By ANTHONY CARDINAL OLUBUNMI OKOGIE
The year 2018 is just a few days away. But in the horizon of Nigerian politicians, it seems 2019 will come before 2018. By their speeches, conduct and posture, even the blind is able to see that preparations for the 2019 elections are already in top gear. In utter disregard for internal party democracy, candidates and sole candidates are already being endorsed. This does not portray our politicians in good light.
With very few exceptions, they are power mongers pretending to be leaders, parasites posturing as benefactors.
Endemic to our political class is an addiction to power, a chronic deficiency of desire to serve. It is becoming clearer that, for our politicians, being in power takes precedence over service to the people.
In another sad reminder that they care less for the people, they are not engaged in discussions on how to alleviate the suffering of the masses, suffering visited on the people by the incompetent leadership of this country.
Nigerian politicians benefit from a system that places the citizen at a disadvantage. They treat the people with contempt. But we the people too must be responsible for our country. If the political class is out to deceive the people, we must put some questions to our politicians.
We must insist on credible answers to a number of pertinent questions. What, for example, happened to all the lofty promises made during the campaign season that preceded the 2015 elections? Why are our politicians unwilling to be accountable? Why is transparency in government a taboo? Did they not promise to change this country into a paradise? Why is it, then, that life is getting even harder for the average Nigerian? Why is the level of insecurity so high that people are abducted even from their homes? Why has our country’s leadership failed to create an environment for investments to thrive?
It is immoral and reprehensible that there is a glaring absence of internal democracy in our countries political parties. We seem not to have gotten over the flu of sole candidacy. That too raises a question. Are our politicians democrats or impostors? If they are ever ready to manipulate the process within their parties, are institutions vital for democracy safe in their hands? If, as it is, our politicians have obstinately refused to imbibe a democratic culture, are they not agents of instability?
A government that is more powerful than the people is not accountable to the people. It does not consider transparency a sacred obligation. That is the situation as we write. Our government is not accountable to the people. Even when government functionaries are invited to the National Assembly to answer some questions, they arrogantly fail to honour the invitation. And they get away with such insolence! But that is not what we need in Nigeria.
For in a veritable democracy, the government is at the service of the citizen. Such is the profound significance of going to the polls. The citizen hires his President, Governor, Senator etc. If the people are not satisfied with their performance, those they hired are fired at the polls.
But that remains a tall dream in Nigeria where, precisely because those we hire are more powerful than their employers, they are in a position to perpetuate themselves in office through an electoral process whose integrity exists only in the breach.
Meanwhile, there is a lot of work to be done in this country. Our constitution is replete with deadly inconsistencies. We need to overhaul it. But little is being done in that regard. Instead of wide-ranging reforms and far-reaching constitutional amendments, our legislators have opted for cosmetic changes. Our land is filled with indices of dilapidated infrastructure. North, South, East and West of this vast country, our roads are in terrible shape.
Travelling on them strains the car and the traveler. If one chooses to travel by air, our airports are in pitiable conditions. The education sector is full of teachers who cannot pass simple tests. Access to good medical services remains a privilege reserved for those who can go for treatment overseas.
Young and able-bodied Nigerians are unemployed. Salaries of workers have not been paid for months. Pensioners are dying while waiting for their dues. But we never hear that our political office holders do not get paid!
When you expect government to be accountable, its officials tell blatant lies without blinking, insulting the intelligence of Nigerians. Corruption is still very much with us because lawlessness is still with us.
There is no comfort anywhere. Despite all these, our politicians have the temerity to abandon governance and get on the campaign train.They have the audacity to act this way because of their famed ability to manipulate the electoral process, their ability to ensure that the will of the people is silenced.
Our country cannot take its rightful place in the comity of nations while our political class imposes its counterfeit democracy of sole candidates and “divinely” anointed contestants on the rest of us.
Let all who aspire to contest the 2019 elections go through due process within their parties. When they would have been duly nominated to contest, they must see it as a moral obligation to participate in nationally televised debates.
This time around, there must be no hiding ground. If you want to serve Nigerians, hide not your agenda.. Allow Nigerians to scrutinize your antecedents. How can you apply for a job while you do not intend to appear before an interview board? We the people need to know what each candidate for every public office stands for. We must not settle for less.
Nigerian political parties should stop presenting candidates nominated through the backdoor. There must be a level playing ground within the parties.
Would it not be wise to learn from past mistakes, ours and others? This is the time to stand back from the brink. Let those who sincerely love Nigeria read and act to save our beloved country Nigeria!
His Eminence, Anthony Cardinal Olubunmi Okogie sent in this contribution from Lagos