Reassessing the Ecology of Nigerian Politics

Reassessing the Ecology of Nigerian Politics

By: Idumange John

Nigerians are very optimistic people. Part of the optimism wells from the prayer houses where promises of miracle and wealth are a daily menu in liturgies. Last week Richard
argued that although Nigeria is a
tottering giant, the national team - the Super Eagles could qualify for the
world cup, not by their own dexterity, but
by their calculation that another team in their group would lose their
match. This rigorous arithmetic of knowing which team would win or lose is part
of the dexterity Nigerians are
generously endowed with. Sound logic! The writer continued.. Nigerians are also
smart guys who could haul 30 tickets for a racket in South Africa.

In my view Nigerians are optimistic, hardworking and dexterous even when these energies are re-directed to negative things. Frankly speaking, the man with the 30 tickets
is no less a criminal than the 19 year old Nigerian who swallowed 19 raps cocaine and this teen
is no less a criminal than the 23 year old
Mutalab who attempted to blow up a plane. It is also true that no nation
can achieve greatness by fraud; greatness requires collective efforts and
purposeful leadership- which is a rare commodity in our landscape.

There appears to be consensus that the ecology of Nigerian politics has no changed since the rebirth of democracy 11 years ago. Scanning the political environment would
certainly reveal that nothing has changed. The electoral system is still as
fraudulent as ever; power supply has eluded the nation; public office holders
are self-serving even as the penchant for material acquisition remains very
high. Political godfathers are
working hard to impose candidates on the masses and the economy has taken a
catastrophic plunge for the worse. Increases in revenues from oil have not
translated to concrete achievements and the aim of transforming Nigeria into
the 20th greatest economy by the year 20:2020 is fast becoming a
misplaced priority. While crime rate is on the increase due largely to
unemployment, politically motivated assassinations have become commonplace. In
most climes, the looming insecurity transcends the orthodox security agencies
hence curbing crime through voodoo means is becoming an acceptable strategy.

Allegations are rife that the National Assembly violates wage rules and the principles laid down by the Revenue Mobilization, Allocation and Fiscal Commission and there are voices
of dissent that the NASS should put the interest of the people first before any
other considerations. The same practice has become fashionable in the State
Legislatures, where law makers are more interested in executing contracts and
shaking down, than carry out their statutory responsibilities. Money politics has permanently enthroned a
rent-seeking class in Aso Rock and all State Houses around the federation. All
the negatives that characterize Nigerian politics are not in a hurry to go
away, and nobody has the courage to radicalize the political system.

If all these ills are inherent in Nigeria’s 11 years old democracy, it is apt for concerned Nigerians to reassess the ecology of Nigerian politics to see whatever
improvements we have made as a nation. The reassessment is necessary especially
now that politicians have started preparations
for the next bout of bloody and blurred elections that will pave the way for
another class of democratic pretenders and mindless economic opportunists to
assume power. The reassessment is also underscored by the fact that at the
national level,
intrigues and manipulations
are in
top gear; and politicians especially the anti-Jonathan forces are seeking
realignment and relevance in the scheme of things. The drift towards a one-party
system is real and there is no committed opposition to build other parties.

The presidency has surely taken the first bold step of conducting free and fair elections to correct the defects of previous polls by nominating the Chairman if the Independent
National Electoral Commission (INEC). Whereas some voices of dissent and
pockets of opposition as to the emergence of Professor Attahiru Jega, are what
seems to be more important is that the choice of President Jonathan is not only
credible but commands the respect of civil society, the academia and other
relevant constituencies. The credibility of a person is more critical than the
process. If we emphasize process at the expense of the personality ala credibility of role incumbents, we
would be sacrificing public confidence on the altar of process.

Similarly, a section of the country is working hard to pontificate that zoning should take precedence over merit. This is not strange because some people in Nigeria
believe that power should always be with them. The arguments about zoning have
once more brought to the fore the need for a Sovereign National Conference,
which will enable the nation to debate the true nature of Nigeria’s federalism
and redress the anomalies of the 1914 amalgamation. What is wrong if for the
first time a person from the oil producing Niger Delta Region becomes the
President of the Federal Republic of Nigeria. All sections of the nation will
agree that the oil producing Region has been cheated since 1960. Political
party leadership has been dominated by other sections of the country especially
the North. It is therefore surprising that the North still hangs on a utopian
formula called zoning.

Zoning is anti-democratic, anti-progressive and anti-people. This is why I support the view canvassed by the President that the zoning principle may be thrown open to
the public for a healthy debate. While this writer does not pre-empt the
direction of any debates, it would be unfair for any political Party to rule
out the Niger Delta from aspiring to the Presidency. For now most people in the
South-South believe that Dr. Goodluck Jonathan should be the Presidential flagbearer
of the Peoples Democratic Party. This position cannot be compromised because of
the belief that no time could be more auspicious than now for the Niger Delta
Region to produce the next President.

