By Tabia Princewill
I WAS at a dinner with some expatriates recently and as usual the topic came to politics and to the Buhari Presidency. I felt I had to explain to them why change is so difficult in Nigeria. True, the President and his team have scored a few own goals, so to speak, but the maneuoverings at play in Nigeria could leave the best political scientist or soap opera viewer dazed.
Yes, one should expect better strategy and coordination from the Buhari administration given the magnitude of the problems faced but until Nigerians keep a sustained pace of agitation and demand for real change, no politician, no matter the party, will fully stick his neck out and take on the system with the brazen, unsparing attitude required to fix this country.
Even some Nigerians born and raised here do not fully recognize or understand the impact corruption has on our economy: proof of this is that the fight against corruption did not prominently feature in any of the PDP Presidential aspirants’ talking points.
For them to believe they can do away with addressing their serious image problem (and the numerous allegations attached to many if not all the leading figures of the race) shows we have a serious problem on our hands in this country.
Acts of economic terrorism
Is all forgiven so soon and so quickly, without anybody being brought to book, or being made to pay for the financial crimes committed against Nigerians? Why are we so committed to pretending not to see what is right in front of us? Unfortunately, due to the state of our judiciary, every accusation in Nigeria, no matter the facts presented remains an “allegation” (and many people literally get away with murder) because no court is ever willing to convict the big fish responsible for the many acts of economic terrorism and sabotage which caused a recession, destroyed infrastructure, education and healthcare.
Too much is excused as “the way things are” and brushed under the carpet. Most of us don’t want to believe allegations (no matter the facts presented) or acknowledge it either because we benefit or because it’s just too gruesome to fathom.
Clearing one’s name in Nigeria is pointless due to the army of sycophants willing to do so for free and without investigation or debate. I came across a comment on social media which perfectly sums up our situation: “Nigeria is not great, rich people are the ones enjoying” which was tweeted in response to some Independence Day wishes for our “great” country. Indeed, rich people enjoy Nigeria where impunity runs with perpetual injunction and do-or-die politics, where intrigues worthy of Oscar winning cinematic productions betray the laws of dignity, where partisanship, disloyalty and devotion to vested interests trump patriotism and unity any day.
Social media was filled with reports of a meeting between the Senate President, Bukola Saraki and the APC governorship candidate in Taraba state, Alhaji Sani Abubakar Danladi who is currently a Special Adviser to the Senate President. Politics can be confusing in Nigeria because confusion becomes an art form.
Isn’t the Senate President now in the PDP? How is a close ally and employee of his contesting on the APC platform? Which parties victory will Alhaji Danladi work for? How does the Special Adviser of an opposition man such as Bukola Saraki get the ticket for the top job in a state already facing the instability of the herdsmen/farmers crisis?
Family business of corruption
In Nigeria, the more you look the less you see. Take any political appointee in Nigeria and you’ll soon find that his wife, brother and nephew have been strategically placed to enhance the family business of corruption.
Ties cut across party lines and ethno-religious group to the point that many smaller political parties are only fronts for larger entities. Change is difficult in Nigeria because virtually every level of governance is compromised in one way or the other through its dealings with many unscrupulous persons. Families are torn apart by politics and the quest to virtually die in office.
A report surfaced recently stating that the minister of State for Foreign Affairs, Hajiya Khadija Ibrahim, defeated her step son, Mohammed Ibrahim, for the APC ticket for the Damaturu/Gulani/Gujba/Tarmuwa, Yobe Federal Constituency. Hajiya Ibrahim (who is currently a minister) is also the wife of the former governor of Yobe State, Senator Abba Bukar Ibrahim who some might remember from the viral video of his tryst involving two women.
Senator Ibrahim confirmed the man seen in the explicit video was indeed him, a curious and ironic twist given the support for Sharia law from Northern lawmakers claiming it would produce a more just and moral society. Sharia, like any cultural or religious idea in Nigeria, targets only the poor who do not have the luxury of placing all their family members in positions to protect their interests. Politics in Nigeria is simply a nesting ground for alliances based on profit and vested interests, it is no contest of ideas and 2019 might be the most competitive election yet, where alliances will be sorely tested.
What will become of Bukola Saraki if Atiku loses? This is the question on everyone’s lips. He can’t return to APC, he was lucky to get an automatic ticket from the PDP (so was Senator Kwankwaso). This election will be keenly contested because many politicians will likely view an Atiku win as their only hope of remaining politically relevant.
Unfortunately for Nigerians, these intrigues and alliances are not based on clear, strong ideas for the betterment of the common man. They neither denounce corruption nor provide a real template to attack it and without this, no development in Nigeria will be possible, given a system whereby many politicians have wives in the supreme court or as chief justices, or children in all arms of government ready to do their family’s bidding.
The real opposition in Nigeria is not between APC and PDP but between rich and poor. The poor and middle classes in Nigeria do not fully realise the interests of their class, nor do we see that the way we accept for politics to be played can never produce anything different. This terrible system lacks credibility and can only produce more mediocrity.
Hon Amaechi Mrakpor
THE lawmaker representing the Aniocha/Oshimili constituency of Delta State, claims her opponent for the PDP ticket, Ndudi Elumelu disobeyed Governor Okowa’s alleged instruction not to give delegates more than N100,000 each.
Mrs. Mrakpor who is also the wife of the Delta State Attorney General, reportedly told journalists in Delta after the primary that Elumelu won because he gave over 500 delegates $1,500 each.
Mrakpor alleged that Elumelu “started campaigning to the delegates while voting was going on,” adding that “he brought out a Ghana-must-go bag and started sharing jollof rice and chicken and nobody cautioned him”.
This sort of politics can’t produce development. Jollof rice and chicken can never replace good ideas. Has Ndudi Elumelu, whom reports claim is the brother of Mr. Tony Elumelu, the UBA Bank Chairman, been called to order, if indeed the allegations are true? The issue here is not the “gentleman’s agreement” to “only” spend N100,000 but the entire practice of paying delegates. No wonder it’s so difficult to attract and retain men and women of ideas in Nigerian politics.
The “dollarization” of the PDP Presidential primaries was widely reported. Delegates weren’t too shy to reportedly show correspondents envelopes stuffed full of dollars. Some delegates allegedly hoped the primaries would be cancelled so they could be called again to receive more money. Others saw it as an opportunity to “collect what belongs to us from these men”. If such facts are supposedly in the public domain why is it always impossible to gain the support of Nigerians and decisively act on them? Can you imagine the outcry and judicial action (within the Republican party alone) if it were claimed that Trump received his party nomination by bribing delegates?