Over the weekend, the city of Minna in Niger State was agog as former military ruler Ibrahim Badamasi Babangida gave out his youngest child and second daughter, Halima in marriage to businessman and traditional title holder from Gombe, Auwal Abdullahi.
Expectedly, Nigerians were bombarded with pictures from the glamorous event and news of how the otherwise sleepy airport in the city received at least 30 private jets as the guest list was filled with who-is-who in Nigeria: captains of industry, politicians, former heads of state and presidents, and current top-ranking government officials.
Many commentators on social media pointed out how at the event, the fissures of the Nigerians society that are amplified by politics and often by even some of the politicians at the event disappeared. There was no Christian or Muslim, Northerner or Southerner, APC or PDP there – none of that mattered.
This scenario is not exclusive to this wedding, but it is what plays out often among Nigerian elites, politicians and power brokers. They are not beholden to the identities we know them most by – for them, ethnicity, religion and party affiliations are simply cards that they play in order to get a seat at the table of power and access to the benefits that come with it.
Right from pre-independence days, Nigerian politics has been dominated more by the ethnic, religious and regional calculations of the period and of the players than by the ideas with which they hope to govern the country and its component units.
In the Fourth Republic, for instance, we have had two federal elections dominated by this: the 2011 elections which was dominated by the talk of zoning and power rotation, especially within the PDP which then incumbent President Goodluck Jonathan was accused of usurping; and the 2015 elections which had the undertones of a power shift to the North.
Yet, in spite of all this, it is evident that political power in the hands of any segment of the population has not translated to economic development for that population; rather, it has ended in the enrichment of its elites. The eight years of the Obasanjo presidency did not make any particular difference in either the South-West neither did Jonathan’s five years on the South-South nor all the years that the North has been in power improved the standard of living in the region.
It shows without a doubt that the problems that assail Nigeria, on a general level, cut across: poverty is neither exclusive to the North nor the South, or to Muslims or Christians. Neither is corruption, illiteracy, poor healthcare, weak infrastructure, etc.
However, with each election, we only have an elite that further entrenches their personal economic interests and new elites that join their ranks. Also, with election, they use we the people, as fodder by whipping up sentiments and emotions while they climb our backs into power and wealth while we remain mired in the same old problems.
As such, it is imperative that Nigerians wake up to the realisation that we have to stop letting these politicians, who like wily old foxes, keep pulling us hither and thither by using the politics of religion, ethnicity and even party affiliation.
We must insist that politicians lead with the ideas they have for Nigeria rather than who should be in power based on their creed or ethnicity.
We are the marketplace and we have the power to define what value means to us. As long as we refuse to make the insistence that value in politics to us is not about the religious faith, ethnicity or the party affiliations of those in power but rather ideas and plans that will improve the fortunes of the country and our situation, the status quo will remain.
They will continue to tap into our sentiments and make us hate each other over irrelevancies while they meet at weddings and festivities, clinking glasses, making merriment and laughing at their good fortunes, and sadly, our own misfortunes.
This should be a wake-up call.
Dolapo is a writer and journalist who works with YNaija. He has interests in Christianity, politics and sports.
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