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PAYING THE HIGH COST OF POLITICAL AMATEURISM

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There is a general saying that “diapers and politicians need to be changed often for the same reason.” Accordingly, it is not unusual that democracy – as a form of government – is imbued with mechanisms with allow citizens to exercise their will periodically and proclaim a majoritarian verdict regarding the continuance or replacement of the incumbent political regime. In the Nigerian context, this provision is exercised in two key ways, namely: through periodic electoral voting and the exercise of the constitutionally guaranteed power of recall.

Amazingly, the elections of April, 2011, which heralded the emergence of the present set of political leaders was hugely unique in one particular sense: it was an election in which majority of Nigerians contrived and projected what could be described as “a most bizarre theory of voting,” which, even as a product of Political Science, I have neither read about nor experienced in all my years of academic tutelage. It is a theory that professes the sanctity of “voting for personality and not party.” To put it succinctly, the theory enjoins Nigerians to “vote for Jonathan and not PDP.” Having succeeded in polluting our political stratosphere with this disingenuous voting paradigm, its proponents proceeded to divorce President Jonathan (then, an aspirant) from his party – PDP, while ignoring, rather moronically, the very strong umbilical cord which connects and ties him inextricably to PDP; a chord from which he draws his political nourishment and, also, suffers terrible exposure to the corruptibility and toxicity of certain undesirable elements within the party.

Having spent some months in office, it becomes desirable – indeed, absolutely imperative – that we take stock of our journey so far with a view to appraising the validity and empiricism of this strange theoretical contrivance which had assisted President Jonathan to gain political ascendancy, and to determine the extent to which such a theory has served our collective aspirations as a people. A cursory look at some of the key policy proposals of Jonathan's Presidency will suffice. First, was the issue of seven-year single tenure proposal canvassed by the President on assumption of office. The fact that a newly elected President could discount the myriad of problems besetting Nigerians and embraced the issue of political tenureship as his very first public policy proposal speaks volumes of his priorities and mindset to issues of governance. When Nigerians shouted “blue murder” and questioned his motive concerning such an ill-timed proposal, he hurriedly withdrew the odious contemplation with serpentine craftiness, waiting probably for a more auspicious time to strike!

Meanwhile, before Nigerian could say “Jack Robinson,” the issue of fuel subsidy removal had become “The New Commandment” of President Jonathan. As the President presses on with the threat of fuel subsidy removal, some key functionaries of his administration seem unconvinced by the subsidy debate and its redemptive promises. For instance, the Executive Chairman of Federal Inland Revenue Service – Ifueko Omoigi-Okauru, had cautioned against the thoughtless withdrawal of fuel subsidy without paying due attention to some of its deleterious and negative consequences.

Presently, the National Assembly, on one hand, and the Ministries of Petroleum, Finance, and the NNPC, on the other hand, are locked in a blame game and denials regarding the non-remittance of N450 billion to the Federation Account by NNPC. It is in the context of this cacophony of conflicting voices and anarchy of governmental disorderliness that President Jonathan is proposing the withdrawal of fuel subsidy with a promise to invest its proceeds in transforming the country into an Eldorado.

Indeed, the more we conclude that we've probably had the worst from the PDP-led government, the more they invent more repressive policies as if to ensure that Nigerians never get to enjoy any moment of respite. On Thursday 3rd November, 2001, the government came up with a plan to re-introduce toll gates on all Federal Roads in the country. It is pertinent to note that in 2004, former President Olusegun Obasanjo spent million (if not billions) of naira to demolish toll gates in the country following its planned removal of fuel subsidy. Obasanjo then had felt that removing fuel subsidy while still retaining toll gates would have sparked mass protests across the country. Strangely, if General Obasanjo, notorious for his hard-heartedness, could make a gesture of sparing some considerations for ordinary Nigerians by removing the burden of toll plaza (even if controversially), what do we then say of President Jonathan – the self-acclaimed lamb that is supposed to take away the economic sins of Nigerians? Shockingly, he is not only imposing fuel tax and subsidy removal, but also, backing it up with toll fees. What a double-barrelled assault?

Predictably, some uncritically-minded Nigerians would rise in defence of this new policy by arguing that as long as it ensures that our roads are motorable, it is a worthwhile imposition. My question then is this: what has happened to the billions of naira appropriated annually for use by the Federal Ministry of Works and Transportation? What assurance do we have that the proceeds from this new toll gates will not end up as campaign funds for PDP? What tangible infrastructural achievement can we really ascribe to Jonathan's government apart from a determinate resolve to evangelize and inflict pain, misery, and melancholy on hapless Nigerians? When you aggregate and juxtapose all these proposals with the gradual, ongoing devaluation of our currency as well as the hike in tuition fees for most public school, it then becomes brutally clear that our trouble as a people is cogently real and painfully so.

In the light of this unbroken barrage of “Jonathanian tribulations,” can we honestly and convincingly say that anything has changed? In making the tragic misjudgement of renouncing political correctness and flirting with the strange contrivance of “voting for personality and not party,” do we not stand indicted for signing our collective death warrant and, unwittingly, driving a nail in our collective coffin? Are we actually learning any lesson from our present self-inflicted travails, knowing fully well that by 2015, we will file out and march through the electoral crucible once again?

For now, let Uncle Joe continue with his pastime of spanking our buttocks like naughty monkeys while we react with a generous smile of servitude and cool-headedness; after all, we voted for Goodluck and not PDP! Tragically, and as a Facebook friend – Folarin Lawal Sode had remarked, “we don enter one-chance molue, so anything wey we see na our own!”

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Articles by Ugochukwu Raymond Ogubuariri