by Martins Oloja
Because we now enjoy a culture of low expectation in the most populous black nation on earth, we appear to be looking the other way while our leaders at all levels merely converge every week on the nation’s capital to meet with the president and his security chiefs on the general state of insecurity in the country. Although no details, a whopping $1 billion worth of special security vote is already being disbursed on insecurity in the northeast region.
The president and his men’s regular, embarrassing tweets and Freudian slips distract most of us from developments that should dominate public debates and shape decisions as we approach general elections. Too bad, this is Nigeria, where our leaders continue to misbehave in a democracy and the power elite and even most notable public intellectuals either keep quiet or join the bandwagon of sycophancy.
Yes, this is Nigeria, where critical infrastructure deficit is shameful as debt is rising but no one is commissioning any significant projects that can improve the environment, boost the economy let alone deepening democracy and good governance. They say we are not a war but we are not at peace as we daily bury hundreds of our people. We are managing more internally displaced people than the flashpoints and theatres of war in Syria, Libya, Afghanistan, Iraq, Somalia, Yemen, etc.
What is more, we have acquired another reproachful distinction as the world’s centre of extremely poor people. We just displaced India to a second place. That is where this public enemy called corruption has placed us in the comity of notorious nations.
That is why we need to call on the power elite and public intellectuals to step out fast to save the country that has failed Africa and indeed the black race. The iconic Nelson Mandela once said, “The world will not respect Africa until Nigeria earns that respect. The black people of the world need Nigeria to be great as a source of pride and confidence”.
One clairvoyant citizen identified as Fidel Albert says, these ‘manipulative spirits’ “have a mandate to beat consistently these improvised realities into our brains”. It is said that the new Paul Joseph Goebbels in town use what psychologists call ‘gas-lighting’, a form of mind control or psychological manipulation, which some journals say, “seeks to sow seeds of doubt in a targeted group, making them question their own memory, perception and sanity”.
The oracles say these manipulators in the system now use persistent denial, misdirection, contradiction, repetition, lying in attempts to destabilize the target and delegitimize the target’s belief” This is part of how the low-performing governments all over the place attempt to hypnotise the impoverished populace. Albert illustrates this in his seminal analysis this way when he says, we should be careful with these artful elements when we see their works these days.
He says, “so, even when you are reeling from the sharp pains of the pernicious and fresh injuries you have just been inflicted (with) by the invaders, even as you watch your gaping sores bleed, as you try to bury your dead, with a wry smile on their faces, but without a conscience, they stroke your hair and telepathically whisper soothing words of blackmail, straight from their laptops, into the ears of your brain… And in the stillness of that moment, they tell you: “Those are no wounds, my friend! Those are the therapeutic incisions of this administration to heal the wounds of the past administration! You should be grateful for it. And so thank Baba for it…You hate Baba if you begrudge him your gratitude…!”
A not-so-prominent but significant citizen Albert warns that the manipulators may even be sexy about the bruises and claim:
“This is no blood my friend, you would be foolish to believe this to be blood. You must hate Buhari to believe you are bleeding. You are not bleeding. This is a mere menstrual blood, which confirms that this administration is ovulating. We are fertile. It confirms we are seminal. We are about to birth development, hence the blood. It is not blood from injury…!”
This is part of what has nurtured a culture of complacency at this moment when the nation should be talking to itself through good newspapers. Arthur Miller, an American playwright and essayist, had in 1961 noted in a seminal essay that, “A good newspaper, I suppose, is a nation talking to itself”.
So, as I was saying, we are losing this democracy that is not delivering significant dividends beyond intellectual masturbation they ingeniously foist on us from Abuja and the 36 state capitals.
Yet, I think we should defend this democracy from the other manipulators, the soldiers of fortune who imposed on us what General Chris Ali calls, “The Federal Republic of the Nigerian Army” in 1966. We should not allow democracy to be demonized again by these desperately incompetent dealers who call themselves leaders through the political platforms called PDP and APC. The leaders of these two parties, past and present have been the common enemies who have underdeveloped the country.
