by Maple Dapapa
Each time the people get the opportunity to interact with their leader, the leader has nothing else to say apart from recounting the projects he or she has done. And have kept the people deceived with these antics.
In the last couple of weeks, the ongoing political discord in Rivers State has featured as headline news on every news media, and has also been one of the leading topics of discussion in various fora across Nigeria including the social media. The long-standing cold war between the political gladiators which later took the form of a verbal war, further degenerated to the pandemonium which occurred couple of days ago at the floor of the Rivers State House of Assembly as Anti- and Pro-Amaechi legislators engaged themselves in what has been widely termed “a show of shame”. Sarcastic observers have comically referred to the legislative brawl as an epic movie which should be titled ‘THE MACE’.
I have read a deluge of articles on this subject matter, both the perceptibly biased and the fairly objective. The crisis in Rivers State is a depiction of the political situation in Nigeria as a whole, an unrelenting fierce battle for supremacy over control of the people’s commonwealth.
A huge chunk of these politicians won’t be fighting this hard for power in the absence of the resources Nigeria is endowed with and the copious perks that come with being a public office holder. The fight isn’t about who is to “serve” the people but who is in “charge”. No man can give what he doesn’t have, they were not primed for servant-leadership, and they can’t give it. Some of them feign it, but it takes just a short while before they expose themselves.
In one of his philosophical essays of the early 80’s, Professor Tam David-West posited that truth is like a cork floating on water. As long as you use your finger to press it under water, it would reluctantly remain submerged. The whole operation would then resolve itself into an exercise in patience and determination. However, since you are mortal and have a limit to your patience and determination, suppressing the ‘cork’ would tire out eventually. The cork would then float once again to the surface of the water in strict compliance with the natural laws of floatation. Thus truth like cork on water can never remain for too long being suppressed.
The carpet has been raised and a whole lot of unimaginable things that has been kept hidden for years is now uncovered, and more will if only we will be discerning enough. It will be delusional for anyone to actually feel “shocked” by the ignominious behavior of our supposed honorable members of the assembly; these are the kind of leaders we’ve settled for. As the discord, taking of sides, blame game and media propaganda continues, I implore all well meaning citizens of our dear Nation to look beyond the Rivers crisis, grasp the truth being uncovered, and fix their gaze on how we can achieve the country of our dreams.
Putting things in proper perspective…
1999 – 2007 was a transition period from “years” of military rule cum dictatorship to civilian rule cum democracy. Those who pioneered the nascent democracy at the time were mainly “ghana-must-go” men, they had little or no care for the masses, it was an opportunity to scramble for the commonwealth of the people; they all wanted to position themselves as godfathers with affluence and influence.
At the same time, “khaki men” were fast becoming “agbada men”, all to have a share of what they call the national cake.
There was a category of people who were longing for the national cake and hoping that someone personal – associate, friend, relative, etc – will also grab a position in government so that life will get better for them. Another category of people were scared of coming out for elections because electoral violence was high then, not forgetting the assassinations. A few others were anxious to experience a rapid transformation of the country. In all, majority of the people’s attention was on the politics and what they can benefit from this fresh stream that was rushing down the rock of “freedom”.
Many were just not concerned about good governance; being free from military dictatorship was paramount to the citizenry. Among all the governors then, only Donald Duke managed to stir his ship from ‘pure politics’ on course to good governance. Apparently, his ideals didn’t match with our brand of politics, he wasn’t perfect, but he seemed more like a beacon of hope.
Just before the 2007 general elections, focus started changing gradually. There was an outcry against the elapsing eight years that saw politicians enriching themselves and leaving the masses out in the cold. It was a tale of the shepherd making fine raiment for himself from wool scraped off the sheep he ought to take care of; while the shepherd is adorned in beautiful raiment, the sheep was left shivering.
A new cadre of socio-political activists emerged and there was intensive sensitization for people to get involved in the electoral process. Though fear lingered on, more people responded to the sensitizations; more people registered to get voters card; more people turned up for elections. The violence and snatching of ballot boxes as well as rigging reduced significantly compared to the 1999 and 2003 elections.
While these changes were taking place, some “clever” politicians started adopting new tactics; provision of basic social amenities to calm the nerves of the people while the looting of the treasury continued with reckless impunity. We saw laudable projects here and there, but not without compelling media hype as well. The people have been deprived for so long that they saw these social amenities as a favour instead of their rights, the leaders became angels, the media campaigns emphasised this.
