Towards Election 2011: Have we learnt from our past or are we repeating history?

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In previous articles, since 2007 I have always defended and given the excuse for our aberrant democratic practice as being nascent, (i.e. new, embryonic, blossoming, hopeful, promising, and budding).

In fact, I try very hard to believe in my own folly, always trying seriously to believe myself that we cannot perfect our brand of democracy so soon. After all, as they say, Rome was not built in a day, and even the great democracies of the modern world like the United States of America and Great Britain also had several decades, if not centuries, of teething problems.

Now, after almost 12 years of groping about in darkness (literarily talking about the electricity problem in the country) I have come to the conclusion that our democracy should be termed “nauseous” instead of the gratifying “nascent”.

Nigerians have succeeded in making democracy a farce, against all logical odds and historical precedents.

In fact, we have, or are developing a new system of politics called “Selecto-cracy” or as we also like to term it “Demo-crazy”. Very innovative people, my people!  But not always in the right direction!

Party politics is defined as political acts and principles directed toward the interests of one political party or its members without reference to the common good.

So we see that party politics is mainly for the benefit of the party members. In Nigeria this is even more so where corruption and nepotism are the motivating factor for forming political alliances and seeking elective offices.

A Nigerian in office would like his/her party to be the only party; for instance, the leaders of the PDP want a one party dominance; they want to control everything in Nigeria from the local to the federal levels.

Unfortunately, this is not for the good of the country itself or for the benefit of those they want to control – the people of Nigeria.

In all fairness, this phenomenon is not unique to Nigerians; it occurs all over the African continent. It is a cultural thing, ingrained in us for centuries. Fortunately for us, Nigerians do not suffer fools gladly, and I believe ultimately, despite our seeming complacency and docility at the polls, we will get our act together and start rooting out bad politicians, bad leadership and bad political parties.

It’s an elementary yet interesting question, “Would the 2011 General election, incorporating party politics, matter to the average Nigerian?

For most, the answer is probably yes. There is no doubt that most Nigerians, from the poorest to the most-well-to-do, from the crooked politician to the few well-meaning politicians, have an interest in where this country is heading, and that being the case, you would certainly have to be interested in who is pulling the reins.

However, many of us are quite cynical in terms of our faith in the system that puts our various leaders – Federal, State and Local Governments – in their various offices.

The primary concerns that many Nigerians have about our political structure is not only the influence of money in the process, but the danger, and a very glaring one at that, of putting the wrong people in power, as we always seem to have done election after election (or is it selection after selection).

Let’s be candid here…the average Nigerian, who struggles every day to make an honest living as even a small time entrepreneur, hasn’t got a chance in hell of ascending to an elective office at any level.

Even if he has several brilliant ideas that can improve the lives of the people even minutely, improve the electricity, reduce corruption, provide jobs, and protect our integrity, etc, he/she is going to be sharing those in the pepper soup joints and beer parlours for the rest of his days, all because nobody’s going to ever give him a chance, not even his kin from his village.

That’s right my people, this presidential political system that we are trying very hard to work out is a very exclusive club…a club for mega-billionaires who achieved their dubious wealth through massive corruption.

It’s scornful, isn’t it? Every four years (that is, if the dates are not shifted or if INEC is well organised) we get inundated with a parade of very dodgy and questionable characters, proven (already holding one political office or the other) or unproven (calculating opportunists who want to hold office so they can continue looting the treasury).

They pretentively  declare their understanding of the common man, yet not one of them shares the common man’s plight, in fact, they are far removed from the reality on the streets, yet you wonder “how can”?

Weren’t you drinking or walking the streets with these guys just a few months ago? So why can’t they know what is hurting Nigerians? Why are they so insulated from the daily suffering of their people around them?

Action Congress of Nigeria

In Nigeria, there are today at least 64 political parties registered with INEC, I will not mention names, since they are too many, but all of our “Third Parties” are a joke, I call them Third Parties because, to be truthful, only two parties; the murderous and deceptive PDP and the undemocratic and equally deceptive ACN, are the big parties, (actually because we do not have a choice, we have to go with them despite their very grave shortcomings and miserable excuses for political parties where none of these parties will are based purely on ideology)

The point is, very few of us have actually ever heard of these parties. Certainly, none of us have ever seen them win a major race. When they enter, they don’t have a chance, and the best they can hope for is to upset the balance between the big parties.

