Nigeria and 2015 Elections: The way forward

By Charles Ikedikwa Soeze
On a recent tour to Abuja, I was in the company of a group of educated, enlightened and experienced Nigerians. Most of who are in highly responsible positions in our industries, universities, and civil/public service.
Our discussions drifted to the current Nigerian political scene and soon it became quite apparent that most of us were so disenchanted with the current style of campaigns by some of our politicians that most of us could not see the progress so far made by some of our governors, local government chairmen and other political office holders who are also looking for the second term or another political office.
We further observed that some of the political office holders are busy holding meetings from one part of the country to another, thereby putting in oblivion their basic and constitutional responsibilities.
We also noticed that in previous campaigns, there was mudslinging; the electorate was being compelled to vote for personalities rather than issues. However, because of the versatility, training and academic background of my group of ‘emerging’ elite friends, policies rather than personalities, most of us were at a loss on how to cast our votes in the forth coming 2015 elections especially for some governors who are yet to achieve anything other than making political appointment on tribal grounds and at the same time recommending names of relatives to the federal level for appointments.
For a realistic appraisal and appreciation of various programmes and projects executed, there is need for our politicians to inform the electorates through the news media (print and broadcast) genuine programmes and policies so far executed.
In some of the states, there is urgent need for political power rotation to check nepotism, favouritism, tribalism, corruption, etc. Making one’s kinsmen to hold relevant and important portfolios like secretary to government, commissioners for finance, health, education, works and housing, sensitive political board appointments, etc, is too appalling. It is tantamount to making the administration of the state family affairs, which in the final analysis will bring no progress other than greed and deterioration. To this end therefore, let us vote only honest Nigerians who will not mislead us.
The first Nigerian media mogul, the Rt. Hon. (Dr.) Benjamin Nnamdi Azikiwe (of blessed memory) said from one of his soap box appearances that, “what is morally wrong cannot be politically right.” He made this statement to sensitize and educate the electorate into casting their votes for candidates with impeccable integrity. In other words, there is need for us to avoid the election of applicants and baby politicians.
Nigeria appears to have gone to the dogs. Apart from the treasury looters made up of some unscrupulous elements in government and a few top mandarins who steal from contract of corruption, there exists at the state and local governments, looters who corner every kobo that the government intends to spend for some little improvement in the miserable lives of the citizens in the rural areas. This is possible because some cabinets especially at the state level could be described as “kitchen /family cabinets” and eventually became “son-of-the-soil looters.” The government must account for the way they spent their states’ income because it is not for themselves and their kitchen cabinet. Awarding contracts that cannot be executed should not be used as a cover-up.
Furthermore, there is need for the electorates to apply the 5ws and the H in news element which was popularized by Rudyard Kipling (1865-1936), a Noble Prize winner in literature in 1907 and well known British novelist and poet. In other words, knowing who the person is, what office did he hold previously, where, when did he vacate such office, why and how he vacated the office.
Former United States first president, George Washington (1789-1797), a federalist, once said that with reputation you can do anything, without, one can do anything. This suggests that our reputation is one of our most important qualities that ought to be guided jealously and rigorously too.
There should be need for politicians and political office holders to also consider the 5ws and H as propounded by the communication expert and management theorist in forming their cabinets. It beats my imagination when officials who ruined some organizations are usually appointed into political offices. What does this signify? “Kill or maim the more.” Politicians and those elected into offices should take public opinion into consideration in forming their cabinets. Like Roger Haywood, a former president of the International Public Relations Association (IPRA) posits that, “Public opinion upon which reputation is built, can close a company, or remove a government, stop a war or build an international brand.” We must not base political appointments on favouritism, nepotism or tribalism.
Under the democratic dispensation, it is crystal clear that many projects were not properly handled and at the end, such projects became white elephants, in other words, abandoned. Those at the helm of affairs of such projects enriched themselves. We are all aware of corrupt practices through substandard renovation works on public schools, and ‘ghost’ workers/teachers syndrome. The electorates are no fools. Each and every one of us must purge himself or herself of corruption because as the celebrated English poet, John Donne said, “do not ask for whom the bell tolls, it tolls for me and you.”
Former President Olusegun Obasanjo at the inauguration of Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) international branch in Rome, Italy in 2000 called the local government chairmen in Nigeria “thieves”, stating that they converted resource allocation meant for the grassroots development to their personal use. Some other Nigerians had equally made similar allegation. What about the Owambe governors?
