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Petty partisanship isn’t enough to take Nigeria forward

By Tabia Princewill

WE’re all so consumed by the 2019 elections, by the thought of who’ll win and, therefore, who’ll lose and what this means for those who are connected to power or who hope to receive some form of patronage or the other. We fail to really consider the consequences of poor policies and bad governance.

We have taken partisanship to such an extreme, there is no universal condemnation of the corruption, greed and destructive behaviours which have made dysfunction the norm in our country.

Nigerian flag

The average Nigerian can’t say who his or her local government chairman is talk less of what most major politicians’ manifestoes stand for. We’re all so obsessed with finding out who will contest and under what platform but we never stop to interrogate our prospective leaders’ ideas.

Foreign education and certificates

Furthermore, beyond the seduction of empty, unpractical ideas which is often what Nigerians are presented with, particularly when so-called “well-spoken” politicians present their foreign education and certificates as a badge of competence, many still fail the integrity test.

Their worldly, debonair attitudes are a marketing strategy to appeal to a youthful audience which often masks their hollow nature. Many such politicians are like the white elephant projects they commission while in office: good looking on the outside but meaningless once one looks beneath the surface. We are yet to find the combination between articulate, talented leaders with ideas, a moral compass and the resolve, or the ability to make a difference.

Such people rarely go into politics, nor do they decide to stay in Nigeria if given the chance to emigrate because to survive in our environment one must learn certain skills which act as either dream killers or transformative agents turning one into a clone ready to fit into our dysfunctional system.

It’s a shame talented men and women give up on Nigeria. This might be the only country in the world where the cream doesn’t rise to the top: it’s simply not allowed to. Every potential universal good is blocked so long as it doesn’t benefit sectional interests. In fact, one wonders what Nigerians really want for their country: why do we consistently, in most discussions, take the side of those accused of corruption? We are hardly pro-Nigeria, we are only pro this or that political figure. No matter the evidence, no matter the allegation, it is rare to find anyone in Nigeria who’ll admit to the possibility that their “favourite” might be part of the problem.

Undoubtedly, we are so obsessed with politics and the personal fortunes of politicians, we discuss and dissect their actions or moves like we would an “el classico” football match. Oftentimes, a self-proclaimed “Team Saraki” or “Team Atiku” fan only has their principal in mind and not his plans for Nigeria. The concept of loyalty, party ideas, ideals or even ideology is foreign to most “hard core” supporters of major political figures, everything can simply be explained away or brushed off to suit current realities.

Our tendency towards personalizing politics blinds us to reality, so we don’t ask the right questions of our leaders and go above and beyond to help spin their narrative, particularly on social media. Too many young and not so young Nigerians are the prisoners of misconceptions and “fake news”, whose authors, the same politicians some people are willing to kill themselves over, are masters of strategy and manipulation on ethno-religious lines.

INEC could do a lot more to teach Nigerians about not just citizenship and voting but about political campaigns as well. Why don’t we have a culture of real discussions and analysis of tangible proposals outside of endless guesswork about party intrigues? After all, we once did. If there’s one thing foreigners always wonder it’s how less than a few thousand people who constitute our political class and top decision makers manage to keep over a hundred and seventy million people in mental bondage.

I’ll leave you with this startling, little known statistic. According to the former Nigerian Permanent Representative to the United Nations, Mr. Martin Uhomoibhi, in 2016, 602, 000 Nigerians tried to cross the Sahara Desert to Europe. 68 per cent were graduates.

Young people whose counterparts in developed nations are starting businesses, using technology to transform their societies, vying for leadership positions based on their talent and merit, were so desperate to leave Nigeria they decided the arduous march across the Sahara was better than life at home.

Immigration service

Our immigration service says that more and more professionals are leaving Nigeria. Doctors, bankers, accountants, in essence, those who ordinarily should constitute the chunk of our upper middle class who in other climes would be political leaders or opinion makers.

As much as I understand the frustration of those with qualifications and potential who resent not being able to get a job in Nigeria simply because they aren’t well connected etc. how will things ever change when our best and brightest continue to leave?

Who is left in the public sector for example? Who does the public sector attract and why? Africans don’t have the luxury of disengaging from their home countries. We all instinctively seek self-preservation and betterment which is fine, but at what cost to the rest of society? And what about those who can’t leave?

What happens to them? The man-made disharmony in our societies is the prime reason for underdevelopment, it feeds corruption. One day an African leader must be strategic enough to offer concrete advancement and inducement to the diaspora. Unfortunately, most of our tin gods are not comfortable with competition and the more good people continue to leave in droves abandoning the scene to the dregs of society, the more things will stay the same.

Jega

THE former chairman of the Independent National Electoral Commission, INEC, Prof. Attahiru Jega, has spoken out against vote-buying in Nigeria, a dirty, not-so-secret act in Nigerian politics.

He asked voters to “vote their conscience” even if they don’t say no to such financial incentives due to poverty. Those who’ve always said that poverty in Africa isn’t just a consequence of poor leadership and corruption but a strategy towards maintaining the dependence of the population find themselves vindicated.

Indeed, nothing is possible in most African countries without the support of a “big man”. Prof. Jega was quoted as saying: “In most African countries, certainly it is true also here in Nigeria, many politicians spend a lot of time trying to win an election and very little time comparatively in preparing for what they would do when they come into office. The best of them will now only begin to appoint a committee, an advisory committee to prepare for them what to do after they have been elected. If you want to be elected, you have to be very clear from the beginning on what you want to do for the people and you should hit the ground running from day one. If leaders come into office unprepared, a lot of time is taken before they can get up to speed in delivering their mandate.”

He’s right. The real tragedy is that young Nigerians don’t use technology to organise for change. Running a party is expensive but less so by leveraging on virtual relationships.

There are over 80 million young people under 30 in Nigeria, yet electoral ballots once counted rarely exceed a few hundreds of thousands of people in most states. Whoever cracks the youth vote will find a solid voting block and the legitimising energy to really shake things up.

PDP

ACCORDING to reports PDP may change its name: this won’t make much of a difference. It’s interesting its leaders appear to believe their only problem is the party’s name.

As for the nPDP elements whose main grouse, allegedly, is the lack of patronage and appointments they received when they crossed over to APC, Nigerians need to pay close attention to Senate and House elections. Beyond voting on party lines, individuals need to convince voters of their worthiness.

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.

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