By Tonnie Iredia
The last general elections in Nigeria took place in 2011. Since then till date, it has become increasingly difficult to differentiate the pre-election atmosphere from that of national development for which governments were instituted. This is because campaigning for candidates into offices that have already been occupied is still very much on-a dangerous trend which no doubt hinders improvement in the welfare and living standard of the people.
In other parts of the world, the situation is different. At the end of an election, the victorious party forms a government to implement its manifesto and election promises. In Nigeria, the victorious party merely transforms into a strong cabal whose main goal is to control the nation’s material resources.
On their part, the opposition groups focus on two options. The first is for some of them to negotiate a piece of the materialism of the ruling party by either decamping or arranging a partnership with it to form what is known as government of national unity (GNU) – a purely Nigerian terminology. A good example being what happened to the defunct All Nigerian Peoples Party (ANPP) after the 2003 elections. While their Presidential candidate, General Buhari was at the election tribunal to protest his loss, his party executives according to Buhari himself, withdrew from the case, joined the GNU and nominated themselves for cabinet positions. The second is for those who are unable to get into GNU to design a framework by which they disagree with every government action. The absence of GNU since 2011 explains the unending opposition to government. Thus the posture of the political class has successfully converted Nigeria into a country with no little or no time for governance but plenty of politics.
Politicians cannot but accept blame for the incalculable damage done by the riots which followed the conduct of the 2011 elections. Labaran Maku, a politician and Minister of Information admitted this much a few days ago. It is indeed a notorious fact that the perpetrators of the anarchy are largely political bodyguards who have since over-reached their sponsors. However, Yobe State, one the most badly hit claims to have successfully held a local government election in the state last week. Does that mean that much is happening there? Well, the Minister of State (Finance), Yerima Ibrahim Ngama who hails from there has already punctured claims of viability of Yobe. According to the Minister, the State Governor, Ibrahim Geidam, his wife, children, and some commissioners do not live in the state. They merely run the government by remote control from Abuja. If the allegation is correct, what level of development can the state achieve? If the Minister was lying, does it mean he was playing politics which again shows that the only preoccupation of our leaders is politics?
Evidence that politics is all we have in Nigeria is also shown by the activities of leaders of the main opposition group -the All Progressive Congress. For the better part of 2013, members of the party elected into public offices continually spent more time than makes sense on electioneering in breach of the electoral law. Their Governors were always part of delegations travelling across the nation supposedly on consultations with different leaders concerning the nation’s future- another word for the 2015 elections. This was obviously to the detriment of governance in their states. Their colleagues in the ruling Peoples Democratic Party, were no less guilty as they were always in Abuja to meet over their unending self-inflicted intra-party squabbles making the running of their state governments to play a second fiddle to partisan politics.
At local government level governance has also been a non-issue. Some states refused to conduct local government election and merely appointed caretaker committees that only do their governors’ bidding. Those that allowed local government elections constituted electoral commissions which made Jega’s officials who registered people in the forest of Anambra instead of in the cities to look like saints. Above all, those who were ‘elected’ as chairmen and councillors were and are still deprived of using local government allocations for the purpose of governance. Some 2 years back, Governor Aregbesola of Osun State condemned the practice and urged his colleagues in vain to let local government councils be.
It is not uncharitable to imagine that the disposition of the political class is generally injurious to the health of the nation. One painful but common feature is where an elected office holder begins in earnest to secure another term even before he begins an earlier one. The case of President Jonathan is particularly interesting as different groups have continued to campaign for his re-election despite his plea not to be distracted. The situation is more intense in the states. In Imo for example, it is not only those in support of a second term for Rochas Okorocha that are busy, other interests are even more determined. The elders and prominent people of Mbaise zone for example, have reportedly given their nod for the ambition of one of their sons, Senator Bright Nwanne, to contest the governorship of the state.
In Cross River, Governor Liyel Imoke says he has been under pressure to anoint a successor among some political jobbers to succeed him in 2015. In Kwara, many people are not thinking about the fate of governance under the incumbent Governor. Instead they are bothered about which of the Sarakis-Bukola or Gbemi they should stand behind. Who even understands Taraba’s politics? Again, the time our leaders spend on medical tourism is virtually unquantifiable not to talk about those who govern by publicity
Incidentally, elections will hold this year only in Ekiti and Osun States and nowhere else; yet electioneering is more intense in locations where contests will hold in 2015 that is, a year later. Even in Edo whose governorship election is not due until 2016, the battle for the soul of the state has since begun. To redress our political dilemma it is time for civil society groups to aggressively condemn those who play politics after electioneering periods and enlighten the people not to support such gladiators; otherwise Nigeria will never grow