By Emma Okah, firstname.lastname@example.org, 08033211999
It was in order when President Goodluck Jonathan said he did not want to be dragged into the 2015 calculations early in his administration so as to avoid the distractions associated with it. Innocent and patriotic as this sounded at that time, the truth is that whether or not Jonathan likes it, preparations for the 2015 general elections started on May 30, 2011, after Jonathan was sworn in as President of Nigeria.
This state of affairs is not the making of Jonathan or the PDP. It has become the style and colouration of partisan politics in Nigeria. Therefore, any political party in power in the states and at the centre predictably behaves true to type. It was for this reason that many Nigerians believed that Jonathan was merely wasting his time and diverting attention by denying any interest in the 2015 race.
The truth is that even if he genuinely meant to keep matters lying low to enable him concentrate on good governance, political jobbers and sycophants would not let him be. These persons are near professionals, deploying various tools of work, cutting across the geo-political zones of the country, wearing different apparels, holding different positions in every government, and united by one common denominator – greed and selfish interest.
So, in Nigeria, the fear of these innocuous looking class of praise-singers is the beginning of wisdom. Besides, it is instructive that how any leader relates with this group of people determines his success or failure in government. Every top Nigerian politician falls under the same class of pressure, but the governors and the president are ready preys. It was therefore no surprise when Mrs. Patience Jonathan, in a recent testimony condemned some persons close to her who surprisingly thought she was dead in a German hospital and began selling her things.
That is their character, colour and modus. They have no permanent friends but permanent interest. To them, when one door closes, another opens. We believe that our leaders must be prepared and ready for political and electoral competition. It is not a matter of good luck or loyalty to a god-father. No matter what Jonathan thinks, truth is that basic democratic ideals should actually encourage future political office holders to show the direction of their thoughts in future elections and begin to map out strategies to actualise their dreams.
It is even more compelling for an incumbent office holder seeking re-election in the future to relate with the electorate and carry them along as he reigns. If this practice were allowed here, Jonathan would not be denying eyeing a second term in office even when he knows the truth. In America and many developed countries, presidential aspirants begin preparations many years ahead and only wait for the right time to strike.
This is so because the fate of every public office seeker rests in the hands of the electorate and not based on the wishes and caprices of their god-fathers. So, the harder they work, the better their chances of success at the polls. In Nigeria, the story is not the same. The electorate does not generally choose their leaders. The system that manages the processes is itself plagued by inherent defect mechanisms that make the electorate helpless and hopeless.
Starting from the wards to the LGAs, the states and centre, vote merchants litter the landscape. Governors have the LG chairmen, who in turn depend on local party stalwarts to rig and write election results and deliver the votes to the governor who subsequently transmits same to the presidential candidate, as the case may be. A situation like this has no room for credible elections or credible candidates in majority of the cases. When those who emerge winners in the so-called elections cannot lay claim to the supremacy of the electorate, their allegiance is to the person who delivers them.
More importantly, the electorate suffers when they are not allowed to choose leaders of their choice. All the talk about underdevelopment and recurring bad governments can be traced to the failure of successive Nigerian leaders to encourage electoral competition and respect the paramountcy of the electorate so that only the best and the prepared can emerge as leaders. Our national problems are mounting by the day. Unemployment is wrecking the society and debasing the huge productive segment of the population. In the midst of abject poverty, a few individuals are pocketing the resources of the nation and the all-powerful apparatus of government appear clearly helpless to handle the erring citizens.
No government, which hopes to reap from the support of the people, can allow this malady to continue unchecked. On a repeated basis, many Nigerian leaders and governors lack the understanding of their duties beyond sharing allocations and designing the next scheme of acquiring more power. Many countries build on their calamities and challenges to emerge stronger, but despite the hue and cry about our economic malaise, Nigerian leaders have been unable to mobilise the population to productive ends. Every new day, Nigerians are being treated to a mixed salad of violence, criminality, looting of public treasury and gross maladministration.
Many are wondering and rightly too, how long it will take Nigeria and Nigerians to sit up; maybe when the oil wells dry up in the Niger Delta. The recent drama playing out between the President and the Nigerian Governors’ Forum is typical of the political terrain, and the march towards 2015 cannot be different. Who says they are fighting? We cannot be deceived any more. It is the same distraction that ends up leaving the electorate worse off. Whether it is Amaechi’s Nigerian Governors Forum or Akpabio’s PDP version, the truth is that the PDP will have its way in the end. This state of affairs will remain until when Nigerians can rise up and free themselves, if need be, by violence, from the grip of second slavery being perpetrated upon them by their brothers and sisters in leadership positions.
Nigerians define their political lexicons and nobody is more important than the system that props it up. Amaechi and Jonathan need themselves, but any friction between the two will definitely leave the former more bruised than imagined. The much talked about APC is not new in Nigeria. By nature, the average Nigerian is weak and incapable of standing for his rights. This accounts for why any government takes them for granted. I do not clearly think the APC can muscle the PDP out of power with ease, because so many politicians populating the APC share ideals with their PDP counterparts.
The dividing line is simply the opportunity to be in government and control public resources. Some of them who may be shouting today have no good democratic practices in the states they govern. The governors conduct LG elections and the opposition parties go home empty handed, no matter how strong their candidates are. Using public resources as in PDP states, they buy the police, military, INEC or SIEC during elections and give money to voters on the queue.
This is how much the electoral system has been debased. Attahiru Jega’s INEC was at its best in 2011, but again, Nigeria did not have a credible election in many states. Majority of the states in the South-South and South-East knew no free polls. Therefore, many Nigerians believe that if INEC could not do much on the 2011 polls to cage rigging of elections in many states, the 2015 polls will be anything but credible. Whatever may be the situation as we march towards 2015, politicians who desire free and credible pools must know that the drumbeat of today is the same old one they have danced to. Until Nigeria begins to canvass for and allow free and fair elections under the rule of “one man, one vote”, the nation will continue to suffer leadership “kwashiokor”