By Chris Anyokwu
The life of a nation is at root not different from that of plants and trees in the wild. There is seedtime; and there is harvest-time as well. Fittingly, Nigeria’s reggae crooner, Orits Wiliki, lyricises that “everything’s got its time and season…”, a song that itself is informed by the Book of Ecclesiastes Chapter 3 verses 1 – 8. Accordingly, like most civilised nations, Nigeria usually conducts periodic elections, at the local, state and national levels, and, as such, it is during these elections that people are voted or elected into different offices for the administration of the country. Thus, come the year 2023, the life of the current administration will come to an end necessitating yet another election cycle. What makes 2023 extremely crucial in the grand scheme of things is the fact that the electorate shall be trooping to the polling-booths to elect their president that will be in the saddle for a period of four years at the first instance and, if fortune favours the candidate, for another four-year second and last term in office. President Muhammadu Buhari, God willing, will vacate the nation’s plum job on 29th May, 2023.
By a rough estimate, we are just over a year to that date and, as should be expected, many politicians have begun to throw their hats into the ring indicating their interest in occupying the office of the president of the Federal Republic of Nigeria. The field is so capacious and open but, perhaps not as level as most people erroneously think. At the beginning, this openness of the field to all comers has made it possible for us to see the true colours of our presidential hopeful. Expectedly, so far by the looks of things, some of the political gladiators indicating interest in the office have displayed rank frivolity and fecklessness, if not downright disrespect to the electorate. We shall come to the nitty-gritty presently. Anyone who has run a home before or is at present running one knows that leadership is a very serious business indeed. It’s not a cake-walk; it is not for the fainthearted; it’s not for the political gambler looking to play Russian roulette with the collective destiny of a nation. As they say, ambition is made of sterner stuff. Politics itself is war by other means. For about a year now, Nigerians have been kept on tenterhooks over who is running and who is not. Self-appointed lapdogs and terriers, on the one hand, and paid curs and attack-dogs, on the other, have been having a dog-fight mainly on social media on behalf of their preferred political paymasters, the presidential wannabes themselves. These bipeds drunk on ideological mongrelism consequently are bereft of emotional intelligence and clarity of ethical vision. They merely bawl and bark to earn their keep. In these parts, it is called “stomach infrastructure” a la Peter Ayodele Fayose.
For a mess of porridge, these lackeys and lickspittles would reach for the jugular of others who genuflect before a contrary totem-pole. Social networking sites such as Whatsapp, Tweeter, Facebook and Instagram constitute the primary battle-turf on which bilge is inordinately splashed on reputations, thereby besmirching them irreparably. What for? Thirty pieces of silver! The squeamish among us are told that such mindless slog-fest and mudslinging are the very stuff of politics. It’s just as well. The late Ibadan contrarian and chief proponent of amala politics, Alhaji Lamidi Adedibu once famously declared that if you do not want to be told who slept with your mother before your father married her, then don’t enter politics. Politics is the charged coliseum of total disclosures! If-You-Tarka-Me, I-Will-Dabo-You, remember? Or is it the other way round? No matter.
As we remarked above, some cheerleaders sing and dance themselves lame even before the Big Masquerade take the fore-court. Some indulge in this hagiographic overreach pro bono, but for others, it is the quickest route to the honey-pot or the cookie-jar! By the same token, all this pre-election song-and-dance is part of an elaborate ritual of rain-making during Harmattan, a time-tested gambit designed to test the waters; to fly a kite; as a barometer of popular feeling about the intending contestants. Speaking of which, popular feeling does not really matter in the slightest to the Nigerian politician.
The reason for this is not far-fetched. When it comes to the crunch, it is actually a contestation between the so-called “owners of Nigeria” and the electorate. Put another way, it’s a devious fight between the Selectorate and the Electorate with whom power constitutionally resides. Accordingly, the political adventurer is not fooled by the bunkum called the sovereignty of the people and, hence, spends long periods of time, expends enormous amounts of resources, travels long, lonely roads, moving from palace to glittering palace, doing what exactly? “Consulting”! He consults with critical stakeholders in the Nigeria project – retired and serving military top brass, traditional rulers, youth leaders, women leaders, etc., etc. In actual fact, the politician does not “consult” these categories of people; he merely pays courtesy visits to them and intimates them with his plans to run. In the same connection, the politician could hobnob with fellow politicians, shady goons and masterminds of the criminal underworld disguised as youth leaders and road transport operators. He reigns supreme who rules the street, stupid!
