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2015 Elections; Good Excuse to Ponder Politics - Kaius Ikejezie (Ph.D)

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When ISPI (Istituto per gli Studi di Politica Internazionale/Institute for International Political Studies) asked me, barely a month after I had participated in a workshop it had organized at the Italian External Affairs Ministry in Rome, to write a paper on the upcoming elections in Nigeria, I spat ‘tufiakwa’. “Why should I want to annoy myself, or listen to sad songs, or drink ‘ogwu iba’, a thing as bitter as that – when I have no malaria” – I later murmured. I stuck to my guns until the change in electoral dates. It was then that I started shouting ‘politics’ and ‘dirty game’ in soliloquy and in alternation. Again, it was then that I capitulated – unconsciously. Churning thoughts on Nigeria and her politics then started in my mental vessel. The first word churned out was fugue, defined by Merriam-Webster’s dictionary as, ‘A disturbed state of consciousness in which the one affected seems to perform acts in full awareness but upon recovery cannot recollect the acts performed.’ The next was ‘bacchanalian revel’, one of Hegel’s terms for his Phenomenology. The American philosopher Robert Solomon, influenced by this term, described this book as ‘a maze of obscure forms, linked together by whims, struggling to reach clarification by devious or impossible routes.’ Incredible! Those are also words quite apt to describe the phenomenon called Nigeria. Well, last but not least was ‘speaking in tongues’, which of course does not allow the people it is meant to wow to make any sense out of the babble. It merely jars their ears.

The things that happen in Nigeria generally, and in her politics in particular, defy logic. Take, for example, Expo Milan 2015. Nigeria agreed to participate, but with fewer than three months to go, the land given her to build her pavilion is still empty. The delegation the Italian government sent to Nigeria was assured that Nigeria was not withdrawing, but no sooner had the group left than the Nigerian government, like one who drank amnesia-inducing Lethean water, forgot all about it.  The Expo organizers were thus plunged into the Strait of Messina, barricaded on both sides by Scylla and Charybdis, but the philosophy of ‘The show must go on’ prevailed. Now the event will take place with an empty land like a big ozone hole in the firmament, though the rest, thank heavens, is constellated by beautiful structures from other countries. 

Nigeria is not a normal place, and so things stand on their heads. This is why she has been held hostage and raped mercilessly for decades by a gang of twenty or thirty men. This is why millions and billions of dollars are given to individuals, who are either pastors or obas, instead of utilising them to accomplish things for the common good. Only a person at the helm by luck than merit would believe the equation: money given to religious and community leaders equals thousands of votes. Money has replaced God and is thus worshipped in all manner of ways. Apropos of money, a senator earns over two million dollars per annum, while a worker on the minimum wage receives a little above one thousand dollars for the same period, so needs over 1,600 years to earn a senator’s annual salary. Who can believe that a party form to vie for the presidential office, for instance, goes for as much as nearly one hundred and fifty thousand dollars. How many honest Nigerians can afford such an amount for a mere form? And this is nothing compared to what a campaign can cost. It is clear that this is trading in full swing, yet we have not replaced politician as a word with trader. Not even mere opinion here is reliable, or an event certain till it has passed. It is a place where gurus, for example, wake up one morning and declare their support for a candidate, and the next day they deny it. A candidate does not win an election here because of a rich agenda, but because of lies told with the conviction of truth, religious and ethnic sentiments brazenly played out, rigging, and other shenanigans. 

Africa’s most populous nation is full of pathologies, with no cures provided so far. This was why some Nigerian doctors who studied abroad and live there were called back home and given ministerial appointments as technocrats. In spite of the Hippocratic Oath to save lives, they chose to ignore the illnesses for which they were invited home. When they did anything at all, as they must prove later they did something, they never went beyond placebos. Meanwhile, the patients entrusted to them are dying by the thousands. The bulk of the billions given them to save lives and the bad situations are stashed away in banks in Dubai and other places. Tomorrow their ultra-modern hotels, newspaper corporations, air transport companies, tollgate business, TV stations, companies by proxies – like those of their colleagues who schooled them – will start springing up here and there in Nigeria and beyond. And these are the people we hail for floating companies and giving employment. Sometimes, we hear them use words like sanitize, ethics, conscience, God, again God, God – ad nauseam, etc. As religious analogy is apposite here, one can say that they have eaten the forbidden apple and realized how naked they are, and so can no longer fault anybody for being naked.

