© 2019 - International Centre for Investigative Reporting
Sorry, I am a Nigerian, not a politician
By Owei LAKEMFA
I understand the Nigerian citizen. I know he wants the basics of life: Food, shelter, education, healthcare, security, clothes on his back and a footwear. But I do not know what most politicians in the country want; a lot of times, I cannot even understand their actions, philosophy or what drives them.
Four years ago, the most common characterisation of then President Goodluck Jonathan by the All Peoples Congress (APC) was that he was “clueless”. It became an anthem crooned by leaders of that party, and the pro-APC media organisations and foot soldiers. The Jonathan administration took it in its strides. Now, four years later – with the APC’s President Muhammadu Buhari in power, when ‘The Punch’ Newspaper in its September 4, editorial wrote that President Buhari demonstrated “cluelessness” in handling the herders violence, all hell was let loose. For using such a word to describe the President, ‘The Punch’ was virtually accused of treason.
Presidential Spokesperson, Garba Shehu issued a statement saying: “The editorial was not only disrespectful of the President and his office but was also reckless, thoughtless, inflammatory and totally irresponsible. ”So why was such characterisation okay for President Jonathan but treasonable when used for his successor? I ascribe the Presidency’s uncontrolled outburst to the strange ways of politicians.
Still talking about 2014, the APC sold its presidential nomination form for N27 million and the retired General Buhari said he was too poor to afford such a huge amount just to express his interest to serve his country in the highest office. He turned to his bankers to raise a loan.
Today, four years later, the same APC form is going for N45 million, so how does our dear President pay; go for another loan when he might not have finished paying the previous one? Aware that the president may be too poor to afford N45 Million just for an interest form, some good Nigerians outside government are alleged to have bought the form for him. But how does an anti-corruption President know the good Nigerians source of wealth?
In any case, why the astronomical price increase? Is it an indication that since President Buhari came to power, inflation has galloped so much that you will need N45 million to purchase what cost N27 Million four years ago? In any case, how does a political party that claims to be wedded to popular participation in politics, demand N45 million from any Nigerian desiring to run on its platform? Can it be a confirmation that in Nigeria, democracy is the government of the rich, by the rich, in the name of the poor?
In Yobe State, the ruling party is so enamoured by the giant strides taken by Governor Ibrahim Gaidam that it has conferred on him the sole power to appoint his successor. Is this a democratic reward for a job well done? His counterpart in Oyo State, Governor Abiola Ajimobi, who happens to be my favourite governor in the country, told aspirants who want to run for the gubernatorial primaries, not to waste their N22.5 million on nomination form because he and some other party leaders will appoint a “consensus candidate”. His counterpart in Ogun State, Governor Ibikunle Amosun has raced ahead, empowering some ‘elders’ to appoint the APC’s gubernatorial candidate. In all these states, there is no room for a contest amongst aspirants. You see why I do not understand politicians who vow that they are democrats?
This, by the way, is not a speciality of the ruling APC; the grandfather of this unique form of democracy is the opposition PDP with a 19-year experience. Last Thursday, when former Vice President Atiku Abubakar turned up at the PDP Secretariat to submit his nomination form to run for the Presidency, the historical occasion was made more colourful by prolonged gunshots and bloody street fights that engulfed the roads around the office. We may never know the casualty figures. We may also never know what happened as the PDP accused the APC of hiring thugs to attack Atiku’s supporters while the latter claimed that the thugs were the hired foot soldiers of Atiku himself.
In Ogun State, another brand of democracy was on display when two legislators; Honourables Biyi Adeleye (Remo North) and Harison Adeyemi (Ogun Waterside) decided to exercise their constitutional right to belong to a party of their choice. They decided to sail from the ruling APC and berth at another party, said to be the opposition PDP. But the State Assembly rejected their letter, ruling that the legislators have no right to choose a new political party. So, apparently, the two lawmakers are trapped in the APC; victims of an unconstitutional tyranny of the majority.
While still trying to digest all these and see if I can make sense of the governance system, I recalled that in August, I read a letter of resignation by one Yakubu Nagoda, addressed to Governor Abdullahi Ganduje, saying: “I regret to write and inform you (of) my resignation as Special Assistant to His Excellency, the Executive Governor of Kano State on Graveyards.” I was shocked; Special Assistant on Graveyards! What would a governor who is also a professor with PhD in Public Administration need a political appointee on graveyards, why not on Resurrection or Heavenly Affairs?
His counterpart in Imo State, Governor Rochas Okorocha has a better idea; turn the state into a blissful heaven. So, he created a Ministry of Happiness and Purpose Fulfilment, to decree happiness for all citizens in the state. His argument is that:
“The real essence of life is to be happy and to fulfil one’s purpose in life. Government officials are elected to address this. This is the very reason people elect their leaders to guarantee their happiness and purpose fulfilment.” He appointed his sister, Ogechi Ololo as the founding Commissioner in the Ministry. She promised to ensure”couples’ fulfilment”
Her main achievement so far is to campaign for men to become polygamous: “Our women are crying every day due to the lack of men to marry and support them economically hence they engage in prostitution. So please try to work hard and be productive so that you can help our women by marrying two or more wives provided you are able to provide for their basic needs”. I am wondering whether the state government should not provide interest-free loans for men to marry more wives.
With all these, I have resolved to keep to my lane as a citizen and steer clear of the lanes of our political leaders for I don’t understand their politics. Even the way they change party lanes without warning is dangerous enough. My conclusion is that this is not a democracy.
Owei Lakemfa, former secretary general of African workers is a human rights activist, journalist and author.