By Tonnie Iredia
At a Senate meeting some two weeks back, Senator Ahmed Ogembe, representing Kogi central alleged that his state governor, Yahaya Bello, sponsored thugs to disrupt an empowerment programme he organised for his constituents. In response, Ike Ekweremadu, the Deputy Senate President taking an overview of a number of undemocratic practices in the country reportedly opined that with the rapid way the country’s democracy was receding, it was not impossible for the military to consider taking over.
The furor which greeted Ekweremadu’s comment probably forced him to recant; more so, as it was given different colourations. In reality however, the statement is a true reflection of the current political situation in Nigeria. Many issues confirm this. In the first place, with the unwholesome behaviour of the country’s political class, some people are beginning to miss the military era. Indeed, the often stated axiom that the worst civilian government is better than the best military regime is now questionable. In fact, people who used to think that civilian governments and democracy were coterminous now know they have been exceedingly simplistic.
Perhaps the old argument is valid for real democracies but in Nigeria, civilian and military governments have a lot in common with the main difference being dress. It is true that Nigerian soldiers often shot their way to power in the past; in like manner their civilian counterparts have been getting to power against the wish of the people through fake elections. The number of people in political offices who got there through free and fair elections is so few that it is not irrational to conclude that the electoral process is not the real basis for forming governments in Nigeria because all our elections have always followed the same poor pattern. As once aptly described by the Election Observation Delegation of the International Republican Institute (IRI) the conduct of election in Nigeria can hardly “measure up to those observed by members of the delegation in other countries whether in Africa, Asia, Europe or the Western Hemisphere.” Painfully, those who get into office spend our scarce resources to enthrone their cronies as may happen soon in states like Imo and Ekiti.
It is one of our landmark ironies that soon after a governorship election, governors who claim to be democrats, dissolve “democratically” elected local councils and install unelected caretaker committees. Thereafter, they organize sham local elections in which every seat is won by the ruling class. In certain cases, some candidates garner more votes than are available just as others secure overwhelming votes in election booths where voting did not take place. Since the present dispensation began in 2015, there have been local elections in 23 states. Of this figure, the ruling APC has “won” 100% of the votes in 14 states that it controls. Its immediate rival, the PDP has also done so in 8 states that it controls. APGA which controls only one state; did what others do. Unfortunately, each charade wherever it occurs gulps huge sums of money, yet majority of our states are unable to pay workers’ salaries- the only thing the latter look up to as of right.
The point to be made is that there is nothing to be happy about with our politicians. Although they promised to build strong institutions, they have only succeeded in weakening all public organizations. In the public service what is in vogue is supersession in which inexperienced persons are being made to head several offices. Whereas the public is left to believe that there is an embargo on employment, unqualified people are being recruited daily through the back door. Within our poor economy, political office holders are daily acquiring expensive official cars. In the states, the legislature is an extension of the government house and for material consideration does whatever the governor wants. At the federal level where legislators appear independent, Senators as revealed by one of them last week, have N13.5million each to play with every month in addition to several other bogus allowances.
With these ills quite visible wherever one goes, what seems to matter to people who are virtually becoming hopeless is solution, irrespective of who can bring it. Instructively, the same political class has shown clearly that the best way to solve any problem in the country is to give the task to the military. Hence, our super military are now deployed to all trouble spots like Benue. It does not seem to matter what they make of the assignment. In other parts of the world, internal security is the function of the police. It is not so in our clime. Even a civilian task like election is being secured by the military. Toll gates otherwise called check points now have military personnel. The police is now reduced to guard duties with every VIP having a sizeable number of them despite the organization’s unending cry of under staffing. If the military must intervene in everything, who says they cannot consider directing their searchlight to our politics.
Those who have stuck to the argument that military rule is an aberration, have a strong point but that is not the only aberration we should abhor. We also need to deprecate others like the pauperization of the masses and the high level of insecurity across the country. Except something drastic is done to our politics, we cannot recover from our imminent downfall. The panacea which is to search for visionary leaders who can formulate and execute viable policies to transform the nation can hardly materialize because only wrong people get “elected”. Bearing in mind that they are usually coerced by large rented crowds who incessantly appeal to them to contest, they never had cause to tell us what they would do if elected, making it hard for them to be accountable.
So, whatever Ekweremadu said or denied, the earlier it is realized that our military is made up of Nigerians and that they see the nation’s ample political rascality, the better for us all. Growing-up, one of the sayings of our people that made much sense to me was that which said, anyone who is hanging around to stop a fight, ought to have begun appropriately by first stopping violent disagreements that could end-up in a fight. If we are all silent over the things that are making our state fail, it would be hard to stop the fall. We don’t want military rule; we also don’t want a political class that behaves like a child born drunk.