They have undermined democracy, underdeveloped the political party system and ruined all the institutions of governance in the country. It is time for public intellectuals, the good men and women in the country to stop lamenting in the social media alone: they should get sufficiently angry and tell our representatives in the parliament and even in the cabinet that we cannot continue with democracy this way without good political parties.
I am fully persuaded we need some value re-orientation about the expediency of good political parties to drive development. And so we need to tell our wasteful leaders all over the nation that using APC and PDP, nPDP and rAPC as mere platforms to get to office and power can only continue to under-develop us.
For instance, we need to tell the two former Chairmen of PDP, now Minister and Senator in APC-led government, Chief Audu Ogbe and Senator Barnabas Gemade that they are not a credit to democracy. We need to tell former President of the Senate (on PDP platform), Senator Ken Nnamani who showed interest in national chairmanship of the ruling APC the other day that the way he and his colleagues abandoned their organic political party in a twinkling of an eye to join the governing party is a reproach to the majesty of party system and democracy.
The way the incumbent President of the Senate, Dr. Bukola Saraki and the Speaker, House of Representatives, Hon. Yakubu Dogara are being treated in the ruling APC too speaks volumes to the dysfunctional nature of the current party system. They are neither here nor there where they should be the pillars of government policies in parliament. 2018 budget was approved only last month and most of the presidential nominees for confirmation by the Senate have remained in the cooler for more than a year.
This has been so because there has been no love lost between the President and the National Assembly presiding officers. And the nation has been suffering because the ruling party has been embroiled in unnecessary internal squabbles since 2015. The former Speaker and Governor of Sokoto State, Aminu Tambuwal meted out the same treatment to the then ruling party, PDP he merely used to be in office. This is unconscionable in the extreme.
This is also a time to tell former President Olusegun Obasanjo who caused the constitution of the party platform, PDP he used as a vehicle to power for eight years (1999-2007) to be amended for him to assume chairmanship of its PDP Board of Trustees (post 2007) that what he did to the PDP after leaving office was not going to enhance democracy in the country. Former President Obasanjo openly caused his membership card to be torn while he demonised the same party in a surprise dance step. This is obnoxious even as we all laughed it off then.
Here is the thing; this is not a time to hail those who always abandon their parties during or after conventions to trigger implosion in their parties. We need commentators and influential bodies and public intellectuals to step out and tell our big men that there is a worsening crisis of character in the polity that is fast demonising and threatening democracy at the moment. The threat to democracy is not from another planet. Those threatening democracy are the political power elite in the dominant political parties who don’t care a hoot about the value of well-organised political parties to development.
There is a correlation between the quality of political parties and development of any nation. We should not dismiss this: unless there is a respected, well organised, influential, ideological political party that good people can freely join to advance political interests, development will continue to elude us in Nigeria. Even where we have independent candidacy, it is within a working political party system as enshrined in the constitution.
So, we need to demand responsibility and proper behaviour from our political leaders in Abuja who are currently enjoying perquisites of office in this democracy.
We need to tell them to reconstruct their parties’ manifestoes that should reflect how they want to move Nigeria from extreme poverty to wealth, from Third to First World.
Although they are very much involved in the operation of government at all levels, political parties are not the government itself. The basic purpose of political parties is to nominate candidates for public office and to get as many of them elected as possible. Once elected, these officials try to achieve the goals of their party through legislation and policy support initiatives.
Specifically political parties represent group interests, simplify choices, formulate public policies, make the working of parliament possible, re-orientate and sensitise the people about public policies, provide political stability and help recruit good political leaders.
That is why political parties are indispensable for the working of modern democratic governments. What is more, political parties shape public opinion. Parties in any system of government educate, formulate and organize public opinion. They also help in the growth of the level of political consciousness of common citizens, who hardly have time to follow state matters. The young ones who are being mobilised to take over Nigeria just need to know that there is a correlation between good political parties and development of a country.
- This piece was written by Martins Oloja/Guardian