By Tabia Princewill
CAMPAIGNS in Nigeria are rarely issue based, which allows, as we all know, a host of candidates to make it into office who have no real plans for governance.
Poverty and mediocrity, as discussed last week, act as weapons: some Nigerians would rather watch and laugh at “dancing senators” or senators posing as Nollywood actors climbing trees and releasing music videos than properly interrogate their ideas.
This is the tragedy of politics in Nigeria which has been cheapened to the point of providing mostly entertainment as opposed to inviting passionate debate on candidates’ ideas for development.
For people who claim to want change our attitude to politicians seeking our votes is in no way reflective of this. The poor who’ve been conditioned to expect nothing from politicians beyond “stomach infrastructure” every four years can perhaps be excused: in any society people whose most basic needs are not met are rarely the providers of the psychological impetus for change.
However, it is interesting to find that those with the education necessary to create paradigm shifts in our society (and who could galvanize the poor by educating them on the issues using their various platforms) are oftentimes neither willing nor attempting to do so.
The universities have been stifled by decades of underfunding and salaries owed, so many intellectuals in our society are as much for sale as the poor on whose behalf they should be agitating. One finds that every segment of the society which in other climes would be leading the charge against corruption and underdevelopment is compromised by decaying physical and mental infrastructure. As for women and the youth, much is said on social media about the possibility of female governors, presidents and young leaders. Yet, besides their gender or their age many candidates bring nothing tangible to the table.
A few weeks ago, a conversation titled “who owns the womb, the husband or the wife” erupted on social media. I’d like to say that I was stunned by some of the responses: I was not. Nigeria remains a patriarchal society where the oppression of men (and the need to therefore prove one’s “manliness” by exploiting women) results in the oppression of women. In a society where “who is your daddy” is a question which reduces grown men to boys because they have neither financial clout nor status, where “real” men are only those who can spend huge sums (no matter how they are obtained) and provide for an army of eternally infantilized dependents, women are commonly perceived as less than their male counterparts. A number of women would even argue their bodies (and the choice regarding what to do with them) belong to their husbands (hence the “who owns the womb conversation”). In other climes, candidates take on social issues and relate them to politics by determining what legislative action or executive focus is required to produce the desired change.
If you’re not familiar with Ruth Bader Ginsburg, I’d suggest you read up on her. She was a celebrated Supreme Court judge during President Bill Clinton’s tenure: her activism wasn’t simply for the cameras, she had a real impact.
She is famous for her role in landmark cases on gender discrimination and was the inspiration behind President Barack Obama’s “fair pay act”, the groundbreaking legislation making it easier for employees to win suits based on pay discrimination claims.
The Nigerian Supreme Court on the other hand is mostly known for handling controversial electoral petitions. It is not famous for radical, pioneering rulings on cases which positively impact either women or the rest of society. A number of its members have in fact been enmeshed in controversy.
Not controversy based on their ideas but rather based on allegations of bribery and corruption. Where are the women campaigners involved not in the third sector and NGOs but who’re actively pursuing politics? Where are the women doing something other than wearing aso ebi to serenade their male counterparts running for office?
The women in our National Assembly who should be on the forefront of legislation to protect women and girls have often found themselves defending the corrupt, patriarchal system that allows the oppression of every individual who isn’t protected by money and status. Justice belongs only to a few in Nigeria and Nigerian women in particular are still in search for a champion who’ll take their cause to the highest office, someone who isn’t for sale and who will fearlessly campaign on the issues keeping most of us voiceless and powerless.
LAST week, the Publisher of Ovation magazine was labelled a “promoter of fake news” by a number of social media users who accused him of attempting to gain sympathy for Senator Adeleke by allegedly sharing inaccurate information online. Mr. Momodu claimed on twitter that the PDP Osun gubernatorial candidate, Senator Adeleke’s accounts (as well as all his family members including Davido) had been frozen by the EFCC.
The EFCC released a statement categorically denying that any member of the Adeleke family had their accounts frozen by the anti-graft agency. Mr Momodu’s tweet was reposted everywhere from WhatsApp, Twitter, Facebook, etc. by those all too eager to believe in what Nigerians like to call “executive rascality”. Unfortunately, Mr. Momodu’s half-hearted apology was not given the same prominence in the media as his costly “mistake”, to put it lightly.
Wilfully spreading alleged falsehood all because of partisanship in an election is something serious journalists should be wary of as we approach the 2019 elections. I was disappointed to find that most newspapers and television stations reposted the news without verifying it, knowing full well that a significant number of columnists and analysts in Nigeria are seemingly at the beck and call of one politician or the other.
As if that wasn’t enough, Mr. Momodu also posted, barely a week later, another half-truth: he bemoaned how Dr. Igwemezie, a Nigerian engineer won a $500 million contract for a motorail network in Iraq which “should have” gone to Nigeria if the Nigerian government had proven serious and retained the knowledge, skill and good will of one of its citizens in the diaspora.
Interestingly, a number of Twitter users and super-sleuths instantly took Mr Momodu up on his latest assault on the truth. The news it turned out, of Dr. Igwemezie’s work in Iraq was from 2009. However, I personally doubt the authenticity of the Dr. Igwemezie story, period. It doesn’t come up on CNN or any international news websites.
In fact, it featured only on pro Biafra news boards and PDP discussion groups online when I googled it: some attempted to say that Nigeria was yet again, unfair to the Igbos, look at Dr. Igwemezie, etc. If anyone decides to campaign for the PDP, it is their right under a democracy.
But why do we keep resorting to ethnic bias, hate speech and now fake news to do so? Nigerians must be careful of people who have nothing to offer in terms of ideas or achievements besides dividing us using ethnicity and religion.
Federal Inland Revenue Service
FOLLOWING the discovery of “recalcitrant billionaire taxpayers” the Federal Inland Revenue Service announced it had recovered N12.66 billion in tax revenue this month. Imagine then what Nigeria has been missing since 1999 (and beyond if you have the courage to do the maths).
Once again, for the people in the back who might still be in doubt, corruption is the central issue behind Nigeria’s underdevelopment. Tax dodgers in Nigeria are politically connected individuals who want to make all profit, no “loss” by avoiding the taxes they owe the government.
In functional countries, budgets are funded by taxes which provides an impetus for citizens to scrutinise how said budgets are spent. Our overreliance on oil ironically gave some corrupt individuals yet another avenue to cheat Nigeria.
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.