By Sunny Ikhioya
MAN is the problem of man. Structures and institutions are set up to take care of excesses and challenges of man but man always finds ways to circumvent the system. This is more glaring in developing countries like Nigeria. The solution, however, lies with the people; the day they collectively decide to take their destinies in their hands, that will be the beginning of the end of manipulations and impunity.
The trending news today is the decision of major political parties to impose exorbitant fees for the sale of nomination forms to political aspirants, especially as it concerns the presidential election.
One hundred million naira is not what you expect from a career politician or technocrat, except, along the line, they have found other ways to amass wealth. This decision forecloses the involvement of truly honest politicians in the contest for our next president, which implies that the contest will no longer be for the best candidate but for only those who can afford it monetarily.
Are we, therefore, to say that the contest will be free and fair? By this action, are we saying that our democracy is moving forward or backwards? When are we going to have a level playing field for all candidates? Is the democracy we claim to be practicing for the people or a privileged few? This question becomes pertinent when we look at history.
People have in the past risen from poor backgrounds to become leaders in society, at local, national and international forums. This is not because they had money, but because of the qualities that they possessed, ideas and the intellect that impact on society.
That was how the Awolowos, Azikiwes, Balewas, Enahoros and others found themselves at the hierarchy of Nigerian politics in the fifties and sixties. Even the Sardauna, Ahmadu Bello, was in conflict with the traditional institutions at certain periods before he became Premier of the northern region.
The leadership system has now decayed. While explaining the situation in Tanzania under former President Nyerere, Professor PLO Lumumba said: “People will ask where the money you are spending is from and when you have more than you are supposed to have, the electorate will say you are a thief. So the burden rests on both the politician and the electorate. The typical politician impoverishes the people, so that they can be attracted to them and to do that you must have money”.
Our politicians have discovered that the electorate have an insatiable thirst or appetite for things that they do not work for; so it is easy to prey on their greed. As a result, in our politics, you will not find a competition for ideas, but a lucrative casino where the man in control is responsible for the distribution of money.
It is difficult to convince the electorate that ideas count for something; instead they will say: “we hear you, but in the intervening period, we must eat. If no money, your ideas will not fly”. That is the situation with our African politics.
But how do we change this negative orientation of ours? It is a big task; the solution is massive sensitisation of the populace. Until they are made to realise that the effective selection of leadership affects our collective growth, we will not move forward. It is said that “the love of money is the root of all evil”, but at the same time, another wisdom quote tells us that “money is the answer for everything”.
A people must strive to be rich, but they must do so with wisdom. For again, it is said that “wisdom is more precious than rubbies (money)”; for money on its own is not the solution to problems but the correct application of it. It must be done for the uplifting of humanity in a prosperous nation so that the people are happy. The accumulation of wealth is achieved through the implementation of wealth principles, which focuses more on assets and more income as against liabilities.
It also focuses on judicious use of resources, an area that this nation has been found wanting. If there is a shared prosperity and politicians are honest with themselves, there would have been no need for the humongous registration fees to contest election.
The action of our political parties will only open avenues for more corruption; if they choose to go ahead with the money methodology, political contestants will definitely strive to recoup their expenses when they succeed in getting into power.
Every party must put in place structures that will improve efficiency, especially through technology; this will reduce cost of operations to a reasonable level. In an environment of lack and want, it will be wrong for politicians to display profligacy, as this will send a wrong signal.
A party with a sound record in its use of resources will impact the people positively. From what we have seen from our political parties, they are not setting the right examples. At this period of our country’s history, we need somebody who can truly manage the economy, ensure productive use of resources, eliminate waste to the barest minimum and create wealth and prosperity for the people.
Some people will borrow money to meet the requirement of the party, others will have a collection of friends who rally round them to raise these funds. What then will be in it for all of these investors? The in-coming political office holders will be indebted to them; a debtor is a slave to the borrower; so the incoming office holders will be handicapped from the beginning.
The decision of parties to introduce humongous fees will discourage people of intellect and competence, those who have refused to place their hands on the public till; and when the good ones are not running, the bad guys take over.
In true democracies, monies are raised through voluntary contributions, with the sources well noted and recorded; this type breeds transparency and fairness. So, what is stopping us from following such footsteps?
Our politicians must reexamine their ways and take a cue from our pre-independence politicians. Politics is about sharing power, control and management of the society. If the best part of politics is the one that puts the people in control, which is true democracy and we are not practicing it as such, how do we factor in the ordinary people in this power sharing business?
