By Dapo Akinrefon; Vincent Ujumadu; Samuel Oyadongha; Peter Duru & Steve Oko
Three days before the last senatorial election held on February 25, the Labour Party senatorial candidate for Enugu East Senatorial District, Mr Oyibo Chukwu was killed alongside five party supporters inside his vehicle. Mr Chukwu’s body was said to have been burnt by the gunmen during the attack.
The last Presidential/National Assembly elections as well as the Governorship/State House of Assembly elections were marred by electoral violence, killings, rigging, intimidation of voters, suppression of votes and snatching of ballot boxes.
Such was the desperation of politicians to win elections at all costs in Nigeria. To them, it was a do-or-die affair. But if the purpose of seeking public office is to serve the people, why do some Nigerian politicians go to the extent of killing their opponents and hiring political thugs to unleash violence on innocent people and prevent them from voting? The moment these politicians get into office, they become accountable only to themselves, spending the resources of the state the way they like with no one to check them.
Many Nigerians have therefore argued that the main reason Nigerian politicians are desperate to win elections, by all means, is because of the scandalous perquisites associated with political offices. Those who commented on the issue, including elder statesmen, priests, community leaders and traders, said there would be no justification for people to spend so much to win elections if the remuneration was not attractive.
Leader of the pan-Yoruba socio-political organization, Afenifere, Pa Ayo Adebanjo believed it’s only greedy and frustrated politicians that rig elections and kill to occupy political offices.
According to him, “those who are desperate, those who are not qualified, those who have no vision, those who are playing politics for self-aggrandizement are the people who kill and maim in the name of politics. Look at what happened in Lagos during the last governorship election, if the APC feels so sure of itself, why must they kill and maim because they want to be in office? It is frustrating because all along, they have been living on rigging but the people are tired.
The frustrated politicians are the ones who buy votes. I am a founding member of the Action Group, there was nothing like all these things that are playing out now. That is why I said it is only frustrated politicians that rig and kill to get to the office.”
On his part, the Bishop of Umuahia Diocese and former Secretary of Conference, Methodist Church Nigeria, Archbishop Raphael Chibuzor Opoko, said greed and avarice, and not service for the people, are the motivation for most politicians in Nigeria. Archbishop Opoko argued that the desperation demonstrated by most political office-seekers confirms that they all have veiled motives other than what they mouth in public.
His words: “Is it by force to serve the people? Some Politicians disguise themselves as being motivated to serve the people when actually they are enveloped by greed, selfishness and self-centeredness.
Their own form of democracy is ‘Selectocracy – Government of the select by the select and for the select a.k.a cabal’. If they are motivated to serve, why do they resort to thuggery, violence, blackmail, and name-calling instead of issue-based campaigns? People have choices.
They know those whom they trust that can lead them aright. But when they see that their will and their effort have been thwarted, they get frustrated, disillusioned and apathy sets in. Let all those who seek political office fear God, and get rid of politics of bitterness, rivalry and eschew avarice, greed and self-centeredness. This will enable democracy to reign in our nation.”
Similarly, Aba-based Rights Activist and lawyer, Pastor Innocent Nwokocha, the Executive Director, of Initiative For Ideal Development And Emancipatory Leadership In Nigeria (IDEAL-NIGERIA), said politicians take undue advantage of the ignorance of the majority of the electorates.
He noted that most Nigerians are unaware of the allocations accruing to their constituencies so as to be able to place the right demands on their political leaders. “It is so unfortunate that most of the citizens do not even understand the amount of receivables accruing to their Local Government or State on a monthly basis.
This on one part is fueling the persistent efforts to remain in power by these desperate politicians. Secondly, the civic space in terms of constructive engagement of those who hold the realms of leadership in our clime is sort of shrinking. The civil society groups across board and the media should endeavour to keep up their act when it comes to monitoring, evaluation and reporting of government programs cum policies as well as engaging deeply in investigative journalism without fear or favour. This will always create room for checks and balances.
The citizens themselves must learn to avoid actions capable of sending wrong signals to those they chose to serve them particularly as it relates to placing unnecessary demands on these elected officials on selfish grounds. This promotes personal or party interest than the interest of the general public. Some persons gunning for elective positions in our clime do not have the needed training and capacity to function effectively in same office. Hence, the idea of service to humanity is crucified on the altar of ignorance on the part of the elected representative which by extension propels unnecessary pressures within the system,” he said.
A Reverend Father, Hilary Okafor argued that it is because of the lucrative nature of Nigerian politics that we have so much tension in the polity. He said: “Oftentimes I wonder why we should have so much duplication of political offices. Why should we, for instance, have the Senate and the House of Representatives pay the members so much money? I believe that only the Senate can effectively serve our purpose considering the battered economy we have. Even the Senate job should not be full-time.
It is because of what they get as lawmakers that makes people do anything under the sun to get there. Tell me again why we should have ministers and ministers of state in one ministry. Those who aspire to elective offices and those who position themselves to occupy appointed positions are the people causing trouble. Once the politicians are paid like other workers or paid allowances whenever they sit, all the trouble in the system will reduce.”
For Chief Francis Animalu, a community leader, politicians who are desperate to win elections are those who have no integrity as they see politics as a game and a gamble, adding that it is such people that usually cut corners in politics. “Instead of preparing to contest elections in line with the provisions of the law, such people usually resort to actions that promote violence because they want to win elections at all costs.
Most times it is those who are not seriously in the race that causes the highest disorder during campaigns. In Anambra State, there are people who pretend to be interested in elective offices every four years, but we know their antecedents. Usually, they make the loudest noise and attack people the most, but they are only looking for people to settle them to keep quiet. Although they may be conversant with the rules of the game, they choose to do the opposite. They have nothing on the ground to campaign with, hence they would engage thugs to help them win elections,” he said.
