July titled: “Is The President Aware That Time Is Going”
“In June alone, it was reported by Daily Trust that over 1,000 lives were wasted in Nigeria while Zamfara, Kebbi and Niger States topped the charts! North West had 416 deaths, North Central 218 deaths, North East 188 deaths, South East 117 deaths, South West 74 deaths and South South 18 deaths, all from violent attacks!!
If the data that momodu sourced from Daily Trust is correct , and l have no doubt about it’s veracity , Nigeria is practically currently going through a civil war, albeit a low tension one between state and non state actors.
And the conclusion above is based on the International Peace Research Institute, Oslo’s armed conflict dataset, which defines civil war as an internal or internationalized internal conflict with at least 1000 deaths a year. Based on the criteria above, our country qualifies to be regarded as being in a civil war because, 1000 people are said to have been killed in the month of June alone, not six months or one year which is the Oslo armed conflict dataset rule. Given the grim statistics above, is it not absurd that the party that led our country into a low tension war is attracting members like bees to honey? The bee line that politicians in Nigeria are making to the ruling party reminds me of the story of how South Americans catch monkeys. They entrap them by placing bananas in a transparent bottle to attract the monkey that tries to fetch it and it’s paws get trapped in the bottle’s neck. Since due to greed, the monkey would not let go of the banana in the bottle which could have enabled the primate to withdraw its hands from the bottle, it remains trapped until the people who set the trap arrive to catch the monkey. The APC is entrapping opposition with their irresistible offer that they would be shielded from persecution by joining the party after satiating their greed through dipping their hands into public vaults at the expense of the masses. With accountability and integrity being denigrated, do we need further evidence to demonstrate that democracy is on a slippery slope in our beloved country?
In light of the scenario above, the defections from the opposition parties to the ruling party are clearly a study in absurdity.
For the politicians who may not have been spurred by the much vaunted and acclaimed credo of the ruling party that if you defect to the APC you undergo an automatic transfiguration into a saint, the anxiety about the next job that they would be doing after the current political office may also be a strong motivation.
As most of the political actors are approaching the end of their tenure in 2023, they may be conscious that the APC is determined to cancel out other parties and their members.This is evidenced by the very deliberative and strategic manner that they are repositioning the party into a stronger, bigger and better platform. It is doing so by dissolving the beleaguered National Executive Committee led by former Edo state governor and foremost labour leader, Adams Oshiomhole and replacing it with Mai Mala Buni-led Caretaker Committee and at the same time embarking on new membership drive as well as consistently postponing the party convention.
Apparently, the current leadership of the APC is smart enough to figure out that if they are not sensitive to or mindful of the interest of the five legacy parties, a meltdown or implosion of the party may occur. That is what happened to the former ruling party, PDP that lacked the dexterity at that time to put it’s house in order before the 2015 elections, hence it was defeated. So what the Caretaker committee of the APC is doing is restructuring the party so that it would survive the predicted implosion due to the inherent incongruities in the party.
It is such an irony that if a similar approach of restructuring of the political system by Aso Rock Villa had been carried out in the past six (6) years of rulership of Nigeria by the APC, our country would not be on the brinks of collapse in light of the present preponderance of agitations for break away by multiple ethnic nationalities in the federation to form their own countries.
Thus far, the leadership in Aso Rock Villa, which given the dexterous manner in which they are managing the fragility of the APC, apparently is not oblivious of what is troubling Nigeria, appears to have been blindsided by primordial, ethic and religious sentiments hence it has been prevaricating in the past six years of being in the leadership saddle about fixing the nation before it unhinges.
While it is doubtless that the current dominance of the APC is in part underscored by its meticulous planning and forward thinking that has so far saved it from implosion,the other reason for its dominance can be ascribed to its strong arm tactics. And that is also reflective of the fact that contrary to the grand norm of democracy which is based on separation of power between the Executive, Legislative and Judiciary arms of government, there has been a unification of the three arms that are supposed to be counter balancing the activities of one another. We are all witness to how the three arms that should be Independent of each other are speaking with one voice.
So it is not only the dividing lines between the political parties via divergent ideological underpinnings that have become obliterated. The presidency, National Assembly and the judiciary in Nigeria have also recently been blending, signaling that democracy is indeed on a slippery slope.
