"Politics, noun: A strife of interests masquerading as a contest of principles. The conduct of public affairs for private advantage." —Ambrose Bierce, The Devil's Dictionary
The insanity is palpable the moment you step out of the airports, be it Abuja or Lagos or Port Harcourt. It smacks you right in the face, oppressive and dominating, even causing fear because you don’t know when it will explode into violence.
Even if you are apolitical and neutral, you have that feeling that it is better not to utter a sound in favour of any political party or candidate. Because the airports are owned by the Federal Government, the likelihood is that you will only see political campaign posters and other adverts of the incumbent president, and none of the opposition. This intolerance is of course replicated in the states, irrespective of the ruling party. The states are even worse; some governors either subtly or openly direct their state-owned radio and television stations not to accept or broadcast or publish opposition campaign adverts and jingles.
So, on my way to the city of Lagos from Muritala Mohammed Airport, I noticed that many BRT buses (owned by the Lagos State Government) had Akinwunmi Ambode's (the ruling APC gubernatorial candidate) campaign posters. I did not see any for Jimi Agbaje of the PDP and others, (I will admit I don’t know of any) of the other political parties contesting for governorship of Lagos State. I asked myself if Jimi Agbaje and the other contestants didn't approach the Management of BRT to pay for and use the buses to also run their campaigns. Were they refused? If they were, does that not show that the Government of Lagos State, which the BRT officials represent, is intolerant, undemocratic and partial and is not providing a level playing field for all, and deliberately contravening the Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria? Did the Government of Lagos State buy those buses with the funds of Lagos State (irrespective of political affiliation or sympathy) or the funds of the APC?
I later read that Jimi Agbaje alleged that his posters (that a private advertising agency placed on poles on the Highways and bridges built by the Federal Government were pulled down by Lagos State Signage Agency and that that all attempts to get the permits to place these posters were rebuffed! The Agency has not denied this story. Politics of bitterness!
Again this is replicated in all the states of the Federation.
It is the season of insanity and insensitivity, selfishness and greed. In most states of the Federation, the civil servants have not been paid salaries, some for up to six months. Yet, there is billions of Naira being spent by politicians and governors seeking second terms, or departing ones seeking to install their proxies. Can we relate to this? And yet, the unpaid civil servants and teachers, who have their own financial needs to take care of their families, have not taken to the streets, but are instead praying hard for a better governor or better Nigeria, without wanting to lift a finger. And worse, helping the politicians to steal or misuse their own salaries. Insane!!
Perhaps I am wrong. Perhaps they are just being patient (as we always do) and hoping to exercise their voting rights and seek revenge on the governors who are not paying their salaries but are using state funds to fund their political campaigns.
Let us be clear here! There is hardly any second-term seeking governor, senator, member of the house (federal or state) that is using his/her own money or even donations from the public to fund their election or re-election campaigns. They are using state funds. This is not new to Nigeria, but all these decades we just conveniently ignore this callousness and a rape of the law. And with a depraved and lawless society as ours, the politicians readily take advantage and empty the treasury to fight elections. That is another instance of the insanity of our seasons of politics.
Of course, we have passed the crazy height of the carpet-crossing and defection from one party to the other, every politician, small or great, unknown and known, seeking to be relevant, seeking to have a foothold on power and unwilling to be swept away from the chance of partaking in the looting of the treasury.
Politicians all over the world are certified insane, but Nigerian politicians are even more insane, and this should be of concern to us, because they are more dangerous, murderous and absurd than their counterparts’ elsewhere. They are simply there for the money and power. Nothing else! And they do not care how they get there; how many dead bodies are left in their wake; how many lives they ruin on their way up; how many lies they tell to the people; how many unfulfillable promises they make; how they tread on the Constitution, etc. They do not give a damn, and this is what makes them dangerous and toxic to our health and welfare and well-being.
One should hear them on TV and Radio. A police minister was shouting himself hoarse, full of righteous indignation and piety, and could not disguise his hatred for the opposition presidential candidate; and one irresponsible governor wishing the opposition presidential candidate dead. Even people in opposing political camps are wishing one another dead and all sorts of evil to fall upon their “enemies”. All in the name of the Nigerian brand of politics.
