The usual adage that ‘politics is a dirty game,’ is not sufficient enough to describe Nigeria’s politics. Over the years and especially in the last 16 years, it has become a rotten and evil affair. Any sense of decency that was previously found in an inherently dirty game, has further plummeted into a cesspool of madness that no average decent person would want to interfere with. And when average principled people in our society summon courage to participate in politics, they are inevitably chased away by the dark forces and vultures dominating the game. I watched an interview on focus Nigeria, a television program on the Africa Independent Television (AIT) of a man from Yobe that has contested for a seat in the National Assembly several times and lost. The reason for one of his defeats was because he couldn’t meet up with the bribe requested by crooked campaign mobilizers and political thugs that have become so elevated in our political affairs and have been made integral in the process of winning elections. Here was a man that had immeasurable experience, intelligence and vast knowledge of every part of Nigeria, but he kept on losing to people that were better in giving bribes, better in oppressing the people and probably, losing to people that had the backing of some dishonest godfathers. Perhaps, if real leaders like him were allowed to emerge, Yobe will not be in the turmoil it is in now.
Another deplorable assault to democracy and injustice to the people is the act of stealing votes and denying the people of their mandates. I agree there have been some little improvements in our elections between 1999 and 2011. However, we can never forget the onslaught on democracy from the number of mandates stolen during those election periods. Some contestants have fought to regain back their seats, while the less powerful contestants that only emerge from the power of votes and not from unlimited resources or godfatherism had no choice but to give up. And yet, another deplorable behavior in our politics is the high level of mud-slinging being relied on to take down political counterparts instead of normal civil exchange of views or public debates. It is a common thing in politics to taint the image of political counterparts and opponents only that in other advanced climes, these political techniques are done in a civil manner, ways that don’t border onto crazy acts of libel or blatant damaging lies against a person’s character.
Currently, the sort of propaganda that is being manufactured and tactically spread around to gullible citizens in order to divide the people and instill fear unto the polity seems fascist and is very reminiscent of the Nazi regime in Germany. We are glad that some public figures have set a warning against these irresponsible acts, by recently coming out to defend themselves against the lies and defamation of their character. They pursued the matter in court and won their cases against the fascist irresponsible spokespersons of people in power. When people are not being made accountable to their actions, we end up having an unjust society like ours.
One of the major concerns in our political affairs is the exorbitant cost that comes with political campaigns without relevant justification. This is a serious problem that must be fixed, especially by the political parties. Since our return to democracy, the inflated cost of running a political structure of aspirants participating in politics can be attributed to the ruling party. The ruling party introduced the trend of overly extravagant campaigns and outright buying of votes rather than honestly winning votes and the hearts of the people by convincing the public through traditional democratic methods of campaign practices, mobilization and open debates. Politicians take advantage of the moral decadence and abject poverty to work against the populace through manipulating the poor and illiterate masses in buying their votes for nothing. In terms of political parties and their policies, they all have a role to play in fixing this big issue of outrageous cost that comes with running for political offices, by assessing their policies and looking closely at the huge price tags being attached to positions in the party. That a nomination form can cost more than 10 million naira is absurd and democratically backward. Herewith is a portrayal of the reality we face: a politician spends a large amount on a form, afterwards he includes additional bribes dotted out and campaign costs acquired in the process of election, once he wins the election and assumes power, his main priority will be to reimburse himself and his sponsors of those costs. It is evident that political parties must re-examine this policy failure of putting extra high cost for nomination forms and they must monitor campaign spending and other financial aspects within their members. Financial recklessness in politics is a major contributing factor to the influx of people lacking good will and moral character storming into our public sector.
One other important observation I have made in public political discourse is the lamentation of people on the lack of ideology amongst our politicians. So far, many of our tested politicians have no firm set of beliefs that they follow and lead by. They are mostly businessmen unwilling to serve anybody but themselves. They sheepishly raise the flag of any party that gives them full assurance of fulfilling their ambition to be foisted in a position they seek by all means. That is why it is easy for them to jump back and forth like frogs from one party to another without any substantial reason other than selfish interests or only because they’ve been bribed to do so, such as the case of our gluttonous “legislooters” portrayed. Looking back in history to the First Republic, our golden era of political prowess, the leaders had their set of ideologies to follow and lead by. Those beliefs became the stepping-stones towards our development in the 60s, there was healthy competition between the leaders and they had mutual respect for each other. But in contemporary politics, we are bombarded with opportunists, local champions at the helm of our affairs and government.
We as citizens also have so much work cut out for us in trying hard to achieve and add better values to our world renowned cheerful and resilient Nigerian character. In order to have a working civilized and respectful society I believe that change must start from the elected leaders before the followers adopt it. People that are close to politicians or have access to them also have a duty to always tell them the truth even when it is being fought and rejected. Be bold and say the truth when you have a chance with these public servants because we can’t continue deceiving them and by so doing, also deceiving ourselves. When you act inferior and sycophantic towards them just to be accepted in their circle of ‘yes men,’ you become a traitor to the public that’s meant to benefit from the official’s wise decision making. If we behave like animals, we will be treated like animals. So, respect and dignify yourself as a human being. Bad advisors and bad people surrounding our officials have been a major component to the inglorious fall from grace. Along the years, patriotic people of honour have been pushed away and replaced by indifferent and non-heroic forces to influence and lead us. I cannot possibly list all the factors and bad characters that add and contribute to our decline and failure in democratic governance and politics as a country, but I believe these are some major crucial things that have to be looked into and get focus on fixing.
Article written by Mallama Hafsa and you follow on Twitter : @MallamaHafsa
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