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    Categories: ColumnsCoverFunke Egbemode

The politician and his abiku business

It’s ‘abiku’ business. Risky ‘ogbanje’ business. It’s an investment that most likely will die prematurely and most definitely will not last the lifetime of the investor.

Funke Egbemode

Is it just me or do you also wonder why politicians do what they do? Do you think they are as normal as the rest of us? Are they just aliens from outer space or some La la land? Their choices, the desperation, the things they say always leave me wondering if I’d ever make a politician. Strange thought, right? Yeah, I’m thinking of strange kind of people who fork N55m over just to make the lives of his people better?

Holy Moses! Whopping N55 million! Excuse me? If I’ve worked my fingers to the bone, wore my ageing bum out sitting (as I am right now writing this), casting headlines and bent over scripts, how exactly do you persuade me to hand over my sweat in exchange for a few pages of paper called presidential nomination form, seriously? All my money, all my savings, poof, gone just like that? Just to serve? Just to be called president? Nah, count me out. Anyway, do you know any journalist who has N55m stashed somewhere waiting to use it to buy anything, least of all a form? I don’t.

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Well, you could say I have options. If I don’t have N55m to buy the presidency (sorry, presidential nomination form), I could buy governorship with N22.5m, senate N8.5m, House of Reps N3.8m or House of Assembly, N1.1m. My field of choice is even wider because all of that are for APC, which obviously has a bigger purse to fill. PDP’s forms are cheaper: presidency N12m, governor ship N6m, Senate N3.5, House of Reps N1.5m and House of Assembly N0.6m. Negotiations are on and I guess discounts will apply. You know last price kind of negotiation. The forms cost less in the other parties but why can’t nomination forms be free? Why are politicians paying so much to serve us? It must be love, unconditional love, and right?

Let’s take a pause and eavesdrop on my buddies Koko and Kaka:

Koko: But why do politicians have to pay so much to serve their people?

Kaka: The question you should really ask is, why do politicians pay so much to ‘serve?’

Koko: Hmm, you are right. Why do they agree to pay millions to make our lives better?

Kaka: Maybe because it’s investment, not service.

Koko: Seriously? You think politics is business that politicians are buying and selling? Selling what exactly?

Kaka: A-beg, don’t put words in my mouth. Just tell me any other venture where your life is turned around within three months after an election? The ROI is inviting, trust me.

Koko: What’s ROI?

Kaka: Return on investment. It’s only in politics that you get personal security, earn salary you don’t want anybody to know, make huge extras you can’t tell your pastor about.

You know how Koko and Kaka are with their postulations and assumptions. Let’s ignore them before they lead us into temptation. So do you think politics is business, really and truly? I think it’s bad business that is if it’s business. Why? It’s ‘abiku’ business. Risky ‘ogbanje’ business. It’s an investment that most likely will die prematurely and most definitely will not last the lifetime of the investor.

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Like the abiku concept in Yoruba belief, investments in politics are predestined to die. Even when it looks like the abiku will ‘stay’ and his mother names him Kokumo (meaning this won’t die again), Kokumo still shocks his mother when he starts shivering and then dies before the pot of herbs is warmed, on a hot afternoon. He has no compassion for his mother. He indeed thrives on his mother’s endless stream of pain, which is why he returns to the same mother to be reborn and to torment multiple times. That’s how I see politics – short-lived joy. And I think it’s because of the amount of money sunk into it. Maybe if it is truly about the passion to serve, they won’t be subjected to this ‘predestined to die’ business of abiku.

Ah, before I go too far and step on too many toes, some politician’s abiku babies do actually live beyond puberty. But those ones are not many, are they? The ones constantly in pain are in their hundreds. Let’s not also forget that we can count dozens of politicians who have been ‘killed’ by their ‘abiku’ children, drowned in the tears of joy-today-pain-tomorrow. The pain of politics far outweighs the hyped return on investments because at the end of the day, how many politicians are truly rich for a long time? Take a look around you, forget the two dozens out of millions of them who invest or contest every four years. Of course, I admit that buying a form for N1m and making steady ‘huge’ income, official car, security aide, siren and being hailed everywhere you go is cool, very cool, actually. But that piece of paper called nomination or expression of interest form is just the beginning. The crowd the aspirant has to feed and transport (let’s not use the word ‘rent’ today) to rallies to impress party chieftains and voters (prospective). He’ll need to oil the party machinery. Trust me that is one brand of engine oil that cost millions of naira. And the oiling goes on until he becomes a candidate, if he becomes a candidate; if he loses at the primaries, the abiku dies. The millions are buried just like that, gone, in a puff of smoke. Let politicians thank God for indirect primaries, at least they can estimate how much gallons they need to oil the delegates’ palms, with direct primaries, it’s like flying blind, or diving into a 28ft well. You don’t know if you’ll survive it. You need tankers of oil, endless supply of it. Just imagine all the millions indirect primaries will gulp in APC, and the number of abiku that will return to the land of spirits, leaving behind sorrow and gnashing of teeth.

For the ones who survive the primaries, it’s usually the beginning of a really long battle. Campaigns, the actual campaigns are long, the trail arduous the weather worse than an American hurricane in full season. The godfathers are Esu Laalu. Their heads must be kept shining with endless supply of palm oil, their shrine filled with appropriate sacrifices lest they withdraw flag, ticket or both. Nigerian political godfathers, even Esu will bow and dab before their thrones of mischief.

But the most complicated level in the political pantheon here are the voters themselves. On the one hand, they want to be served. They want to employ good leaders who’d change their lot, retrieve them from the yoke under which they labour. They mouth it. They chant it until they are hoarse. But only in-between elections. It’s like only when they have handed over their destinies to the wheeler-dealers that they become conscious of the hands they’ve been dealt. The electioneering seasons has the voters putting his reasoning faculties in cold storage. The desperation of the candidate and his long list of promises, which are actually revised versions from the previous season(s) make them forget. They forget that their yokes are still heavy. They do not ask why a man who insists he’s sweating and losing sleep at nocturnal meetings is also the one selling his cars, houses. The voters who should be encouraging him with their widow’s mite, pooling resources to move his campaign forward, help him get into office so he can serve them are syphoning his desperate funds and because they are many, these prospective voters, what each person gets is peanuts.

The godfathers get the chunk. The candidate is stretched thin, indeed butchered and quartered at the shrine of mischief. The blind or blindfolded voters are promised heaven and earth. The candidate makes them dance to his sweet melodies of approaching Eldorado. But what is it, nothing but magical hypnotic incantations coming from dozens of candidates, suffusing the senses of the voters. Year in year out, they cast their cares on promises….

Let’s go back to the abiku who survived and is now auctioning his properties to gain political office. He borrows, he begs, he negotiates, sweeping everything into a campaign, including vows at the shrine of Esu Laalu. Vows he can’t back out of, everything is invested. If all pan out, he’s only sure of four years of harvest at best.

Wait did we talk about something called “Election Day Funds”? That’s a big one, I gather. According to someone who’s been there and done everything, a man who buys a form to contest a seat in the House of Assembly for N1m will need N10m for election day expenses. Don’t ask me for his shopping list. Something called vote buying, settling ‘security’, party agents and all other expenses for which receipts are not issued because the pro-forma invoice is oral. All to serve us, this poor politician is a major investor in our future, right? The millions, the ‘unreceipted’ expenses, the vows at the shrine and all for the love of us.

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This risky business is risky and we’ll continue after this time out.

 

Tokunbo David :Sun News Online team writer and news editor

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