A trader, Mr Sampson Okiyi was even more concerned about politicians who perpetuate themselves in office. “There are people who have been in the political arena since 1999 as if they are the only human beings in their area. What is the moral justification for someone to move from a local government chairman to a Commissioner, to the national assembly and then to the governor? Are there no other people in their local government areas?”, he asked.
A public Affairs analyst and immediate past Chairman of the Nigeria Bar Association, NBA, Makurdi Branch, Mr Justin Gbagir in his reaction said, “election in a democratic society is a tool for selecting political leaders. It is a process where people are selected among the citizens to serve the generality of the people. It is about service and not about one’s self interest.
In the Nigerian context however, those who aspire for public service do so not to actually serve, but they want to use that opportunity to have their own share of the national cake. Considering the huge sums of money that are even paid to political office holders, it is another encouragement for people to be desperate to aspire for these political offices. Political office in Nigeria is so attractive. You will see somebody who has no job, house or car, once he is elected into office, you see him acquiring property here and there.
So, it is obvious that in Nigeria, political office is not about service. And that is why it is always a matter of do-or-die affair when people are aspiring to these political leadership positions. Political office seekers sometimes sell their properties to fund their aspirations and most times when they achieve their target they also take steps to recoup what they have spent. Governance is about service to the people. It is not a matter of desperation. There is therefore no need to resort to violence, intimidation and harassment of the people”.
On his part, the President General, Coalition of Southern and Middle Belt Youth Leaders Assembly (COSMBYLA), Hon. Goodluck Ibem said: “the main reason most politicians rig elections, kill or commit all sorts of violence in the course of contesting and which taint or tempt to destroy democracy is because they are not contesting to serve the people but are contesting to serve their personal interest and that of their families.
It is worrisome that democracy which was introduced as a means through which the people can elect who will represent them or serve them has been forcefully changed to a practice where politicians impose themselves or their cronies on the people whether they like it or not.
Every election year is now a period when innocent persons are killed in their prime just for coming out to cast their votes or participate in the electoral process. The most troubling aspect is that the police who were supposed to be neutral was also part of the evil plot.
These and many more reasons to show that politicians are selfish and self-serving. Until elective and political positions are seen as a means of rendering selfless service to humanity, we will not make any headway as a nation”.
Iniruo Wills, Co-Convener, Embasara Foundation (Ijaw Think Tank for Good Governance) and environmentalist, said: “Those who are desperate to win the election and are ready to kill or rig are robbers and murderers at heart. Beyond that though, it is a result of the faulty foundations of both our country and its pretended democracy. You can see the systemic failure of institutions, from INEC to CBN, to law enforcement, the justice sector and others.
The efficacy of institutions is at the heart of the state-building project, and there is now evident state failure more than ever before. If you fail so grossly at mere state-building, then you can’t even commence the journey of nation-building. The Nigerian people need a social leadership, beyond mere partisan leadership and electoral candidacy, that will galvanize them to demand, negotiate, secure and restore the soul of their country and collective sovereignty.”
In his remarks, an academic and President of Ijaw National Congress (INC) Prof Benjamin Okaba said: “The true purpose for individuals to contest for political positions or better still, seek public office, should be to render quality services to man and society.
For this ideal purpose or primary motivation to be actualized, the processes of electing or appointing people into positions and offices must not only be credible but should be seen as reasonably free of rancour and other dastardly and desperate acts of violence which include the rigging of elections through vote buying, inducement of election personnel and security agencies, intimidation of voters, the free use of hate speeches and killings which became common features of the recently concluded 2023 general elections in this country.
“Democracy is about the centrality of the people (the masses) who must first and foremost be granted their fundamental human rights to choose freely, and according to their conscience, the leader or leaders who possess the appealing capacity, character, and competence to deliver the positive fruits and dividends of good governance: justice, peaceful coexistence, and prosperity for all irrespective of status, sex, creed, and party affiliations. No doubt, the reason for the desperation of politicians to win elections at all costs or see elections as a do-or-die affair, is remotely related to the unquenchable desires/appetite to use power for selfish aggrandizement.
For this set of politicians, self comes first while the little remnants are served on the masses strategically close to the beginning of the election period either to get re-elected or to advance another political agenda, that will perpetrate them in power forever. They will not voluntarily vacate their offices or stop seeking political positions even when their performances in office fall far short of public expectations. To pursue their selfish cause, these desperate politicians could undermine and compromise anything including their souls and the lives of others in condemnable ritual sacrifices.
I agree with those who claim that politicians are so desperate to be in a position because the rewards of public office seem too juicy to ignore, especially when politics turns out to be the only business and quickest source of income, in a place like Nigeria where nothing else works. We can have free, fair and credible elections but the desperate political actors who benefit massively from the evil status quo will resist any positive change because it will not serve their personal interest. Political desperation and corruption have marred the consolidation of democracy in Nigeria beyond human imagination.
There is a bleak future of Nigerian democracy because rather than experiencing some improvements we seem to be degenerating, in spite of the huge investments.”
Also, Elder Joseph Ambakederimo, Convener South South Reawakening Group, SSRG, said: “The class of politicians who engage in the heinous crime and employ ‘do or die’ tactics are the ones who seek power for self, cronies and certainly not for the good of the people and for development of society. But the reason these ugly scenarios continue to happen is that we have failed to hold the leadership accountable, we have also failed to punish wrong and people have never faced consequences as a result of their actions.”
Comments expressed here do not reflect the opinions of Vanguard newspapers or any employee thereof.