By Gbenga Olumekun
It is getting increasingly difficult to follow my mind in commenting on the Nigerian political scene for obvious reasons. I don’t need my editor to breathe down my neck hence I have got to do a lot of self censorship for apparent reasons. However, the political stratosphere is such a dynamic place that you will hardly find a boring 24 hours: enough time for a lifetime of happenings and changes to take place.
The advent of the current political dispensation has brought new hope and a sense of optimism to the populace. The recklessness of our past deeds made time to be a constant dread but we soldiered on because it is only in the itinerary of politicians that four years is a long time. The only problem for now is that the average Nigerian is getting impatient as he is baying for action. This is more agonising because we had been used to government by fiat. We always love to hear pronouncements publicly slaying the “enemies” of government and we look forward to see detentions as well as summary executions. Unfortunately, under the current democratic dispensation we have not been able to see much blood and the typical Nigerian is already behaving like spectators in a bull-fight: nothing short of blood will satiate the hunger for action.
For now, the only actions we will see are the public exchange of insults and ridicule from our political gladiators. While one side is demonising the other, another is busy assassinating the foundations of the enemy but at least the only physical assassinations we will see can only be limited to the pronouncements on the pages of newspapers and the ever vibrant releases within social media. Unfortunately, we lust after a democratic culture which is antithetic to such impulsive actions hence we have no option but to comply with the tenets of democracy. Since we want democracy, we must live by its principles which seek to allow even a thief to go on the loose until the rope of the law is taut enough to haul him in.
On the positive side, the current environment has shown that the average Nigerian is still tolerant based on past experiences. We have had several military regimes which promised the whole world. They promised to revert the descent of our hospitals to morgues while our dilapidated schools were to be turned into centres of excellence. After several years of jack-booting, we became wiser and there wasn’t any need to publicise the benefits of democracy to anyone. The arbitrariness and excesses of the military helped us to make up our mind, just like Chief Obafemi Awolowo told us that, the best military government can never be better than the worst democratic one. We have seen, we have tasted and we now know better.
Fortunately politics is supposed to be played by a set of rules and our expectations are usually time bound and that is why we are now at this junction where we are being regularly patronised by the high and mighty in the search for our instruments of change: our votes. In civilised climes, these rules guide conduct in the field and political practitioners are often called to account for their maximum excesses and limited successes. That’s the beauty of democracy and the triumph of the evolutionary culture.
The magic of March/April 2015 is fast waning and reality will begin to set in when the prize-fighters and the winners run out of excuses and are forced to settle down to the art of governance. Assessing our dispensation of the political culture is a beauty and allows the deceivers to come back on a regular basis to renew their mandates. Right now the voter will always be expecting to be wooed with all sorts of promises for the next mandate to loot our collective heritage. That is the process we have been witnessing and in saner climes, it is the time to determine direction or at worst clear the rot of the past. It is usually an opportunity for rulers to present their scorecards while letting us know where the drivers are directing the vehicle of our state. Sadly, with a few wads of Naira and the sprinkling of foreign exchange, we are wont to sell our conscience as well as our souls. We behave like Mr Esau, progenitor of the Edomites, who for the simple sight of a mess of pottage forsook a greater inheritance. For this indiscretion his future generations have had to live as wanderers and people who became disenfranchised.
After many years in the political wilderness, many of us wrongly thought we have matured, only to be presented with the reality of Stomach Infrastructure. Our society now seems to live by the day without a thought for tomorrow. What a great irony!
When Governor Ayo Fayose made much noise about the appointment of a Special Adviser for Stomach Infrastructure, many were condemning him but these critics, like me, did not reckon with the fact that, in any action, the end will always justify the means. Now we have seen reality. People are hungry and politics of conscience has taken a back seat. The consolation is that, this is only a temporary setback as we shall overcome.
I cannot fail however to applaud the brilliance of the proponents of this wonderful nutritional stratagem. All they have done was to study human/animal behaviour and apply the conclusions as a veritable strategy. Any student of ecology will admit that two things drive living things: food and sex. Food, because the energy to survive must have a source and when healthy, procreation is the next, otherwise the species would not be perpetuated. Could this be a reliving of Awolowo’s strategy of using hunger as an instrument of war? Starve people and they’ll not fight.
This strategy has now been refined in order to keep the hunt alive. Mankind, like mice can be bait-weary hence the way of the political class now is to impoverish, starve and hold up a piece of cake to the hungry nostrils of the masses. Or how else can we explain the grand thievery that has taken place? If it is a simple desire to ensure that future generations are catered for, what is a human being doing with billions of Naira in his personal vault? I really thought they wanted to be rich but it has recently occurred to me that the mindset is beyond mere appropriation; what we see is a deliberate sequestration so that the common purse will be empty and you and I will go on our knees to beg for bread in the name of Stomach Infrastructure.
Now I know why they always embark on poster campaigns and newspaper advertorials advertising emptiness when they ought to be campaigning physically in villages and towns. All they are trying to do is to show us their robust cheeks and make us desire to look like them. Very often they move people in buses and wagons as if the attendance gauge is what wins elections. At the end of every campaign they dole out wads of money and are careful to pay only brand new wads of currency so that even when they give just a few notes, the newness and the aroma of mint will be all too tempting for us to merchandise our souls.
My grouse is that we get deceived time and again. There is a Yoruba proverb that says “the man who deceitfully takes advantage of one for sexual a purpose can only do it once”. How I would have loved to believe this adage? Unfortunately it is not so. In reality, this “atanni do” is always coming back to rape us again and again.
In order to sustain our democracy we must begin to grow a culture: a culture of accountability and responsibility, which has an inbuilt mechanism that the political scientists term “separation of powers”. Those in power have been able to lord it over the rest of us because they manage to appropriate the goodwill for themselves and the institutional set-ups that have been built up to act as checks and balances have been unable to act as levees to the flood of the rascality of the political class. The justice system has been so bastardised that Lady Justice no longer dispenses justice with her eyes closed, she must see first before pronouncing judgement and the scales on her hand have become insensitive to the extent that adding a weight on any end will not tilt the scale of justice anywhere except in the direction of the privileged. The rape of this last hope has brought hopelessness which in normal societies would have been the basis to ignite a revolution, but in Nigeria, nobody wants to die, besides the new generation of madmen and women who are only interested in how many lives they can waste, including theirs, in order to appease a so-called cause. We seem to be on a journey to nowhere, and it is only providence that can rescue us from self inflicted destruction.
The time has come for us to decide whether we really value the democratic culture which we are seeking to nurture. Leaders act well when they are accountable for their actions. There are enough laws to regulate our conduct but these are as good as the paper on which they are written. Accountability is not enforced by the law itself but by those who are empowered to request answers to pertinent questions. This says so much for stomach-propelled reason!