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*We have never had it so bad

Published by The Nation on Sun, 19 May 2019


Rummaging through the Palladium archive, this piece pops up as a ready offer to help the reader reminisce on the sameness and tedium of Nigerian politics. Very little has changed since 2007 when it was first published in January of that year. No wonder the French say plus ca change, plus cest la meme chose (The more things change, the more they stay the same). This piece, with all its connotative parallels, should at least elicit a wry smile from even the most implacable of critics. Savour it.WHILE I was on vacation, momentous events occurred. Because I stayed discreetly away from news about Nigeria, I had some respite from depressing stories and was tempted to even begin thinking less harshly of President Olusegun Obasanjo and his third-rate cabinet. My discreet isolation was, however, not total. Now and then, some really stubborn news flittered through the thick layers of my self-imposed isolation. Those news were hotly pursued by the comical and amateurish manipulations in the House of Assembly in Oyo and Anambra States, and the equally elliptical interpretation of our cherished constitution by Bayo Ojo, Minister of Justice. (See Court of Appeal below).My colleagues and others unknown to me have done a great job of assaulting the palladium of lawlessness in the political parties and in government. But at the risk of repeating myself and therefore sounding like a boor, I cannot help but refer the reader to the grand opportunities being wasted by the principal actors in the Obasanjo presidency. You know I have had a bad opinion of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP). The party claims to be a truly national party, one that gives power to the people. Both claims are, or course, dubious. The PDP perhaps sees its spread all over the country, especially among teeming jobholders and sundry rabble rousers, as proof of its national identity. But there is always a huge difference between fact and fiction and between geography and reality. PDPs geographical spread is incontrovertible; but that is all it can claim. It has not spread in the hearts and minds of Nigerians. Instead, it has become an insular assemblage of a few men Obasanjo, Tony Anenih (now less so), Olabode George, Dr. Ahmadu Ali and their motley spokesmen bonded together by their common contempt for the constitution and the rule of law.As to the partys claim to be an expression of power to the people, the PDP here combines mendacity with arrogance. Its life and passion have been devoted, since 1999, to nothing else but taking power away from the people. Even if we avoid the sophistry of discussing indirect power economic, educational and otherwise it is still obvious that the PDP has taken every ounce of direct power away from the people. It did it in 2003 when some states recorded 99 per cent voter turnout, when twice many people voted for the president than the governor in the same state and same election time, and when it treasured and cultivated lawmakers who disregarded the constitution during impeachment proceedings. (See Federal-inspired lawlessness in Ibadan).Apart from the lengthy and consistent weakening of the National Assembly, the PDP-controlled federal government has woven a tapestry of usurper governments around many states where minority lawmakers were cajoled by security agencies to unseat their majority colleagues, and thereafter their governors. Court judgments were either disregarded or the court were generally circumvented. Instinctively, the PDP marked every constitutional provision that discomfited it and every politician that disgraced its argument, for destruction or decapitation. The history of the party and the federal government it controls is one of enduring and remorseless lawlessness. A natural concomitance of this lawlessness is the upsurge in crime in the country and more brazenness by the presidency.A corollary of the convention that took place during my vacation was the demystification of many politicians. Retired army brigadier, Buba Marwa, was a perfect example of this category. His tenure in Lagos was judged by many a success, especially following hard on the heels of the do-nothing Olagunsoye Oyinlola. But Marwas flip-flop, fluid principles and eager subordination of his values to the whims of the presidency in the fight against the Vice president, Atiku Abubakar, showed him to be as dangerously hollow and capricious as the president himself. Despite Marwas acrobatics, he was fully trounced at the PDP convention, thus signalling perhaps the end of his politics. He was arguably a better administrator than many, including the president, but he was also lacking in character as nearly all Nigerian politicians are. Like former head of state, Ibrahim Babangida, he came into national life a disputed hero, and he is leaving it much the same way he came in: disputed, evasive, demystified and ordinary.I may have missed the convention, but how could I miss the selection of the Governor of Katsina State, Umar Musa YarAdu, as the standard-bearer of the PDP in the coming presidential election' How could I miss the uncanny resemblance of his selection to the process that led to the emergence of Chief Obasanjo himself in 1998, when Babangida played God and affected to know more than everyone else what kind of man we needed' Our sufferings, the shallowness of our democracy, the pervasive lawlessness, and the alienation, frustration and despair in the land are all testimonies to the folly of one man and one imposition. And we seem doomed to relive 1998, and to a little extent, 1978, all over again with the foisting of Malam YarAdua on the PDP and the wild and sweeping talk about April 2007 as if it were a certainty he and the PDP would win.The perilous time we live in is compounded by the trashiness of the Obasanjo cabinet, now downsized, with barely four months to go before a new government is inaugurated. It is a salient mark of the poverty of this federal government that its brightest minds include Femi Fani-Kayode, whose strength is embedded in his ineffectual world; Uba Sani, the archetypal jobholder and migrant mind; Nasir el-Rufai, all bluster and no tactics; Nuhu Ribadu, whose sweeping generalization and epigrammatic style has won him more distrust than respect, and that common denominator of planlesness, Babalola Borishade, whom no one seems sure is either a Ph.D. holder or professor.But a poorly assembled cabinet can be redeemed by a scrupulous adherence to constitutionality and due process. Instead, everywhere we turn, all sorts of adulterine laws and edicts are imposed on the people, and the government all but gets away with murder. This is our condition as we prepare for general election in April, elections whose outcomes seemed already predetermined. It is instructive that despite all this, and all the constitutional infractions, the president has not been impeached. Our pusillanimous National Assembly and Nigerias excessively religious population preach and pray for inaction. Perhaps it is time we modified our prayers to include not only peace in Nigeria but justice for all our people. It is this quest for justice that has seized the National Judicial Council (NJC) and explains the well-meaning changes taking place in the body. Justice, as we all know, can occasion intense pains for perpetrators of injustice. We need to look in this direction if the elections are to be free and fair, and if the right leaders are to replace the present caucus of hollow and ritualistic leaders.
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