“You cannot adopt politics as a profession and remain honest,” says American writer, Louis Howe. He is largely right. Especially in a country like Nigeria where morality and politics are two strange bed fellows. With the exception of a negligible few, politicians in this clime do not give a damn about that word, ‘morality.’
They apparently seem to have imbibed the view of the witty Henry Adams, another celebrated American writer, who once posited that, “morality is a private and costly luxury.” And permit me to add, a pastime of fools in politics. And Nigerian politicians are no fools in the deadly game of power. Truly, power and the acquisition of power are all that matter to the Nigerian politician, not any silly, balderdash sing-song about morality. Not any such appeal to emotion and sentimentalism; not any such crazy notion of remembering yesterday’s promises.
Yesterday is dead, gone and buried. Today is here and how to grab power today is what seems to count while tomorrow’s challenges will provide the tools to confront them. That’s probably the reason the politician promises to do one thing today and does the exact opposite, the next; he promises you good roads, potable water, functional healthcare, qualitative education, decent housing and economic empowerment to enable you live the good life but thinks nothing of fulfilling them.
The next election, he makes the same promises or elongates them just to get your vote. You vote him in and he forgets he ever made any promise to the electorate in the first place. His memory is not for yesterday. The politician will do anything to win elections, including promising anything just to earn your support, just to grab your vote. Once he does, you will be stupid to expect him to keep his word.
No faithful student as the Nigerian politician to the words of Jonathan Swift who says, “promises like pie-crusts are made to be broken.” The above are the thoughts that come to mind as the controversy, over the alleged single-term pact, which the president was said to have entered, signed or contracted with the power brokers of the ruling People’s Democratic Party, PDP, before his election in 2011, rages.
Going by the ‘letter and spirit’ of the said agreement, President Goodluck Ebele Jonathan would run for a single four-year term (ostensibly to complete the eight year-tenure of his former boss, the late President Umaru Yar’Adua) and then return power to the North. Even though the issue had raged quietly and seem to be discussed in hush-hush tone, it was the swashbuckling Gov. Aliyu Babangida Muazu of Niger State, who blew the lid when he declared in a widely publicised interview that the condition for supporting President Jonathan in 2011 by the North was that he would serve a single term before relinquishing power.
President Jonathan’s camp, of course, pooh-poohs Gov. Aliyu’s claim, daring those who hold on to the single-term pact argument to produce documents to support their assertion. And the fire burns, ahead of the 2015 presidential poll. What do I make of the issue? One thing is clear: President Jonathan will run in 2015.
All indices point fully in that direction. Forget all the ‘he has not made up his mind’ game, which he and his top aides had been playing. From the utterances, body movements and happenings within the presidency and party hierarchy, no one is in any doubt that President Jonathan will throw his bowler hat into the 2015 race. Mrs. Kema Chikwe, the National Woman leader of the PDP, said what other men had been struggling hard to say when she declared at a public event in Abuja last week, that the president would increase the percentage of women participation in government when he returns in 2015. Interpretation: The gloves are off.
Watch out for Candidate Jonathan. The president’s wife and the nation’s powerful First Lady, Dame (Dr.) Patience Goodluck Jonathan, was in attendance at the powerful event where Chikwe kick-started the president’s hitherto subtle campaign. The other issue is that the president will not be deterred by the consideration of any so-called pact of a single-term. Since his camp has denied the existence of any pact, no one should expect the president to honour or be conscripted by it.
Those who are insisting on a pact and banking on that to compel him not to take part in the 2015 race had better bury such thought and think of another strategy to beat him. The third point is this: Those who are expecting that any Nigerian politician will be restrained by any agreement are betraying an extreme naivety that is shocking. Which politician has ever obeyed a pact or agreement in this country? Who has ever willingly quit power in our past and recent history?
When has morality begun to matter in politics here? Why should anyone expect a president, who ran a first term election in clear violation of his party’s zoning policy to be circumscribed by an alleged one-term pact? If he broke a written party rule, why would he not an unwritten one, what is more or less a moral persuasion to do a single term? Do I believe there was a single-term pact?
I don’t know. But I suspect there was an attempt to persuade President Jonathan to agree to run for a single term if he would get the PDP ticket in 2011. I can still recall ex-president Olusegun Obasanjo at the grand finale of the presidential campaign in Abuja, commending Jonathan for agreeing to a single term. Obasanjo called it ‘an act of great sacrifice.’ When he made that comment, the television lights beamed on Jonathan. He was uneasy and fidgety. His face betrayed the fact that he was either uncomfortable or in disagreement with Obasanjo’s proposition.
Being taciturn, he kept his peace. Until he got the ticket and rumbled on to presidential victory. Now, 2015 is here. Those who thought that Obasanjo’s assurance on behalf of President Jonathan would hold water are getting the biggest shock of their lives. I am even more shocked that they are shocked at the dramatic turn of events. One look at that television footage would convince anyone that President Jonathan never intended to keep to a one-term agreement.
I agree to the suggestion that Obasanjo should speak up as to what was agreed or not agreed, and, if indeed there was a pact or not, for all it’s worth. I do not expect any significant change in President Jonathan’s position to contest 2015 even if Obasanjo speaks up. He would run. End of story. Should he run? My position has been consistent. Nothing stops him from running.
Except there is a constitutional debarment that he has twice taken the presidential oath (first was his elevation from acting president to president in May 2010, and the second as president on May 29, 2011). But if he indeed agreed to a one-term, then he is morally, not legally, bound to keep his word as a gentleman, which his admirers claim he is. But again, how many Nigerian politician can be trusted as gentlemen to ever keep their words?
Who would willingly give up power? An office as powerful as the president of Nigeria? Even among those asking him to honour a one-term pact, how many of them, were they in President Jonathan’s shoes, would keep their promise of a single-term? The president is no different from the typical Nigerian politician. They use and dump. Isn’t that their usual trademark?
The point I am making is clear and straightforward: morality is dead in Nigerian politics. Politicians here generally think nothing other than how to grab power for the sake of power. Except for a few leaders, who are giving their heart and soul to politics of service, crass opportunism and materialism drive politics here. When service begins to matter, morality will start to count.
Those who seek to truly serve will not kill themselves to get power; they will not tell barefaced lies or make promises they know they have no intention of keeping. Service to the people will truly be the fulcrum of every administration. Back to the issue at hand. The convincing way for the opposition, both within and outside the PDP, to check Jonathan’s planned re-election is to offer credible alternatives to what obtains now; how they intend to run the country better; what difference they seek to make. Let them sell their programmes like the aggressive salesman.
Majority of Nigerians are agreed this is not where they should be as a nation, this is not the best they deserve under an administration they gave their votes in 2011. What they are yet to be fully convinced about is if those screaming blue murder at the country’s apparent mismanagement of our common wealth will be truly different from the greedy and rapacious leadership we have right now. That is the major challenge before the opposition, if they must face the hard facts.