Ik Muo, P.hD; Department of Business Administration, OOU, Ago-Iwoye
Q: democratic elections and transitions in Nigeria is war; full-blown war involving the army, and their new and refurbished APCs, the air force, with all sorts of fighter jets, police and their sniffer dogs, and thugs, including those in military uniforms
There is one aspect of our national legislative theatricals that I enjoy very much and that is whenever a member raises a motion on ‘issues of urgent national importance’. Even if the matter relates to improper salutation by the NASS orderly, he is given the floor to exercise his legislative privileges. I had started this series before an issue of urgent national importance forced me to look in the direction of Abike Dabiri. Now that the matter has been settled, in good faith and in the spirit of patriotism, I go back to the issue at stake, how Nigeria democracy has matured in the past 20 years. Note that I called it Nigerian democracy, which means that there is democracy and there is Nigerian Democracy!
I first learnt about the maturation of markets in my foray into strategic marketing, through the concept of product life-cycle. As a product is introduced, grows, matures and if adequate strategic gymnastics were not initiated, it declines. The maturity stage poses serious challenges and a lot of efforts are made to extend this stage. The decline stage marks the end of that product unless something drastic is done. I am drawing from this to warn that unless something drastic is done, our maturing democracy will experience decline and that will be that!
There are also indicators of maturation in democracy. These include the self-evident truths of the American revolutionaries: the equality of men and their inalienable right to life, liberty and pursuit of happiness; the establishment of governments to guarantee these rights and the peoples’ right to abolish or alter the government if it fails in its core responsibilities. The war-cry of the French revolutionaries was liberty, fraternity and egalitarianism. Other indicators include multiparty participatory democracy, rule of law and equality before the law, separation of powers, universal adult suffrage, respect for what people can do and cannot do within the polity and the power of voters to determine the fate and future of governments and politicians. But a study of Nigerian politics and democracy as we celebrate 20 years of democracy (1999-2019) has shown that Nigeria has beaten other nations to it by designing its own indicators of democratic maturity. These features of Nigerian democracy, are herein discussed in no particular order of importance
In the first instance, we have democracy without democrats. Parties will not abide by their own self-imposed constitutions; party owners will impose their will on the party with audacious impunity; politicians do everything to torpedo the voting process and ensure that the votes are not counted and that they do not count. That is also why we have the strange scenario in which politicians publicly belong to two parties, leading to bi-partisan democracy as we had in Ogun and Imo where the governors belonged to two parties, Rivers where APC campaigned for AAC and Zamfara where APC bigwigs campaigned for other parties. This is so because in Nigeria, parties are seen as Special Purpose Vehicles structured to win elections. Politicians have no attachment, commitment, passion or engagement with and for their parties and there is nothing like ideology. That is why we have continuous decamping and counter-decamping; some people have even decamped after the elections while some have been members of all known political parties in Nigeria. So, the first indicator of the maturity of Nigerian democracy is the embarrassing scarcity or outright absence of democrats or democrats who are ignorant or have no regard for democratic ethos. That is why the god-fathers hold sway; that is why you have party owners, joiners and passersby; that is why politicians own certain areas to the extent that others are not even allowed to campaign in those areas. If you want to know more about this, ask Reuben Abati! So how can you practice democracy without democrats? That is Nigeria for you!
Then, democratic elections and transitions in Nigeria is war; full-blown war involving the army, and their new and refurbished APCs, the air force, with all sorts of fighter jets, police and their sniffer dogs, and thugs, including those in military uniforms and those who do not give a damn about the presence of policemen like Demola 1 of Okota. There is an unprecedented deployment of military personnel, hardware and software; a lot of people were killed, including INEC staff, people were beaten up for voting according to their conscience and violence was the norm. Because many people do not have access to the military and para-military forces, thuggery has been refined and packaged as a product, freely marketed, openly sold and bought like any other product. So politicians acquire thuggery services as a part of campaign and election logistics. Senator Sanni defined thugs as institutionalised agents of governance, endorsed and positioned to preserve power and commit atrocious violence. Thus where soldiers, real or fake are not available, thugs takeover. And because the police has been deliberately devalued over the years and they have worsened the matter by belittling themselves, thugs operate with maximum freedom. And the electoral-war is not accidental; it is pre-planned and that was why Amaechi declared during the presidential campaign in PH that he and the APC were ready for WAR!
It is also a matter of cash; I mean, real, raw cash! And you see cash walking on all fours at party conventions, ( delegates allegedly received up to $5000 apiece at a party convention)at voting centers, at collation centers and even within hallowed security circuits. INEC directly received N240bn for the elections. Government functionaries surely spent more than that from government coffers in their desperate efforts to serve we, the people while the politicians jointly and severally would have spent much more than N500bn. The governorship candidate of the lesser known Labour Party in a non-lucrative state like Plateau demanded a refund of N1bn from INEC after the inglorious election postponement. You can now imagine the quantum of cash that other governorship and presidential candidates would have deployed. We all recall how the police arrested several crates of fresh cash here and there and how Tinubu received ‘special guests’ who drove in with bullion vans on the election eve. There was nothing wrong with it because it was his money, the anti-money-laundering act and the extant cashless policy notwithstanding! And yet EFCC arrested somebody with just some bags of cash in Benue! There were also rumours of a plane loaded with pure cash , flying from Abuja to Ilorin while EFCC arrested Imo and Kwara Government officials for withdrawing N2bn during the electoral season. The cash squandered on the elections is used to oil the various election-related markets in Nigeria: the endorsement market, the transfer( decamping) market and the vote-buying market. But as Kole Omotosho had argued, there is a limit to what money can do as there are certain things that only available to the incumbent, like the control of INEC and the security architecture!( next week)
Other Matters: like fuel-subsidy like garbage!
Nigeria is a very WONDER-FULL country. A government, which says that subsidy is not in its economic management model suddenly started saying that subsidy would be removed gradually( last week) and then that there are no plans for subsidy removal( this week). And we have all joined the fruitless debate on the Nigerian abiku called subsidy! The garbage in my village has mocked the people saying :your efforts to you push me out is in vain because as it is written in one ramshackle vehicle that plies our ill maintained roads, I shall return! Subsidy has become that garbage; we push it out and it returns with greater force. Fuel subsidy is a witch that has been haunting and hounding us and all efforts to cast and bind it have failed. When the price of oil fails, Nigerian government MUST increase fuel prices to augment federal resources. When oil price rise, the government MUST raise fuel prices because we have to import the fuel from the international market at international prices. So, whether the price of oil goes op or comes down, the same fate awaits the Nigerian. Like my son, Uche the MC would say, it is either yes or yes! We have little option in the matter. So, what is the debate about? The lies by the government, which in any case will do what it wants to do? The fact that the subsidy matter is the greatest fraud invented in Nigeria, perhaps next to pension? Or the fact that whatever happens, the price of fuel MUST go up? But the question of the century is: How does a government that does not subsidise fuel start a discourse on whether and how to reduce… a nonexistent subsidy?
Ik Muo, P.hD; Department of Business Administration, OOU, Ago-Iwoye