By Bolanle Bolawole
Nigeria’s elections – and politics – stopped being one of ideas and ideals a long time ago; gone were the days when manifestoes and programmes of political parties swayed voters one way or another. Our elections and politics these days are basically those of what is now derisively and euphemistically referred to as “stomach infrastructure” believed by many to have been introduced by an ex-Lagos governor (the Jeun s’oke kingpin and Area Father par excellence) and made popular by another erstwhile governor, this time of Ekiti state.
Nigerians have suffered in the hands of governors! Gone were the days when the likes of Awo traversed the length and breadth of this country, from village to village, from nooks to crannies campaigning and canvassing for votes, unfolding his party’s cardinal programmes and explaining how he will implement them and make life better for citizens. No more!
These days, brainstorming on and developing cardinal programmes, preparing manifestoes and printing flyers is a waste of precious time and resources. Buhari as presidential candidate ran away from debate and it changed nothing! Atiku, likewise; nothing spoil! Many of today’s politicians do not have the intellectual capacity for politics that is cerebral. Experience has taught everyone that the stuff you have upstairs can as well be your good grief.
Those who, like Awo, set store by intellectualism, what did they benefit? Didn’t nincompoops run away with the prize? Desecrating quality materials again and again and choosing or imposing incompetent people have a way of discouraging and demoralising reasonable people and locking them down in self-imposed “siddown look”. Political apathy sets it and ragamuffins and their likes ride roughshod over the polity.
Who lays much emphasis on party manifestoes, policies and programmes these days? Not the politicians themselves; and not the electorate, either! If politicians print manifestoes these days, it is to fulfil all righteousness, not that they seriously think it amounts to much. I witnessed many campaigns where the people demanded money instead of flyers detailing a candidate’s character, qualifications, plans and programmes.
“Na paper we go chop?”; “Give us money” “E fun wa l’owo” “After today, we won’t see you again”! Getting into power, didn’t Buhari and the APC deny and denounce their campaign promises and party manifestoes (i.e. restructuring)? Still, nothing spoil!
In a sense, the electorate may be right. Experience has taught them that today’s politicians are not trustworthy; are not public-spirited; and serve only their own selfish interests. So, whatever you cannot get from them when they need your services, forget it! I have experienced this myself again and again. Strike the iron when it is still hot!
Never extend credit to the Nigerian politician! He will not pay back! This is one reason loyalty is scare and betrayal plentiful amongst politicians. So, the lazy electorate, thinking they should get the little they can by making hay while it shines, make it “cash-and-carry”. Sadly, this hare-brained “solution” short-changes and runs them into a bind in the end.
We have seen all manner of vote-buying schemes. From the “amala” politics of Lamidi Adedibu, we graduated to more asinine politics of Ondo State’s “d’ibo ko s’ebe” and “Ekiti state’s “see and buy”. As the Edo and Ondo governorship elections gather momentum, we wait to see what new surprises the politicians will spring. These days, however, the electorate is fast losing relevance as supposedly election umpires, security officers, and judges are the new beautiful brides of Nigerian politics (apologies, Nnamdi Azikiwe)!
Candidates who were not voted for; who were not on the ballot; who did not vote at all; who even voted against their party; who came last in an election, now are returned as elected! Wonders will never end!
So, the first problem is that many of those who sit in office brandish illegitimate mandate. They were not elected and they know it. They were not the choice of the people and the people know it. They were rigged into office in diverse ways and the people who perpetrated the shenanigans for them know it and have the dossiers. The insiders are ready to blackmail, to squeal; and to reveal how the “victory” was procured. Virtually everyone who gets a governor elected does so for their own selfish reasons; only a few do so to serve public interest.
When the anticipated benefits fail to materialise or delay in coming, they will not mind bringing the roof down upon everyone. So if you look carefully, you will see that many of the disagreements amongst politicians centre on “I”, “I” and “I”. Public interest is rarely mentioned and where it is at all, it is to fulfil all righteousness.
Please note that, here, the foundation of virtually all elective offices is corruption. As our people will say, “isale oro l’egbin”, meaning that the foundation of how a man came about his stupendous wealth is usually sordid. How many governors can swear that they did not rail-road themselves – or were not railroaded – into office? That is why corruption – like the poor, as the scripture says – will not cease from the land. What is got by corrupt means will have to be maintained by corrupt means.
Those who were in office before got there through corrupt means and sustained themselves in office by the same corrupt means. Virtually all those in office now got there through corrupt means and are sustaining themselves there through corrupt means.
