September 19, 2021

Searching for two-eyed politicians in Nigeria

By Tonnie Iredia

The daily defections of politicians from one party to another in Nigeria used to be quite irritating until we all learnt to live by the trend. Perhaps because those who defect are easily assimilated into their new parties, it has virtually become an achievement for politicians to defect especially from small and opposition parties to the ruling parties.

In truth however, it is not caused by only the absence of specific ideologies by which parties can be identified, instead it is more the manifestation of commercial politics which seems to satisfy the greed of the defectors.

The first sign of it when our new democratic experiment began in 1999 was what was called the government of national unity (GNU) in which the party which formed government at the end of elections ceded some positions to members of the opposition parties supposedly to attain political inclusiveness. This encouraged political leaders to easily concede defeat as a basis for negotiating for positions in government.

It is now history that many years ago when candidate Muhammadu Buhari was still at the presidential election tribunal protesting his loss, leaders of his party, at the time-the All Nigeria Peoples Party ANPP, abandoned him and went into an alliance with the victorious party and got some ministerial positions for themselves.

Such compromised politicians have greatly increased in Nigeria over the years. They are easy to identify: they have only one eye, which is for material gains, nothing else. Painfully, what used to be a habit of a few, some years back is now predominant in the political landscape of the country.

The latest is one in which politicians no longer rationalize; while some merely vote along party lines in the legislature, others sell their votes. Whether or not they vote against the transparent desires of their constituents no longer matters.

In order to be seen as articulate, they twist the issues in contention in such a way that many followers are made to perceive every issue as “them versus us.” In the circumstance, the political manipulators are able to publicly stand for a topic that would scandalize posterity

The examples are too many to be enumerated in one article. We can only refer to just a few. One contentious issue in Nigeria today is the attempt by some politicians to take the country back to the stone age by supporting a law which opposes the use of modern technology to conduct elections.

Many of those behind it, are politicians who are using only one eye, the eye which shows them how to rig elections. The other eye which draws attention to global realities of voting which less developed African societies have embraced is currently not in use.

Even those from constituencies that have long employed technology, voted against it with the argument that digital signals have not reached such constituencies which we all know have been using such technology to do almost everything including salaries.

Some others from major cities who could not give same reason of poor signal coverage disappeared at the point of voting because their only useful eye directed them away from the chambers. Meanwhile, the Kaduna state government has since used the same technology to conduct local government elections in a country that is allegedly not ripe for e-voting.

Another popular issue is open grazing. As Nigerians, we should ordinarily condemn the making of laws that are seen as detrimental to the continued existence of fellow citizens who are herders. But in other parts of the world everyone would have seen the anti-open grazing law for what it is – an attempt to stop any person from committing crimes in the name of herding.

Our politicians have so crafted the issue to make even non-herders to be constructively mobilized against it. Yet, we have always had herders and farmers living together in brotherhood all over the country.

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What has changed? Who have suddenly become aggressors? Why have some people become intolerant of others? These questions whose answers can restore national unity are neither asked nor answered because of several reasons that are difficult to comprehend.

Of course, we are not unaware that there are many politicians in the country today that are criticising the government of the day. The minority caucuses in the National Assembly for example have been hyper active in opposing many federal policies such as excessive loans but are they using the needed two eyes in the national interest?

If history is anything to go by, it is simplistic to hail them and hope that greatness is near should they form the next government. We need to remember that the current APC was even more vibrant while it was in opposition. They condemned many retrogressive steps of the former ruling party.

They lectured the nation on true democracy and good governance. They promised anything including the restructuring of our bogus federalism. Alas they are there now and all we are seeing are one-eyed men in power who have allowed themselves to be criticized for not keeping electoral promises

It would however be unfair to ignore some two-eyed politicians in our polity simply because they are essentially neglible. No one can dispute the obvious fact that Borno Senator, Ali Ndume always puts his two eyes on public policies. On the issue of loans, one of his eyes has been seeing the usefulness of borrowings for viable projects.

His second eye sees danger in the frequency of requests for loans. He is unhappy that the current request is not more than two months after the last request which questions the level of coordination of loans. This second eye which is premised on patriotism cautions the rush with which the loan requests are approved by the legislature which in his words ought to be a “House of deliberations” that does not deliberate.

Those whose eyes focus on being seen as cooperating with the executive must listen to Ndume and open their two eyes towards the verdict of history. Ali Ndume is an APC legislator who is known for his capacity to call a spade by its name. Are there others who are members of the ruling party, that the nation can rely upon to exercise discretion in the course of duty and draw a line between party and national interest?  

Those are the people we can afford to trust and not those who politicize every issue in the polity. With such persons, public policies relating to fiscal federalism can be used to water down the nation’s bogus federal structure bequeathed by the military that she has been unable to depart from.

Controversies relating to the subject of Value Added Tax (VAT) if amicably resolved can deflate the huge tension arising from the existence of a unitary structure within a federal system.

When Rivers state began to lay claim to the power to collect and retain VAT in her state, opposition to it should have been based on rationality and not on “them versus us”, how it can help states to function appropriately in a federal system should have been our goal.

Now that Lagos is making the same claim, it is obvious that it is a veritable opportunity to restructure rationally and incrementally.  This is because Lagos is not only an APC state, it also produced the national leader of the party Asiwaju Bola Ahmed Tinubu and indeed the Vice President Prof Yemi Osinbajo.

Considering that Lagos cannot be accused of opposing the ruling party, it is time to know that there are by far too man volatile and unbearable issues within our system, It is indeed time to use emerging issues in our democracy to evolve collaborative federalism in which one group does not scheme to undo others.

We need to stand firmly against aggression so that when the sermon of be your brother’s keeper is preached, Nigerians all over would stand for each other and for a prosperous nation.

Vanguard News Nigeria