By Ikechukwu Odu
The Bishop of Nsukka Diocese, Anglican Communion, Rt. Rev. Aloysius Agbo, on Saturday, said that the eagerness and enthusiasm with which young people are struggling to get their Permanent Voters Cards is a political revolution against money politics, god-fatherism and political recycling in Nigeria.
The cleric also said that people have realized that shying away from voting during elections was not the best way of emancipating themselves from political slavery.
He made the statements while delivering his keynote address on the topic ‘Our Vote, Our Power,’ during the 2022 Summit of the Nsukka Journalists Forum, NJF, at the Adada House, Nsukka Local Government Area of Enugu State.
He equally identified what he called “disguised one party system, god-fatherism and money politics,” as factors responsible for manipulation of election results in Nigeria.
He called on Nigerians to rise to the occasion by using the ballot papers to vote out incompetent and corrupt leaders just as South Africans voted out the apartheid regime with their votes.
While talking about money in Nigerian politics as a factor militating against credible elections in Nigeria, he bemoaned the high cost of nomination forms and recent dollarisation of political conventions in Nigeria.
“The only factor which makes disguised one party system and godfatherism to thrive in our polity is money. Money politics means power to the highest bidder, whether he is a thief or not.
” It is not demo-cracy but money-crazy. People sell their conscience to remain in perpetual penury. We have always seen it play out in Nigerian politics but we saw it play out in the recent conventions of the two major political parties, where some delegates betrayed their leaders who took them to the convention because they saw dollars.
“What type of democracy are we practicing in a situation where the presidential form is sold at N100, 000,000.00? Yes, N100, 000,000.00. And if what we heard was true that each of the delegates to the presidential primaries went home with not less than twenty five thousand dollars as inducement from the contestants, does it not imply that the presidency goes to the highest bidder and not the best man for the job? If it is true that each of the delegates to the gubernatorial primaries went home with not less than N400, 000.00 and were directed by the incumbent on whom to vote, does it not portray us as a money-crazy nation instead of a democratic entity? These pertinent questions must be asked: is there any hope in the type of candidates presented by this money politics?
“Is it not a national shame and tragedy that our universities are closed down for more than three months because of staff emoluments and yet politicians are paying hundreds of millions to indicate their interest in becoming our president? Is it not painful that even our primary school teachers (primary school – o! – the very foundation of any nation’s formal education) are on strike simply because of minimum wage and yet the powers that be are busy campaigning for 2023 election instead of securing the future of our children? Where then is the patriotism and commitment to social contract which are the hallmarks of elected public officers?
“Why won’t people be demoralized and disillusioned? Why won’t there be voter’s apathy? What confidence do people have that if they come out to vote their votes will determine their leaders? This is more worrisome in our own region, the South East, the Igbo states, who have been at the receiving end since the inception of democracy in the country.
“But how long shall we continue in this traumatizing apathy? It must be emphasized at this juncture that if we must change a system we must be deeply involved in it and, I think, this is the import of the theme of this summit: that the best form of defense, as they say, is attack, not running away,” the cleric said.
Also, while delivering his paper on the same topic ‘Our Vote, Our Power,’ the Guest Speaker, Prof. Damian Opata, said that Nigeria has been inflicted with instances of flawed elections.
The don, a professor of Oral Literature, Department of English and Literary Studies, University of Nigeria, Nsukka, UNN, also said that the state machinery has deprived the people of the power to elect those that would represent them in leadership positions.
“The 2023 party primaries in Nigeria have come and gone. The new electoral act excludes statutory delegates, making elected wards and local governments delegates the only persons qualified to elect candidates for various elective offices. What is the extent of ” Our Vote,” in this context? Is it the case that “our vote,” was delegated, without our consent, to the delegates? There have been widespread doubts about whether the delegates were elected or appointed, or selected, or even whether they were endorsed to be elected, in which case, the party people in general were not duly involved in the election. There were even allegations of dollarization of the party primaries. These allegations have to do with vote buying, a phenomenon that deprives the person who sells the vote of his or her power. Of course, when a bought vote is cast, its status as “our vote” is automatically modified.
“…What is it that we are doing with our power in contemporary Nigeria? In Igbo religious history, communities have been known to abandon deities that fail to fulfill their requirements, one reason for which the Igbos go from one deity to another in search of solutions to their problems. What has happened to our people? Is it merely the superimposition of foreign models of governance on our people, or is it part of normal cycle of growth and decay, or indeed, of inadequate adjustment to the uncomfortably new? ” he queried.
In his remarks, the Senator representing Enugu North Senatorial District, Chuka Utazi, lamented the inability of the District to use their commanding voting strength to direct the political fortunes of the state.
He called for political reawakening for the people of the District, adding that it is wrong to assume a subservient role when one was supposed to be leading.
In her address, the Chairman of NJF, Amaka Ukwuaba-Nnaji, thanked the members for turning out en masse for the summit. She equally called for the spirit of oneness amongst members to enable the Forum realize its objectives.
The highlight of the summit was the award ceremony during which the Forum honoured deserving personalities.