“PLANNING FOR BURIAL WHEN THE BODY IS NOT DEAD”
A certain lazy student was asked by his teacher, 'why didn't you submit your homework?' The student replied by saying, 'I didn't find anyone to copy from'.
Curiously, most Nigerians – and politicians in particular – are expressing the same error committed by this 'intellectually challenged' student. By instigating a feverish obsession with the 2015 election, Nigerians are portraying themselves as a peculiar specie of humankind that is notoriously blind to lessons of history; always eager to replicate the tragedies of the past; and yet, hoping quite intensely that things will change for the better.
What initially began as 'sketchy insinuations' regarding President Goodluck Jonathan's undeclared aspiration for a second term in 2015 has gradually become a vicious hurricane threatening to sweep the subsisting mandate of the current regime into oblivion while also raising the prevailing temperature in the polity beyond tolerable bounds.
While the President's kinsmen and adherents are spitting fire and brimstone against any conspiracy calculated to “deny their son the chance of completing their own turn in 2015” and by extension, equalizing the 8-year rule enjoyed by other tribes in the past, some opposition political parties are already mooting the idea of “working to produce a consensus candidate come 2015” to wrestle power from a perceived neophyte. In fact, the Congress for Progressive Change, CPC, has been impelled by the exigency of the 2015 election to resurrect the buried ambition of its presidential flag bearer amid strong insistence by the Conference of Political Parties, CNPP – an umbrella body for opposition parties - that General Buhari should stick to his earlier declaration to abstain from future presidential contexts.
Worst, the larger Nigerian populace seems to have become irresistibly entangled with the cobweb of conflicting political ambitions and the attendant cacophonous voices. The elections of 2015, and the politics associated with it, have become the dominant religion at the moment and Nigerians are converting to it with amazing frequency.
This raises the crucial question of the pursuit of power for the sake of it without a corresponding sense of responsibility and accountability to the electorate. For when a holder of political power understands his obligations as a leader and the sanctity of being accountable to those he governs, he will also necessarily understand the futility of angling for an additional tenure in the context of a barren record of performance under his current mandate. One of the sickening absurdities of the bubonic plaque which the craze for 2015 elections aptly represents is that it has effectively diverted the attention of Nigerians away from the electoral promises of (and expectations from) the present political leadership; it is increasingly shifting attention from the challenges of the moment and how to overcome them. More fundamentally, it is providing an excuse for political leaders across all tiers of government to exercise power without accountability and commitment to performance.
As if the distractions from the loyalists of the incumbent leadership are not egregious enough, the oppositional elements appear to be even more poised to “hold a candle to the devil.” The opposition political parties have effectively renounced their sacred role as 'a watchdog' to the government in power; indeed, most of them have become clinically comatose and in deep, chronic slumber. The few active ones amongst them have become spontaneously bewitched by the seductive trappings of 2015 elections that the task of holding the custodians of power under the current dispensation in check is hardly on their menu.
While pretending to be playing politics, the opposition parties have metamorphosed into a major obstacle to democratization in Nigeria. Unarguably, the arbitrariness and failings of the ruling party have become almost directly proportional to the incoherence, ineffectiveness, undemocratic tendencies and lack of ideological clarity on the part of the opposition parties – a fact already being dramatized by the altercation between the CPC and the CNPP regarding General Buhari's purported declaration for 2015.
Nigeria's democracy has become gravely imperilled by the single-minded dedication of our political parties to only the issue of contesting elections. There is hardly any commitment to the political education of the citizenry as a means of promoting their political consciousness and enthroning a healthier democratic culture. Worse, there is no agenda for grooming the younger generation for the responsibility of functional and qualitative leadership; at best, what obtains is the framing of politics and issues of leadership around the personality of certain patriarchal individuals. More so, the primordial tactics that are adopted in fostering such patriarchal dominance (such as tribalism, religion, zoning, etc) have had a decidedly retrogressive effect on the country's political growth and systemic integration.
However, it is at the level of the general populace that the aberration associated with the politics of 2015 appears to have had a most profound incursion. Those of us who profess to be politically conscious and to constitute the 'enlightened community' have allowed ourselves to be recruited into the frenzy of the 2015 electoral contestation. How thoroughly derailed we have become can be vividly illustrated by the following facts: the incumbent administration of President Jonathan has barely spent less than a year (out of a four-year tenure) in office; almost all the promises which formed a major plank of the President's campaign in the 2011 election – such as improvement in power and energy, infrastructural revitalization, economic diversification with emphasis on agriculture, massive job creation, security of lives and property etc. – are yet to translate into realistic achievements. The challenges of disunity and harrowing insecurity arising from the terroristic insurgency of Boko Haram are still sticking out menacingly like a sore thumb.
Yet, our overwhelming inclination has been to think less of demanding for the conformity of the present leadership to its social contract with the Nigerian people. We abhor the rigours of keeping our government on its toes and making power to be truly accountable, but rather prefer the distressing misadventure of joining forces with overzealous politicians in fantasizing about an election that is tucked away in a distant future. To put it pointedly, we have cultivated the strange habit of “planning for burial when the body is not yet dead.”
How can Nigeria evolve politically and stabilize democratically when incumbent leaderships and oppositional elements alike are perennially locked in disruptive politicking for the next election even while the current tenure is yet to pick up steam? How can our democracy become truly emancipatory when the most crucial stakeholder in democracy – the people, hardly demonstrates any sense of duty or ownership in the democratic project? Does it not amount to moral insanity when we habitually allow our leaders the indulgence of corrupting the governance process, violating their socially contractual obligations, reducing the serious issues of elections to a matter of tribal 'turn-by-turn' settlement and getting rewarded with fresh mandates that are patently dissociated from any record of performance?
The Jonathan administration has committed itself to 'transformation.' The hastiness with which he has reminded Nigerians that he is still serving his first term not withstanding, he should know that his re-election for a second term cannot be gotten in a manner synonymous with the way he awards National Honours. His re-election (should he decide to dishonour his earlier commitment to a single term) must be predicated on a demonstrable capacity for performance and the betterment of citizens' overall wellbeing during his first term in office. By the same token, the opposition parties should rise beyond their present preoccupation with 'electoral rat race' if they must remain relevant as useful partners in the democratic project. They should develop greater sensitivity to such issues as the accountability of power, transparency in governance, development of alternative ideological paradigms, and the defence and protection of citizen's interests and general welfare.
Unlike the dilemma faced by the hapless student who believes that he has what it takes to do his teacher's homework but whose only challenge is that he has nobody to copy from, Nigerians should, at least, learn to copy from its past experiences in which politicians have merely used them as canon fodder in their quest for power and political absolutism.