By Sunny Ahwefeada
Nigeria has become a country where each week throws up an oddity. Simply put, we have become a country of one week one trouble, apologies to Anezi Okoro who wrote the 1972 novel One Week One Trouble. Nigeria is a country of many troubles, troubles that seem to defy solutions. Each trouble is overcome by another trouble and the previous one pales into nothingness as another trouble roars into our sight and consciousness. The last three weeks have remained phenomenal in a negative way.
The moment ought to have represented a significant juncture for the country as the decisive steps towards regime change began by way of primary elections in all the political parties across the country. Since the last seven years have been harrowing in an unprecedented manner, one had thought that Nigerians would brace up and embrace a new creed of political engagement.
One had thought that Nigerians would emblazon the ideals of the social contract in their head and heart and make sure that the acute pains of the last seven years are transformed into gains by the choice they will make from the moment of the primary elections up to the general elections scheduled for next year.
Unfortunately and painfully so, we seem to have lost the initiative and from what one is gleaning, we remain marooned on the island of misfortune. The primary elections turned out to be bazaars where principles gave way to lucre and conscience was subverted by debauchery. Money simply spoke and had its way in the primaries conducted by the two leading political parties, the All Progressives Congress (APC) and the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) in all the states of the federation with the bazaar peaking in Abuja. It was a rain of dollars as the naira was considered too odious for the delegates. The electoral law which the National Assembly conjured and foisted on Nigeria has become obnoxious and stifling the very essence of democracy. When we ought to be advancing, an electoral law has become our albatross. We now run a democracy that is not a democracy. We are in a civilian dispensation that is shorn of the tenets of democracy. What has played out in the last three weeks has alienated and emasculated the majority of Nigerians and put our choice to choose those who govern the land in the hands of a few men and women called delegates.
The primary elections saw aspirants conjuring rains of dollars on delegates who have become expensive beautiful brides. From Uyo to Yola, Calabar to Kano, Abakaliki to Abuja, dollar rained and rained. Delegates, the beneficiaries of the dollar rain, simply sold their conscience and allowed personal greed to trounce national interest.
Stories abound about the estimate of how much the dollarized delegates took home. The estimates ran into millions depending on the state and how deep the pockets of the aspirants were. The dollar rain in Abuja was astonishingly unprecedented. It was primitive and tragically so. Good conscience fled, collective aspiration suffered and national interest was nailed and buried. What happened was too primitive and has taken Nigeria far off from the redemptive grid. We are further diminished by the dollar rains.
Despite the prevalence of what should be an enlightened mass, in view of the availability and accessibility of knowledge and information which drive the present age, our people chose to embrace primitivism and in the process betrayed our beloved nation. How well Nigeria can survive the present ordeal is a matter for another day. In the countdown to the primaries, the social and conventional media were awash with debates about the fate and future of Nigeria. The perennial crisis of underdevelopment, unbridled and crippling corruption, insecurity and other malaise which have hobbled our sojourn as a nation populated national discourse. Unfortunately, when the moment of decision came, these indices of our ordeal and national experience were confined to the margins and were never brought up. The primaries silenced debates and blunted rationality.
The exercise became a platform to buy and sell. The delegates were the sellers, while the governorship and presidential aspirants were the buyers. It was not just the votes that were on sale, but conscience.
The delegates, having sold off the soul of Nigeria, returned home to affluence. Some bought cars, some married two or three wives at one go, others embarked on fulfilling fantasies they had nursed all their lives. Some more threw parties and painted the town red. It was boom season for them. It was in the neighbourhood of one of such dollarized delegates that a man was heard to have yawned and said “if to say I bi delegate”.
The poor fellow took in the loud and lavish celebration going on around him and had wished that he had the opportunity of also “hammering”. The money politics that played out during the primaries will yield ugly consequences in no distant future. The party delegates who collected dollars and sold Nigeria have only eaten tomorrow’s seeds.
Famine awaits them all. The man of “if to say I bi delegate” has vowed that nothing will stop him from being one during the next delegates harvest season. Another man was heard telling him to get a bank loan in future and purchase a nomination form and that he could be lucky to get paid off with as much as 1 billion naira! Nigeria’s fertile social media has thrown up jokes constructed around delegates. One of such jokes depicts people scrambling to buy a book titled How to be a Delegate. Another is about children claiming being a delegate as a future profession and more. An instructive thing was the report of aspirants who lost out and hired hunters to help retrieve their dollars from delegates who didn’t vote for them.
Nigeria was reeling from the shame of the bazaar called primaries when armed hounds from hell attacked a church in Owo in Ondo State, killing about fifty persons and injuring more. The bloody deed like others before it shook the helpless nation. The road to Owo and other such dastardly acts was made possible by bad leadership which the delegates’ craze for dollars enabled. The end is not in sight. We seem to be entering another cycle. Nigeria needs a realistic intervention in order to put an end to this political siege. Politics matters because it determines everything.
I have always canvassed the need for a movement to set an agenda for a new Nigeria. The people should own the nation and by extension the government. The people’s inability or unwillingness to own the nation is the reason why governments at all levels enjoy riding roughshod over us all.
That is why the Academic Staff Union of Universities (ASUU) is on strike. It is the same reason why hubristic Godwin Obaseki has grown sadistic and issuing satanic threats against tertiary education stakeholders in Edo State. The people should organize and sack him if he doesn’t stop his crudity and war against education. Obaseki should be made to know that the people made him governor and not the other way round.
He should serve them or get sacked. He shouldn’t provoke them. I am sure he is not ignorant of people’s power. The youth whose future his evil plot against tertiary education is jeopardizing are the embodiment of people’s power. They should make him realize that if he doesn’t know or prove obstinate.