Nigeria: Striding Towards 2023 General Elections -By Andrew A. Erakhrumen

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There were times in the past when we worried a lot about what is/are controlling the thinking and actions of most Nigerian politicians when they come to power. We noticed that this behavioural change, when in position of authority, is not limited or unique to any group of people; any region; any religion; any profession; it also pervades all societal strata! Among other authors’ works, we recently saw a Farooq Kperogi’s interesting article where he argued, based on scientific findings by scholars mentioned therein, that people in power suffer “power-induced brain damage” especially in Nigeria where power, at all levels, is almost absolute and unaccountable! According to him, this is why “….. people in power change radically; why they become so utterly disconnected from reality that they suddenly become completely unrecognisable to people who knew them before they got to power; why they get puffed-up, susceptible to flattery, and intolerant of even the mildest, best-intentioned censure; why they appear possessed by inexplicably malignant forces; and why they are notoriously insensitive and self-absorbed…..”

 

 

While those quoted words appear suitable enough to provide an explanation to our earlier-stated worry, he went further to state that: “…..look at previously arrogant, narcissistic, power-drunk prigs who have been kicked out of the orbit of power for any number of reasons. You’ll discover that they are suddenly normal again. They share our pains, make pious noises, condemn abuse of power, and identify with popular causes. The legendary amnesia of Nigerians causes the past misdeeds of these previous monsters of power to be explained away, lessened, forgiven, and ultimately forgotten. But when they get back to power again, they become the same insensitive beasts of power that they once were…..” We could not agree more with these Kperogi’s submissions. Concerning people in power, close observation of Nigeria’s political landscape will reveal that there is a thin line between personal and state’s business; personal  and state’s purse. The person in charge is above the law! He/she is the law! He/she is the law giver/breaker!

We tend to believe that this unfortunate self-inflicted anomaly described by Kperogi is the reason behind comments like “…..whoever joined the strike will not be paid salary. We have been telling the Kaduna State University lecturers that they have no problem with the state government…..If this continues, I will wake up one day to sack them all, I swear to God…..We will sack them all and declare their positions vacant on the pages of newspaper…..” History is being made; we are keeping tabs on it! Look at a mere mortal, holding a non-permanent political office, wielding an accompanying transient power, ever oblivious with no choice, and not, in anyway, in control, of the next minute’s happenings; not to talk of the next hour’s, spitting fire regarding the pittance earned by university lecturers on a legitimate strike as a result of an industrial dispute precipitated by the class he belongs to! We used to be marvelled, but not anymore, seeing yesterday’s loquacious ‘critics’ of tyranny transmogrifying into worse tyrants today!

What about the “Emi l’okan” (it is my turn) of the Ministry of Labour and Employment – with a first degree – boasting on a televised programme that he can teach university lecturers and professors! This is someone that is finding it difficult (for reason(s) best known to him) to handle ordinary labour dispute between federal government and public university workers! This is a public office-holder who is supposed to apprehend strikes and act as a conciliator between the industrial disputants but whose main interest is public attention-seeking! We laugh in Nigerian Pidgin English! Chai! Nigerian academics ‘don suffer’ in the hands of opportunistic ingrates populating the political space! We are not being personal here! These are just examples; they are not unique cases! Those guys are one and the same when they take control of political office! These anomalies are replicated by almost all the people in power, in all parts of Nigeria! We have stated elsewhere that members of the political elite in Nigeria, once in power, always demonstrate their Mephistophelian disdain for those engaging in scholarship and intellectualism!