It should be a food for thought for our leadership. We must remove that mercantile culture from our politics. According to Prof Lumumba “until we remove alibabaism from our politics, we are going nowhere “.
He was referring to Alibaba and the 40 Thieves, from old Arabian literature fable. But these days, the thieves are no more 40 but in uncountable numbers. This culture must be eliminated from our politics; we must realise that nothing comes for free; when you demand too much from politicians before they get into power, you will be selling your conscience.
We say we want to give our traditional rulers and local government leaders more responsibilities; they should begin with the task of a proper sensitisation of the people and demand for only the best to represent them. They should shun people of shady characters, whose sources of wealth cannot be verified.
They should also leave room for people with ideas that can impact society; money alone will not turn things around unless, properly applied. It is a new dawn; the people are now being courted by politicians of different shades and types; it is time to mend our ways and send the bad characters packing.
Ikhioya wrote via: www.southsouthecho.com
Still on Maintaining Balance in Choice of Running Mates
By Golu Timothy
Last week, melting point focused on the likely choices of running mates of the different political parties after the conduct of their respective national conventions. While the opposition Peoples Democratic Party, PDP, quickly and calculatively settled for Delta State governor, Senator Ifeanyi Arthur Okowa, the ruling All Progressive Congress, APC, Labour and other parties are said to have quietly submitted dummy names to the Independent National Electoral Commission, INEC, subject to final decisions by the respective flag bearers in conjunction with the leadership of the parties.
Timelines have been allotted for such and all other political activities by INEC and last Friday 17th was the dateline for the submission of the names of the running mates. The Electoral Act also provided windows for replacement of names earlier submitted and therefore all the parties have opportunities for proper consultations.That’s why the APC and LP could submit dummies to INEC and get them comfortably replaced before the dateline for replacements . But for the PDP, it’s a decision taken and sealed, ready for campaigns.
Within the ruling All Progressives Congress, APC which has produced former Lagos State governor, Senator Bola Tinubu as its presidential candidate, growing indications that former Speaker of the 8th House of representatives, Bauchi born Rt Hon Yakubu Dogara is the preferred choice of vice president, is fast gaining momentum. Everyone knows the electoral value and political reach and spread of Dogara having served as one of the best few Speakers the nation has produced. The nation has been agog in debate as to whether Tinubu should pick a Christian or muslim running mate and each religious divide is putting pressure to get the slot.
It is very imperative to give objective consideration for the choice of a VP from a wider perspective and not from a politically inclined position. If Atiku who is a muslim northerner can pick Okowa a Christian southerner, then it is only proper for Tinubu, a southern muslim to pick a Dogara or any other northern Christian to balance the religious equation. Tinubu, a muslim, from Lagos South West Nigeria, is expected to pair with Dogara, a Christian from Bauchi, North east Nigeria. On the PDP side, Atiku, a muslim from Adamawa in North East Nigeria has already paired with Okowa, a Christian from Delta, South South region of Nigeria. The need for a balanced ticket is not out of place considering the sharp dividing lines of region, religion and ethnicity in the country. That some northern muslims are making strong case for a muslim-muslim ticket is enough for Christians to make a case for balance. Why can’t the Apc and labour tow the line of the PDP? In the submission of their dummies, Tinubu is said to have submitted the name of a fellow muslim from Katsina, Kabir Masari while LP’s Peter Obi has submitted a fellow Christian, Doyin Okupe as running mate. This to me, should be corrected in the final consideration before submission. Its not whether a muslim muslim or Christian Christian ticket can bring victory or not. The most important consideration here is the future of peace, trust, confidence and mutual respect for each other as the nation peruse the next 4 or 8 years as the case may be. As governance takes off with such sentimental affiliations, people will begin to read and define every government policy and action, not on any merit but base on who is saying them and the leadership promoting them.
If all things being equal ,the polity is not supposed to be divided along ethnic and religious lines, but realities on ground have made it very important for such considerations to hold sway. While some people believe that competence and not where you come from should be the guiding principle, the nature of power dynamics and allocations in politics must have boundaries expressed in such sentiments. We cannot assume otherwise , but must work with the realities in our hands, and the realities are that we are a secular nation dominated by two major religious groups which requires mutual consideration and respect for mutual coexistence. Since we have separate states and constituencies across the nation, one cannot wish away such considerations which are aimed at acquiring power.
