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Dancing and dicing

By Kole Omotoso
16 July 2017   |   3:22 am
In Lagos State it was the undemocratic selecting of local government chairmen candidates that pitched the party leaders against the voters. The leaders had their candidates, favoured and anointed.

In Lagos State it was the undemocratic selecting of local government chairmen candidates that pitched the party leaders against the voters. The leaders had their candidates, favoured and anointed. The members of the party and the voters wanted a democratic process. In Ondo State there were two examples. One, the outgoing governor anointed a successors, a great candidate any day but who did not emerge through a democratic process, taking his chance against other potential candidates.

Two, Asiwaju, leader of the APC, anointed a candidate not allowed to emerge through a democratic process. The other candidate left the party and stood on the platform of another party. The last example comes from Osun State where the governor favoured a candidate against another through a clear historical rationality.

The losing candidate decamps from the APC, and joins the PDP. In all these examples, the anointed candidate lost at the polls. These series of victories and losses raise questions. Should the parties have gone through the democratic process of electing candidates? Are the voters teaching their leaders democratic necessities? Or are the voters cleverer than the party leaders? Should political analysts take voters more seriously than they had been previously?

Previously, it was simply concluded that the voters were bought and so, they voted for the candidate that paid them bountifully. But is that all? Shouldn’t there be further research into these selections/elections and victories?

This column is not about the capability or otherwise of the winners. From a preliminary response it would seem that the winners have not been as prepared for governance as the losing candidates. But be that as it may. In a country looking for evidence of institution building, any indication of institution emerging should be nurtured and encouraged to grow. In which case, the post election celebration should be about asking questions. Why did the winning candidate win? Why did the losing candidate lose? Why could the anointed candidate not hold his constituency or his ward? And the voters need to be questioned why they voted the winner? Was it out of sympathy with the candidate who was opposing the big party boss? Or did the voters genuinely believe that the winning candidate was better than the anointed candidate?

There is a weariness all over the country in terms of the performance of elected officers of the country. Begin from the top. The president is not here. He is sick but the public does not know how sick and no matter how much information is sought, it is not provided. So, there is no head of state. The acting president sneaks out of the country to attend a meeting in Addis Ababa without anyone acting for him. This was a dangerous risk. There was a power vacuum. Naturally, someone thought to profit by this ill-advised trip. No president. No acting president. Next in succession is president of senate. Well, the acting president sneaked back before any change of actors could be effected.

Reports of this episode has presented those who thought there was a vacuum as tricksters trying all and any means to ensure that the acting president is sent out of the running for president come 2019. Be that as it may, what arrangements did the acting president make for his absence from the country? Was the acting president out of the country? Who acted for him in the hours he was away from the country?

What about the next level of governance, the state level? At least two of them have been beating drums of their presidency, even before completing their terms as state governors! One says the title ‘president’ fits him better than governor! The other says Nigerians are waiting for his presidency! Are these serious minded public servants and genuine political leaders? Would you take your visitors to these people if some alien asked to be taken to your leaders?

And what about the various state houses of assembly? To call them rubber stamp is to insult the rubber that stamps are made of! In one house of assembly the governor of the state takes over the speaker’s duties, passes his budget and rams the gavel on whatever furniture was at hand! Is this politics or play-play?

Over to the two national houses – the House of Representatives and the senate. Former president Olusegun Obasanjo described the members of both houses as rogues and criminals nails. They abused him in return but one member thought to challenge him in court for libel. Some time ago, this column jokingly suggested that they should legalise corruption rather than criminalise it! The column was taking its cue from what has happened to things like gay marriages, the consumption of marijuana, dangerous habits which seem to get the go ahead in this present sodom and Gomorrah world. It was not seriously thought to be something any serious people’s representative would take up. But lo and behold a certain Linus Okorie of the People’s Democratic Party from Ebonyi is pushing a bill, “called Economic Amnesty Bill, (which) seeks to allow those who loot public treasury to return about 70% of the stolen funds in exchange for total amnesty from prosecution.”

The same members have been changing budgets and substituting their constituency projects in place of public projects like roads. And we all know that these constituency projects are pock barrel projects, occasions for their own personal opportunity to cheat the treasury.

And the Senate? Full of power grabbers, crooks tried, being tried and untried, awaiting trial, alleged criminals and cases on appeal! What a colourful Senate. Seriously though, are these the stuff that institutions are made of? The obvious answer here is an emphatic no! Institutions, which institutions?

In the 1950s when welcoming a new graduate to the community that had sponsored him to university, the chairman of the occasion was usually able to advise the new graduate. So, would the chairman say, you have a B.A. degree, not so? Do you know the meaning of B.A.? You have not come to the end of learning. If anything, you must begin again. That’s the meaning of B. A. Begin again. That’s the meaning of restructuring in Nigeria. We must begin again.

Kole Omotoso,

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