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 re-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 the government of the powerful, wily, and rich (Aristocracy), l hasten to point out that political musical chairs in politics are not anathema in Nigeria’s political environment.
That is because it has been with us since the imposition of the 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 characterized 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 doldrums 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 schoolgirls 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 a 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 the 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 its 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 a 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 beeline 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 a banana in a transparent bottle to attract the monkey that tries to fetch it and its 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 them 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 of 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 labor leader, Adam’s Oshiomole and replacing it with Mai Mala Buni led Caretaker Committee and at the same time embarking on a 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 its 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 a breakaway 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 counterbalancing the activities of one another. We are all witnesses 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 worse 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 are 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 the 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 tribes 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 (5) years cooling-off period after service as a lawmaker. Perhaps our lawmakers should invest the current energy being channeled into making so-called anti-hate speech and media gagging laws and well-blocking re-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 institutionalizing 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 Barrack Obama and former Treasury secretary during Bill Clinton’s presidency. Currently, he is back at 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 newspaper editors? 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 is, 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 progressiveness 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 reason 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 lifeblood 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 the 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 is 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 (6) 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 more. Whereas politicians in the ruling party should be feeling a sense of guilt for having failed Nigerians woefully and apologize, they are engaging in barefaced subterfuge, and on top of it, the ruling party appears 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, but it must also 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 on not.
It also informs the recent communique by southern governors comprising of 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 games.
That unfortunate reality simply confirms that contrary to the title of that 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-Igbo, 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 is 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 a 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 the north-south divide are 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 the profit from oil prospecting activities for oil exploration in the north, reflected the 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 giving 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 behooves 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 l 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 (8) years, two (2) 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 tribesmen 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 the British Empire is also a typical example.
Other crude reminders are the rise and fall of Oyo, Benin, and Kane-Borno kingdoms as well as Mali out of Nigeria in particular and Africa in general.
The bottom line is that the Hausa/Fulani that is favored 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 learned the hard way as they are now grappling with being excluded from governance, which is a fall out 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 the majority carries the vote in the crude form that our legislators do when national interest is at stake.
For instance, 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 favor 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 that 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 to 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, an 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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