Politicians Must Save Nigeria, By Dele Agekameh
At last, year 2015 is here. It is obvious that partisan politics will dominate the affairs of the country for the better part of the year. Trust the politicians and their supporters, they have already started crisscrossing the entire landscape of the country with their sugar-coated mouths lined with palatable lies, trying to woo, cajole, brainwash, intimidate or even blackmail the electorate to line up behind them.
For some Nigerians, especially many who are mere charlatans masquerading as politicians all over the place, this is business time, big business for them. I am referring to those who are just out to make money and more money from candidates who are seeking elective posts. The Yorubas of the Southwest geo-political zone of the country classify the real politicians particularly those contesting for various offices as “Oselu”, that is, those who want to govern the country, while the charlatans among them and they are many, are referred to as “Ojelu”, meaning, a bunch of human parasites feeding fat on the people. They are like bloodsuckers that will not give a hoot even if they drain a person’s blood to the point of the person suddenly dropping dead.
It is quite unfortunate that majority of those parading themselves as politicians in Nigeria today belong to the “Ojelu” category. In this electioneering season, they are ubiquitous, plying their trade – which is mostly hinged on deceit and tomfoolery – to make money from unsuspecting politicians. It is a sad irony that these are the very people that the politicians rely on as foot-soldiers to sell their programmes, if any, all over the place. In most cases, these charlatans obtain huge amount of money from politicians under the pretext of using the money for mobilization and others, only for the money to end up in their pockets. Some others will boldly tell the politicians that they want their own share of the cake in cash. They are less concerned about the projects the politicians are planning to do as long as they are paid handsomely in cash. To them, it is mere blabbing to talk about public infrastructure and all that. They are simply not interested. The only language they understand is money and nothing more.
This is the tragedy of our political process in Nigeria as the process has become so monetised that a candidate seeking elective position in the polity may need to sell all his property and in addition, borrow huge amount of money to contest election. This is why we should not be surprised that what our politicians do as soon as they come into office is to start stealing from the public till in order to recoup the huge investment sunk into the race. The result is that corruption, which we all profess to abhor, but which we all condone or sustain either wittingly or unwittingly, will continue to fester as a hydra-headed monster ravaging our land. In actual fact, there is no greater time or greater opportunity for corruption to thrive in Nigeria than in the electioneering season. As it is, the game of politics in Nigeria seems to be particularly reserved for moneybags only. Little wonder that, at times like this, there is always a do-or-die spirit in our politicians, thereby giving rise to thuggery and other forms of intimidation and violence.
Politicians or their sympathisers who are mostly ‘commercial sympathisers’, stockpile arms and other dangerous weapons at electioneering periods purposely to intimidate or harass opponents and make them cower into some sort of submission, retreat or surrender. Mind you, most of the problems the nation now grapples with like militancy, fundamentalism and terrorism, kidnapping and other forms of violent crimes, escalated from the actions and inactions of our politicians. In the South-south region of the country, politicians who participated in both the 1999 and 2003 elections are known to have recruited and armed some dangerous boys to terrorise perceived opponents and imaginary enemies who could pose a stumbling block to their ambitions. After the elections, some of the boys who were lucky were taken care of while others were simply abandoned to their fate. Furthermore, the paymasters never bothered to disarm them. As a result, rather than watching and starve to death, the bad boys simply converted the arms and ammunition in their possession to instruments of terror.
The whole thing soon metamorphosed into one big militancy affair that almost brought the economy of the region, nay the country, to its knees. This was so because there was a convergence of terror as the various groups were united in their demands for better living conditions. Today, only those who dared to carry arms or organise these bad boys into militant groups, are apparently living a better life as some of them have become stupendously rich, while majority of the people they claim to have fought for, are still living in abject poverty, bondage, disease and squalor. To the man on the street, nothing has changed except some miserable pittance they receive from their new Lords of the Manor.
A similar narrative applies in the case of the Boko Haram terrorists that are now trying to wipe out a section of the country from the face of the earth. Boko Haram is an offshoot of the extinct Maitatsine sect. Founded in 1981 by one Mohammed Marwa alias Maitatsine, it was a vicious Islamic sect that seized Kano by the jugular. The sect wanted the conversion of everybody to Islam as well as condemning Western education. In their bid to forcefully propagate their doctrine, they resorted to violence – killing and maiming those they referred to as infidels or unbelievers. Police action against them did not yield any good result. It was later confronted by a huge military force. After one week of intense military assault by the combined forces of the Army and the Air Force, the sect was subdued and wiped out. Their remnants fled the city of Kano and regrouped in Bulumkutu Quarters of Maiduguri, Borno State. They were equally smashed. After this, they attempted to regroup again in Yola in the present day Adamawa State. They were quickly routed. That offensive was the last straw that terminated the rampaging Maitatsine sect.
Today, the similarity in its mode of preaching, indoctrination and perpetual violent stance, has easily given away the group, ‘Jama’atu Ahlis Sunna Lidda’Awati Wal-Jihad (JASDJ)’, popularly known as Boko Haram, as an off-shoot of the dangerous Maitatsine sect. Besides, Mohammed Yusuf, the late leader of Boko Haram was a grandchild of Mohammed Marwa, the Maitatsine leader. Before 2009, they had remained quiescent in their activities, organizing their enclaves even working in cohort with politicians by helping them mobilise for votes and dealing with perceived political enemies especially in Borno State, the state from where Boko Haram originated. It was the fallout with the government in power, led by Ali Modu Sherrif, then governor of Borno and later clashes with the police that brought their operations into limelight. The military was later called in to quell the tensions, and their leader Mohammed Yusuf was killed after he was delivered to the police alive by the army in 2009. Since then, peace has taken flight from Borno State in particular and the Northeast geo-political zone of the country in general.
Crushing Boko Haram and stamping it out should not be subjected to the vagaries of politicking by our politicians as they engage in war of words instead of concerted action to free the country from the evil machinations of these lunatics and devil incarnates. We should bear it in mind that this is the year that has been predicted to be the year of Armageddon, a year when the centrifugal forces may no longer hold the periphery and may lead the various ethnic nationalities in Nigeria to say: “To thy tent, oh Israel!” We should not pander to the wishes of those who don’t wish this great nation well. That is why our politicians must eschew bitterness and acrimony as they embark on their campaigns. They must avoid violence during and after the elections.