By Tabia Princewill
There are very few nations in this world where such a question would apply. The generalised absence of conviction politics in today’s Nigeria has cemented the greed and selfishness which are the hallmark of most of our public processes.
Indeed, conviction politics, politics based on values, ideas and fundamental beliefs about the world and human society is so rare that it would be difficult, in our political landscape, to pinpoint the ideological, or policy leanings of any major politician, outside of the President’s uncompromising stance against corruption, the one factor which affects every facet of Nigeria’s public and private spheres.
Instead of strong notions and philosophies, vision and its concurrent plans for real development, Nigerian politics is dwarfed by grasping urges, base instincts and the eternal compromise of equity.
During elections, it isn’t unusual to see candidates propose “job creation” as either an achievement or an objective, as if it were anything unique or novel to want to create jobs; after all, it is a government responsibility but we in Nigeria are in the habit of praising those who do, (or pretend to do) nothing more than the basics.
So electoral promises are made without actually unveiling any precise strategy for implementation or achievement and I often marvel at how comfortable we Nigerians are with opaque, impenetrable arrangements.
The truth is that we as a nation, from the electorate to those voted into office, have forgotten how to think and moreover, how to achieve set goals and targets beyond play-acting and conning our audience.
We are a nation of compromise and unfair, illogical settlements both with the truth and with ourselves. The political strategy in our years of independence has been to solicit inter-ethnic cooperation by settling elites and granting them concessions with little bearing on the masses’ comfort, access to opportunity or development.
We replaced conviction politics with elite bargaining and money-making deals, hiding behind unproductive ideas to further confuse the masses: our policymaking has almost always been taken over by politicians and their cronies who benefit in the most inauspicious ways from our collective inability to think critically and creatively.
The call for state creation, much like the call to restructure Nigeria, is about one thing: the sharing of resources. However, let us not be foolish enough to believe that said “sharing” is for our benefit. In fact, let us ask ourselves how giving more money to public officeholders, many of whom boast of poor track records, will impact the individual lives of Nigerians.
What happened to the bail out funds? How come states which collect the highest derivation funds remain some of the most impoverished in the Federation? We must never stop asking these questions.
It is because we no longer think, or speak out against incoherent political discourse that we ironically make ourselves the champions of politicians who have consistently shown that the wellbeing and welfare of Nigerians is the last thing on their minds.
It was Margaret Thatcher who said, on the eve of her election as Prime Minister: “I am not a consensus politician. I am a conviction politician”. How many of her counterparts today could say the same? It is largely our fault if many of our leaders curiously lack the very qualities leadership demands: purposefulness and direction. Indeed, we no longer ask why things are the way they are.
Tirelessly, I maintain, we’re just as corrupt, breathing in the same air, relying on political patronage to go about our daily lives: so we refused to criticise the hands that fed us contracts and free, easy money.
Interestingly, with hope finally on the horizon, even in these bleakest of times, we now noisily protest and strangely obstruct government, caring about the “human rights” of individuals whom in their own quest for power and monetary gain, did not seem to care much for the rights of those who now intriguingly defend them.
Ramblings on forgery
From homes which remain cloaked in darkness, the funds meant to light them up long gone, one hears “witch hunt” bandied around or bizarrely justified ramblings on forgery and Senate rules.
In neighbourhoods which remain unsafe by any standard, the funds, again, meant to secure them spent on weddings, foreign trips and other amusements, one hears some Nigerians strangely claim that investigating those accused of corruption is dictatorial. Is it not dictatorial, the height of dogmatic, hypocritical and insincere politics, that in a country as rich as this, Nigerians are perennially unable to feed themselves, precisely because the funds meant to empower them are wrongly invested in a minority? What an odd nation.
The arrogant, imperious nature of some politicians, who claim they’d rather go to jail than vacate a post for proper investigation, shows clear desperate and anti-Nigerian tendencies. Hillary Clinton didn’t think she was “too big” to voluntarily submit herself to FBI questioning recently, in the matter of her breaching state security rules and regulations by using her private email address to deal with high level, confidential government business.
Potential fraud and forger
She’s running for President and wants to make sure she clears her name. We in Nigeria no longer believe in clearing our names; a good name no longer seems to have any bearing on one’s professional life in a country where one will always find someone to defend the indefensible.
In a country where every one of us now seems to be a potential fraud and forger, given the right circumstance, we are totally desensitised to crime and no longer understand how defrauding the state in any form affects not just our abstract democracy, but our economic reality.
If only we could think clearly once more, without the inflexible, narrow assumptions handed down to us by clever, manipulative politicians. We must be determined to ask for conclusions of all corruption cases: rather than ask “why him, why is he being investigated”, we must be mature enough to ask “did he do it?” and support the work of the courts.
Nigeria must once again become the home of rational, sensible thinkers rather than crafty, deceptive thieves and their accomplices.
Militants and amnesty
Ex Niger-Delta militants who hadn’t received their “allowances” blocked a major road this week, causing hours of disruption and delays for travellers, who themselves, have no access to state funds and instead need to make an honest living. I don’t think anyone but a Nigerian would understand a system which pays its people to effectively, not hold it to ransom.
Their placards “Don’t politicise Niger Delta Amnesty” are perfect examples of the lack of rational thinking I mentioned earlier. The fight against corruption will reveal Nigeria’s true friends and her enemies.
It will unnerve and dismay as we gradually learn (or rather, fully realise) that corruption kept Nigeria afloat, rather than any real economic activity. It has made some criminal elements (that is what Americans, for example, call those who vandalise state property) deluded enough to think that they are entitled to government largesse, while the common man suffers. Is it the common man militants avenge or political paymasters?
It was alleged that the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission,
EFCC, found N2.5 billion in a bank account opened in her housemaid’s name.
The former minister of aviation denied the charge and one must first point out that it is only in Nigeria that such an accusation could exist in the first place.
Besides the madness of the allegation, how does one open a bank account using the name, photograph and other details of another person, without their knowledge, particularly after the BVN exercise which necessitates fingerprints to verify the identity of all account holders?
So many questions, so few answers but the banking sector will eventually answer them all.