Having been encircled by the destructive aberrations in our current practice of democracy, the defecting governors must have reckoned that when their tenures end in 2023, they would be unable to win senate seats if they remain in opposition parties. Based on experience, the senate is always the preferred destination for outgoing governors. And in the event that they flunk senatorial elections, they would at worst have the option of being appointed ministers or gain lucrative board appointments if they are members of the ruling party. The fact that the current NASS and federal executive council is populated by former governors reinforces that line of thought.
So in effect, the defectors are trading their conscience for future job opportunities.
And it is a product of the survival instincts of politicians which can be drilled down to stomach infrastructure, a hypothesis which the current works minister, and former governor of lagos state, Babatunde Fashola is the proponent.
Another existential and inconvenient truth is that the defecting politicians are contending with what l would like to term mobility crisis. By that, l mean, what else could they do or have ability to be doing outside of politic
Even the professionals such as successful bankers, lawyers, medical doctors, accountants, academicians etc who abound in public offices where they are playing prominent roles, after leaving their professions to paddle their boats in the murky waters of politics, are unable to go back to their gilt edged world in the private sector where rules and order are sacrosanct as opposed to the disorder and dog-eat-dog world of politics, to which they must have gotten accustomed.
That is the basic reason that the ranks of business people and professionals throwing their hats into the political rings is currently growing in what seems like geometric progression.
In other democracies, particularly in the politically matured and industrialized societies, politicians don’t face the type of mobility crises currently bedeviling Nigerian political tribe who seem to be unable to operate outside the political orbit. That is owed to the fact that they are yet to learn how to pivot from politics back into the private sphere. They can do that by drawing from the experience of their counterparts in the UK and USA from where Nigeria adopted both the parliamentary and presidential systems respectively .
My candid and free advice is that our politicians should apprise themselves of the fact that there exists a culture whereby former public office holders can transit to the academia and major corporations as board members or executives as is the case in the UK, USA, etc . That is apart from becoming lobbyists after the mandatory five years cooling off period after service as a lawmaker. Perhaps our lawmakers should invest the current energy being channelled into making so-called anti hate speech and media gagging laws and blocking e-transmission of election results into creating a clear pathway for their transition from the public to the private sector when they leave office. They can do that by institutionalising it via an act of parliament .
Take Larry Summers in the USA for instance, he is a former director of the National Economic Council under president Barack Obama and former Treasury secretary during Bill Clinton’s presidency. Currently, he is back in Harvard university as a professor. In the UK, the former head of the Liberal Democratic Party, and ex deputy prime minister of the UK, Nick Clegg has been hired by Facebook as its head of Global Policy and Communications. Similarly, George Osborne, former UK chancellor of the exchequer, who is the equivalent of finance minister in Nigeria, has also transited to being the Editor of the Evening Standard newspaper. Many more instances too numerous to list in this essay, abound.
Can anyone imagine Nigerian politicians accepting such roles, especially as a newspaper editor? Yet, given the rate at which most people in Nigeria share news online, we all appear to be in love with journalism.
But most of us would consider mass media jobs as demeaning because of the poor remuneration.
Except, Akinwunmi Adesina, who after serving as minister of Agriculture became the Managing Director of Africa Development Bank, ADB and Ngozi Okonjo-lweala that is currently serving as the Director General of the World Trade Organization, WTO after two stints as finance minister in Nigeria: not many , if any, ex Nigerian legislator is engaged in an executive or board role in any major corporation locally or internationally.
At best , most of them end up being contractors. And most importantly,for them to pivot from the public to the private sector, the politician must have been above board by exhibiting exemplary leadership. Such caliber of politicians are unfortunately a rarity in the present dispensation as most of them are compromised and unable to project noble ideals and principles .
So, as the lines between conservatism and progressivism in politics is becoming more blurred in Nigeria , as did the three arms of government – Executive, Legislature and Judiciary fuse in orientation, the concept of democracy is being adulterated as well as threatened by the absence of correct ethos in the quality of politicians that have seized the space. That is the underpinning reasons for the uptick in the number of political actors cross-carpeting at the level of governors, senators and House of Representatives members at the drop of a hat without qualms about the consequences of backlash from the electorate.
With such an astonishing level of absurdities in our political environment, the act of voting and the votes counting and reflecting the desire of the people, which is supposed to be the currency and life blood of democratic governance system,has become so malleable and susceptible to subversion, that leaders or rulers can now create their own alternative realities just to justify their actions and inactions in government.
