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Nigeria: Politics under ‘extreme rules’

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The trending pattern of some developments in contemporary Nigerian politics may be mimicking the bizarre faces of the more violent features of professional wrestling promotions, which are executed under the moniker of ‘extreme rules’. Under these extreme rules, the contestant actually obeys no rules but deploys as much violence as can be imagined and executed on the opponent, as well as with every imaginable weapon at his or her disposal. Typical weapons for the purpose include metal foldable chairs, ladders, tables, hammers, barbed wire rolls and tack nails. With no restraint on the forms of attack by a gladiator on the foe, the likelihood of severe damage on a victim cannot be ruled out. In the same manner recent political upheavals in states like Bayelsa, Edo and Kogi are featuring tendencies that belong more to feuds with the do-and-or-die resolve, as in the extreme rules contests of professional wrestling. Even with their respective scenarios manifesting varying colours and forms, the state of tension over the management of political power in these states, simply belie whatever progress the country may claim to have made in terms of fostering the rule of law and good governance. Hence, just as the strength of the weakest link in a chain defines its ultimate strength, the situation in these states simply mirrors the real issues that bedevil Nigerian politics – a freedom of impunity and guile, driven by a visceral aversion for the lawful conduct of public affairs. Laws matter only when unavoidable.

In Edo State, for instance, there is an ongoing contest of wills between the National Chairman of the ruling All Progressives Congress (APC) Adams Oshiomole, on one hand, and the current governor of the state Godwin Obaseki on the other. While they were the best of friends during the days of Oshiomole as the immediate past governor of Edo state with Obaseki serving in his administration, they are presently at each other’s throat with daggers drawn, courtesy of Oshiomole’s inclination to call the shots in Obaseki’s administration. Oshiomole’s attempt to overshadow Obaseki in Edo State politics and determine the latter’s political future led matters to reach a state where both of them adopted extreme rules to fight to finish. In the course of their battle, even their followers have inherited their grievances and mutual acrimony thereby literally tearing the party in the state into enemy camps.

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At the last count, both Oshiomole and Obaseki have their standings in the APC rolling on shaky grounds. The APC has reportedly suspended Obaseki on the suspicion that he was planning to defect to the rival PDP, following the diminishing chances of winning a second term in an Oshiomole controlled APC. Meanwhile, Oshiomole himself is facing pressures from the APC caucus over his distraction from the  business of managing the general fortunes of the party; apparently due to his fixation on cutting Obaseki to size in one vein, and in another his innate shortcomings with respect to differentiating the difference between running a political party as the APC and the labour unions from which he emerged into partisan politics. His dithering as the National Chairman of the APC to summon meetings of organs of the party which are higher than his office is seen as his inclination to remain in-charge without any challenge to his authority until he finishes his personal agenda, which invariably includes the political deconstruction of Obaseki.

As for Bayelsa and Kogi states, the build up to the gubernatorial polls scheduled for yesterday featured several scenes where lawlessness bared its fangs. In Kogi where the governor Yahaya Bello is running for a second term in office-  even with a dismal record of service for the first term, he never hid his inclination, willingness and capacity to rub his opponents’ noses in the ground. Interestingly the secretariat of the Social Democratic Party (SDP) went up flames and the party’s gubernatorial candidate Natasha Akpoti heaps the blame for it on the governor, Yahaya Bello, who has his antecedents in office for such blame. just as well, in Bayelsa State, the run-up to the polls witnessed a spate of blood baths as gunmen plied their trade with liberty, gunning down at different locations and occasions, policemen and scores of civilians in the process.

The playout of politics under extreme rules in these states constitutes a throwback to an earlier period in the country’s history – specifically under the 1993 – ’98 draconian regime of late General Sani Abacha. That was when Nigeria contributed to the world, a new concept of governance under the moniker of ‘trial democracy’. Like anything with ‘trial’ as a prefix, it was a system of government that tried to allow democratic processes when circumstances suited the powers that were, and jettison same when the situation dictated otherwise. Its main feature was the routine playout of crass arbitrariness in the use of political power, as only the will of the ultimate ruler prevailed. The operational maxim in governance was ‘as the maximum leader pleases’, and not as the rule of law provided. And since Abacha was not the talkative type, he was often credited with personality cult traits bordering on lawlessness, which were often the mere mental constructs of his cronies that were spun and launched into the public domain to serve their selfish interests, at the expense of his image. Today, with him out of the office for the past 21 years, the story of Abacha’s era hardly attracts much credit from a wide cross-section of Nigerians in the public domain. And since dead men do not tell stories, it remains a wonder when any voice will be disposed to convincingly correct whatever wrong impressions people hold about Abacha in government, which are trending in the public domain?

Unfortunately too, the run of politics under extreme rules may have swamped the leadership of the Ninth National Assembly, given the turn of legislative processes there in recent times. Hence, since from when the Speaker of the House of Representatives Femi Gbajamibiala set the stage for extreme rules by manipulating the House leadership of the PDP through single handedly picking Ndudi Elumelu instead of Kingsley Chinda – the party’s choice, discerning observers were only waiting for the playout of more sins of the institution.

The recent drama over the recommendation of capital punishment for hate-speech through a Senate bill, while a mere slap on the wrist is reserved for treasury looters, is only a further play-out of the syndrome that extreme rules, now govern politics in Nigeria.

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