By Tabia Princewill
AS the war against corruption continues, perhaps rattling some forces within the polity, talk of the military’s possible return to power re-surfaces: to some, it might be an interesting attempt at reminding Nigerians that the common man has no real stake in the affairs of state and that things are decided by some shadow forces far outside his or her reach.
If these forces are not allowed to have their way, they reach out of the shadows and stretch their winding tentacles, therefore influencing events, preventing progress and ensuring injustice and impunity continue their reign of terror.
A number of governors seem to be at loggerheads with the senators from their states. Interestingly, many belong to the same party.
Rather than seek a resolution to this state of affairs which threatens governance and service delivery, the Deputy Senate President, Ike Ekweremadu, said on the Senate floor: “who says the military cannot take over?” It’s a strange comment which demands further analysis, especially because it follows comments about the “disagreements” between governors and senators.
‘Erosion’ of democracy
Of course, Senator Ekweremadu quickly denied the interpretation that his comments called for military action and specified he was merely worried about the “erosion” of democracy.
When powerful people don’t get their way, the tendency is to merge whatever perceived, would-be wrong was done to them with the injustices suffered by the masses. As if both were equivalent, rather than, on one hand, an injury in a fight between equivalent political forces, and on the other, generalised poverty and injustice, a constant assault on public morals and ethics.
The in-fighting between governors and legislators has no bearing on the people’s rights, except to show why many states in Nigeria are yet to live up to their productive potential. Senator Ekweremadu went on to say: “You will recall that sometime last year, they wanted to recall Dino. I advised the governor that they are wasting the resources of that state because it is mission impossible.”
These comments are equally troubling but just as revealing: who decides the recall of a legislator, his or her constituents, or political forces? And why does Senator Ekweremadu link recalling Senator Dino Melaye with the destruction of democracy? Actually, if our democracy worked, citizens should be able to recall or impeach any public servant they voted for if they deemed him or her to be unfit for office, but this doesn’t seem to have ever happened in our history as a democracy.
Such an idea is probably dismissed as impudent because it strikes fear in the hearts of politicians: if people succeed in recalling one senator then all bets are off, who is to stop them from subsequently challenging all political actors who might be perceived as underperforming? So, our politicians prefer to merge their would-be right to keep power (no matter what anyone thinks or how constituents feel about it) with the rights of ordinary people, therefore presenting their right to be where they are as the natural order of things, an incontestable, divinely ordained right of kings to rule.
“So today, I am advising the governor again that the road he is travelling will not lead him to anywhere. Ultimately, these people (the legislators) he is seeing here will be back here and he will leave office. If he doesn’t stop, there is no how he will come back in 2019, never, no he will not.
“God will show him that he is a God of justice and this is a message to all those people who have caused all kinds of problem in Nigeria at different levels. The problem in Nigeria is that our democracy is receding. Who says the army cannot take over? Let us not joke with our democracy, that is the issue”.
Politicians’ in Nigeria often quote God’s will or God’s wrath the way rulers in medieval times mentioned God to scare the masses into unquestioningly doing their bidding. One wonders what gives politicians in Nigeria the confidence, the certainty that they will always be in power. One might say “stomach infrastructure” doesn’t fail and not be too far from the truth but the leap from the would-be injustice faced by one man (Senator Melaye), or a few legislators, to our democracy apparently “receding” is difficult to follow. If “joking” with our democracy means allowing infighting between governors and legislators, then what should we call the Dapchi girls’ kidnapping or the constant denial of ordinary people’s rights in Nigeria?
“The house of a senator was destroyed in Kaduna State; we are talking about Kwankwaso who was stopped from going to his state where he ruled for eight years. In Kaduna, Shehu Sani cannot organise a meeting and we are talking about democracy?
“The international community needs to know this because they helped install this democracy,” Senator Ekweremadu continued.
As unfortunate as these events are (unfortunate only for the lofty characters involved and not for the masses that is), none of them changes the fact that under their watch, Nigerians continue to suffer while they amalgamate the huge benefits they gain from public office with a curious definition of suffering. The international community is not a keeper of our democracy; neither America nor Europe is our “big brother” watching over its childish, errant, younger sibling, why do we continue to think of ourselves in these terms?
Enshrining true equality
The international community would much rather see us develop and enshrine true equality and social justice within our society and our constitution, for instance, rather than get involved in our petty, partisan politics.
The comments about military rule and our “receding” democracy are even more curious when compared to the abuses of the PDP. This political infighting is nothing new, it has characterised our governance style from the beginning; simply, the actors and dynamics changed since 2015.
Attempting to pass this off as something which should concern Nigerians who are hungry and unemployed is disingenuous at best. As for the military, its spokesman was quick to deny its interest in politics.
Those days are gone and will never again be accepted by Nigerians. It is all the more curious that a deputy senate president no less, would speak of the military’s return in such an ambiguous form or context without any apparent justification for doing so. The labour unions have signalled they are watchful and will resist any undemocratic takeover, and so must all Nigerians.
THE same way the United Kingdom “stole” many of Nigeria’s best doctors, Liberia is prepared to “steal” our teachers by offering them better remuneration, etc.
When last year, news broke that 23 hospitals in Zamfara were managed by only 23 resident doctors (all 23 of them), beyond the momentary furore, we all went back to sleep because those with the power to effect change don’t need public hospitals and have access to private facilities abroad.
The tragedy in Nigeria is that nobody ever accepts blame for anything: everything is somebody else’s fault, everything was broken so long ago that we no longer realise the role we all play in maintaining this broken system; as more and more capable people exit Nigeria, who or what will be left besides those scraping the bottom of the barrel?
THE former governor of Delta State who was incarcerated in the United Kingdom for money laundering, recently said he no longer harbours any bitterness towards those he says “persecuted” him, leading to his imprisonment abroad.
It’s a shame that Nigerians constantly allow history to be re-written. No matter how much we try to make messiahs out of political figures, people should remember that courts in the UK, unlike ours, are not so easily bought.
Why would the UK fabricate accusations to indict Ibori? The confidence to publicly call his jail term a “sabbatical” shows how far we still have to go as a nation.
Tabia Princewill is a strategic communications consultant and public policy analyst. She is also the co-host and executive producer of a talk show, WALK THE TALK which airs on Channels TV.