It goes from the level of the sublime to the point of absurdity and even criminality. And a case in point is the National Communication Commission, NCC’s testimony under oath in the National Assembly, NASS that internet coverage in Nigeria is merely 50%.
Can lsa Patami, minister of communications and digital economy testify under oath to the claim that there is indeed not enough internet coverage in Nigeria to facilitate electronic transfer of election results?
Must we always play politics with everything in Nigeria?
For the sake of transparency and objectivity ,why were telephone and internet service providers such as GLO, MTN, Airtel and 9Mobile not invited to also testify? After all, a combination of all the telecommunications firms are more active in the field than the regulatory agency.
But perhaps on the prompting of the ruling party, APC, the NCC did an about-face by contradicting itself about robust network coverage of the country by testifying that the nation suffers from poor network coverage to the extent the e-transmission of election results can’t be guaranteed. That is in tandem with the wisecrack: He who pays the piper dictates the tune.
lt is heart wrenching that the barefaced lies aimed at pulling the wool over the eyes of the Nigerian electorate such as a similar false claim that Nigeria is safer and Nigerians are better off than they were six years ago, are some of the so-called alternative realities that the new age politicians are dishing out to Nigerian masses and thus putting democracy on a slippery slope and thus killing it little by little by more. Whereas politicians in the ruling party should be feeling a sense of guilt for having failed Nigerians woefully and apologise, they are engaging in barefaced subterfuge, and on top of it, the ruling party appear to be hell bent on canceling out the other parties by dangling the carrot offer of: join the APC so that your ‘sins’ would be forgiven or remain in opposition and face constant harassment by law enforcement agencies or worst still , go to jail for offenses -real or contrived. While not being unmindful that party politics is not a tea party or like church or mosque affair where piety is a sine-qua-non, with purity and integrity being the currency , if the APC wants to enjoy the respect of Nigerian voters, it must rescind that obnoxious offer of forgiveness of ‘sins’.
It must not only mouth it, it must demonstrate that those in her fold who have run foul of the statutes are arraigned and not just eased out of office (which is the current practice) and those formerly in other parties crossing over to the ruling party in order to have their ‘sins’ forgiven, (which is currently the perception) must be seen to be facing the due process of law. That may not be the only way, but certainly it is one way that the APC can have a home run that it is craving so badly to the extent that it seems ready to do all that it would take transparently or otherwise to achieve.
Allegedly, the vote against the transmission of election results electronically was presented to northern legislators as a southern agenda against the north thereby magnifying the alarming north-south divide. It is also believed as the necessary first steps towards the APC sustaining its hold on power at the center with a northerner as president after 2023 against all odds and whether the south likes it or not.
It also informs the recent communique by southern governors comprising both APC and PDP members that the presidency must return to the south upon the exit of president Buhari in 2023, which in more ways than one counteracts the alleged northern agenda.
Whether we like it or not , our country has become a theater for political
cat and mouse game.
That unfortunate reality simply confirms that, contrary to the title of Chinua Achebe’s very incisive book titled“There Was A Country”, Nigeria was really never a country. It still is not , in the real sense of it. And that is despite the fact that there was an assemblage of three major ethnic nationalities-lgbo, Yoruba and Hausa/Fulani by Fredrick Lugard, the colonialist who branded the country Nigeria over a millennium ago.
In my view, there can only truly be a country after all the nationalities come together with a truth and reconciliation agenda to tell each other inconvenient truths so that all of them can better understand each other in much more profound ways .
For far too long, the multifarious ethnic nationalities have been pretending to be comfortable with each other, whereas all we have been since the 1914 amalgamation and even after independence in 1960 are strange bedfellows that have never bonded like a team.
To put things in context, consider a football team comprising of players assembled from all over the world to represent a country in a World Cup tournament, but the players failed to bond as a team before participating in the tournament.Such a team would likely not win the trophy owing to lack of cohesiveness and therefore without a common goal.
Like the imaginary football team described above, the Nigerian union has remained a project as opposed to being a country with shared goals for the progress and prosperity of all . Hence, after 106 years of being together, over 60 years after independence, and 51 years after an avoidable civil war, the ethnic and regional fault lines of north -south divide is still being amplified. Evidently, the votes on the Petroleum Industry Bill, PIB which denied the oil/gas exploration host communities 5% and reduced it to 3% while awarding 30% of profit from oil prospecting activities for oil exploration in the north, reflected north-south dichotomy.
