In the first part of this series first published on July 12, I had taken the liberty to start a discussion based on a distinction I had created for members of the political class in Nigeria. By way of a recap, I had classed them into Nigerian politicians and politicians in Nigeria. The dominance of Nigerian politicians, as was explained in the first part of this series, is what has steadily ushered the country into a state of stagnation. We are neither in tune with the realities of today nor preparing for the realities of tomorrow. It is quite absurd that we haven’t figured how much the world has left us behind. Two decades into the 21st century, we are still grappling with challenges many peer nations surmounted years ago. The approaches to solving those problems have now become case studies that we often reference but do nothing about.
As would have been noticed by many, one of the unmistakable signatures of a Nigerian politician is the ability to change political parties without blinking. It’s all about political convenience. We don’t discuss ideology here neither do we discuss profundity of programmes. You can just morph from Party A into Party B; from the opposition to the ruling party seamlessly. The lines are blurred because Party B members are mainly former Party A aggrieved members who left. Your welcoming into the new fold comes with a special marking. If you’re one of those political heavyweights with some baggage – some allegations of corruption and malfeasance here and there, all that would be taken off you. You are now a new creature. All those in the ruling party hierarchy who vilified and laid all sorts of imprecations on you would be the first to welcome you ‘home’. You are now one of them and a great addition to the party.
To jump ship from the main opposition party to the ruling party is one of the coolest political adventures. What is as relieving as no longer worrying about the so-called political witch-hunt? Nothing! Playing opposition in a democracy like ours can be really frustrating. For the first-term incumbents, the experience is slightly different. Your defection to the major opposition party is informed by irreconcilable differences as a result of internal party wrangling. That’s the buzzword. This results in a calculated attempt to disqualify you from running for a second term on the party’s ticket. Something supposedly valid usually comes up at this time. In one of your documents, the ‘i’ in your name wasn’t properly dotted or the ‘t’ was half-crossed this time around. But the scheming is all part of the game that you know too well. With that handwriting on the wall, you know it’s time to say goodbye.
It's at this point that the drama gets interesting. You start by declaring that there are forces against your emergence as the party’s candidate because of your unwillingness to play to the dictates of the godfathers. As you go on with that, talks must begin with the main opposition party. It will indeed be an honour for them to have you as a member and flagbearer. The same party that went on and on about your failure, maladministration, and incompetence suddenly consider it a privilege to have you in their political family. When you eventually make the move, the former opposition then becomes the ruling party. The next task must now be how to carry everyone along. Since you’re guaranteed to clinch the party’s ticket, you must be able to ‘find something’ for those who stepped down for you in deference to your status as an incumbent. That is not all. You must also do very well to throw jibes at your former party.
Of course, your former party members are not spectators. They are very active characters in the drama that will span weeks. Your exit from the party is now to them, the best thing ever. It is, in their new position, good riddance. Then the mudslinging starts. You didn’t carry the stakeholders in the party along; didn’t implement the party manifesto; abandoned projects initiated by your predecessor. The list goes on. They even label you as incompetent and incapable of satisfying the yearnings and aspirations of your people. On the scoreboard, you are a complete failure. The political ‘gbas gbos’ doesn’t end there. It continues pari passu many court cases seeking to disqualify you from running. The most ludicrous aspect of the inutile back and forth is that the issue of governance is practically put on hold. Nothing matters as much as the election being fought for. And you know what? The people would understand.
The people have always understood. They have left Nigerian politicians to continue with the display of shameful wits. They can’t be bothered. At some point in the past, they were tired of the unfulfilled promises; frustrated at how bad the state of the nation has degenerated and hurt that living standards have not improved. The roads you promised haven’t been built. The state of the existing ones has worsened. The people were indeed tired for a moment but true to their ostensibly docile nature, they have found the strength to carry on. They managed to navigate the roads with the least damage to their vehicles. They have found a way to take each day as it comes. They are not disturbed enough about changing the situation. When it’s time for the election, a handful will come out to vote. For the passionate ones, the choices before them have mostly been only two– bad and worse. Two choices would have been enough if it was between good and better.
While the passionate voters are sulking about the choices before them, Nigerian politicians find a way to politically induce the ones whose votes are up for sale. This is where a master strategy comes into play. It’s called weaponising poverty. Nigeria is currently home to more than 90 million of the most extremely poor people in the world. That shade of poverty is so severe that millions of Nigerians in that bracket would consider it a privilege to be ‘dashed’ N100 just to vote for a politician. The Nigerian politicians know this and it is solid leverage. Nobody at that most desperate state cares about party manifesto or any lofty ideas. They are not even educated enough to relate to some highfalutin ideal. It is not in the interest of a Nigerian politician for the people to aspire to a good life; for them to see through the deceit; for them to be informed and agitated enough to say ‘No’.
Nigerian politicians are the only ones whose assurances cannot be taken seriously. They are always assuring the people this will happen, or that situation would be fixed. We are challenged by woes on virtually every facet of our national life. The security crisis has taken unbelievable dimensions but Nigeria politicians keep assuring but what has changed? Nothing. They don’t seem bothered as long as they remain unscathed. They provide more rhetoric than they do leadership. The state of the nation is at the shakiest but the politicians can’t seem to care. They can’t even feign concern or interest in the plight of the average Nigerian as long as the going is good for them. Since we woke to the realities of the coronavirus pandemic, the drama and the reports of looting in the highest places are so staggering that one wonders how it got this bad. How did we get here? And where do we go from here? I’ll be sharing my concluding thoughts on this in the next part.