2019 and the Search for National Renewal, By Jibrin Ibrahim
Let our resolution for 2019 be the determination to liberate our politics and society from the minority of crooks that are dominating us and imposing their terrible values on our national life. It is this resolve that would give us the courage to begin to tackle the issue of rural peace for the people.
For a long time, I thought the main issue for 2019 would be the elections. The 2015 general elections created the first defeat for an incumbent president and the excitement of having a famed anti-corruption statesman returning to power to change the course of our national history. The change group won but the change seen by Nigerians has not been spectacular and in any case, we have seen what’s on offer from the two leading candidates, President Buhari and former Vice President Atiku Abubakar, as such no more excitement about what’s coming, which ever one wins.
The main issue for 2019 is that of the struggle for the re-establishment of rural peace. Our rural peasants are no longer able to go safely to their farms and eke out their livelihoods, as they have done in the past 12 decades. Rural banditry has become the defining characteristic of the country and ordinary people have become the targets of banditry, arson, kidnapping and mass murder. The elite are also caught in the same trap and are today deeply frightened of travelling almost anywhere in the country. As they barricade themselves in their houses in the city centres, their high walls are no longer any protection as increasing numbers are getting picked up in their houses.
They are discovering that there is a price to pay for decades of misrule, as the people get pauperised and strike back at their irresponsible ruling classes. In a sense, the key issue for 2019 is whether the Nigerian state can begin to reverse banditry, gangsterism and mass atrocities by the millions of young people we have failed to educate and provide jobs for. What is most frightening being that we cannot even talk with them, as much of the time, millions of them are deep in drug dazed stupor.
As we get more frightened, we have prayed more and more, calling on God to save us from our children. Just as politics has not provided change, prayers too have not led to change. Precisely because we have been praying without thinking, we have missed the message of the scriptures that we must sit up and work to do good before we receive God’s blessings. We are proud that we have built more edifices for God and spent more time in fervent prayers than any other nation on earth, as revealed by research by the Pew Center, and yet our daily actions are lies, ritual and/or instrumental murders, adultery, rape, theft and every other sin known to Christianity, Islam and traditional religions.
No country that is not willing to allow a good person access to political office can hope to progress. The result is that every election produces a class of political office holders who are worse than the previous ones. The worst in society have mastered the art of reproducing themselves, while the good ones look on and pray.
Over time, we have transferred our social vices to the political terrain. Our politics is run by godfathers. Our political leaders emerge to contest for our votes because they have bribed their way through primaries and some even kill their opponents to ensure there is really no competition. Today, it is no longer possible for a good and honest person to be a politician because the first criterion for politics is that you have stolen massive amounts of money from the Nigerian people. The more “honest” ones like Evans the kidnapper sought corrupt businessmen who have amassed billions and kidnapped them so they would be compelled to pay one million dollars each into what he had designed as his campaign kitty for the gubernatorial election in his State that he was preparing for. Others have had the opportunity to hold public office and they simply looted the treasury to build their political careers. No country that is not willing to allow a good person access to political office can hope to progress. The result is that every election produces a class of political office holders who are worse than the previous ones. The worst in society have mastered the art of reproducing themselves, while the good ones look on and pray.
We are currently all watching the campaigns for the elections coming up in the coming weeks. The campaign strategy and tactics of the ruling All Progressives Congress (APC) is to paint the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) opposition candidate, Atiku Abubakar as a very corrupt person who would loot the national treasury if voted into office. The PDP response is to say that President Buhari, his family and cohorts have also succumbed to corruption and are worse than what he is being accused of. The language of the campaign is that “he is corrupt” and “he too is corrupt”. This is pathetic. And this campaign format dominates the terrain because although there are many other candidates, their voices are not heard as audibility is a function of money and the imperative of our laws that all contestants must have equal time in the mass media is disregarded by the organs and not enforced by the regulatory authorities.
…our political process is a mafia world in which godfathers kill, maim, marginalise and exclude all but their chosen godsons. Its this terrible world of Nigerian politics that our angry youth have learnt and taken into society. Meanwhile, we all pretend that we are holding party primaries in accordance with the Electoral Act 2010 as amended.
Money has become the life blood of Nigerian politics and virtually all politicians play the money game. They pay huge amounts to all stakeholders, meaning all groups that can influence politics, including security officials and staff of the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC). They also pay money to the political grassroots. I have spoken to a number of gubernatorial aspirants who contested in the last primaries about the monies paid to the grassroots. These monies allegedly go to the structures, I was told. What are the structures I would naively ask? The response is always the same – party structures are party executives at the ward and local government levels, including chair and Exco members, women and youth. For each level, there are collectors who receive the money and promise to deliver to the grassroots. Two things stand out: Everybody pays something, hence its impossible to differentiate the honest ones who do not bribe and the corrupt ones who do. The second thing is that none of these politicians is ever sure whether the money ever gets to the intended recipients. The story of the primaries was that, at the end of the day, the monies spent on “structures” do not matter because whether or not the grassroots gets the money, the party barons take subsequent decisions to cancel the primaries, impose “consensus” candidates or simply declare whoever they want as the candidate. I am yet to meet an aspirant who has experienced a political process of electing a candidate because they are popular or liked by the people. In other words, our political process is a mafia world in which godfathers kill, maim, marginalise and exclude all but their chosen godsons. Its this terrible world of Nigerian politics that our angry youth have learnt and taken into society. Meanwhile, we all pretend that we are holding party primaries in accordance with the Electoral Act 2010 as amended.
This realty of our politics is never expressed in the formal narrative of the national discourse. We act as if the democratic process spelt out in our Constitution and laws are operational. Rebuilding the nation would require a serious analysis of our condition. It would, above all, require a strategy that would begin to encourage good people to come out and be supported by other good people. We must believe the reality that we are not a nation of crooks, even if we have allowed the tiny minority of crooks in our society to dominate us. Let our resolution for 2019 be the determination to liberate our politics and society from the minority of crooks that are dominating us and imposing their terrible values on our national life. It is this resolve that would give us the courage to begin to tackle the issue of rural peace for the people.