By Bolanle Bolawole
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“If I have seen further, it is by standing on the shoulders of Giants” – Isaac Newton (1675).
“We stand on the shoulders of those who came before us” – Simon Donovan.
Former President Olusegun Obasanjo said no one becomes president without receiving a helping hand from other people. In order words, no one can make himself president/governor or even military head of state/dictator all by himself. Coups are not plotted single-handedly and dictators need fawning and consenting acolytes.
As perverse and run-down as democracy is, the people are still indispensable, if not for substance, at least for appearance. Their votes may be bought for a pittance; it may not even count in the final analysis for, like the dictator, Josef Stalin, posits, those who vote decide nothing; those who count the votes decide everything.
Nigeria, standing on the shoulders of infamous dictator-Giants like Stalin, has improved on this in that not any of those who vote or count the vote decides elections here again; at a point, those who recorded and announced the votes determined winners but these days, judges decide everything! Still, the facade and farcical show of democracy continues for whatever it is worth.
Virtually everyone aspiring to elective position ties the rope around the neck of their people; it is usually in deference to the wish, pull, push and shoving of their people that they throw their hat in the ring! Like Caesar, they harbour no ambition even if everyone can behold their gaze fixated on the throne!
Truth, however, is that hordes of people must work before a man can be elected president or governor, beginning with the inner caucus of trusted friends, political associates and family that will eventual transform into the kitchen cabinet, inner circle or power-behind-the-throne who will operate as “wole-wode” whether or not they hold appointive position in the new government.
“Wole-wode” refers to those who have unrestrained access, influence and power in any government. Such can do and undo; often, they operate above the law and can escape with blue murder. Most times they are sworn to oaths of allegiance (witness Okija) and or are joined by filial and conjugal obligations. Cabals are everywhere!
Then, there are those Shylock “traders” and “merchants” who provide the huge sums needed for electioneering campaigns. Election costs, especially in the presidential system that we operate, are prohibitive; candidates mostly rely on a coterie of financiers to raise the funds. Gone are the days when party membership cards and dues raised funds for the party. Those were the gone-by days of AG/UPN and Awolowo.
These days, party members expect their party to feed them, pick their bills and pay through the nose for them to show up at party activities, including electioneering campaigns. Otherwise, the party or candidate not able to foot these bills is described as not serious. Where the candidate or party is in office, the better and merrier! As they say, “Owo ilu l’a fi n s’oselu”! Beeni! “Owo Abu l’a fi n s’Abu l’alejo”! Incumbency factor in all of its ramifications!
These days, “deep pockets” act as investors who fund parties and candidates. In a process akin to how business proposals are analyzed to sift the viable from the unviable, these political investors analyze the chances of parties and candidates to determine where to stake their money.
It is hard-nosed business decisions, pure and simple; no sentiments of so-called patriotism, nationalism or public service/public interest go anywhere near. The common man and his interests can go to blazes. What is served here is business interest.
Candidates and parties know this. If they stick to principles and get worsted on the day of election, next time they will learn the bitter lesson of “Na principle we go chop?” No one will preach to them before they preach to themselves! You want to catch a monkey, behave like a monkey!
You cannot beat them, join them! If you are in Rome, act like a Roman! Until you have the handle of the sword firmly in your hand, you dare not demand to know from the enemy the death that killed your father! If you do, your guess is as good as mine!
So, everyone is sucked into the vortex. Everyone plays ball. Like Ngige, a candidate may detest the Ubas of this world but still decide to play along; thinking, believing and plotting to break ranks and break lose after achieving his goal.
Meanwhile, the cold-blooded investors are also busy calculating the heavy jackpot they will hit once their candidate wins the election. The negotiations and plots happen behind the scene unknown to the electorate; the wheeling and dealing usually take place at the nocturnal meetings that politicians are noted for.
Important as they are, political investors are not the only ones involved in the game and gambit of sponsoring candidates for election. We have the godfathers; the influence peddlers at home and in Abuja; we have all manner of cabals; traditional rulers; market men and women; the area fathers and area boys; the road transport union leaders (the ubiquitous “agberos”); labour leaders, and even students’ leaders many of who now hold office in perpetuity and have made our institutions of higher learning a permanent abode from where they go from one candidate to another raking in money.
In the event you did not know, religious leaders play a prominent role in our elections; their influence is promoted, in the main, by our unreasonable devotion to empty religion instead of godliness and the uncritical reading and understanding of scriptures. They will say all authority is ordained by God and we will swallow it hook-line-and-sinker.
