The quadrennial ritual constitutionally permits us to either replace or renew the mandates of incumbents in the executive and the legislative branches of government at national and sub-national levels. Tens of men and women are offering and promoting themselves as men with the ability and the capacity to make our country great or, to be more modest, less corrupt and less divisive. Elections promise the rescue and the renewal of our country in which old incompetence and mediocrity shall pass away. Beguiling, eh?
This is a lucky country, I tell you. The teaming crowd of men beaming at you from billboards and posters are not motivated by personal ambition but by patriotic and altruistic service to the fatherland while playing God in Aso Rock. Oh yes, we take the business of remaking our country with new or old hands seriously. Each of these men sees himself as possibly the best thing that could happen to Nigeria since the Ibibio invented edikaikong soup. It is in the nature of both public manipulation and marketing strategy in the realm of politics.
- Senate gets ultimatum to probe ‘contract scam’ in NPC
- Obi of Onitsha: A phone call stopped me from boarding attacked Abuja-Kaduna train
At the constitutionally stipulated intervals, one set of politicians replaces the existing set of politicians. Or attempts to do so. For them it is merely an expensive game of musical chairs. You chop, we chop. Everyone knows that change is a constant in human life. They tell us that the man they promoted in one election season as the best thing to happen to the country has been adjudged as actually a man without scruples or vision or competence. They said he would right yesterday’s wrongs with vision, competence, quality leadership and with the capacity to manage our complex and complicated diversities in tribes, tongues and religions. We did not seen much evidence of that.
Now, they sing a different tune when the next election season rolls along. They tell us that the man has, through acts of commission, desecrated the barn. Another set of politicians is promoted as the key to our forward national movement and development in peace and security. The politicians are the men of power who give and distribute power. But you see, they are the same characters acting like the chameleons. They re-invent themselves by the frequent change colours. Each time a politician defects to another party, he offers himself to the electorate as new man. We do not think of him as a wretched opportunist. The ways of the politicians, like the ways of the lord, are so confusing they pass understanding.
The constitution gives the people the right to give power. From among those chasing power, the people must find someone they believe can best serve their interests and those of the nation; a man whose fingers do not itch so badly they reach for the money pot to soothe them; a man who speak from one side of the mouth and can look corruption in the face and say to it, get behind me, Satan.
The people give and take power away in a democracy. Election time is the only time the people come close to playing God: they give power and they take away power and their right to do is so sacrosanct. This is the enduring theoretical practicality of the government of the people, by the people, for the people. Still, the business of choosing political leaders is fraught with variables, intangibles and obstacles.
There are too many variables that stand in the way of political power seekers. Some of these are money, tribe and religion. The last two are also our major fault lines. Of these variables in the contest for power, indeed, as in all things human, the first variable is money. The pockets of the contestants vary in size and depth. It means there can be no level playing ground when the cards are clearly stacked against those whose pockets in size and content, prevent them from being effective players, able to level hills and move mountains. The Naira is the opener and the shutter of doors. Think of your maigadi.
It should be clear to you now that the man with small and shallow pockets filled with good intentions, is not really a player. He is viewed with moderated disdain as a comic relief among and by the big players. He may be competent; but he has nothing to drop; he may have the best qualities of political leadership, but his pocket is shallow. It is not enough to be the most competent among men; it is not enough to be a visionary; it is not enough to be a potentially great man, able to lead the country out of the morass of poor leadership and mediocre performance accepted as sterling performance. All these will avail a man nothing if his pocket is shallow.
Then the godfather became an enduring part of our political scene. He exercises the ultimate power. If he favours a man with shallow and empty pockets, his choice becomes the people’s choice. The naira has become something called something in the patois of politicians as corrupting agents. You do not bribe the party moguls or the electorate: you drop something.
The other two variables, tribe and religion, can, singly or in combination, floor the office seeker. Both are important qualifications and deciding factors in political fortunes or misfortunes. The wealth or the demonstrated competence of an officer seeker will avail him nothing if, by the quirk of nation, he was born into the wrong tribe of his father, also called ethnic group. He meets the same obstacle if his religious faith is adjudged to be the wrong one at any particular time in the political power configuration.
These variable matter because the president or the state governor is owned by his tribal and or his religious group. He may not be a tribal champion but he must put his tribe first while in office. After all, the elders of his tribe poured libation to the gods on his behalf. They sought the blessings of the gods and the gods gave their blessings. An office seeker may not be a religious fanatic, but he knows he holds his position by the grace of the deity he worships. He shows appreciation to the deity by ensuring that those of his faith eat a good portion of the national cake.
Each of these redoubtable men itching to get their hands on the levers of political power faces odds that may scuttle their fond dreams for an eight-year tenancy in Aso Rock, theoretically, courtesy of the landlords and landladies, also known as the electorate. When your path to power takes you through the labyrinth of spiral stairs case, the handrails become your crutches. Power is sweet.