Some people keep making reference to the Abiola/ Kingibe era in which both the presidential candidate and running mate were muslim. Such can not be easily applied now in view of the glaring suspicions and differences that exist. One can imagine if Obasanjo who is a Christian had picked a fellow Christian in 1999 or that the late Yar’Adua as a muslim, could have picked another muslim as his vice instead of a Christian. Political crisis and conflicts of monumental proportions could have been created, but for the way the balancing was done, there was peace and stability in governance all through. Why then must we change from the status quo since we have enjoyed doing so in the past and even right now. Buhari could have picked Tinubu as was speculated in 2015 but everyone opposed it then for peace to reign, why now?
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Those who are opposed to such balancing now are not fair to the system. They are self serving and greedy political players who wants to use religion to get what they could not get by merit and who don’t believe in mutual respect or coexistence. If the country can share power between the north and south, why can’t it look at the composition of the two zones in order to also balance the power equation? The choice of Dogara , a Christian to deputise for Tinubu, a muslim is one of the best options of balancing for the nation. It shows he has respect for Christians who in turn will feel a strong sense of belonging in the government.
As it is now, the nation is warming up for the most critical elections in the political history of the people, especially as the country confronts a transition from the outgoing Buhari administration to a new one. Nigerians of all shades and opinions, most especially those at the leadership levels should not divide this country by promoting unpopular and divisive tendencies of Muslim -muslim or Christian- Christian tickets for whatever reasons. While we appreciate PDP’s Atiku for setting the pace, we urge Tinubu, Obi, Kwankwaso and other presidential candidates to, in the same spirit of mutual respect and understanding, balance themselves for the sake of God and a peaceful country. We must look at the nation beyond our personal prisms and calculations. We must know that diaris God oh.
Democratic Betrayals: the Challenge of Statehood
By Wealth Dickson Ominabo
Recently Nigerian leaders and other democratic actors in the country have been in a binge of festivity; celebrating democracy in the country . From May 29 when many governors took time out to give account of their years of stewardship to Sunday June 12 when the federal government rolled out the drums to celebrate the new Democracy Day in Nigeria, our nation’s public sphere has been obsessed with commentaries about the valiance of democracy and the sacrifices of the different actors in time past and present.
Without a doubt , democratic rule was not an easy wish. It was not a buffet served on a dinner table to citizens and other democratic enthusiasts. Democracy was birthed from the streets of rugged struggle; a struggle that had some casualties, heroes and villains . Democracy was a product of agitations and negotiations by different stakeholders.Here lies the vault of great expectations; that democracy will be properly nurtured, cherished and yield good fortunes to the citizens.
23 years ago, democracy was a thing hoped for; a prayer point to many, who believed that democracy was the promise land- a system of many possibilities, an oasis where the basic rights of citizens will flourish and dreams and aspirations will be realised.
23 years later, democracy is losing its meaning, its value and essence in the lives of the citizens. Beyond the refrain of democracy being the government of the people by the people and for the people, the real meaning of democracy is lost in the multiple conflicts and social contradictions in the nation. Almost all the intrinsic promises of democracies have either been betrayed by different actors and the values of a democratic reign have been discarded. The promises of liberty, justice and peace have been betrayed.
The virtues that define a democratic state are eroding – freedom of expression is daily curtailed, freedom of thought, conscience and religion are being challenged by non-state actors, while the civic space is shrinking on a daily basis even as the state is busy in pursuit to capture institutions to their advantage.
The ballot is losing its potency at every electioneering cycle, votes are traded to the highest bidder, our democracy is commercialized, legitimacy is manipulated, accountability and good governance are trivialized, social justice is ostracized.
Today, the sovereignty of the Nigerian state is contested with non-state actors – those without the mandate to govern- now superintend over a large expanse of the Nigerian territories, imprisoning citizens and executing punishment, and judgement on innocent citizens in different guise through different terror tactics and strategies. They kidnap, kill and rape and impose levy on citizens in different parts of the country. They move daily from state to state like roaring lions devouring the destinies of many and taking others to slavery and servitude. Government to which the people willed their sovereignty through the ballot decides to share its legitimacy with these non-state actors through indiscretion, inaction and dereliction of responsibilities.
In Nigeria, democracy has not been able to address the challenges of the citizens. Civilian rule in all these years has failed to guarantee the two basic democratic rights – freedom from fears and wants. Nigeria is at a crossroads; it is captured by human miseries, and characterized by sallow marks such as hunger, poverty, conflicts and underdevelopment. Nigeria is a fallow ground for extremists – who cling to different frustrations to undermine the State, thereby exposing the country to wanton fragilities.