It is the madding crowd (after “Far From The Madding Crowd” by Thomas Hardy), unfortunately, it is very hard for the public to put a distance between these mad politicians and us. They are with us everywhere, inside our houses and bedrooms.
Posters and fliers and billboards everywhere; some obscuring traffic! You wonder how these people get the money to do these political adverts, while the public go hungry and desolate. Again, thousands, if not millions of unemployed youth ambling all over the country, desperate and ignored.
Man’s inhumanity and insensitivity to man, that’s what I call it.
For over six months, all over the Federation, government and governance has ceased, federal and state. They have shut down. Maybe that’s the rationale for not paying the civil servants; after all they are not doing anything in the ministries and government departments and agencies. Virtually a shutdown of government! The governors looking for re-election do not even bother to call weekly Exco meetings. How could they, when they are on the campaign trail, distributing money, wasting resources? Out-going, non-returning governors are even worse – they are busy mopping up the treasury and setting a cover-up in place to hide their evil deeds.
Politics in Nigeria often bring out the worst and the primordial in us. The people are intolerant of each other’s political convictions for one reason or the other – tribal, religious, self-interest and selfishness. If you are making money or deriving some favour from one political candidate or party, then of course, you never see their flaws and sins, despite the obvious lapses, poor governance or lack of sincerity.
Then, your political rival becomes your enemy. When I use the word “enemy”, I mean real foe that you want to get rid of; a “fight to the death” kind of thing. Check Facebook and you will see the vituperative languages being used by us to defend our political stance. And the senseless thing is that the politicians, who we are tearing each other apart for, do not even give a damn about our ranting or about our lives. You can hardly partake in a political discourse on social media these days without some mediocre idiot and men/women of low intelligence hurling abuses at you, just because you do not belong to the same political camp, or you do not share their political convictions or you are not voting for their candidates.
Our brand of politics is that of mud-slinging, insults, abuses, condemnations, bitterness. Real political considerations and issues are rarely of discourse. Who cares about ideologies, policies, feasible and workable manifestoes, work-plans, development plans? Who wants to talk about how to fund education, healthcare, electricity, creation of employment, etc? When participants in a political argument show themselves to lack phronesis (good practical and wise judgement), then we are entitled to judge them irrational. And this is what we have in most of our politicians and the followers.
All they tell you is they will do this and do that – the same thing their ilk have been telling and promising us since 1960 and which we have rarely seen manifested. Of if manifested, their neglect has made them of no use for purpose.
The long and short of it is this: Leaders or rulers are only as bad or good as the society that spawns them. A bad society will consistently produce bad leaders while a good society will also consistently produce good leaders.
Our society, yes the Nigerian society, is immoral to the core; and this is why we have been producing the type of leaders we have had for the past fifty years. When occasionally a good leader rears its head up, we reject them, and then we start complaining.
We cannot continue doing things, running our lives the same old, corrupt and depraved ways and expect to get different and better results. We simply have to change or depart from the old ways of doing things if we want to have a chance at a better life, survival, progress and development. A better Nigeria will be elusive if we do not change from our warped and depraved behaviours.
When a society decides to change, that change must be constructive and led by sincere, truly patriotic leaders and sincere and completely patriotic followers! There is no room for hypocrisy, corruption, nepotism, maladministration, defective political, ethical and social structures, tribalism and non-altruistic demonstrations. In fact at this stage of our lives, there is no longer any room for experimenting or for failure. We do not have the time; the oil is drying up, the population is growing, and the world is leaving us behind every second. We must start applying holistic approaches to the way we do things.
PDP or APC; Jonathan or Buhari; these do not really have any import on me. This 2015 Election, if allowed to take place on a free and fair basis, offers some hope to our nascent democracy; it offers a hope to the people to know and feel what democracy is all about – power really belongs to the people. If there is a change of federal government and ruling party from PDP to APC, for example, it will empower Nigerians, from grassroots to the top, and then they will realise their full power in a democracy. It will mean that every four years, we, the people, know and are assured that we can always throw out a bad performing government; a useless senator, a corrupt and ignorant governor, an awful councillor and evil politician in general. It will also mean that we will not even allow such low-life get to power in the first place.
There we are!!!
God save and bless Nigeria!