By Kabiru Muhammad Gwangwazo
Forty years after moves towards the first decisive return to civilian governance began, we are again working to another epochal phase for Nigerian democracy this Gregorian Year, 2018.
It is obvious we are again at a make-or-break event for civilian democracy ahead of the 2019 election and handover to the next set of rulers. Yes, Rulers, certainly not Leaders. Late Danmasanin Kano, Yusuf Maitama Sule had always prayed that we be blessed with Leaders, not Rulers and I add not Looters, throughout his life as a frontline politician.
That political parties including General Buhari’s APC have posted tens of millions of naira as fees for tickets confirms this. That other parties also took their cue from the ruling APC is a disaster for civilian democracy. That signals democracy has finally been deliberately killed by our reigning politicians and political parties.
In 1978 when Nigeria was on its way to the Second Republic and political parties surfaced after 16 years of military rule, in every state there were two prominent parties, the dominant state party and the opposition.
There were five political parties registered by the Obasanjo/Yar’adua government. They were NPN, PRP, NPP, UPN, GNPP and later NAP in 1983.
All of these political parties were fully funded by members and supporters who believed in the cause of the parties, with reasonable support of the federal election agency, FEDECO.
Awolowo’s UPN was a natural continuation of the Action Group (AG) of the First Republic with its roots in Egbe Omo-Oduduwa, the Yoruba socio cultural group that Awo led to promote and protect the interests of Yorubas from colonial times.
Dr. Azikiwe’s NPP was an offshoot of NCNC and a mixture of minority groups of the same First Republic, including BYM (Borno Youth Movement) that was brought into the mix by Waziri Ibrahim, a multimillionaire and friend of the Nigerian military establishment. After disagreements with Zik and his team in NPP, Waziri broke away to revive his group and lead it to victory as GNPP getting to form the governments of the defunct states of Borno and Gongola.
PRP too was born as a result of irreconcilable differences that Malam Aminu Kano had with the core group with which he had earlier led the formation of the NPN from the National Movement that was set up at the end of the Constitutional Conferences of the Obasanjo/Yaradua regime.
The NPN, being a natural continuation of Sardauna Ahmadu Bello’s rightist NPC (Northern Peoples Congress) had no place for Malam Aminu Kano who was the major thorn in the flesh of the Northern establishment and its colonial patrons before we got our flag independence in 1960. Malam Aminu Kano was the leader of radical NEPU and went on to become a Federal minister under General Gowon as Head of State.
In those days of the First and Second Republics, the conservative and radical progressives all worked with a mission and agenda. None of the parties on whatever side of the spectrum was in politics simply to take over power for personal self aggrandisement of the political players. They ran what amounts to textbook politics in terms of cleanliness, especially compared to the atrocious pillage witnessed in the latest turn of political events in Nigeria.
Politics, before the military decided to join and use it to perpetuate themselves in power was simply about service. Money in political parties and campaigns was not the most important of assets. It was a necessary adjunct, yes. But it was not the thing.
From the days of self styled (Military) President Ibrahim Babangida (IBB) with his convoluted transition to civil rule, everything changed.
Even with his halfhearted attempt at support for NRC and SDP, the two left and right of centre creations he foisted on hapless Nigerians, the insertion of his boys and encouragement of so-called “new breed” was a disaster that literally destroyed the purpose of civilian democracy.
It was in IBB’s transition to nowhere that such larger-than-life moneybag “politicians” as Late General Shehu Musa Yar’adua came onto the scene. So too, IBB’s bosom pal, billionaire MKO Abiola who became the last straw that forced his friend, IBB to “step aside” to his Minna Hilltop Palace.
With General Abacha’s transition planned to make him life President, of CNC, DPN, GDM, NCPN and UNCP the final nail appeared to have been punched onto the coffin of civilian democracy.
Then God intervened in 1998. Abacha died. Another General, Abdulsalami Abubakar took over. Military rule had by then become universally unfashionable.
Thus, General Obasanjo caught in a coup attempt against fellow General, Sani Abacha and jailed for his crime was sprung from jail by his military boys and forced on Nigerians as appeasement for the June 12 MKO SDP and Tofa NRC elections they cancelled.
We then suffered eight years of a contrived civil rule under Obasanjo and went on to suffer General Shehu Yar’Adua’s younger brother, terminally sick Umaru Yar’adua who expectedly died in office. And then the bumbling incompetence of another military propped President, Jonathan of fresh air, all under PDP.
As we mark 20 years since the first set of elections in 1999, we are still under the thumb of the military with General Muhammadu Buhari (GMB), another former militay head of state as President. He was brought in as a credible alternative to Obasanjo’s high-handedness and Jonathan’s bumbling times.
The key selling point of General Buhari is his integrity, in particular his impeccable credentials over his years of service as a military officer and military politician.
Cumulatively Nigerian democracy has been rubbished by militarisation of the polity, the forced migration to a centralised pseudo-federal presidential System; a system that is more unitary than federal in all respects in tune with the military’s tradition of centralised command. The system has consistently favoured money and moneybags.
With the election of GMB as President the many assumptions of Change have remained largely unfulfilled. The excuse given by many of us, traditional GMB supporters have to do with the fact of his health challenges for most of the first term. Yet, with the upcoming 2019 elections in view and preparations in top gear within political parties, it is apparent that though thankfully heathy, GMB has not measured up to his rating.
He has sadly allowed those who never had any integrity to lose in the first place to toy with his choice asset, and allowed them free rein on decisions that impact on his political future and his place in Nigeria’s history.
Though acting appropriately even if late on some of these infractions, the GMB Government allowed the DSS run on the National Assembly, the fake (NYSC) certificate of Kemi Adeosun, his finance minister, the alleged fake certificate of his legal assistant; the open and warm reception and embrace of Senator Akpabio, ex-PDP to the General’s APC and many of his type all over the land.
As if that is not enough, the President’s party, APC led the 91 registered political parties in posting the most outrageous fees ever for aspirants wanting to contest elections.
Our President “bought” his forms for N45 million, paid for by some supporters. Scandalously. This so soon ignores that in 2014, the General had to seek a bank loan to pay N27 million we all found unfair and outrageous.
Yet, as chief stakeholder, guardian and guide of the nation our GMB meekly accepted the supporters’ gift of a N45 million ticket he could have outrightly rejected and thus forced the parties and politicians back to the path of rectitude.
Failing that, now all parties took their cue appropriately. All charge huge sums. All expect aspirants to become candidates and win elections and genuinely serve the people. How can that happen, ever?