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Politics and standard of decency

Sometimes it’s difficult to fathom what goes on inside the heads of many state governors. They have been in the news recently over issues which…

Sometimes it’s difficult to fathom what goes on inside the heads of many state governors. They have been in the news recently over issues which are fundamental to the nation’s democracy.  This doesn’t refer to the routine arrogant and unruly behaviour of their “First Ladies” who get carried away by temporary unconstitutional status and fail to observe ladylike behaviour and decorum. At the end of the day, governors who wish to avoid embarrassment are well advised to confine their wives to the “kitchen and other room!”  

However, the real hindrance which governors pose to the development of democracy doesn’t concern their marital issues or indeed even their financial improprieties. Long gone are the days when treasury looters had anything to fear from the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC). Under normal circumstances, sitting governors should be apprehensive about the manner in which former Governor Obaino was arrested after leaving office, and pictured wearing knickers in EFCC detention. Oh, how things change so quickly! All the fawning over him and calling him “Your Excellency” is a thing of the past. He is now simply a suspect with a case file number!

However, there is little reason for Obiano or any of the governors who EFCC claims to have on their “watch list” to be overly concerned. The EFCC’s highly selective arrest of high profile politicians and accusations of financial improprieties without successful prosecution is a huge joke. It’s simply a theatre of comedy, which generally leads to nothing. Far too many high ranking politicians formerly accused by the EFCC still enjoy high status and live large at public expense. Danjuma Goje once accused of mismanaging N25 billion state funds, is now a distinguished senator of the Federal Republic of Nigeria! Also enjoying in the Senate despite being accused publicly by EFCC are Stella Oduah accused of diverting N3.5 billion; Orji Kalu accused of mismanaging N7.65 billion; Rochas Okorocha accused of mismanaging state funds; Ike Ekweremadu  accused of money laundering and other illicit dealings; Ifeanyi Uba accused of N43 billion subsidy fraud; Ibrahim Shekarau accused of N950 million GEJ campaign funds mismanagement, Theodore Orji accused of mismanaging N27 billion state funds, and Ibikunle Amosun accused of stockpiling 1,000 AK47 rifles and four million bullets. In addition, Godswill Akpabio who was accused of mismanaging N100 billion state funds is now a federal minister along with others who have previously been accused by the EFCC.

With the way things have gone in the past, Willie Obiano definitely qualifies to become a “distinguished” senator! Be that as it may, the major hindrance to democracy caused by governors isn’t their financial improprieties, but rather their continuous rape of democratic principles and failure to adhere to known political ideologies. Despite their names not appearing on the ballot paper, they believe that once elected, the votes belong to them to do with as they please, rather than to the party under whose flag they contested. They are under the illusion that they are the “be all and end all” and owe the party no loyalty whatsoever. Unfortunately, some Senior Advocates of Nigeria (SAN) agree with them, reasoning pedantically that political parties stand for nothing and are mere “vehicles” in which aspirants ride to office! Back in 1983 when the judiciary was still held in some regard, Justice Fred Anyeagbunam ruled against Senator Arthur Nzeribe who approached the court to “restore his honour” after being thrown out of the Senate for decamping. The Honorable Justice said: “You are not entitled to the honour you do not possess having taken the votes of your people to a political party they did not vote for.” He was absolutely right. Where is the honour in a political office holder elected under a party flag, transferring his people’s mandate to a party they rejected at the polls? In 2022, Justice Inyang Ekwo’s ruling that the PDP should replace Governor Umahi who decamped to APC after the election, has restored hope in the judiciary that at least some judges can raise themselves above dwelling on pedantic technicalities, and rule in favour of the spirit of constitutional democracy. Blame for the recurrent spectacle of decamping and politics without ideology lies squarely at the door of INEC chairmen, who tragically facilitated the emergence of a plethora of political parties none of which was required to ascribe to any known political ideology before being registered!

No Nigerian “new breed” politician has ever decamped because they changed their political philosophy; it’s always been about holding on to power at all costs and fighting political enemies. In a 1961 lecture, Chief Obafemi Awolowo said it isn’t true that politics is a dirty game. He said: “Politics is the science or art of the management of public affairs and whether it’s clean or dirty depends solely on the manner in which a particular set of politicians play it.” He was right. The problem with Nigerian politicians is that they fail to observe standards of common decency and ethics.  They simply do not understand the essence of doing things well. They are not guided by any principles other than self-gratification, and don’t owe loyalty to any ideology or political party. This unfortunately is why even in 2023, they cannot be part of any solution, when indeed they are an integral part of the problem.