Date Published: 06/28/10
Reassessing the Ecology of Nigerian Politics By Idumange John
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. It will be more so as we inch nearer the elections next year.
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 consideration. 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 political activities show that it would be a PDP affair in 2011 after all. The drift towards one party system has not changed, but there is also consensus that Nigerians deserve a de-Iwunized electoral process.
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, 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 flagbearer of the Peoples Democratic Party for the seat of President. 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 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, Nigeria does not need visioning for too long; the nation needs pragmatic actions that would restore power, revive the moribund industries, rejuvenate agriculture and diversify the economy so we can derive revenues from multiple sources.
Redressing the electoral system is no less important than changing Nigeria’s status of a failed State. The evils in the political system have not changed at all. The concept of service has been replaced with 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 to show that the electoral process
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 kickback.
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 OPEC and the tenth in the world. As a nation our leaders have been mouthing the diversification of the economy yet government has not taken any pro-active action to realize that goal. Our roads are deplorable, and the provision of health and education infrastructure has taken a backseat.
The party system in Nigeria is still evolving, yet it is at its embryonic stage. Nigeria is gradually degenerating into a one-party State. 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.
Nigeria is the only country in Africa where Chief Executives rule like the Tzars of Russia, while the Legislative organs are emasculated to the point of overkill. In such States, debates at the hallowed chambers are usually coloured by partisan rancour. The common good has been rigorously undermined. Nigeria is also the only country Local Governments are treated with so much contempt because the elected office holders at that level do not understand the concept of accountability. It is only in Nigeria that cabinets are inundated by politicians rather than technocrats. In any nation, technocrats serve as the panoply for development.
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 sustain the existence of economic exclusion and political alienation in the nation. The implementation of the zoning arrangement would alienated some people and intensify the feeling of psychological rejection. This is the scenario in the Niger Delta and the Kafkaesque nightmare that has enveloped the Niger Delta Region. The Niger Delta is united behind President Goodluck Jonathan to urge him to contest the presidency in 2011. LET THE REST OF NIGERIA ALLOW PRESIDENT GOODLUCK JONATHAN TO CONTINUE TILL 2015.
Idumange John, wrote from Yenagoa