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For Nigeria to become part of the modern civilisation in the 21st century, Nigerians need to approach their challenges with a common front and a common purpose, and ready to correct the maladies that plague the political system from the bottom up. This is a clarion call for all citizens – irrespective of party affiliations, ethnicity, race, religion or gender – to come together and steer the nation away from an impending danger. Today, Nigeria is not only frightening, but fundamentally tarnished.


By Ekenenyie Ukpong
Research Fellow on African Affairs
University of Leeds, England

Shortly after the inauguration of President Muhammadu Buhari and his Vice, Professor Yemi Osinbajo, on the 29th of May, 2015, I visited Nigeria from the United Kingdom. I went there not for the usual business trip, but particularly, to share in solidarity with a new dawn of administration. I arrived with high hopes and expectations. First, I flew from Lagos to Abuja to congratulate Mr. Femi Adesina, Special Adviser on Media and Publicity to the President, and Mr. Abubakar Kyari, for their success. Few days later, I travelled to the East of the country to make similar gestures to Senators Nelson Effiong and Abaribe Enyinnana, of South-South and South-East respectively.
In fact, the encounters with these cream of personalities boosted not only my psychological and political morale, but also signalled a clear vision of where Nigeria would be heading. Predominantly, our conversations rested on the economy, housing markets, social opportunities, security, defence, health care and education. Indeed, listening to these gentlemen could rekindle a dormant spirit in any rational human being. As concerned citizens, such areas attracted much attention.
During my handshake with Mr Femi Adesina at Abuja, I recalled the 2008 Presidential Speech delivered by then Candidate (now President) Barack Obama at Iowa, USA. For many Americans that was a period of reconciliation, reconstruction and perhaps, rehabilitation. Similarly, I harboured such feelings towards Nigerians. These thoughts set my course of actions, and oriented me towards an optimistic future. I came to believe as most Nigerians did that at the root of this political success, lies some hope of awakening.
But little did I know I was feeding myself with diets sprinkled with spices of fantasy!
Back in London, I was awe-struck at what I saw, “Fracas in Senate” on NTA Network News” channel. Quickly, I grabbed my eyeglasses to be certain about what I was reading. Not only was the caption correct, but the footage confirmed that our Honourable Ladies and Gentlemen were engaging in a fierce fight on the Senate Floor.
Indeed, the June 9 inauguration of the Eighth National Assembly and the drama that trailed the elections of the Senate President, Dr. Abubakar Bukola Saraki, and the Speaker of the House of Representatives, Mr. Yakubu Dogara presented political intrigues that will generate debates about the credibility of Nigeria’s political elites for a long time. Undeniably, many Nigerians – home and abroad – are concerned over the backdrop of these crises rocking APC-controlled National Assembly.
Unequivocally, high levels of discreet manoeuvrings at the National Assembly have well indicated that politicians are truly representatives of personal interests and political ambitions. For 16 years, the People’s Democratic Party, PDP, presided over the affairs of the nation with shrewd, dishonesty and gluttony. Appallingly, this distorted mind-set was reinforced during the first days of President Olusegun Obasanjo till the last days of Jonathan’s administration.
Today, another set of hypocrites have appeared to discredit politics in the eyes of the general population. Because as soon as the election results were announced, the former governor of Lagos State and National Leader of the All Progressive Congress, (APC), Asiwaju Bola Ahmed Tinubu, vowed never to recognise Dr. Saraki as the gavel handler and landlord of the House. Also, there are clear indications that two power blocs – one led by same Tinubu and the other by the Vice-President Abubakar Atiku – within the All Progressive Congress are now engaged in a fierce struggle for the soul of the party.
Truly, this political dilemma at the National Assembly and the APC Party reveals the extent of coveted practices that lie beneath the elitist structure of Nigeria’s politics. Furthermore, it confirms how the system of governance is overwhelmed by corrupt behaviours from the national level to the local government institutions. Certainly, such conflicts and leadership struggles, undoubtedly, could degenerate into totalitarianism, fascism and communism. At its heart is the desire for corruption which destroys individuals including civic stability and political unity. Because it is hopelessly tainted with personal ambitions and naked self-interests that are pursued by any means necessary.
However, the festering pestilence of corruption in the National Assembly is not only limited to the politicians. Indeed, it has extended to the entire masses including the civil servants, traditional rulers and the military who overtly supported, worked and concerted with the system. Within every endeavour –economic, social, religious, political, and cultural – it has become the decisive factor in shaping the relationship between the people involved. In Nigeria, it is regarded as a normal practice because whoever that is not of this quality, will be marginalised or eliminated. But if you are one of the Judases, then be prepared to follow the rules without personal initiatives for an alternative policy.
Although corruption might be interpreted differently in different political culture and civilization, but under the present political climate, the leadership tussle in the House has increasingly pushed the Nigerian society to the brinks of disaster. Quite often, their conduct involves inducing an official from carrying out his functions in accordance with the set rules and procedures. Moreover, it includes act of arrogation of benefits for oneself, friends and relatives to the detriment of the right or entitlement of others. Obviously, this manner depicts an indication of dishonesty which covers all instances of bribery, kickbacks, favouritism, nepotism and the use of influence to run public affairs. By such act of political impropriety, the National Assembly and the APC leadership are not only crucially flawed, but have contradicted the principles and values of democracy.