Those who are angling to displace or replace those in office today will also almost certainly get there through corrupt means and will thereafter proceed to sustain themselves in that same office through corrupt means. Do not be deceived by their sweet talk of the moment: It is meant to demonize the incumbents; it is nothing short of giving a dog that already has a bad the worst of names to hang it fast.
They mean to deceive you into supporting them. If they get into office using the same means or methods, they will not perform differently from those who are there now. You cannot do the same thing the same way and expect a different result, except a miracle happens. Since the motive generally is self-enrichment and or personal aggrandisement, expect corruption to loom large. In the event that the governor tries to play smart or break loose, he might get the Ngige/ Ambode treatment!
Once in office, the first hurdle Mr. Governor must scale is how to take care of all those who made the “victory” possible. Unfortunately, there are usually too many people who contribute in such ventures than available appointments. The demands and or expectations of “political investors” are usually over and above available resources. Usually, a governorship aspirant/candidate is surrounded from Day One by family, friends, and close associates who helped him to plan before his ambition is made public.
Usually, he starts from his home base since all politics is local. When he begins to make appointments, these are the same people that swarm the whole place before consideration is given to others. If you look carefully, you will see that this problem happens to them all – and will still happen to those coming behind. It is the selfish nature of our politics where people do not contribute for the public good but for what is in it for them. For as long as that mentality persists, the problem, too, will persist.
I could glean from the comments of many that Akeredolu ran into that storm before he realised it. The same thing happened to Mimiko, Agagu, etc. Ajasin, who managed not to, is criticised to this day by his Owo people for not giving them the opportunity to leverage on his governorship. Similarly, in the reckoning of some Owo people, Akeredolu was yet to do enough for them when he applied the brakes. So, the governor suffers double jeopardy and burns the stick from both ends. Owo is not satisfied! Yet, some in the other parts of the state are already up in arms! Head or tail… as they say!
For your information, many of those accusing Akeredolu of favouring Owo are just being clever by half. How many of them raised eyebrows when the same Owo was brazenly marginalized in the past? To be up in arms against Owo at this point when it appears to be on even keel with other parts of the State is unwarranted victimization. Many of the appointments Akeredolu was accused of are classified as personal staff and not statutory. But I must concede that a governor who campaigned state-wide and got votes state-wide should also appoint his personal staff state-wide. This is stating a general principle that should be held sacrosanct by all.
Many of the other appointments were not even made by Akeredolu but by Abuja. I have it on good authority that Akeredolu himself tried unsuccessfully to stop some of those appointments. One of those mentioned from Owo told me his/her appointment was facilitated by the Secretary to the Government of the Federation, who is Kanuri. Another’s appointment was facilitated by the former Senate president, Bukola Saraki, whose mother hails from Owo.
Ex-Gov. Ajasin’s government reportedly prepared the blueprint that admitted Ondo State into the club of oil-producing states. So, when his son, Tokunbo, was nominated as the Ondo state representative on the NDDC board, many thought it was alright – but not so the oil-producing area in Ondo state which fought bitterly and truncated Tokunbo’s nomination. I took umbrage at that time.
After a while, Tokunbo got compensated with the RMAFC appointment from the same Abuja. Again, the CJN/Chief Judge’s position is usually filled on seniority, as is the tradition with the Bench. When Walter Onnoghen was to be passed over as CJN, we protested and the Presidency bowed to pressure and named him. The Federal Character Commission appointment recently made to Femi Omosanya was also by Abuja.
I was told that, these days, people troop to Abuja to fix things for themselves, going over the head of the governor, especially when Abba Kyari loomed large and it became known to all that Akeredolu was estranged from the APC mainstream. The nature of our politics is such that if a new governor comes on board, it will take a miracle for him not to run into similar landmines like Akeredolu did. The mentality and operational guideline of our political elite have got to change if we are to exit this game of musical chairs.
Can any governor satisfy the insatiable orgy of greed of godfathers and political investors? Can family ties and man-know-man take the back seat in the order of things? The experience of the Orji Kalus, Ngige/Uba, Tinubu/Fashola/Ambode; Ganduje/Kwankwaso; Oshiomhole/Obaseki, Wike/Amaechi, to mention but a few, prove conclusively that this is a hard nut to crack. Obasanjo reportedly bit the fingers that fed him but the Ebora Owu got his own comeuppance from his successors, Umoru Yar’Adua (and the Katsina cabal led by wife, Turai) and Jonathan. And, oh my, how has Buhari compensated Tinubu for the latter’s yeoman’s efforts? Next week, God willing!
Mr Bolawole, a former Editor of Punch, can be reached at [email protected] or on 0705 263 1058
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