One cannot but situate the crisis of Nigerian statehood to the challenge of leadership amplified by sustained culture of democratic betrayals by government. The Nigerian Guardian in a recent editorial aptly captures the crisis of the Nigerian state when it wrote that :
“ The deluge of socio-economic and political upheavals in the Nigerian polity currently portrays a very bad omen for peace, progress and continuity of the country. For an entity with so much potential, the wasting of assets, both human and material, in the past few years has been monumental even to the uncaring. In totality, the ruling political elite at all levels of government have ran the country almost aground such that hope for a redeem is dim; and, unless some drastic action is initiated, not only will it be difficult for the country to survive eventually, her downfall can be slow, steady and painful. The handwriting is on the wall, and the dastardly results are playing out. Surely, the state of the Nigerian nation calls for a change of direction to avert a looming doom.”
The Paper drawing the attention of all stakeholders to the near collapse of the Nigerian state, warned of the danger of the sustenance of the present governance culture of democratic betrayal, abscondment and dereliction of responsibilities by leaders .
It posited that : “Today, the country is hell-hole describable by the absence of government in the national space and negative sovereignty; it is a country living a lie. It might not be so lucky this time around. It is the time to act; and to act quickly to rescue it from the brink of disintegration.”
As Larry Jay Diamond, aptly observed in his article “Three Paradoxes of Democracy,” founding and preserving democracy are two different things. For democracy to endure, he argues that it must be deemed legitimate by the people and “..this legitimacy requires a profound moral commitment and emotional allegiance, but these develop only over time, and partly as a result of effective performance.” Democracy he asserts will not be valued by the people “unless it deals effectively with social and economic problems and achieves a modicum of order and justice.”
Here lies the challenge of Nigeria’s democracy and the recession of the country into a failed state. The point must be stressed that the fault does not lie in democracy as a form of government but on the actors – coy democrats who are too shy to live and act according to the dictates of democracy.
To improve Nigeria’s democracy and make it work for the common good of all citizens, leaders and all democratic actors must incentivize social and economic rights of citizens. This is the most sustainable way to reinforce the waning legitimacy of the Nigerian State.
Legitimacy is not an end in itself- it doesn’t start and end with electoral mandate. Legitimacy is enhanced through shoring up of public trust; trust is reinforced through fulfillment of democratic promises and commitment to the social contract between the government and the citizens.
Ominabo is the Communications officer at the Goodluck Jonathan Foundation
Goodwill Messages as Benue Speaker Takes Wife to Altar
From David Torough, Makurdi
The Speaker, Benue State House of Assembly and the Gubernatorial Candidate of the Peoples Democratic Party(PDP) for next year’s election, Engr Titus Uba on Saturday took his wife, Paulina to the Altar of God at St. Dominic’s Catholic Church, Sachi in Makurdi, the state Capital.
Benue State Governor, Samuel Ortom in a goodwill message at the wedding reception in honour of the couple said Uba has the capacity to effectively Govern the state.
He stated that the PDP candidate’s humility was a virtue that all great leaders possess.
The Governor explained that Engineer Uba has excelled in his professional career and as a politician, having presided over one of the most successful assembly across the states of the federation, would replicate his performance as Governor of Benue.
He congratulated Engineer Uba and his wife, Pauline for consummating their union in the Lord and called on the people to pray for them as well as other marriages to succeed.
The Governor who prayed God to bless the union also asked Him to grant their heart desires and ambitions, adding that as a humble couple, God will lift them to the exalted position of the number one family of the state.
Chairman of the occasion, Senator Gabriel Suswam and the Head of Service, Mrs. Veronica Onyeke who served as the Chairlady, urged the couple to stick to the vows they made to each other and always look unto God for solutions to their challenges to have a successful union.
In their goodwill messages, wife of the Governor, Dr. Eunice Ortom, represented by Mrs. Monica Ugela, wife of PDP National Chairman, Mrs. Iyorchia Ayu, Wife of the Tor Tiv, HRM, Felicia Ayatse and Tor Jechira, Chief Clement Uganden, advised the couple to imbibe the spirit of forgiveness to have a blissful marriage.
The State Deputy Governor, Engineer Benson Abounu, other members of the state executive and security councils, leadership of the PDP at both the state, zonal and national levels as well as other dignitaries across the state witnessed the wedding ceremony.
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