I am always sad when I see different political groups in various executive names, all under what I may describe as “thugs” praising some of our leaders to the high heavens. It is ridiculous because some of them behave like “Plc” religious leaders and not leaders per se. It is abundantly clear that majority of our leaders pursue the goal of “maximum suffering for the largest number.” If you are in doubt, take a look around you especially if you are not of the “blind” praise –singers. You can see among many Nigerians, miserable, gloom faces of those around you signifying very poor characteristics of some leaders.
A pertinent question has been aptly put by the wise novelist of Igbo extraction, Professor Chinua Achebe (of blessed memory) thus: “Where did the rain start beating us”? A sufficient number of Nigerians, both professional and lay have tried to diagnose the problem with Nigeria. The general consensus is that our problems stem principally from bad leaders.
One may wish to say that different people occupy different leadership positions from time to time and they carry on to their new positions all the dispositions and character structures they had acquired earlier. In other words, if the person who eventually emerges as military or civilian president, governor, minister, commissioner, special adviser/assistant, local government chairman or whatever, has over the years been avaricious or greedy scoundrel, that is precisely what he would manifest while in office.
The issue of resource control which some governors earlier fought for was quite in order. If one may ask, what is the latest in terms of development on the 13% derivation for oil producing states? Some governors constituted committees or boards or commission as “ATM”, what a dangerous dichotomy! One can say that some of these governors who fought for the resource control have that capacity for greed, tribalism, nepotism, favouritism, myopia and imbecility. I don’t think I am too harsh here. In some states, you will hear oil producing communities and oil bearing communities and thereby abandoning other areas even where oil was sometime discovered, raped and abandoned like Ubulu-Uku in Delta State. I quite disagree with Professor Jubril Aminu while he was ambassador to the United States in an interview granted the New Nigerian Newspaper on Sunday, June 3, 2001, pages 11-14, in which he said the resource control is an exercise in greed. The Adamawa State born Professor of Cardiology and one time Vice Chancellor, University of Maiduguri, Executive Secretary, Nigerian University Commission, Minister of Education and later, Petroleum Resources, went further to say in the same interview that a revenue or resources like petroleum or tin or gold is a national resource, and people who want to take it over are just engaging in an exercise in greed. Particularly, a resource such as mineral, which nobody contributed to its formation, but everybody, has worked hard and even many people died to keep this part of Nigeria.
The erudite professor went further to say, “how can one justify an oil field which is five miles in a neutral zone in the high seas and claim that it belongs to a state”?
It is quite obvious that a natural resource is a natural resource. The people where you have these natural resources are suffering because of such resources and eventually live in abject poverty and conditions. It is either they control or the 13% derivation be increased to take care of such region especially the Niger Delta. It becomes greed or exercise in futility when some governors from this region want to manipulate the fund.
Norway, with a population of seven million, has oil of the same quality with Nigeria’s high quality – low sulphur, light crude oil. Yet, oil constitutes less than 20% of her national revenue. They depend not only on oil as Nigerians. A rich oil country like Norway gets about 90% of its money from other sectors of the economy. These include, timber logging, fishing, manufacturing and all sorts of things. If Nigerians were really working hard, oil, of about two or three million barrels per day (bpd), would not form more than 50% of the national revenue. A country like Indonesia of about 200 million people never depended on the production of 1.4 or 1.6 million bpd. They make helicopters, parts of airplanes, machines, etc. Hence in one of my write-ups captioned “Diversification of nation’s economy in 2000,” I categorically stated that the nation’s economic problem had largely resulted from our over-dependence and or single commodity namely petroleum…
This eventually led to youths gangstarism, aggressiveness, and restiveness as well as preventive death through inferno as a result of vandalisation of petroleum pipelines. I made specific reference to the inferno in Adeje, Ijala and other villages near Warri in Delta State. I categorically stated that oil is no longer a blessing but a “big cause” based on the greed of some unscrupulous elements.
It is a truism to say that true democracy needs a well-informed and critical electorate. Politicians fear that their parties’ prestige will suffer if the electorates know everything. Government fear that their policies will not succeed if the electorate is fully informed well in advance of what is about to take place.
