If you go by the events that happened on December 9, and 14, 2023, it is obvious that the Nigerian ruling class is wasteful, stiff-necked and insensitive to the plight of the people they govern.
In those two days, Godswill Akpabio, the Senate president, celebrated his 61st birthday with an unimaginable flamboyance, at the state’s stadium in Uyo, the capital of Akwa Ibom State, a project he executed with state funds and named after himself.
As expected, from the glamorous airport landing, very long convoy to heavy security, the people felt the presence of a “demi god.”
From Uyo, the superfluous birthday bash continued at Transcorp Hilton Abuja, with a colloquium in his honour.
It is not about or just the Senate president, every other political office holder in Nigeria today, even a local government chairman, will not hesitate in spending the scarce Naira, and dollar in most cases, to ensure a talk-of-the-town thanksgiving ceremony, birthday bash. Many of them were in their constituencies in the last festive season to flaunt their wealth and influence on the poor, who have been their foot mat for a long time.
Hold large parties on public funds
For many, it is a sad reality how Nigerian politicians are prioritising high life above governance, holding large parties on public funds, yet closing their eyes against mass suffering in the land.
It is shocking to many Nigerians that politicians, in a bid to show “they have arrived,” waste a lot of money inviting and hosting Very Important Personalities (VIPs) from different parts of the country who never contributed any vote to their electoral victory, whereas the real voters in their constituencies are neglected.
“I feel very sad about what I see politicians do in Nigeria. You will see a lawmaker for instance who has not attracted any project to his constituency throwing big parties where the who-is-who in society are invited. Some of these guests are lodged is costly hotels, their air fares paid and they are given some money at the end of the day. I think something is wrong with the Nigerian politician,” Lucy Acho, who runs a gender-based non-governmental organisation (NGO), said.
Also expressing his dissatisfaction over the style of governance by Nigerian politicians, Sam Onikoyi, a Nigerian academic in Brussels, noted that there was no element of compassion from the ruling class for the suffering masses.
“Over here, political office holders are people’s servants and they live moderately. But if things go the other way, as they are in Nigeria now, the politicians here will rather spend the little they have on people’s welfare because they believe that politics is all about good governance and not for mass looting and insensitivity to the people’s plight. The Nigerian case study cannot happen anywhere in Europe, people will shut down the country,” he said.
Speaking further, he noted that the Nigerian people have also allowed the politicians to have their way as well as being vulnerable to their baits during election.
“If you sell your vote for N5000 on election day, you should not complain over poor governance and suffering in the land. Every election year, Nigerians have the opportunity of choosing the right leader or someone better than the other candidates, but ethnicity, religion and poverty have never allowed them to stand firm.
“What do you expect when you sell your votes and vote wrongly due to sentiments if not what these guys are doing, enjoying your commonwealth alone,” he said further.
Suzy Ajere-Akpoti, a girl-child and anti-human trafficking activist, decried that the political class knows the weakness of Nigerians and will soothe them when the time comes.
“I see it as wickedness in the highest order for using the masses’ vulnerability against them. The politicians intentionally do not want to govern well so that many will remain poor, vulnerable and easy to manipulate for their selfish interest.
“Nigerians all want to run away to Europe and America because the politicians there are governing well and the people are enjoying themselves. The only way out is for the masses to fight back with their votes and protests if religion and ethnicity will allow them,” the Abuja-based activist said.
She also queried why people change when they become politicians. “I have some good associates and we were all in this masses’ welfare campaign, but they changed the moment the appointment came their way. I think there is a demon that possesses Nigerian political office holders from looking down from their exalted offices with compassion.”
For Chijioke Umelahi, a former Abia lawmaker, it is not demon but the system that breeds corruption and impunity over the years, and now has become a culture in Nigeria.
“If you know what it takes to secure a party’s ticket even for the least political office in the country, then dislodge opponents, win, or most times, rig election, you realise why these elected guys do not have compassion on the masses,” he said.
He insisted that only strong institutions can save Nigerian masses from the onslaughts of the political class.
“If we run our country like governments in sane worlds do, 80 percent of our politicians will be in jail. If you jail looters, recover their loot and ban them and their family members from holding political office in the country, the Senate will be empty, many will not want to be governors and there will be less stress in electing the president because the law is supreme and must be obeyed.
Nigerian leaders above the law
“In 2022, Cristina Fernández de Kirchner, Argentina’s vice president, was found guilty of fraud in a case dating back to when she was president from 2007 to 2015. She was sentenced to six years in prison and received a lifetime ban from holding political office.
“Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva, Brazilian president; Ivo Sanader, former Croatian prime minister; Jacques Chirac, former French president, and Nicolas Sarkozy, also former French president, were all charged and convicted of corruption and they all served their jail terms. Can these happen in Nigeria with the level of looting? This is the only way to force politicians to govern right and lift the masses from the shackles of poverty.
“So, let the anti-graft work like its peers in the developed world, no government, ethnic or religious interference,” the former lawmaker and lawyer said.
According to most concerned Nigerians, the masses are the worst hit and at the mercies of the politicians, who are more than ready to repel protests with the state security apparatus, go after public opinion molders and traditional rulers or even clergy, who they suspect are allegedly inciting the public against their maladministration.
“For now, the politicians will continue to live large on the lean resources of the country, while the masses cry until another election year, when they come back with their baits,” Onikoyi said, while urging the masses to wake up to that sad reality.