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Opinion: Government and governance in Nigeria beyond violence marred political rallies and other such malaise!


Just yesterday, precisely on the afternoon of Sunday, Feb.10th,  2019, I received a call from my elder sister residing at Abeokuta, the capital of Ogun State, south-west Nigeria, who genuinely alarmed by incidents of violence which have reportedly marred some of the political rallies around the country.

Our discussions centered on the ones that took place in her immediate domain, Abeokuta, and from which as she puts it, fatal injuries to people occurred as a result of stray bullets from gunshots allegedly from hired hoodlums.

No doubt, it’d be expected that developments like this will create a palpable feeling of apprehension in the law abiding citizens all over the nation.

After talking at great length, she ended on a cautionary note that I should rather stay indoors with my family to avoid fallen victim to the violence that may likely take place during the conduct of 2019 general elections starting under a week from now.

According to her, the violence being recorded is a dress rehearsal to what’s likely to play out during the elections proper.  And her fears and concerns cannot be totally discountenanced. 

Indeed, we’ve been through this madness called electoral violence more times than we can possibly input a figure both in recent time and much earlier in our march to nationhood. So, you may ask, when are we going to get it right politically as a Nation? I wish I have got the answer!

But in allaying her fears, which is quite genuine from the tone of her voice as it were, I assured her that everything will be done not to put the life of my family members at a risk before, during and after the elections.

I also tried to play down the likelihood of whirlpool of violence sweeping through the sequence of the elections. I hope and prayed I’m not proved wrong at the end of the day because certainly, the obverse of it is what the people of this country deserve in this space and time. 

And more importantly that the violence so far recorded is the hatchet jobs of political hirelings who all this while have been idle and must be seen as delivering on their contracts by the desperate politicians across board.  I rounded off on a positive note by tutoring her that I see none of the politicians with the wealth at their disposal would wish Nigeria slide into climbing conflagration certain to consume their investments. None!

Needless to say that, though the government is a continuum, but Nigerian politicians have reserved as their stock in trade the use of violence and other instruments of intimidation to win elections and perpetuate themselves in power.

Whereas the people as the custodian of power hold the sacrosanct right to elect their leaders through the ballot box in a free and fair election but are being systematically denied such through a number of undemocratic ways.

It doesn’t end there. Nigerian politicians are also known to induce voters with money, which in sums is most ridiculous to the ears.

Meretricious souvenirs like a yard or two of Ankara fabrics, face caps and tops; and what critical political observers have come to categorize of late as ‘stomach infrastructure’ also widely circulated. 

Consumables like rice, beans, Sachets of tomato puree, and cloves of onions have been known to be distributed at ward meetings and other such political gatherings purportedly to mobilize supporters at the grassroots. The same people they’ve pauperized with their visionless and poorly thought out policies, programs and programmatic whenever they get into office. 

In all of these, the foundation is laid and have cemented over time such that the Nigerian electorates have routinely been denied the opportunity to robustly hear out and engage there would be representatives because the platforms that should guarantee that has been rendered non-conducive through planned and orchestrated act of violence and in most cases unavailable, or reduced to mere street to street procession by political flag bearers.

Also cannot be left out is the so-called debates which have caused more discontent in the political space because some flag bearers have been left out on the ground they stand little or no chance of making substantial impacts in the election itself.

And the said debates, from what many have seen of them, are nothing more that shunted question and answer jamboree because the flag bearers who featured do not have enough time to respond to the moderator’s questions unlike if it were a properly convened political rallies broadcasted live like it’s done elsewhere where we’ve adopted the presidential model.

Judging it from thereof, it can be said to have added little or nothing to the political capital of the few favored candidates beyond what people already know of them.

Another thing that appears to be stifling the process in terms of shopping for the right candidate elections after elections is the issue of a rotational arrangement by the political parties which sorts of allows the region whose turn it is to grandstand even if its candidate has performed below expectations especially at the federal level. Perhaps that will change now that we’ve two equally matched candidates from the north.

Not forgetting also is the worrisome absence of political ideology by which political parties are identified, and which has enabled Nigerian politicians to freely play the harlots after the ruling party eroding in the process the necessity and vital role a viral opposition plays in strengthening the political process of any country.  

There’s the challenge posed by a multiplicity of political parties instead of a manageable number, though, the electoral umpire by the act setting it up can apply the pruning shears should they not perform up to what’s expected of them. Still, like many political advocates have said, I’d prefer a situation where there are no more than two or three political parties.

As a consequence of all these, it is governance that suffers. After all, a politician who buys his or her way to elective office owes nobody anything, and the people also lack the moral right to demand performance. That being said would explain why we’ve so much of playing to the gallery across board by the political class for ages now. Politics as it is in Nigeria has been reduced to picnics at the public expense. The more, the merrier! And that’s tragic!

On radio Forum and elsewhere, it has also been sound out that the people take their leaders to task as regards the issue of bad governance. And I wondered how that could be achieved beyond the regular electoral process which enables them to recall elective officeholders if they’ve underperformed. At most, this has not been the case if what has happened in Nigeria over the decades is anything to go by. A case in point is that of Senator Dino Melaye whose recall process has proved problematic and inconclusive.

Concerning such only and until the various security and anti-corruption agencies like the police, Independent Corrupt Practices Commission (ICPC), Code of Conduct Bureau (CCB), Economic and Financial Commission (EFCC) and the Judiciary are totally weaned from the executive control, well-funded, politically neutral and up and doing shall we be able to take both elective and appointive public officials to task as concerned their actions and inaction in office.

To ask the people, pauperized and poorly educated, to take their leaders to task beyond these institutions whose primary responsibility it is constitutionally is demanding way more than enough from them. 

Though they have a role to play which comes by way of, but not limited to being critical of their leaders’ actions deemed to contradict their oaths of office and the sponsoring of bills or holding of peaceful processions to voice their discontent and grievances.

But for our democracy to grow in leap and bound like it is in other big democracies, it must, in the words of Charles A. Beard, be based on the principle that the issues of Nigeria life are brought out into the open. They’re to be fairly, freely and fully discussed; and I added, ‘in an atmosphere devoid of violence and other under-democratic malaise some of which I itemized above’.

Above all, Nigerian, especially the elites must demonstrate fully their love for this country and stop acting in manners which have over the decades portrayed them as foreigners, and indeed as conquering army of foreign legions they must be, with the ways they’ve shamelessly taken monies as booties belonging to all stashing it away abroad for the benefits of those governments, or stooges of some foreign agents of anti-development currently pervasive in the country. Then, Nigeria can truly and confidently aspire to greatness with its vast human and natural resources.