Since 2007, our leaders have been literally preaching their own ‘greatness’; using the media to shove a positive reputation down our throats; a lot of us bought the shadow (reputation) without assessing the real image (character). How many of these ‘angels’ can stand if assessed based on real leadership values and virtues such as integrity, moral conduct, tolerance for opposing views and criticisms, vision with roadmap and not mere fantasies, honesty, humility, character, etc
To confirm that these ‘angels’ feigned their reputation, compare their first tenures with the second; you’ll notice that the 1st was to calm the nerves of the people and be likable while the 2nd tenure is of lesser performance because, it’s countdown to exiting the statehouse and so they have to loot all they can, acquire properties as much as possible, connive with the house of assembly to create “flamboyant” pension packages for themselves.
The hard truth is this: The schools, hospitals, roads, infrastructures, etc WILL NOT stand the test of time so long as there are no working systems to sustain them. And there can’t be working systems because these people do not think ‘build-use-transfer’ which is the hallmark of sustainable development. One man appoints his cabinet based on what he wants and not based on who can deliver, well what can be delivered when there’s no TRUE vision? Wishes and desires are not ‘vision’, a strategically outlined roadmap (blueprint) is vital.
The cabinet – commissioners, appointees, etc are his system which will be brought down by the next man, just as he brought down the system of his predecessor. There’s no continuity even with their own systems, how then can they create a working system for the society?
Each time the people get the opportunity to interact with their leader, the leader has nothing else to say apart from recounting the projects he or she has done. And have kept the people deceived with this antics.
Think about these questions for a moment; can you compare the standard of the personal houses and properties of these ‘leaders’ to the projects they embark upon for the masses? Why exactly can’t their kids attend the schools they build? Why exactly do they seek medical attention abroad when they’ve built ‘state-of-the-art’ hospitals here? They eat our bread and throw crumbs at us and we celebrate them.
I am not in any way trying to undermine the works they are doing, but truth be told, they are doing their job! And are ridiculously paid for it! Not to talk of all the juicy benefits they enjoy and the resources at their disposal; in fact, I dare say that they are under performing to say the least! But to be objective, let’s find respite in the saying that “rome was not built in a day”. Without gainsaying, the projects of these angels are steps in the right direction, but we still have a long journey ahead.
Government is an institution and should be run as such, but that is not the case for our ‘angels’. They do not know when to draw the line between themselves as individuals and the government as an institution, they simply don’t care.
Why do governors put their faces on the signboard of schools they built with government money? Why do we have their faces on school buses and other commercial vehicles acquired with government money? Is a Governor now the Ministry of Education? Why do they try hard to put their faces on all they do with government money?
Contractors cannot voice their opinion because the job will be lost once such an opinion is perceived not to be in favour of the governor. Is the contractor working for the governor as a person or the government as an institution? Many of us say “this is Nigeria” thereby indirectly giving consent to these leaders to plunge us further into the ocean of catastrophe.
If at this point, you are yet to clearly see that the supposed angelic projects are part of the antics of “clever” politicians to variegate themselves from the despised administrations of 1999 to 2007; then don’t bother going beyond this point. Thank you for reading!
We have a “system” where once one man exits the state house and another gets in; the school buses, signboards, etc which carries the predecessor’s face start getting pulled down. A new boss is in town! Instead of improving on the existing system, it is pulled down for a new one to be set-up.
Then we face another round of supposed ‘angelic’ projects which in actual sense was the new and smarter way to loot the treasury- inflated contract figures and white elephant projects all over – conduit pipes to siphon money! Our auditing system is in a state of perpetual comatose, that’s if it ever functioned. EFCC and other anti-corruption agencies have all been compromised.
Where do we go from here?
By 2011 elections, social media had become very influential in the polity. Smart phones and apps were used to monitor elections and the electorate did their best to protect their votes making rigging tougher. From not participating in elections, people now go beyond voting to monitoring the process and also protecting their votes.
Good progress! But there is a problem…..
The leading political parties determine who emerge as candidates during elections and we have to choose our leaders based on what “they” present to us. All our efforts don’t amount to much because our options are defined by the same people we want to be free from and we despise the candidates of less popular political parties.
So we are torn between two options: Building support for the less popular political parties or influencing the leading political parties to present CLEAN candidates.
How do we do that?
These are the real issues to be discussed. Whenever an incident like ‘The Mace’ occurs in any part of the country, it is imperative for us not to limit the issue to who is right or wrong, who did what and who didn’t, who is ‘jesus’ and who is not, and all of those arguments. Fundamentally, these people are fighting over control of state resources; one party is fighting to seize it, the other party is fighting to stay in control and consequently install a successor to protect their interest. They barely care about what is best for the citizenry, that’s solely our responsibility.
They are all political birds of the same feather, we need a different specie altogether.
Maple Dappa tweets from @MapleDappa .
Op-ed pieces and contributions are the opinions of the writers only and do not represent the opinions of Y!/YNaija.