I have read all sorts of reactions to last Saturday’s National Convention of the Peoples Democratic Party and the only surprise I have is the quantum of shock from Nigerians at the turn of events. I cannot believe that Nigerians actually imagined that things would go on in anyway significantly different from the way they turned.
For me, what we saw on Saturday was the manifest character of the Nigerian politician- a superintending imposition of self-interest (for which they are ready to do, say or spend or expend anything), over the collective.
One of the very imposing narratives is the subjection of the interest of the South-West geopolitical zone by the reigning causes in the PDP. But the question should also be asked, why did the South-West go to the convention with such a large number of contestants? Why was it impossible for the zone to have agreed to one single candidate and presented on a single front?
The very obvious answer is that each of these aspirants was gripped by a blind optimism buoyed by nothing than the overwhelming desire to be the very person sitting before the pot of soup that political parties and the influences that they wield have become. If not for that, it would have dawned on these seven or so aspirants from the outset that there was no way anyone in their number would emerge chairman of the party given the delegate nature of the election.
The truth is that not one of these men could even boast of the support of delegates from his own state let alone about the delegates from the South-West. Apart from Oyo and Ogun states, which had two candidates each (meaning delegates from each state would have been split among the contestants), all other states from the zone are currently deep in one crisis which has factionalised the party or the other.
It is worse in the case of Prof. Tunde Adeniran who is hardly on speaking terms with Governor Ayodele Fayose of his native Ekiti State. Those who know the politics of Nigeria would realise that being on the wrong side with the governor of your state amounts to a death knell on the career of a politician as governors have remained the determinants of the career of most politicians including presidents.
But in the character of politicians who blame no one else but themselves, aspirants from the South-West did not understand the import of their failure to present a common front until people from without pointed at the impotence of their aspirations.
The other side of the coin is what those who currently hold the ace at the PDP exhibited. The Nigeria politician is totalitarian in his conquest.
While it was evident to the keen observer of events that Uche Secondus, candidate of the almighty governors of the party and sole endorsee of the South-East and South-South caucuses of the party, the demon of the winner-takes-it-all spirit of the Nigerian politician arrested the souls of Nyesom Wike, Ayodele Fayose and their colleagues such that the Unity List, which was imposed on delegates, entertained no representation from underdog groups in the election. When politicians win in Nigeria, they usually spare no thought for the losers, neither do they allow them to go lick their wounds in peace. On the contrary, they enforce their victories by emasculating the losers and reducing them to rubble. It is the trademark of politicians and were roles reversed, today’s losers in the PDP would be equally tyrannous in victory. The winners here take all, while the losers behave like the leper who, even though unable to produce the cheese due to their leprous hands, is eager to throw it away with their functional limb.
Unfortunately, our politicians live in pathetic denial. This is the only reason why the All Progressives Congress, which is only just papering over its appallingly uneven structure, could raise its voice against the PDP. The truth is that all politicians in the land are possessed by the same self-centred, covetous and possessive spirit.
Which is why I worry about the prospects of democracy in Nigeria. Although this system of governance presents checks and balances, which should ordinarily restrain the powers of each arm of government, what you have found in the case of Nigeria and a lot of other African countries is the willing collaboration of the various arms of government to whittle down the control over their destinies as expected in a democracy. But for the judiciary, which gives a flicker of hope, every now and then, Nigerians are as far away from the liberty of speech, debate, enquiry and economy that democracy prescribes for the people as can be.
The legislature in most instances is a losing case. That arm of government has become nothing more than a rubber stamp for the executive such that nothing else but the interest of that arm of government that holds the purse-the executive, matters. It is so bad that at some point in the not too distant past, state governors actually got an assembly of state legislators to vote against their own autonomy! Now, such autonomy would have freed the legislature from the stranglehold of governors such that their principal role of lawmaking and oversight would have been carried out without let or hindrance. But because of pecuniary gains, legislators by their own hands betrayed the people who put them in office by voting to remain appendages of state governors.
How then does a country hope that its democracy will grow?
The only other way is that the people are conscious enough to place a demand for performance on everyone that has been elected to work for them. After all, is it not a requirement of representative democracy that those elected to represent the people must listen to and carry out the desires of their constituents?
But even on this plate, Nigeria cannot hope for too much, at least not at the moment. Subject to the leeching tendencies of our leaders, Nigerians have become submissive preys deprived of virtually all sense of worth. This is why instead of pelting the oppressors out of sight each time they come back to us after failing in their promises, we allow them to hoodwink us with crumbs from our commonwealth and fall to their tricks and coated tongues every now and then. We have mostly become an unquestioning, undemanding people who are ready to open our mouths and swallow everything that is presented to us by our marauding leaders. We just do not seem to be a people ready to take back those things that legitimately belong to us.
All said and done however, the survival of democracy still lies in the hands of the people. Unless the average Nigerian wakes up from slumber and repents from the docility, which is currently characteristic, democracy may never take root here.
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