According to [Bafarawa], the political truck is like work in the making. It has no battery, no horn, no clutch and no brake. It is not just in form or shape
The former governor of Sokoto State, Alhaji Attahiru Bafarawa, has been in the news lately. But it is for good reasons. The man has been talking to us about what he calls the political truck. As a presidential aspirant under the banner of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), Bafarawa is interfacing with the electorate. He is dealing particularly with the delegates to the forthcoming national convention of his party as well as the stakeholders in the party at moment. And he has had cause to tell them about the political truck.
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What does Bafarawa mean by this? According to him, the political truck is like work in the making. It has no battery, no horn, no clutch and no brake. It is not just in form or shape. It must be aided or assisted to be in motion. While in motion, the truck rolls on and on until it reaches some 100 kilometres. At that point, its battery, horn, clutch and brake have become activated and functional.
Then comes the challenge: if you do not jump unto the truck at the time it is rolling, you stand the risk of being left behind. According to Bafarawa, the only way not to be left behind is not to push the truck from the back. You push from the side so that, as the truck is about to gather momentum, you jump in and roll on with it. That way, you would partake in the goodies and bounties that come with the political truck.
This exposé by Bafarawa is more than just a story. It is at the root of our politics today. It draws attention to the many ills that bedevil politics and politicking in Nigeria. Our politics is peopled by a lot of opportunists and smart alecs who see politics as a goldmine that must be explored and exploited to their advantage. You could say that politics in Nigeria of today has become a pastime for merchants. The led see the leader as the fat cow that must be milked dry. Its source of milk is considered inexhaustible. It must be there for the licking at all times. But the real problem is that many a politician who wants to partake perpetually in the sharing of the cake does not care about how the cake is baked. They think
it is not their job to contribute to the common pool. The language they understand is that of distribution. This set-up plays out poignantly during political seasons. The man who seeks public office is the national cake. Everyone must take from him. Nobody cares a hoot about his capacity or lack of it. He must measure up to the people’s expectations. And this expectation resides mainly in his pocket. It will be most tragic if he is not a free spender. His political camp must be a place where you come and reap bountifully. Anything to the contrary makes him a leper in the eyes of those who place him on the scale. His weight or lack of it is measured by his purse. Even though the led will make all the choices and determine the direction of the political train, the leader will always be the one to bear the brunt of those choices, no matter what they are. The led who jostle on a daily basis to find space in the vineyard of the giver maintain a safe distance once the leadership is under threat. The leadership alone is to blame whenever things go awry. The follower is the saint out there.
Recently, I found myself in a political forum, where those who aspire to lead Nigeria were being discussed and x-rayed. Naturally, their take-off point was President Muhammadu Buhari. Discussants threw jabs at one another. Everybody blamed everybody for the emergence of a Buhari. After all the brickbats, the howling crowd came to one inescapable destination, to wit, that the unthinking Nigerian is the problem with the country.
Who then is the unthinking Nigerian? He is the typical idol of the cave who does not see beyond his nose. His worldview is parochial. He places tribe or section above national interest. When Buhari was being thrown up, the howling public were excited to no end because they said that he would fight corruption to its knees. They did not spare a thought for any other attribute that a leader should have. When therefore the man came on board and displayed an incredible sense of clan and tribe, Nigerians were shocked to the marrow. They began to wonder how they came to this pass. They forgot that they were hasty and uncritical in making their choices. Even those who were toddlers during Buhari’s first coming thought they knew it all.
But then, what is all this talk about corruption? Who is the corrupt Nigerian? Here, a number of Nigerians will tell you that it is only those in authority that are corrupt. They are quick to see themselves as having no hand in the national tragedy. Yet the Nigerian who maintains a safe distance from the corridors of corruption is the same person who evaluates those who aspire to lead on the basis of the cash they dole out to him. He puts those who have indicated their interest to serve the nation under intense pressure. They must meet his monetary expectations. Those who fall short of this do not qualify to stand for office. They see no corruption in this disposition.
However, if we made our mistakes in Buhari four years ago, opportunity beckons once again for Nigerians to be wise this time. But their thinking cap does not appear to be properly worn. There is too much imbecility in their thinking process. No aspirant has been put forward as a model to be emulated. No special case
has been made for any of them. What the crowd seems to be concerned about is their financial capacity. When you throw up someone who shows signs of promise owing largely to his background and exposure, many wink at you. They think you are being naive. They feel you are looking out for the wrong reasons.
From the oldest political aspirant to the newest, our assessments have been hinged on the mundane and the ludicrous. We do not really desire to break away from our debilitating past. We do not want to task our brains. We are only interested in an outcome that we did not contribute to.
That is where Bafarawa’s allegory of the political truck comes handy again. There are so many bystanders in Nigerian politics. These are mere onlookers who would want to jump in when the feast has been prepared. When the truck is being prepared for take-off, they do nothing. They may even be looking the other way. But the moment the truck becomes functional, they begin to gnaw at it from all flanks.
For Nigerians who care, the time has come, once again, for introspection. The people need to look inwards. Where did we get it wrong? And how can we right the wrongs of the past? To get it right, we must take more than a passing interest in what the presidential aspirants represent outwardly. We must probe into who they really are. What agenda are they propagating? What have they said or done in the past? We must look at this if we must get it right.
One of the reasons why we fumbled in the case of Buhari was that we did not take time to assess him. As a military adventurer who seized power in controversial circumstances, we ought to have been circumspect in our assessment of Buhari. But we chose to behave like imbecilic proles. Today, the consequences of our folly are too telling to be ignored. We should be wise this time.