Selfishness, the pursuit of self-interest and self-aggrandisement are the driving forces of Nigerian politicians. From bottom to top and back again, of those emotions, not one is free, not one is clean, not even President Muhammadu Buhari, Nigeria’s widely touted emblem of what is sane and altruistic in the polity.
In the recently concluded elections, Buhari for instance, left no one in doubt as to the prime status of his ambition to be President again. Even while he is the evident pillar holding the wobbling structure of his All Progressives Congress and the fact that the strengths and successes that parties make of their programmes are measured by the spread they are able gather countrywide, the President appealed to the electorate in more states than one to vote for him and forget party loyalty if they wished in subsequent elections.
It is doubtful that the treachery in this once and again repeated sentiment sank into most compatriots but regardless of whatever excuse or explanation partisans might attempt to provide, direct suggestions by the President and leader of the ruling party that the electorate may vote for people outside of the APC connotes more than a reborn mind that respects the will of the people.
A fundamental assumption of representative democracy is that each political party has ideals by which it lives and plans for the society it plans to govern and politics in Nigeria has also, once upon a time, lived this reality.
In the Second Republic for example, free education was a fundamental promise of the late Chief Obafemi Awolowo-led Unity Party of Nigeria. And that was not just at the federal level, the party obligated itself to provide free and compulsory education for all Nigerian children across the federation. This meant that every state the UPN governed benefitted from free education. If the UPN had won governorship elections in all the 19 states that Nigeria had at the time therefore, all Nigerian children without exception would have acquired basic education with measurable impact on national development. It goes to say that if the APC had a manifesto that prioritises education, Zamfara State would not have presented only 28 pupils for the National Common Entrance Examination into the Unity Schools as it happened in 2018 and Nigeria would possibly have been saved the threat that 13.2 million out of school children poses to its future. But that is a story for another day.
The issue at hand is that for the 2019 elections, every member of the APC, not to speak of its poster boy, should have spoken for the election of all its candidates across board, unless the party owns up to suggestions that it offers nothing different from most of the other political parties. In any case, if the President truly spoke out of respect for the rights of the people to make choices, why was he not as magnanimous with the presidential election?
The point here is that the number one man himself, even though he is not an everyday politician, has finally swallowed the “I, me and mine” pill of Nigerian politicians, leaving the nation in the hands of merchants without little or no inclination to provide genuine service to the people.
So, from Abuja, down to all the state capitals, local government councils, towns and villages, Nigeria has become a huge community of local fiefdoms where those who own the people are prepared to do anything to hold on to the reins of control.
So, things in Nigeria are such that the President would do anything to impose a successor and that would be in the interest of only himself. Not that he loves the state so much that he wants is legacy, which is most often than not one of rot, sustained or that he even loves his protégé so much that he wants his name entrenched in the gold of public service excellence, his fight, tooth or nail is just so that he is able to maintain his stranglehold on power and dictate the successor’s every move; what you my call a third term by proxy!
The governor who wants a second term, regardless of the mess he may have made of his first term, deploys the resources of state towards retaining office whether the people want him or not.
And then there are politicians who want to look good with the big man in Abuja or at the state capital. They are at the same level and would do anything to deliver their “constituencies” to the man who is contesting the office. Now, you would imagine that they do this for the love of their community or even the man for whom they are rooting but no, that is far from it. That local politician desires nothing more than having a seat at the table of the one who sits at the Government House in the state capital or at the Aso Rock Villa in Abuja. To earn the bragging right which opens the door and provides access to the seat of power, that local politician would hire thugs, bribe electoral officials, hijack electoral materials or even kill!
This is the origin of the confusion and shame that serially visited as Nigerians voted in the 2019 general elections. While elections should be the celebration of the democratic rights of Nigerians to elect, re-elect or change their leaders according to how much they have done or not done in the period under which they have been in office, a few people who have turned the country into their feeding bottles, hijack the process, maim and even get people killed in the process.
So, public service is not at the core of the politician here, which is why questions should be asked about Nigeria’s preparedness for democracy. While politicians in most democracy seek office to serve the people, seeing their election and re-election as the case may be as the people’s benevolence, here, politicians lord it over the people. By offering himself for office, the politician here sees himself as the one doing the people a favour and when he gets into office, he takes the seat of the ruler and the people become the servants, a pathetic role reversal that does the country no good.
Unfortunately, the people are at sea! It’s a largely impoverished society without any visible promise for change. That is one reason why true democracy will elude Nigeria for a while. Poverty and democracy are mutually exclusive with democracy and those who should work to lift society from the pangs of poverty are the same people who want to hold on to power by all means and leave others wallowing!
– Niran Adedokun tweets @niranadedokun