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Nigeria: Issue with issues-based politics

An African allegory has it that two animals, the cock and the goat – went for settlement over a dispute and the cock won, only because its tail was feathery while the goat’s was hairy. Beyond whatever was the bone of contention, the verdict was reduced to a simple choice between the beautiful plumage of the cock’s tail, and the goat’s scruffy tail piece. Yet there is more to the complement of differences between the cock and the goat – alive or otherwise.  This is just as beyond the allegorical context of the foregoing scenario, lies its more profound angle of mirroring the traditional disposition of the wider cross section of voters in Nigeria. Their perennial conditioning to see only what a potentate offers them and reluctance to adopt a more critical and discerning appraisal of candidates for electoral office before voting such into power and office, has been capitalized upon by generations of politicians to ride rough shod over the citizenry.

For a long time, the advocacy for issues-based politics across the length and breadth of the country has been raging, even as progress in that direction has been in the reverse direction. This is also as the only prospects for change in the country lie with the focus of politics on the real issues of the day. Rising poverty across the land, diminished personal liberties of the citizenry, heightened insecurity, compromised processes of governance – just to name a few are just some of the real issues that should drive governance. Just as well, these are the conditions which if allowed to progress in their degenerating situations, would prove unsustainable for the country in the near future.

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Yet signals from the recent series of primary elections indicate that unless developments take a different turn, the expectation that the 2019 polls will usher in significant changes, remains a mere pie in the sky. Even as the din from the present build up to full blown political campaigns is on course, the chances that a new dimension of change for the country is in the offing, may also be a pipe dream.

The reason for this concern is not far-fetched. With the increasing tempo of political activities in the country preparatory to the 2019 general polls, permutations on the outcomes of electoral choices have become the order of the day. But just as the persuasions driving any choice determines its outcome, so the present tide of pressures on the various segments of the society are defining the outcomes of next year’s polls. And from all indications, the picture ahead is not so rosy as the main thrust of persuasions in the political conversation runs largely bereft of attention to the core challenges trending within even the constituencies of respective political actors.

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As is not surprising therefore, this is a cautionary note which for the country may likely go unheeded, all because the establishment and the wider society have elected to be constrained to suffer the calamity of depending on the limited vision of godfathers, special advisers and sundry aides, all of who see things from the narrow perspective of their selfish interests, and offer limited choices with respect to the issues that should be driving the political conversation across the country.

Seen in context, if the syndrome of mis-directed information and misplacement of priorities is confined to the ordinary citizen it remains a matter within resolution. However, when the matter under consideration permeates the precincts of the Presidency as was revealed in the recent statement credited to President Muhammadu Buhari with respect to the recent Kaduna State mayhem it comes with telling implications for how deeply the country is at risk of jaundiced strategic briefing to him, by officials who do not deserve the burden of public trust.  The President was reported to have claimed ignorance of the extent of the harsher dimensions of the crisis including the casualty figures. Several Nigerians have chided him for such a slip on the grounds that as the President, Buhari needs to be on top of any such breach of security in the country given his regular meetings with security chiefs.

Yet not many recall that for a long time the trending issues that move the hand of government were easily such that bordered on movement of the people in and out of strategic positions in government.  For if government operatives at all levels paid corresponding attention to the policies and programmes of governance as much as is paid to the movement of people, the country would not suffer the humongous scope of stagnation it is saddled with today.

Often appointments to sensitive and juicy public offices are delivered to friends and relatives, even when such may not be qualified. Government contracts are often awarded without regard to competencies of the benefitting contractors. Jobs vacancies in public places, even when advertised are often already filled before the adverts appear in public. Hence if Buhari complains that he was not adequately briefed on the extent of carnage in the Kaduna mayhem, he could have a point. The scenario is only a matter of the powerful also lamenting over being misguided as the powerless. The question then is, was he briefed and by who? Who actually failed to put the President on top of the Kaduna situation? Is Buhari also a victim of misinformation, especially of such a practice of leading VIPs in the wrong direction in order to distract them from prying into areas of interest to their subordinates, out to foster vested parochial interests.

Many are forgetting that in Nigeria it is routine practice to lure VIPs to commission projects even when such are at foundation level. Already, there are reports that even the Terminal Building of the Port Harcourt International Airport that was commissioned by President Buhari last week, may be technically ‘not completed’, as it is yet to dispense with the skeletal services provided by its preceding batcher arrival tent.

More significantly if Buhari, in all the sensitivity surrounding his office can confess to suffering such a blackout on information about killings in Kaduna, it can be appreciated how much manipulation is suffered by the ordinary citizen on the street who is only availed enough information to facilitate compliance with the expectations of politicians interested in his or her support.

Incidentally, many politicians secured their opportunity to contest in the forthcoming 2019 polls through the active sponsorship by their political parties through any of several shortcuts as ‘unity list’ and automatic return tickets, even without a recourse to the real issues of the day. Hence it is interesting to locate which inspiration they will depend upon, in order to appreciate and promote the real issues of the time.

 


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