2006: Beyond Appalled!
Victor E. Dike
As 2006 comes to an end we are compelled by our social and moral commitments to appraise the activities of the leaders over the period. Many Nigerians are so mired in their personal struggle for economic survival (and other problems) that it becomes impossible for them to keep track of the activities of the leaders. However, this writer who has been watching the appalling political behavior of Chief Obasanjo with keen interest wonders if he realizes that Nigeria is not his property. He took over power in May 1999 pretending to be a democrat, but in a few years after he started to show his dictatorial tendencies. He clobbered the opposition during the 2003 elections and in 2006 his illegalities are beyond appalled as he has since turned the Constitution upside down and been doing whatever that pleases him without minding the impact on the polity.
And more often than not the National Assembly members have their personal agenda and often dance to the tone of the maximum ruler for fear that the EFCC, which has become Chief Obasanjo’s bully dog, would arrest them. The INEC, which has not been unable to update the nation’s voters registration log for the 2007 elections, is now a law of its own as the National Assembly cannot dictate for the agency what it should do. The INEC has assumed the power (not given to it by the Constitution) to declare vacant the seat of any politician who disagrees with the President. The Police would ransack any person’s home if the individual is being suspected of having an independent mind; and more often than not, the Judiciary would pervert justice to please the President.
With the 2007 elections around the corner the political gladiators are scrambling for the last minute looting activities, with some of them are busy eliminating their political opponents through hired thugs, while unemployment, poverty, and armed robbery activities are rising. Recently, the poor and the unemployed were roasted alive in Lagos as they tried to make ends meet scooping fuel from some vandalized oil pipes. This tragedy and the despicable sight of the charred bodies of more than 200 hundred Nigerians that were being given mass burial in Lagos (Punch, December 28, 2006) did not dissuade the President who has been busy asking the Court to declare the seat of Nigeria’s Vice-President vacant. How much does life worth in Nigeria? Sadly, some of the high-ranking officials of the administration who visited the site accused the victims of being unpatriotic? This writer is beyond appalled!
The magnitude of insecurity in the society is frightening and 2006 had a good dose of insecurity problem. Since after the Jesse incident on October 17, 1998, which claimed over 1,500 lives, there have been many other cases of pipeline inferno in Nigeria. Yet, after more than 7 years in office Chief Obasanjo and his band of marauding looters could not find a lasting solution to the problem and the myriad other problems, including the perennial fuel crisis, the dismal state of the educational institutions, poor health care and roads, erratic electricity supply, etc, instead of the short-term Band-Aid solution. However, the nation has been facing the challenges of refining gasoline and moving fuel from point A to point B without exposing the population to the hazard of gasoline pipeline fire outbreak. Sadly, the administration cannot put a finger one thing it has truly accomplished in seven years!
Nothing works in Nigeria, as they should! Nigerians may not fully recover from the profound disappointment they experienced when their expectations of democracy turned out to be far removed from the realities. As a result there is serious crisis of confidence in the society, and the people are wallowing in confusion and scared. Because of the incessant plane crashes one frequent flier in Nigeria this writer talked with recently jokingly noted that before any sane person boards an airplane in Nigeria these days one would be forced to prepare a Will for fear that the “airplane could fall him/her down.” Traveling on the sea is not safer and traveling on land is not less hazardous as armed robbers are terrorizing motorists, even with the Police standing close. The Nation of December 28, 2006 notes that about 107,000 people have died in road mishaps in Nigeria in the past ten years, with about 292,000 others seriously wounded.
The mouthpiece of the administration would jump out to tell the world that Chief Obasanjo is waging a serious war on corruption. Yes, the EFCC is doing something about corruption, but the administration is using the agency to clobber mostly members of the opposition political parties, while the corrupt PDP members and those connected with the gods are walking the street free. For instance, some of the candidates of the Action Congress (AC) are being haunted, harassed, arrested and locked up supposedly for being corrupt. And the on-going feud between Vice-President Atiku and President Obasanjo, which recently degenerated into declaring Atiku’s position vacant for decamping to another party, is another example of double standard of the administration.
Are the PDP and the INEC unaware that many politicians have been shafting from one party to another like sand dune since 1999 without any person blinking? In June 2003 this writer documented the decampments and assassinations of Nigerian politicians: http://www.nigerdeltacongress.com/narticles/nigeria_and_the_politics_of_unre.htm.Even the seats of those who decamped recently from the ANPP (and other parties) to PDP were not declared vacant - but only the seats of the House Members in Plateau State who are in the “black book” of the maximum ruler. Recently, some State Governors were illegally removed from the office with the support of the President and some corrupt State Judges who were supposed to protect the Constitution and respect the Judiciary. Is that not appalling? The society should not let this illegality to continue!