It is most discomforting that World Bank has listed Nigeria as a fragile State with a soft economy, along side Burundi, Cambodia, Comoros, Congo Democratic Republic, Guinea-Bissau Kosovo and Laos
PDR. The fragile States as according to the world Bank are characterized by
weak institutions, poor governance, high mortality rate low life expectancy,
with maternal mortality rates 20 percent higher than other developing
countries. We all know that Nigeria is running a war economy amidst excess
crude oil monies. For the Jonathan administration to change these bad
statistics and put the economy back on track he needs to be pragmatic rather than repeat the vacuous
inanities of Vision 20:2020 or the seven-point agenda. He needs to restore
power, revive the moribund industries, rejuvenate agriculture and diversify the
economy as soon as practicable.

Redressing the electoral system is no less important than changing Nigeria’s status as a failed State. The evils in the political system have not
changed at all. The concept of service has been replaced by material
acquisition, while indiscipline has taken the place of public morality.
Politicians at all levels therefore manipulate the existing party structure and
the electoral process to do violence to the nation. Its less than nine months
to another election yet there are no signs that Nigerians will imbibe
progressive democratic ethics

For the past three years ( except for the most part of 2009) the Federal Finance Ministry has consistently declared excess crude oil money, but oil producing communities in the Niger Delta Region
have nothing unique to show for their contributions to the economic wellbeing
of the Country. The familiar game has been to obtain loans from International
money lenders to fund bureaucracies that are unproductive, while in practical
terms, government has done nothing to stop the economic haemorrhaging.

On the political front, the seven-point agenda and the utopia vision 2020 have been transformed into mere catechisms. The administration responded to public out cry and
initiated probes in the power, telecom and petroleum sectors. In all these sectors
large scale fraud and high profile corruption was unveiled- the worst being the
power and petroleum sectors in which ex-president Obasanjo and his cohorts
conspired to award contracts to their patrons with huge kickbacks. The Federal
Government is also reluctant in probing the $16 billion power scam, the
Halliburton and Siemens scandals, but we are not reluctant in taking huge loans
from international financial institutions.

The inflation rate is now double digit; government agreement with University lecturers are never honoured hence the system may be paralyzed in the months ahead. Nigeria is the largest oil producer in Africa, the sixth
largest in O
and the tenth in the world.
As a nation our leaders
have been mouthing the diversification of the economy yet government has not been proactive in pursuit of this goal. Our
roads are deplorable, and the provision of health and education infrastructure
has taken a backseat. Now, resident doctors have commenced an indefinite
strike, and very soon ASUU may follow.

The party system in Nigeria is still evolving but as a nation we have not found political parties with sound ideologies. Nigeria is gradually degenerating into a one-party State
and Nigerians do not seem ready to stem the drift. The dominance of one-party
presents no competitive ideology and programmes for the people. Democracy can
only thrive when we nurture the culture of tolerating opposition parties
founded on the basis of sound, progressive ideology. In Nigeria opposition
parties only appear during elections and disappear soon after. Even civil
society organizations and non-governmental organizations get dehydrated as soon
as their sponsors get embroiled in politics.

In Nigeria the Legislature is fast losing its glamour. In some States, debates at the hallowed chambers are usually coloured by partisan rancour. Such debates only become
interesting when they bother on money sharing. At the Lower Chambers of Nigeria’s apex Legislative body, allegations
of corruption against the leadership have lingered and this was climaxed by a
‘free-for-all-fight’. If official reports have been made about financial
impropriety, why can’t the anti-graft agencies step in to investigate the
matter? Those crying foul are sane and reasonable honourable men. After all, Speaker Dimeji Bankole is not the first
to step on banana peels, and the House members are aware of the consequences of
such actions. It happened to many Senate Presidents including his predecessor
Rt. Hon. Patricia Etteh.

The general perception is that zoning of the highest office of the land to a section of the country will entrench an unjust political order – which will continue to sustain the
existence of economic exclusion and political alienation in the nation. Even if
a meeting was held where zoning was discussed, it is a mediocre principle that
only guarantees ethnic balancing and not good governance. The implementation of
the zoning arrangement would alienate some people and intensify the feeling of psychological
rejection. This will be more so in the Niger Delta Region, which is enveloped
in a Kafkaesque nightmare of ecological genocide, anomie and arrested
development. It is against this background that the Niger Delta is united
behind President Goodluck Jonathan to urge him to contest for the office of
President in 2011. AND they expect the support and cooperation of all other
political blocs to give President Goodluck Jonathan a chance.

Idumange John, wrote from Yenagoa

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