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Nigeria: Why citizens must rise above leadership, now!

Against the flood of avoidable twists and turns marking the course of the build-up to the 2019 general polls are a complement of unusual outcomes which question the disposition of much of the country’s political leadership with respect to the mindset of Nigerians. The question is whether a wide cross-section of Nigeria’s leaders, are actually reading correctly, the aspirations of the citizenry? Questions over a likely mismatch between the mindset of the leadership and the aspirations of the citizenry lead to a deepening of the already palpable concern, over the general conduct of politics in the country, and in particular the preparations for the forth 2019 polls.

Disturbing as the mismatch may be, the situation largely constitutes only a repeat of the usual high drama that precedes any poll exercise in the country right from pre independence years. In its essential form, electoral exercises in this country typically feature political horse trading which is driven byunveiled carrot and stick tactics, with some sharp practices in tow. Taking some of the recent playouts of the mismatch in no particular order, are a few that send interesting signals.

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For instance, during the past week the Nigerian Army demolished in Rivers State a camp in which the state government was ostensibly training those it called operatives of its ‘Rivers State Neighbourhood Safety Corps’.  According to a press statement from the Rivers State Commissioner of Information Mr Emah Okah, the State had requested the Nigerian Army earlier to provide technical support for the training of the designated operatives. But the Army was yet to respond as at the time of its raid on the camp. Not surprisingly, the Army would easily latch on to the alibi of militancy in the Niger Delta, for its clamp down on the camp.

Meanwhile just before the action of the Army, the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) controlled Rivers State Government had raised an alarm that the Federal Government intended to destabilizethe state ahead of the 2019 polls. The question on many lips is thateven if theFederal government – as Wike insinuates – intends to use the military to subvert the will of Rivers State voters during the polls, would such not only succeed if the people themselves have an axe to grind with the sitting PDP government and allow the misadventure to hold?

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Meanwhile as if in a playout of different strokes for different folks, the state chapter of the APC is swooning under a lingering shadow of not fielding a candidate for governorship elections in 2019, following the unresolved issue ofa Supreme Court ruling which nullified the results of the May 2018 local government congress polls from which delegates for subsequent electoral activities were sourced. Interestingly, these developments and others in the state provided the basis for former Head of State General Abdulsalam Abubakar, towarn that Rivers State may constitute a potential flashpoint of crisis during the forthcoming polls. Is anybody listening to him?

In neighbouring Akwa Ibom State rages a storm featuring a power tussle whose origin was more than a coincidence with the defection of Senator Godswill Akpabio from the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), to the ruling APC and his new zeal to boost the fortunes of his new base in the state. Ordinarily a vigorous campaigner for any cause he believes in, Akpabio’s recent enterprise in the State has had telling effect on the balance of power there.

At the level of the Federal government, a new season of selective distribution of the carrot has just been launched with the administration doling out favours which many associate with its ‘hidden agenda’ of winning ‘emergency’ support from critical sections of the Nigerian society. First was the distribution of small packages of soft loans to low cadre small scale traders and business persons, under the ‘Trader Moni’ scheme, in respect of which the beneficiaries would provide their Permanent Voters Card (PVC) numbers as part of their respective particulars. That element alone has cast doubts over whether the fund so disbursed was for assisting the beneficiaries or conscripting them to vote for the ruling party.

Next is the gesture of reducing the fees payable for various examinations by students in the country. Affected examinations are the West African School Certificate (WASC), Joint Admissions and Matriculations Board (JAMB), National Examination Council (NECO) and Basic Education Examinations (BEE). And to serve as the icing on the cake is the recent increase in salaries of the country’s ordinarily over worked police officers. By how much this gesture of salary hike for the police – which took so long in coming – has vindicated the administration is a matter of conjecture. However, its timing to coincide with the raging clamour by the country’s labour movement, over a new minimum wage for workers including the police, remains an issue.

Put succinctly, whatever signal the government is sending to the people with these developments and others not mentioned here, may be kept by top guns in the government, close to their chests. However, whether the gestures convey the desired messages to the people is another matter altogether. For in much of these developments, the respective operatives of the various governments are often acting smart by half,  as they seem to still be seeing the Nigerian society as one gullible mass of credulous individual actors. Yet nothing can be as far from the truth as such an assumption.

Nigerians in general seem to be much more informed and progressive than most of the individuals who now occupy positions of authority within the leadership community, some even at the displeasure of their constituents. However, while this tendency to underrate the citizenry by some leaders may be convenient for now, its days are numbered. All through the history of social upheavals, societies revolt against the leadership whenever the awareness of even a few of the more active and endowed elements of the citizenry gain the capacity to effect change. And change always takes place.

The country’s history with military coups provide enough lesson that intolerable muck in the ranks of the leadership, has an expiry date.

For Nigeria such a date is not far away.


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