Yet, we will continue to tell them that if they really want this country, Nigeria, to develop, (although, we do not believe they do), then education and educators should be the bedrock of, and co-travellers in, their political endeavours! Their current mindset of trying to sustain the impoverishment of university scholars in order to rubbish them will not augur well for the country, in terms of development! We do not want to believe that they do not know this fact! The centrality of education in national development has long been recognised by serious people who sincerely yearn for growth and development. This was acknowledged in a book by Alan Greenspan and Adrian Wooldridge quoting from Horace Mann (1796–1859) – an American educational reformer, slavery abolitionist and Whig politician known for his commitment to promoting public education – who wrote in 1848 that schools were “the grand agents for the development or augmentation of national resources …..more powerful in the production and gainful employment of the total wealth of a country than all the other things mentioned in the books of political economics…..”

Was Mann talking about building unequipped schools everywhere like what is currently done in Nigeria? Of course, no! He was talking about schools with high quality and continuously upgraded infrastructure and facilities including human resources that are to make use of them. Nigerian political elite should learn from the United States – a capitalist economy – which, as far back as earlier than the 19th century, has been investing in public education! Nigerians should reject the nauseating narratives bothering around the sing-songs: Nigeria is broke! Nigeria does not have money! How will one believe these sing-songs with the ongoing massive corruption? Those in government want us to believe them, with all the reported and unreported billions of Naira, which is becoming uncountable by the day, developing wings and flying out of the country’s treasury! We consider it disrespectful for the people in government to think we are dumb!

Do we really need to say more? We truly pity politicians trying to run public education down in this country! They may not know; they need help! That help will come through their permanent removal from political offices during free and fair elections! That will surely help them! We see in them; inferiority complex, poor self-worth, an ingrained fear of deep hollowness, and use-and-dump mentality within their psyche! This is why some of us mostly shudder when ‘our people’ run after them for demeaning ‘crumbs’ before and during elections! They have impoverished the system and unwary people operating within it! We always know that once they assume power, they will revert to the default mode described above! We need to be very clear here! Again, this has nothing to do with political parties (are they different from one another?), religion, region, ethnicity, clans, and other primordial sentiments. Yes, they always leverage on primordial sentiments but once in office they become one and the same; you remain their stock-in-trade!

We agree with Daron Acemoglu and James A. Robinson that “…..the people who suffer from the extractive economic institutions cannot hope for absolutist rulers to voluntarily change political institutions and redistribute power in society. The only way to change these political institutions is to force the elite to create more pluralistic institutions…..whether power corrupts is debatable, but Lord Acton [1834–1902] was certainly right when he argued that absolute power corrupts absolutely…..” What are we saying here in essence? Certainly, the Nigeria’s 1999 “federal” constitution was not written by ‘the people’; it was written and decreed into existence by some putschists; it is, no doubt, warped and fundamentally flawed! It is also doubtless that the country needs a ‘people-sanctioned constitution’! We are convinced that Nigeria’s 1999 Constitution (or Decree 24?) cannot continue to be ‘patched’ forever! Nevertheless but unfortunately, that is the legislation that is in force, in the country, now! Thus, the best should be exploited, for now, even with the clearly observable contradictions that this document presents!

It is imperative, and this has been said before now in other interventions, that Nigerians (with particular emphasis on the youths) should be interested in those who are presenting themselves to be elected into public offices. They should not allow themselves to be distracted or divided with inanities! That has always been Nigerian politicians’ strategy! They have now increased the tempo towards sustaining vote buying and selling! Nigerian politicians, like some of their colleagues elsewhere, can be very ‘ingenious’! Together, as a people, we are in a deep mess! So, it is important that we ask these politicians salient, issues-based, questions that bother around how to get out of the mess Nigeria is currently in! Nigeria is marching towards 2023; another year for general elections! Going into those elections, it is expected that the scales must have fallen from the eyes of the electorates who will be voting candidates into the various offices! Nobody will come from the outer space to solve Nigeria’s problem! Thus, it is necessary to shun politicians’ antics of vote trading! Vote your conscience for your future and those of unborn generation!

 

 

*Andrew A. Erakhrumen currently teaches at the Department of Forest Resources and Wildlife Management, University of Benin, Benin City, Nigeria.



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