The greatest problem of Nigeria over the years is that the country lacked efficient, effective, honest and God fearing leaders. Towards this direction, the Catholic Bishops of Nigeria (CBN) have called on the faithful to pray to God to give our country God fearing leaders who will lead us in the path of peace, prosperity and progress.
Twenty-one years ago, Chief Jerome Udoji (recall the Udoji award of the early 70s) who wrote, “Under three masters,” ended up weeping for Nigeria. He wept for Nigeria because of its lack of unity, national consciousness and the prevalence of tribalism and ethnicity, religious and political riots, election malpractice, wide-spread corruption and above all, loss of confidence in previous government. He wept profusely because it was no longer the country of his dream when he entered the civil service in 1948 and also when we had independence in 1960. In the same book, he ended it with “we want leaders who will exhibit those higher values and qualities that make individuals and nations great. Instead of Nigerians cultivating these qualities, we tend to pursue relentlessly the transient values of the deadly three p: power, position and purse. What baffles me is that some of the political office holders who are now campaigning for second term have decided to put in limbo important lesson of depending on track record of their past performance for future elections. They seem to rely on the power of money, and forget that record of the past showed that they could not promote potable water, regular payment of teachers and other workers salaries including allowances, provision of drugs in government hospitals, averting of strikes in the public service, responding to retirees (pensioners) plight, etc.
Many thanks to some state governors who performed excellently well. They have shown dividends of democracy to the grassroots. They may be described as “engineers of democracy.” Astonishingly, some of the current political office holders do not know their limits as spelt out in the 1999 constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria. It is disappointing and indeed worrisome that some of them cannot differentiate exclusive from residential and concurrent legislative lists. A centre should be established for massive political education of our politicians , if possible, let us resuscitate the Centre for Democratic Studies (CDS), which was established by the first and onlymilitary president, General Ibrahim Badamosi Babangida, popularly known as “IBB.”
It is most unfortunate that some of our politicians learn nothing from their contacts with superior democracies and the civilized world. Many Nigerians accept them because their level of poverty, ignorance and greed. A lot of Nigerians worship money bags politicians.
Our politicians should learn to engage less of their time and energy on politicking, wasteful schemes, and useless propaganda. This will eschew operation wetie – that is spray fuel and set political opponents and properties ablaze. It happened in the first republic during the early 60s in the defunct Western region.
There should be need for us not to campaign or vote for vultures that feed on those that could develop this nation. We must also not allow evil men and women to control our destiny through bloody rituals. We should cast our votes for politicians who are intelligent, articulate and with charisma.
Political gathering in public places and even private homes and individuals are getting suffused with elements of intimidation, victimization and harassment. While this phenomenon is growing, those who are already in power and legitimately interesting in renewing their mandates have equally begun to organize openly including the employment of executive thugs like “Z-Vanguard” “B-Boys,” “P-Supporters,” “concerned citizens,” etc. I have never heard of “Washington Boys,” “Rawlings Group,” etc. The immutable truth still remains that another term, a higher position for these failed politicians is baseless, ungodly, doom and continuous glorification of poverty in their respective states.
Our country has suffered enough in the hands of theoretical socialists who are rising again to offer their bid to get elected. these are: the same people who have never successfully managed their offices, small business, educational institutions, etc. Some of them were even fired or retired prematurely from either the public or private sector for sharp and corrupt practices. I hope this time around we will not be offered free education at all levels without creating jobs to absorb the graduates whose aspirations had been raised to high heavens and who had not been trained to survive in the harsh world of severe unemployment. In the past, they offered us free medical services but failed to mention that, that would be achieved without drugs and basic equipment but with a mere consulting room and incessant strike of hospital staffers.
The list of our woes is endless. The events, which have unfolded during 1990 and 1991 in the Soviet Union and Eastern Europe, clearly show the heavy price nations pay when they build their future on wishful thinking. I hope we don’t have to wait the next one hundred years before we learn the correct lesson.
Charles Ikedikwa Soeze, fhnr, fcida, fcar, fswca, cpae, chnr, Ksg, emba, son,ghnr is a Mass Communication scholar from first degree to doctoral level. A retired Assistant Director (Administration)/Head, Academic and Physical Planning (A&PP) of the Petroleum Training Institute (PTI), Effurun, Delta State. Public Affairs Analyst and Commentator on national and international issues. 08036724193; charelssoeze@yahoo.ca