Then they will ask us to obey our leaders with unquestioning submission and we will nod sheepishly in acceptance. Prophecies and predictions travel before rigged elections to water the ground or come immediately after to legitimize daylight robberies.
Whereas, we should ask probing questions whose answers, ironically, are in the same scriptures! Why did God ordain authorities: Is it that they may eat His people like sand as He Himself bemoaned or that the poor should be made poorer and the rich, richer as He Himself lamented?
Did God ordain authorities so they may oppress the people while the same God cursed the wicked and commanded that justice flow like a mighty river? Did God not say where the righteous bear rule, the people rejoice but where the wicked and unjust rule, the people groan?
Next time they tell you their hog-wash, trash them and their rubbish! Ask them God’s purpose for authorities. Scripture says God is God of plan and purpose. What did He Himself say are His wishes and thoughts for us: Good or evil, prosperity or poverty? Now, between President Paul Kigame of Rwanda and President Muhammadu Buhari of Nigeria, who do you think better approximates God’s will/wish for His people? And you, who out of the two will you prefer? But, we digress!
Pastors, Imams, and Babalawos play important roles in our electioneering process. They offer prayers, see visions, hear voices, give advice or even take decisions for our leaders. Many candidates take their campaign posters to churches, mosques, ori-okes (Prayer mountains), evil covens, babalawos and alfas before such items are released for public consumption. Even photographs to be used are prayed upon or incisions (gbeere) made on them or hanturu is done!
Sadly, this, too, has become a critical part of electioneering in our country, thus elevating spiritualists into very important stakeholders and pressure groups that impact, mostly negatively, on good governance and the performance in office of elected and or appointed office-holders.
Is there anyone who wants to contest election today that will not first count the cost of bribing electoral officers or factor in the logistics of having the security apparatuses and officials at his beck and call? In addition, you must raise a private army of rough-necks and election riggers; this is where the area boys and their area fathers come in handy and which is why “agberos” today live larger-than-life and command resources and influence that would make professors green with envy.
Can you be regarded as a serious contender if you cannot line up a horde of Senior Advocates of Nigeria, even where you are a lawyer yourself? These days, it is not even the law you know; the soundness of your case or the justness of your cause but who you know. You must have a “Mr. Fix-It” who knows the pathway of the Leviathan in the sea, who can trace the snake’s path on a rock and plot a bird’s graph in the air!
The “Me Lords” now really answer their name: They kill and they make alive! Their rigmaroles, shenanigans and abracadabra are carefully concealed in technicalities that rub Peter to pay Paul. No one is sure of his election victory these days until His Lordships have spoken!
Unfortunately, the people themselves complete the cycle of filth that our democracy has become. The rot is deep; it is, in fact, like miry clay from which escape is difficult, if not impossible. Our people have lost their sense of self-worth and self-esteem. Unlike in times past, they have lost every interest and hope in their capability to possess, influence or direct the electoral process towards their own betterment.
Office-holders are no longer the public servants they used to be but are now lords and masters over the people. Like biblical Esau, the people sold their birthright; but unlike Esau who later realized his folly and sought rectification with hot tears, the consciousness of our people is still dulled and arousing them from their slumber is a tall order. Every election cycle, they sell their votes for peanuts – and you cannot have your cake and eat it. Their relevance in the political process is thus reduced to next-to-nil.
They do not own the parties. They have no say or stake in its affairs. They contribute no funds to the electioneering process or running of the party. To make matters worse, they demand gratification at every turn before they perform their civic obligations. “Money for hand, back for ground”! Our politics now is “cash-and-carry”! Everything is monetized! Everyone seemingly has a price and at the right price, you get what you want.
Let the governor who did not spend billions of Naira before getting “elected” stand up and say so! Let any serious aspirant thinking he will spend anything less raise up his or her hand! Let anyone who has not experienced all or some of the shenanigans highlighted above stand up to be counted!
These are some of the fundamental problems militating against good governance in our land. To say anything contrary is to chase shadows and fight effects. What you must note is that those in office, who are being accused today, also had accused those before them! And those who are accusing the incumbents of today will themselves be so accused in future if they are lucky enough to climb into the saddle! It is a game of musical chairs!
But we cannot do the same thing the same way over and over again and expect different outcomes! A governor’s problems and many headaches begin the very day he is elected into office! How? Why? Next week, God willing!
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