By Adebayo Abubakar.
The season of politics, when mandate renewal or fresh mandate-seeking brings politicians and the citizens into contact, is here again; and the horse-trading is afoot. A period when political gladiators are busy with marathon, sometimes, nocturnal meetings, as they negotiate our political destiny, at least, for the next four years. The word, consensus, which is a euphemism for auctioning of tickets for elective posts among politicians or between political godfathers and their godchildren, is being bandied around. It is both intra and inter-party elections. We witnessed its application last week at the “All Progressives Congress”, APC, party convention. I did predict last week, in the days leading up to the APC’s March 26 national convention that, by the time the party concluded its convention, the Longman and the Oxford dictionaries should both be getting ready for a brand new meaning for the word “Consensus”. I was indeed, proven right, when I saw an aspirantsl weeping profusely before a national television audience, lamenting how he (an old member of the party) was forced to step down for someone who just joined, barely half-a-year ago, and guess what….? It is still consensus on APC’s lexicon. One of the northern States Governors was even heard saying; “Consensus” is a “must”. Meanwhile, if the dictionary meaning of the word is anything to go by, that word “MUST”, has stripped what happened the right of being regarded as consensus. The meaning of the word is stripped of its applicability in that context. Once consensus is featured in the same breath with the word “Must”, compulsion has stepped in, and has violated its original meaning, and even, intents and purposes.
The focus of national debate, regarding the forthcoming elections, so far, has been on, “which region gets what”; it has been about “rotational presidency and party Chairmanship” or whatever, among the six geopolitical zones that spread across the two regions of North and South. It is disheartening to note that, nobody; I repeat nobody, is talking about the barrage of problems facing the country at the moment. Nobody sees these issues as being worthy of dominating the debate. Meanwhile, the least these issues requires is the attention of every stakeholders, especially the politicians who have purportedly offered themselves for service, claiming to be “mobile barrels of solutions” to the Nation’s developmental problems. But that is only on paper. In reality, we are in master-servant relationship with them. These people see Nigeria like a poultry-invaded silos, where every one of them tries to pick as much grain as it could, before the owner arrives. Since after the departure of the Colonial Master, the indigenous inheritors of the throne are getting richer, while the State, Nigeria, is getting poorer. The country is not far off from being bankrupted, as she now borrows to pay salaries and to even service debts. Yet, every electioneering season, they come around, feasting on our gullibility, and weaponizing poverty to buy votes and even the conscience of the people who are too pauperized to resist the temptation of accepting the Greek Gift. They use material things in the colour of “stomach infrastructures”, apologies for former Governor of Ekiti State, Ayodele Fayose. They reduce their manifestos to mere tokenism, by distributing 2 kilogram of packaged rice, semovita, or in most cases, as little as ₦5,000 (five thousand Naira ) to divert people’s (the uncritical mass’) attention from what should be the real issue. They hoodwink the masses into forgetting about issues that should dominate the political debate, through which the capacities of each of the aspirants (later, candidates) could be evaluated, with a view to making the right choices that will culminate in choosing a performer, as far as tackling the challenges bedeviling the country is concerned.
It is an unfortunate irony that, some who are educated like you and me, would rather do their advocacies on social media, without as much as trying to get their PVC readiness for voting in, the best candidate and voting out non-performers. Meanwhile, everything should not start and end with social media activism – “social media ranting”. As a matter of fact, the politicians who are streetwise, hardly take serious, mere criticisms on Twitter, Facebook, or Instagram because, they are aware that over 90% of those critics rarely vote. So, why waste time on their opinions that matter not?
Nigerians have gone through a lot, in terms of hardship, in the recent months for us to be able to find a trailer-load of issues that could shape our debate in the run-up to the forthcoming process, through which our new set of political leaders will emerge. But those who are supposed to drive it are either compromised or do not just care.
If you are negotiating from a position of strength, you’d dictate your terms. However, the reverse is the case when you do, from a position of weakness. Nigerians, therefore, need to wake up and do their negotiations with the monied political elites, from a “position of strength”, so that we won’t spend the next four years, looking for non-existent grazing routes, when the rest of the world are far gone in the world of modern ranching with the aid of artificial intelligence; so that we won’t continue to read statements of condemnation of terrorists attack on innocent Nigerians, in villages in the North West or train passengers on Kaduna-Abuja rail line. We need to wake up and stop those who have pillaged our common patrimony from further procuring and distributing Kalashnikov (AK-47) to our otherwise talented children, to look after herds of cattle in the bush, while their children’s (age mates with the children-herders) are in Europe and America, even in some parts of Africa studying; or some of their age mates in Silicon Valley, busy with coding and acquiring knowledge in other emerging field of human endeavours like Robotic Science, that are technologically inclined and relevant to the demands of the 21st century global community.
The time to interrogate the intellectual and physical competences of those who have put themselves forward for the “privilege of serving” us, is now. We cannot afford leaders at any level who will spend a sizeable amount of “national resources” and time on medical tourism abroad, while urgent matters of state are waiting and begging for urgent attention. Nigeria cannot afford a leader, at any levels, who will spend a sizeable portion of our national budget, servicing a retinue of aides. Some would have Special Adviser, Special Assistant, Senior Special Adviser, Senior Special Assistant, even, Special Admirers, on the same portfolio, such as Media and Publicity.