Politics itself is war by other means. For about a year now, Nigerians have been kept on tenterhooks over who is running and who is not. Self-appointed lapdogs and terriers, on the one hand, and paid curs and attack-dogs, on the other, have been having a dog-fight mainly on social media on behalf of their preferred political paymasters, the presidential wannabes themselves.
As a result of the foregoing, the people, the electorate is snubbed, completely discounted as far as booty-sharing (read: elections) is concerned. However, in order to salve their conscience, these politicians tend to throw Greek gifts in form of pre-election packages – bags of salt, rice, beans, millet, cartons of noodles and sachets of powdered milk – at the hapless masses. At the Scripture tells us, a gift blinds and perverts the course of justice. Thus compromised, these gifts further deepen the people’s dependency complex; cement the master-slave relationship; sanctify the patronage culture; neutralise their sense of wounded pride and extinguish their righteous rage at the institutionalised and state-sanctioned heist called governance; subsidise and weaponise poverty. As a famous anarchist noted in the early 20th century: “poverty produces political slavery; political slavery, in its turn, reproduces and maintains poverty as a condition for its own existence”. Curiously enough, a meme trending on social media currently posits thus: “People who should be on their knees apologising to Nigerians are mounting podiums to declare. Yet some Nigerians are busy debating which of the offender is better”. Unsurprisingly, thus comprehensively compromised, the entire nation like a parliament of baboons grovels at the dirtied heels of political hucksters to solicit stomach infrastructure. After all hunger is no respecter of class, gender, status or religion. When it, thus, comes to the ever-demanding god, Sceptre and Scythe salaam in the dust. That is what the weaponisation of poverty and privation does to a conquered people.
At the last count; over twenty politicians have indicated interest in running … (you are reminded of the song “I’ve been running, running, running…”). Now everybody is running, the market pilferer is running; the treasury looter per excellence is running, the drug baron is running; the ritual killer is running; the 419 con-artist is running… (I’ve been running, running, running…). Running for what? You may ask. Running for office! Which office? The office of the president of the Federal Republic of Nigeria! The office of the leader of the most populous Black nation on earth! Africa’s Giant (?); the country which produced the likes of Wole Soyinka, Chinua Achebe, Dora Akunyili, Niyi Osundare, Fela! Well, running for office is a constitutional right of all bona fide Nigerians, certificated or not, it would seem (if recent events are any guide). Worryingly, this is the cause of the recent plague of presidential electoral vagabondage. Sadly, in recent times, the high and lofty ideals and the symbolic gravitas of the Stool have been significantly weakened and whittled down. The “ethno-religious bigotry, provincialism, nepotism, incompetence, rigidity, intellectual indolence and narcissism” for which the current dispensation is noted have all conspired to cripple the erstwhile juggernaut. Oh, there goes the infantile dinosaur jinxed by perennial womb-wish! Given the incendiary cocktail of socio-economic pathologies such as terrorism, banditry, insurgency, kidnappings and armed robberies being witnessed daily in Nigeria today, and the storied helplessness of the government to tackle these hydra-headed problems, many members of the political elite, including those who had left office in obloquy and ignominy, have been positioning themselves to vie for the highest offices in the land, namely, the president and the vice president. Social media, as should be expected, is awash with risible memes, comic skits and farcical video-clips, all taking aim at our presidential nearly-men and no-hopers. Nigerians know too well that some of these characters have criminal records; some still have a date with the EFCC/ICPC. Whilst some have bobbed up bellywise from the NASS, our veritable bunker of questionable characters, including barefaced thieves and drug lords, others have simply resurrected from the grave – the burgeoning necropolis of yester-men of power! To be sure, a few of these reincarnated “saints” had been pelted with rotten tomatoes and rancid fruit at stadia during their previous incarnations. For some others, the only thing that recommends them is their gift of gab, that uncanny knack for verbal diarrhoea. When in their presence, you are reminded of Mr Slime, that slimy character in George Lamming’s novel entitled In The Castle of My Skin. Even so, one or two more prominent contenders who have taken on the makings of deity tend to strut around the place with an air of entitlement. They tout their godfatherism as some badge of honour, having, through the years, “sired” many sons and daughters who operate, at best, as tributaries of the (un)holy sea. In the days, weeks and months ahead, many more political jobbers and journeymen will emerge to lay claim to the diadem. It’s going to be a long night’s journey into day as the season of political awada kerikeri (slapstick comedy) dawns in our Equatorial neck of woods. So, kick back, relax, grab your popcorn and soda and get ready to be entertained. But in the last analysis, the electorate will only have their say … or, perhaps, their way, as well!
Chris Anyokwu writes from University of Lagos