Election time is not the best of times for Nigerians, because it exposes us. It shows how limited we are, in spite of the shibboleth of being the giant of Africa. It is funny we believe what we do is part of what is called democracy, yet the alternation of power is fought against by the incumbent with all his might. Yet again, the president bestrides Montesquieu’s tripartite system like a colossus, with its two elephantine legs pressed on the judiciary and the legislature to cow them. Even representation, a synonym of democracy, is conceived solely as self-representation, where the winner takes all; the people represented can go to Hell. They exist only during elections and are coaxed through different means to vote as expected. The word vote used here is a misnomer because what actually obtains is rigging. And it is done with impunity and before everybody’s eyes like a daylight robbery. The Greeks, it seems, invented democracy to entice us to become jesters, and so make Westerners break their ribs from laughing. Till we replace voting with tests for the candidates, AND WITHOUT ANY SITTING PRESIDENT, we will continue to practice democracy alla Nigeria, i.e., farcical democracy.  

Come March 28, Dr Goodluck Jonathan of the People’s Democratic Party (PDP) and Gen. Muhammadu Buhari of All Progressives Congress (APC) will square off before the electorate.  These two candidates of the two major political parties are unfit for the job they are seeking. To start with, none of them is an economist. Nigeria this time needs an economist, who can proffer viable solutions, understand the experts’ technicalities and above all stem the financial hemorrhage triggered off by corruption, unless one can be an economist and share out money without rhyme or reason, or like one with low IQ. Again, none of the two candidates has written a book. In some Western countries, candidates present their candidature with a book to talk for them, instead of an embellished fictitious persona. The two candidates are also flawed for making Nigerians think on tribal, religious and north and south lines, almost like never before. This is why Boko Haram is politicized and the Chibok girls forgotten in a hurry. Both equally share somatic traits that portend inaction. While Jonathan, apart from having Dame Patience as a pain in his neck, has widespread corruption and the fact that the corrupt are not indicted or dismissed as his bane, Buhari’s record of not being corrupt and being strict to a fault may not be enough to make him win. He is too north-centric to rule in a democratic Nigeria. However, it is not going to be an easy contest, and neither is it going to be free and fair – if it is not disrupted.

Nigerians are light years away from being educated democratically, and so their own nemesis. They are not yet ready to throw out a corrupt and mentally deficient president, who happens to relate to them by tribe, religion or geopolitical zone. Ordinarily, they give the impression of being clever; but upon closer examination they turn out to be as gullible as any other. This is why a president needn’t bother doing anything to earn a second term; all he needs to do is point at phantom enemies personified by religion, tribe or some other spectre. Or peregrinate from pastors to obas sharing out money. Or even ask for extra time and make sure there is a whirl of construction activity everywhere, so that voters will not be in doubt who to vote for. The opposition, on the other hand, is no less adept at this game; it also uses the same weapon and will likely reproduce all the vices of the incumbent when its leader eventually wins. It does not matter if this leader is an acclaimed saint; the crossbreeding that takes place will obviously modify his DNA. Even when this does not happen, his election bankrollers must surely have their way. This means that looting, which has moved from mere millions in naira to billions and trillions in dollars, will climb to zillions in any higher currency. This is bad news for Nigeria.

Nigeria needs a latter-day version of PRP (People’s Redemption Party) with hard-core intellectuals at the helm, those whose intellectual honesty makes them more Christian, though they may not be Christians, than the Christians’ heads themselves. Nigeria is in dire need of a party that will really represent the common people, including the Bakin Zuwos, though without leading positions, so that we will not have leaders for whom running mate would mean someone running after their life; again, for whom mineral resources would refer to Coca Cola, Fanta and other minerals. In Italy, the equivalent of the reformed PRP is the ‘Five Star Movement’, in Greece the Tsipras’ party, in Brasil Lula’s party. So, the party that matches this prototypical sketch is the one to be voted for, not one of the two ancien régimes, where the so-called men of God have become hustlers. Nigerians for the common good, unite!


Read 1370 times Last modified on Saturday, 21 March 2015 20:15

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