Party primaries are no longer what they should be. Nigeria’s home grown democracy and political system, which is dictatorial and chaotic, has been turned into consensus politics determined by the idiosyncrasies of the naked gods. It is funny that a single individual (or a few individuals) would decide the fate of 130 million Nigerians. Chief Obasanjo would define for Nigeria what leadership, democracy, and the rule of law are, violating the laws of the land. But if he is not law abiding, why should be expect the ordinary Nigerians to be law abiding? The chaotic nature 2006 primaries that would usher the 2007 elections is the harbinger of what the PDP would do during the 2007 elections. As the keen watchers know during the period other candidates were intimidated out of the race with the scare that the EFCC (or the other government security agencies) would get them if they refuse to quit. One should, however, mention that the other political parties emulated the PDP in selecting their candidates for political offices, instead of voting for the contestants.
The powerful and the very rich politicians are hiring well-armed private security guards to protect themselves from the marauding armed robbers and their political foes eager to eliminate them through hired assassins. But the government has failed to equip the State Police that do not have the appropriate gadgets to protect the entire society from the menace of armed robbers. However, can the society have free and fair elections in 2007 without proper police protection? Can the nation have free and fair election with the INEC being controlled by the PDP and the President? Can the nation operate a genuine democracy without true political opposition?
The crisis in the polity is affecting all the facets of the polity. Sure, the people needed democracy like air, but what they are getting from Chief Obasanjo and his group is autocracy. The Constitution is supposed to direct his activities but he is increasingly becoming lawless and out of control as he is acting as if there are no laws in the nation. He is selective of the court rulings to obey and interprets the Constitution to suit his purpose, thereby, destabilizing the society. He is all a good leader is not! A good leader is in the business of making positive changes and creating new forces for growth and development!
The economy remains in shambles and corruption blossomed as the politicians still have unlimited access to the treasury. They are now dragging around the ubiquitous Ghana-must-go bags as they crisscross the nation in their campaign for the 2007 elections. These are not what the people bargained for when they chased the military out of power. They expected a ‘true democracy’ that would improve their living standard and the condition of things in the society. But the brand of ‘democracy’ being practiced today in Nigeria has left the people in deeper poverty with many in daily struggle for economic survival.
There is need for leadership change because the current leaders are not performing. Nigeria’s political parties are not built on any ideological framework to tackle the nation’s problems. Political parties constituted by individuals not committed to any known political ideologies would not effect any positive social changes in the society. The political thieves are now flying around in bellowing Babaringa masquerading are scheming on how to collude with the INEC to rig the elections in their favor. Nigeria is going no where with this soulless group of politicians!
The widespread corruption has pushed the society into a deeper poverty profile and this discourages the few honest, but poor people, from respecting the laws of the land as it is not encouraging honest and valuable economic activities. As noted earlier, poverty is subjecting the poor to awkward activities, such as vandalizing oil pipelines and armed robbery activities. These are some of the serious issues facing Nigeria the Chief Obasanjo administration has ignored over the years, in spite of the nation’s abundant oil wealth. Available indices show that about 70% of the population is poor living on less than $1.00 (one U.S. dollar) a day (Dike, Nov-2006). Yet, this dismal statistics would not wake up the political leaders from slumbers.
The problem with Nigeria today is that the present crop of politicians are not effective “change agents” as they do not have the personal vision, collective actions, and moral purpose to effect positive social change. Without a change of leadership and without a shift in mindset the ineffective existing social institutions will remain a clog in the wheel to positive changes. As experts have noted, ‘systems do not change themselves,’ but people do, as ‘personal change is the most powerful route to system change’ (Michael Fullan, 1994).
In 2006, whatever that was unconstitutional to the society was constitutional to Chief Obasanjo and the PDP and whatever that was illegal to the people was legal to them. No nation progresses when the leader takes delight in abusing the conscience of the society.
To lead Nigeria into prosperity the managers of the economy must show transparency and accountability in governance and put in place good policies to grow the economy and create jobs. The people need good quality education and basic skill training but the educational institutions that lack resources cannot provide the people the education and training needed to secure employment and compete in the emerging computerized global economy. It is not possible to effectively manage a complex democratic process without critical and creative minds and good value system necessary to solve national problems.
As we have repeatedly noted many things went wrong in Nigeria in 2006. Nigeria’s New Year resolution should be to right all the wrongs and elect creative and credible individuals during the 2007 elections to run the affairs of the nation. It is impossible to develop a society when individuals without creative minds are allowed to manage the society. Thus Nigeria needs leaders with new and better mindset and vision to solve the nation’s myriad vexing problems, without which more appalling things would continue to happen in Nigeria in years to come! Let every Nigerian resolve that there will be no space for criminal minds in elective offices in Nigeria in 2007!
Victor E. Dike, author of Democracy and Political Life in Nigeria, 2nd edition, (New York, Lincoln, & Shanghai: iUniverse, Inc., Nov-2006).