So essentially, Nigeria is a two-party political system. Well, maybe throw in the CPC and the ANPP, and what have you got? Nothing really! Well, you get the idea.

So why do we have all these contenders? A close look at these “Third Parties” shows that the reasons for their being are most times not altruistic.

Demoncrazy... forgetting humanity

Many alter egos of these emerging political parties just registered them to enable them control one or two states and rip the economic gains flowing from the allocation.

With our gradual political maturity, these miserable excuses called political parties look threatened and I will not be surprised if these mushroom parties go extinct as it will not be business as usual.

I see a situation where three or four parties will remain players in the political field. Eventually, they will dump their parties for the enduring parties.

Most people view a third party vote as a wasted vote. Ultimately it has no long-term effect on the election, and can often become tools of the major parties. In the end, however, third parties in our country have no real hope of winning any but the most insignificant elections.

But would our vote ever count? Check history! In Nigeria, history has consistently shown that the people who cast the votes decide nothing; it is those who count, that is, rig, the votes that decide everything. This is one of the reasons why the late legal icon Gani Fawehinmi said that in our country, “corruption has many grand children”. Corruption is multifaceted.

Twelve years into this “nascent” or rather, “nauseous” democracy”, little or nothing has happened to improve the lot of Nigerians.

While illegal and excessive pay for legislators, fist-fights and bribe-cash display occur in the Legislature, unnecessary world-wide gallivanting, executive interference in the legislature, executive chicanery, electricity is still erratic, personal security of life and property is still non-existent, jobs remain a mirage, three-meals-a-day is a luxury for most, the people are “shuffering” but certainly not “shmiling.” apologies to the late Great Fela Anikulapo-Kuti.

Wasn’t it the late Fela again who labelled these our leaders “Vagabonds In Power” VIP? – What a great vision since the 70s?

Yet we talk about some elites jockeying and calculating for raw power in this forthcoming election of 2011.

The voter registration process, party registration process, conventions and choice of candidates have resulted in bitter battles because clear electoral reforms to prevent rigging have not been put into place despite knowing about these several years ago. It is always “fire brigade” approach.

The current party chieftains are experts at rigging, and therefore know what kinds of trickery they each played to get to where they are now, and will probably want to prevent others from taking the same advantage of them now that they are re-aligned in different camps.

The irony is that despite our fears, our collective shouting and rendering our voices hoarse to deaf ears, we will survive the ensuing disaster, just as we survived, barely though, Obasanjo’s bare-faced election frauds of 2003 and 2007. Even now, he is still trying his hands in Ogun State.

According to Victor E. Dike “State Administration and Acrimonious Party Politics” (Nigeria Village Square, 23 September 2007) “Nigeria’s politics has been, and remains dominated by crooks whose stock in trade is corruption; and that is one of the reasons for Nigeria’s wasteful and ineffective governance and acrimonious party politics.

For these crooks and their political parties a state could better be destroyed if they are out of political power.

It has been business as usual in state administration in spite of all the fantastic campaign promises. …..The cast of characters in state politics seem to lack the moral purpose to affect the needed change in the grassroots.

There has been no major shift in the nation’s political atmosphere; many of them do not understand the purpose of leadership and politics. Consequently, daily life in the grassroots has been harsh and brutish because like the previous corrupt governors and local government administrators the officials are working for their personal interest.

However, because of Nigeria’s acrimonious party politics and corruption their monthly allocations are not being properly utilized”.

I will let you in on a secret or rather how I plan to vote. Simply, I am not voting for parties; I am voting for individuals.  If the candidate in my local government ward is a PDP man and I trust him or think he will perform for my ward, I will vote him in.

Vote with your conscience

If the Local Government Chairmanship candidate is a man I think I can trust to deliver the dividends of democracy to my grass-root level is an ACN man or a Labour Party man, then I will vote for him.

If the man looking to be my State Governor is a CPC man and I trust him to work hard for me and his state, then I will not hesitate to vote for him; the same goes for the Presidency, Senatorial, House of Representatives and the State Assembly.

In other words, I am not voting according to the party; I am not playing party politics, I am voting for my choice of candidate, not political party. Fortunately, I am not a member of any political party in Nigeria.

But let us pray this works, but for me, this is the only method/solution I have now.

Let the Truth be said always.

By Akintokunbo Adejumo