We need that leader who will tell us why, the rising prices of Petroleum Products in the international market, as a result of the West’s sanction against Russia for invading Ukraine, is inflicting pain on Nigerians, instead of gain that would culminate in making life easier than ever; and how he intends to reverse it. A president who will anticipate that an airport or a rail track and a passenger train could be bombed by a gang of terrorists, and thus act proactively to nip it in the bud. We do not need the one whose only strategy is, issuing a “Copy-and-paste” platitudinous statements of condemnation, whenever tragedy strikes and lives lost in dozens.
The next president, we must ensure, is that person who can sit down and critically examine the government policies on “Ease of Doing Business” and the blatant contradictions emanating from the activities of government agencies that act as if their KPIs (Key Performance Indices) are to try to frustrate as many of such government policies as possible; them come up with a workable solution that would be system-driven, and capable of addressing the issue of lack of inter-agencies synergy. Also the systemic corruptions within each of the agencies need serious examining, which must go beyond the mantra of “I-will-tackle-the-menace-of-corruption”; just like the outgoing administration of President Muhammadu Buhari sang, for almost seven years now, without any significant evidence of progress, and is likely to continue till May next year. We need a different scenario from, what we see, whereby the head of the most active, most potent, and most visible of the anti-graft agencies, being persecuted and eventually frustrated, or better put, disgraced, out of office. We do not want a repeat. Remember Ibrahim Magu? Okay.
Parts of the negotiation should also include; taking them on, and grilling them, on how to tackle the multifarious challenges facing the country from sector to sector. Sectoral analyses of how they intend to go about solving those problems. For instance; education, Agriculture, Electricity/Energy, Health Care Services, roads, security, Unemployment etc.
Anyone among the aspirants who cannot give Nigerians a convincing blueprint on how each and everyone of these challenges would be addressed, does not deserve our votes, come 2023. Anyone who tells us he is relying on Dangote to solve our embarrassing over-dependence on importation of refined Petroleum Products to meet local demands has no business being on the ballot paper, let alone hoping to get our votes. The problem at hand is too humongous, for us to leave in the hands of charlatans, who keep using “Two-To-Beat-One” tactics against us. They have dragged this country backwards for too long for any well-meaning Nigerian to stand aloof, and expect miracle to happen. No miracle would fix the infrastructural decay that dots the Nigerian landscape.
The politicians might try to derail our focus on key indices of evaluation, but the elites who would drive the conversation must ensure that it is issue-based. They should not let the conversation slide into the abyss of brickbats throwing, mudslinging, or War of posters – whose campaign poster is the most colourful? That should not be allowed to steal the momentary opportunity of a strong position of negotiation. I know people would say; “would our votes count? Well, I quite understand what informs that pessimistic question. Our recent history would always be a point of reference for those who are of this opinion – that votes don’t or won’t count. But I can assure you that, with the passage of the Electoral Amendment Act, 2022, and its being assented to, I have no doubt that, electoral results will be much more difficult, if not impossible to manipulate, than it has ever been.
A SHORT ONE ON NIGERIA VERSUS GHANA, WORLD CUP QUALIFIER.
That we lost out to Ghana in the Qatar World Cup Qualifier is disappointing, but not surprising, especially in a country where, no matter how good you are, you must either bribe your way into the national teams, or know somebody in the Glass House (Nigerian Football Federation – NFF).
We do not deserve better than this, given the above scenario.
To Amaju Pinnick and his co-travelers, on behalf of over 200 million soccer-loving Nigerians, I say; thank you for this national embarrassment. Nigerians will never forget you and your team of charlatans who bought their ways into the board of the federation, with nothing meaningful to contribute to the development of the game in Nigeria, except for their obstreperous presence at match venues with pot bellies.
Until merit is placed above every other consideration in the process of inviting and selecting players for the Super Eagles and other national teams, this is what we’d be getting.
We’ve lost our pedigree in the CAF club competitions due to “integrity challenge” in the area of officiating in the domestic league; so have we lost it with the national teams. The only area where we still have a little semblance of dominance in African football is in the women category; and that is because, other African countries are just emerging.
Losing a world Cup ticket is very painful. But much more painful is, losing to an eternal rival (Ghana) who are equally not going through best of time.
It is disgusting to witness Abuja fans, vandalising the newly-renovated Moshood Abiola National Stadium – such a monumental national asset!
Agreed, Nigerians are going through very hard times, socioeconomically speaking, and they hope to get a kind of on-field result that would deaden the pains inflicted by the rising cost of living in the country and to also alleviate the pains occasioned by insecurity that leads to unnecessary bloodletting in Nigeria, there is no excuse for the vandalisation of public properties like the National Stadium. The law enforcement agents, with the aid of CCTV footage need to investigate, identify and prosecute the culprits. It is inexcusable.
The most honourable thing to do at this moment for Amaju and his team is to turn in their resignations and allow for a breathe of fresh air with a mix of football technocrats and ex-Footballers who understand the place of merit in team-building and selection.
Abubakar writes from Ilorin. He can be reached via 08051388285 or firstname.lastname@example.org