Last year, 2014, Nigeria commemorated its 100 years of existence. It was an epochal event as well as a milestone in the chequered history of Nigeria. Since 1914, our variant of democracy, which was truncated and interrupted by military coups severally, has kept on evolving. In 1960, when Nigeria became a sovereign nation, we’re practising parliamentary system of government. We adopted the presidential system of government in the second republic. The third republic was still-born. And now, in the fourth republic, Nigeria, a federation, is still practising presidential system of government. Over the years, Nigeria had experimented with many different constitutions owing to its changing social-cultural and political circumstances.
Democratic culture is taking roots in Nigeria as we have enjoyed 16 years of unbroken civilian leadership. Since then, one civilian government has handed power to another without the country descending into war. Nigerian democracy is far from being perfect, however, what with election rigging, violence, and imposition of leaders. But our leaders have the political power to sanitise our electoral system and process in order that politicians’ electoral successes will be the true reflection of the voters’ will. Credible elections can pre-empt the eruption of post-election violence in Nigeria as the losers in the election will feel that they are not victims of electoral fraud.
But our politicians’ disposition and attitude to election and INEC’s level of preparedness should raise concern about the continued existence of Nigeria as one country. Has every Nigerian got the permanent voter card? Disenfranchised Nigerians can revolt and engage in violent acts that may jeopardise and threaten the unity of Nigeria. Now, owing to the insurgency in the Northeast of Nigeria, elections are unlikely to take place there.
Again, our politicians who perceive their occupation of exalted political offices as opportunities to steal money from the public treasury are desperate to gain power at any cost. Now, the tussle for political power amongst our politicians has become fierce and fiery. They hurl insults at one another; and, there are politicians who threaten to burn down the country if their political party fails to win the February 14, 2015 presidential election. So, tension is building up as the general elections in February draw nearer. Our politicians’ manner of politicking is deepening the ethnic and religious fissures in the country.
The so-called statesmen in the country are not playing the fatherly roles expected of them. If anything, they are ethnic chauvinists who promote their ethnic and selfish interests above our collective good. Edwin Clark, Ango Abdulahi, Chief Olusegun Obasanjo, and others come readily to mind. Their utterances are divisive and have the potential of inciting people to engage in acts of violence. But our political parties’ leaders have been trying to paper over our disunity by balancing the pairs that have become their parties’ presidential torch-bearers in terms of religion and ethnic origin. The ruling PDP has a Christian presidential candidate and a Muslim running mate while the APC’s presidential candidate is a Muslim and his running mate, a Christian.
But is there much to choose between President Goodluck Jonathan and General Mohammadu Buhari? One is an unreconstructed former military ruler with anti-democratic credentials. The other, our current president, is being criticised for his inability to tackle the issues of insecurity and unemployment that have bedevilled our country. Are they the political messiahs that can revamp our ailing mono-economy, revive our comatose health sector, and resuscitate our collapsed educational system? The tragedy of Nigeria is that people with leadership qualities and probity are muscled out of our political arena. Our brand of politics is money- based and it is characterised by violence and acts of incivility. Again, the absence of provisions in our constitution and electoral act for individual candidature has limited our choices of presidential candidates. That is the reason Nigeria has been continuously led by its third eleven since 1960.
Now, we are compelled to make do with the choices that are presented to us. The contestants for the highest elective post in Nigeria have not given us plausible reasons why we should cast our votes for them in the next presidential election. Rather, the two opposing political camps are hurling insults and abusive words at one another. What is General Buhari’s take on the plummeting oil price with its concomitant effects on our economy? What strategies and economic policy would he adopt to tackle the issues of our ailing economy if he wins the February 14, 2015 presidential election? Will President Goodluck Jonathan change tactics and strategies as to combating insecurity in the Northeast if his re-election bid sails through?