Where is the equity in all of these and where is the beauty of democracy which is always about horse trading driven by the principle of give and take? If the south wants XYZ and the north wants ABC, as politicians, they should find a common ground via negotiation.
It took Lee Quan Yew of Singapore to be the rallying force that propelled that country of several tiny islands into the first world, from the third world . A similar feat can be performed by president Buhari if he elects to become ethnic and religion neutral and set an all encompassing agenda for one Nigeria, not northern Nigeria or southern Nigeria. That is my prayer.
To accomplish that noble objective , it behoves of president Buhari to hitch himself up, or raise his waning profile by being the proverbial knight in shining armor that saved democracy in Nigeria or blithe his legacy by being the undertaker for democracy in our beloved nation.
And l do not believe it is such a difficult decision for Mr. President to make, which is why I see light at the end of the dark tunnel.
Based on the rule of gravity, what goes up must come down. As such, the Hausa/Fulani may currently be on ascendancy courtesy of the appointments of members of president Buhari’s ethnic stock into strategic political and economic positions. But there is danger in such lopsidedness or what opponents refer to as nepotistic actions.That is because, when the eight years, two terms tenure expires , and power rotates to the next tribe, all the castles that had been built literarily would be pulled down by the next president, so that his own tribes men and women could also take over the commanding heights.
We have seen it happen after president Olusegun Obasanjo’s reign, 1999-2007 ended; and Goodluck Johnathan’s regime, 2010-2015 also expired when he lost the election to president Buhari.
Although those presidents were also guilty of nepotism,but much less by comparison to the present situation, nevertheless,people from the tribes of the previous presidents have since fallen from the pole positions that they hitherto occupied under the watch of their kinsmen.
It may be recalled that pre 1966, the igbos dominated both the public and private sectors of Nigeria including academia.
The agenda of dominance which they tried to consolidate with Nnamdi Azikiwe’s centralist or nationalist vision, reflected by his decision to be the Governor General of Nigeria, instead of returning to his region as a premier, as did, Obafemi Awolowo, and Ahmadu Bello, is what attracted envy and the hate that culminated into the pogrom on the igbos which was a precursor to the 1967-70 civil war.
So, as we are all well aware, kingdoms rise and fall over time. The rise of British Empire is also a typical example.
Other crude reminders are the rise and fall of Oyo, Benin and Kanem-Borno kingdoms as well as Mali out of Nigeria in particular and Africa in general.
The bottomline is that the Hausa/Fulani that is favoured today and dominating the commanding heights of political and economic spheres in Nigeria would almost certainly become victims tomorrow as the Igbos who dominated pre Independence up to 1966 (pre-coup) have learnt the hard way as they are now grappling with being excluded from governance, which is a fallout of their former dominance, and a factor driving their unending secession inclinations.
One way that the political merry go round or turn-by-turn Nigeria ltd (apologies to lsa Funtua) would cease to be the character and texture of the political system in our country, is for political leaders to stop or moderate the pushing of the agenda of ethnic, religions or regional supremacy when they ascend the throne of leadership . I’m persuaded that the current winner takes it all attitude would certainly always lead our country further down the road to perdition.
Smart politicians don’t apply the principle of majority carrying the vote in the crude form that our legislators do when national interest is at stake .
For instance, the Congress in the USA does not apply that principle in its raw form. Rather they apply a more sophisticated self-regulatory rule known as FlLLlBUSTER.
What this means is that unless 60 votes are cast in favour of a bill, the opposition with over 51 can filibuster and force the majority to negotiate. Just like the filibuster rule, upholding the letter and spirit of the federal character principle enshrined in the 1999 Constitution is a critically important bulwark for guaranteeing the continuity of Nigeria as one country, one destiny, which was a creed that our forebears were so committed to. And it is a state of affairs which today ,most Nigerians pretty much desire and see as a panacea to the crisis of disunity wracking the country. Hopefully, after the proposed truth and reconciliation conferences, we can all agree on how to come together to chart a common path that would enable the country exit the current schism as a better focused country with a set of goals for all the federating nationalities to set their eyes on, in order for all of us to become a people united in our determination and readiness to take on the world as one Nigeria.
–Onyibe, an entrepreneur, public policy analyst, author, development strategist, alumnus of Fletcher School of Law and Diplomacy, Tufts University, Massachusetts, USA and a former commissioner in Delta State government, sent this piece from Lagos.
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