Nigeria - What Manner of Politics is This? by Kayode Komolafe

At the heart of the political process in a liberal democracy is the legitimacy to seek power. But the power, which politicians seek with g...

At the heart of the political process in a liberal democracy is the legitimacy to seek power. But the power, which politicians seek with great fervour, is not an end in itself. That is why the question invariably arises: power for what purpose?  In the Nigerian context of mass poverty the purpose should be the genuine transformation in the quality of life of the people. You may probably say that this fact is pretty obvious that it should require no emphasis. But this organising principle that should govern politics does not seem to exist here from the way politicians in and out power have been carrying on in the last one-year.

In other climes where liberal democracy flourishes, politicians across the spectrum behave in a manner that suggest that they know that politics is not all about winning elections. After elections, politicians - conservative, liberal or radical- devote more attention to policy and less on politics. Those who are privileged to be in power invest time, energy and intellect to implement the programmes on the basis of which they were elected in the first place. Politicking begins to gather momentum again as another date of election draws nearer. This is in sharp contrast with the Nigerian political culture in which the 2015 election is absurdly the issue occupying g the public sphere as early as 2012.
It is indecent to force another election as the main item on the public agenda when those who took oath of office after the last election have not completed 25% of the four-year tenure.  This attitude has the unfortunate possibility of making the people become cynical about politics. Politicians who indulge in this irresponsible game simply have no regard for the sensibilities of the electorate who yearn for good governance. This is certainly   not the season to be working the polity into a frenzy over the 2015 election. It is simply premature and unproductive to so.
In the last few weeks, President Jonathan Goodluck has reportedly said he is not yet thinking about 2015. While that might be a fair comment, the President’s  political associates including some his appointees have not  helped matters with their exuberant statements  that no one could stop the Jonathan from seeking another term of office.
  The responses from the opposition and other political actors are hardly better. Some persons have gone to court to determine if the President is constitutionally entitled to seek another term. Before his election last year, Jonathan had earlier been sworn in as President when President Umaru Yar’Adua died about a year to the end of the tenure.  Regional gladiators are already serving notice that it would no more be the turn of Jonathan’s zone or region to produce the People’s Democratic Party (PDP)’s candidate for the 2015 presidential elections. 
Only two days ago, the presidential candidate of the Congress for Progress Change (CPC), General Muhammadu  Buhari reportedly addressed his party members from Niger State in Hausa warning against the rigging an election that is expected to come in three  years time. His statement was translated into English inter-alia: “If what happened in 2011 should again happen in 2015, by the grace of God, the dog and the in baboon would all be soaked in blood”. This has been widely interpreted to mean that there would be boldly consequences if the next presidential election is manipulated. There has been no denial of the statement.
The cynical electoral mentality has also permeated many of the states where elections are due 2015. The political pages of newspapers and magazines are suffused with intrigues about who would succeed governors who still have three years more to serve.  Even some have even linked the categorical challenge to national security to 2015. Political explanations have been offered for the spate of bombings with a lot of blood in the trail.  This can only complicate matters and impair the process of finding solutions to the enormous national problem.  Now this political behaviour of the elite is grossly unfair to the people. During the campaign for the 2011 elections, candidates sought the people’s mandate to serve for years and not to play politics for the whole of the tenure.
Policymakers and those who have credible alternative ideas about development should be busy debating what policy steps should be taken to improve the deterioration in the health and education sectors. The debate should be on how to make the power sector reform better and faster. The concern should be about the best strategy to adopt to revamp infrastructure. The battle of ideas should be on   how to cleanse the rot in the oil sector and test the efficacy of the approach so far adopted by the government.
Does the President need to be told that it amounts to a monumental distraction for people around him to be talking about 2015 at this time?   This is certainly not the time for such discussions. Rather, it is the time for the President to give bold leadership in the articulation and implementation of his policies on job-creation, electricity, infrastructure, agriculture, human development, political reforms etc. Amidst the huge challenges on virtually all issues of development, any passion for election at this time is hugely a misplaced one. Instead, people expect Jonathan to show a greater passion and drive for whatever he considers the priorities of his administration. From the opposite end, the opposition should be more interested in governance deliveries.
For instance, Buhari’s party should be active in not only interrogating the implementation of policies by the government, it should also be offering alternative strategies to development. Those who claim to speak for the regions and political zones should be examining how government policies affect their respective zones and regions. It is not enough for some Niger Delta leaders to be threatening fire and brimstones if Jonathan does not contest election in 2015. Their preoccupation should be how much of the problems of poverty, underdevelopment and environmental degradation in the region could be solved in the remaining three years of Jonathan’s current tenure.
The Amnesty Programme may be working, but can the Niger Delta leaders say in all honesty that the conditions in which militancy was bred in the creeks have vanished from the region?  Has the Jonathan presidency banished poverty from the Niger Delta? These are the pertinent questions for 2012 and not reckless pronouncements about if the president should seek another term of office. In the wake of the bombings and mass killings by Boko Haram, there has been a suggestion that a federal ministry should be established to pay attention to the mass poverty in the north.
Doubtless, poverty is a national problem; but some areas are relatively poorer than others.  Now this should be not surprise any dialectical student of society. It is the logic of capitalist development especially the Nigerian type that still thrives on primitive accumulation by the political and socio-economic elite.  Worse still, social planning is an anathema to those who manage the economy.  The system breeds inequalities among social classes just as it does among regions and even nations. 
All indices of poverty in the north are worse than the national average. Officially, about 10 million children are not at all in the race for even primary education in Nigeria. Some other estimates put the figures of kids out of school at over 40 million. Even going by the official figure, most of these children who are victims of an unjust system are to be found in the north.   Would it not be more productive in May 2012 if the heated is about even the idea of such a ministry?  Every region or political zone has peculiar developmental problems-environment, infrastructure, education, security etc.
Each of these challenges could be eminently suitable for public discussions so as to redirect policies in favour of genuine development. Since 1999, experience has shown that mere rotation of the presidency does not automatically solve these problems. It matters more if the president is genuinely interested in development.    
Any political battle being fought now  in respect of the 2015 election should dismissed by all decent men and women as ill-timed. This is not the time for such battles. It is rather the time for the government, opposition and the people at large to wage the all- important war against poverty that is the scourge ravaging this land.
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