Without doubts, Nigeria is a corrupt country because its past and present history has recorded many cases of venality. An authentic example is the Halliburton bribery scandal that shook Aso Rock (Abuja), Washington DC, Paris, London and other remote islands of the world. Recently, the former governor of Jigawa State, Sule Lamido and his two sons, Mustapha and Aminu, have been persecuted by the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) for money laundry and other related charges. Similar humiliations were correspondingly accredited to Chimaroke Nnamani, former governor of Enugu State, Ikedi Ohakim (Imo State), Murtala Yako (Adamawa State) as well as the former director of the defunct Oceanic Bank Plc, Mrs Cecilia Ibru. In fact, the list is lengthy.
Under this dark and confused society where politicians conspicuously display wealth, influence and position over performance, Nigerians should not expect things to be done in a differently better way because those same antiquated politicians are still in control of Nigeria’s political structure. On February 8, 2013, Olusegun Obasanjo, the former President of Nigeria, launched an international foundation at Grosvenor Hotel, London. In attendance were four West African Heads of States – Goodluck Ebele Jonathan of Nigeria, Ellen Johnson Sirleaf of Liberia, John Mahama of Ghana and Thomas Yayai Boyi of Benin Republic. Other dignitaries included governors, top diplomats, politicians, businessmen and women, clergies as well as journalists from various countries. Indeed, the event attracted more than 2,000 guests around the globe. But the crucial question was: Why London?
Quite often, the key concept of politics in Nigeria is about the acquisition of wealth and power which focuses on who gets what, when and how. Sadly enough, this tactical plot reflects on the capacity of the elites to manipulate the desires and feelings of ordinary voters. In most cases, the real policy issues are being undermined, ignored or completely forgotten. Usually, such ill-organised conspiracy is simply in the interest of the strongest party that controls the city, sets the rules and the laws so as to benefit from public ignorance and alienation. This scenario, nevertheless, is compared to shepherds fattening up their sheep, yet the conditions designed for the sheep are for the shepherds’ advantage. Unfortunately, if all regimes are like greedy shepherds, then the conventional virtues they establish are persistently evil for the sheep.
However, in the 21st century, civilisation requires human beings to increase their knowledge of why conflicts arise and to search for appropriate methods of conflicts resolution. Similarly, democracy demands that increasingly, efficient institutions and policies be designed to allocate resources satisfactorily throughout society. Because disputes between different belief systems are nothing new, but the need to find political solutions to problems is more acute.
Additionally, we live in an age where the growing number of citizens in a country are able to participate in their own governance through the workings of democracy. So, I have strongly recommended Direct Television Broadcast of all proceedings at the National Assembly as well as States House of Assembly throughout the federation. This proposal when implemented will significantly improve attendance and daily workings of the legislature. Also, it will make the political system more transparent because the general public needs to make informed choices if the system is to work effectively.
Therefore, more than ever before, Nigerians need politics. It is the only way to avoid clashes of interests being resolved by knife, the bullet or ballistic missile. Certainly, the general public will no more be ruled by constant deception and suppression for too long. Thus, politics matters to us all since it is concerned with fundamental questions that are of profound relevance to the citizens, whenever or wherever they live.
Despite the fact that our life experiences are unique, yet we share common misfortunes, sorrows and predicaments because whatever affects one directly affects all indirectly. Shockingly, our political elites appear not to effectively digest the language of change that many Nigerians voted for. Take a look at what is happening around the world – from North Africa to the Middle East, Ukraine and Russia, up to the South East Asia. Today, the potential is always there for conflicts to escalate to the point of where the planet itself is in peril.
Thus, to confront the issue of corruption in Nigeria’s political wordlist, President Muhammadu Buhari should not only resort to a tactical examination of the past, but include the present administration. It is the only means to protect the robbed and punish the robber. Besides, it would be a monumental mistake for him to investigate only the Jonathans, Maduekes, Okonjo-Iwealas while the Abachas, Obasanjos, Tinubus, Sanusis, Atikus, Babangidas are allowed to walk free.
Moreover, no one should draw an arbitrary line on who should or should not be persecuted. Questions about politics, society, economics, and indeed ethics, are closely related and needed to be organised together within the context of political enquiry. Severely, this inglorious hypocrisy should be addressed in its entirety such that an individual does not see himself as being immunized from public scrutiny. Remember, corruption does not belong to any political party, religion or ethnicity. Thus, selective justice is injustice.
Indeed, being able to deal ruthlessly with political corruption in Nigeria will, on one hand, allow appetites of public officials to be in check and, on the other, place their indignation under control. This course of action will not permit them to experience greed, lust or arrogance that usually prompt them to steal, bribe or murder. Significantly, studies have proven that political corruption has become an increasingly the bedrock for other types of corruption, such as trading and distribution of goods, financial conspiracy with power brokers, dictating policies for States and Federal governments, and misuse of public offices to thrive unchecked or are encouraged.
On these transformations, Nigerians – irrespective of party proclivity, ethnicity or gender – must shun all forms of chauvinism, cynicism and practices of corruption. If not, we shall surely be dragged along the path of dark and shameful corridors reserved for those who possess power without concern, might without morality and strength without sight. Moreover, in modern-day civilisation, there is a pressing need to advance a society where talents and resources are held as instruments of service for the rest of humanity.
Therefore, Nigerians must transcend the world of greed and ambition and use their intelligence and reason to achieve true virtue. Above all, the lawmakers must seek and embrace decency, compassion, tolerance, co-operation, respect and discipline as their democratic cultural attire because moral righteousness is profoundly the first duty of a government.