The para­dox of rep­re­sen­ta­tion in Nige­ria

The Guardian (Nigeria) - - OPINION - By In­no­cent Adu­lugba

IHAVE ob­served that elec­tion trans­forms politi­cians into rep­re­sen­ta­tives in any democ­racy. Ev­ery elected rep­re­sen­ta­tive is the prod­uct of ag­gre­gate votes by the elec­torate in­clud­ing the pres­i­dent, mem­bers of the Congress/na­tional As­sem­bly, gov­er­nors, state As­sem­bly mem­bers and lo­cal of­fi­cials. The reps are voted to pass laws and en­sure the con­cerns of the masses re­mains the pri­or­ity of the gov­ern­ment be­yond mere pop­ulism. Thus all elected are pri­mar­ily re­spon­si­ble for con­vey­ing and de­fend­ing the yearn­ings of their con­stituents. I won­der if many Nige­ri­ans are aware of the weight of their bal­lot and the con­se­quence of their choice of can­di­dates. Do Nige­ri­ans be­lieve Abra­ham Lin­coln’s coinage, “The bal­lot is stronger than the bul­let,” as does the cere­bral Win­ston Churchill? Per­haps there is an ur­gent need for the elec­torates to be po­lit­i­cally so­cialised to at­tain the req­ui­site con­scious­ness. This is be­cause a vi­able rep­re­sen­ta­tive democ­racy is de­ter­mined by the de­gree of gen­uine lead­er­ship se­lec­tion process, press free­dom and vot­ers’ free­dom to choose their rep­re­sen­ta­tives.

From my watch post, I see that elec­tion sea­sons are the busiest on the di­ary of politi­cians and po­lit­i­cal par­ties. Dur­ing cam­paigns, as­pi­rants and po­lit­i­cal par­ties are at their woo­ing best to com­pletely cap­ture state power, or at least an in­flu­en­tial chunk of it, so as to wield le­git­i­mate author­ity, or po­si­tion as an in­evitable bloc in the po­lit­i­cal traf­fic of bar­gain­ing, con­ces­sion­ing, cross-car­pet­ing, horse-trad­ing, lob­by­ing and the clam­our for rel­e­vance through­out the life span of such demo­cratic gov­ern­ment.

Since the ear­li­est recorded work­ing democ­racy, es­tab­lished in the Greek city-state of Athens by Cleis­thenes around 508 B.C., global democ­racy is con­tin­u­ally evolv­ing and shaped around mu­nic­i­pal pe­cu­liar­i­ties. How­ever, ev­ery democ­racy pos­sesses ba­sic catholic el­e­ments. These in­clude equal­ity, in­di­vid­ual lib­erty, cit­i­zen con­trol of the agenda, re­spect for hu­man rights and the rule of law. Democ­racy is like weather. Its sea­sons in­cor­po­rate po­lit­i­cal par­ties, cam­paigns, elec­tions, coali­tions/merg­ers and “spoils shar­ing” af­ter elec­toral vic­tory. All these are in­tense, whether pres­i­den­tial or par­lia­men­tary.

For in­stance, the United States - re­puted as the old­est and most sta­ble rep­re­sen­ta­tive democ­racy in the world - is agog with a flurry of ac­tiv­i­ties mostly dur­ing the pres­i­den­tial race. There is a del­uge of en­gage­ments in the me­dia space ma­jorly for providers of in­ter­pret­ing ser­vices in broad­cast com­pa­nies. They fre­net­i­cally chase po­lit­i­cal rallies, de­bates, press con­fer­ences etc, and re­port on all plat­forms to pen­e­trate con­stituen­cies and woo sup­port. Ba­si­cally, Amer­i­cans ab­hor “un­demo­cratic” as a strong slur. Nige­ria shares con­gru­ent and in­con­gru­ent rit­u­als with the Amer­i­can po­lit­i­cal cul­ture. Both coun­tries, with di­verse cul­ture and vast re­source base ex­pe­ri­ence a buzz dur­ing cam­paigns. How­ever, while ev­ery Amer­i­can con­tes­tant at all lev­els must par­tic­i­pate in a pub­lic de­bate on na­tional and in­ter­na­tional is­sues, the same can­not be said of Nige­ria. Some can­di­dates shun pub­lic de­bates and still emerge land­slide win­ners!

In Nige­ria, sea­sonal jobs are cre­ated as money be­gin to flow for ‘The Boys’ - a eu­phemism for thugs who are usu­ally among the po­lit­i­cal har­vesters. It seems an ac­cepted anom­aly for the in­cum­bents to shift fo­cus from the econ­omy to politics dur­ing mid-term, ei­ther to pur­sue se­cond term agenda or so­lid­ify the po­lit­i­cal dykes around hand-picked suc­ces­sors, de­priv­ing the elec­torates to freely choose their rep­re­sen­ta­tives.

Again, the pol­icy mile­stones of most Amer­i­can pres­i­dents out­live them; their achieve­ments have be­come syn­ony­mous with their memories. For ex­am­ple, Pres­i­dent J.F. Kennedy (1961-63) is fa­mous for pre­sid­ing over the Cuban mis­sile crises, and Lyn­don B. John­son (1963-69) for pass­ing of Civil Rights Leg­is­la­ture, Richard Nixon (1969-74) ended the Viet­nam War, Ronald Rea­gan (1980-89) won a sub­stan­tial tax cut for the Amer­i­can peo­ple. Ge­orge H.W. Bush (1989-93) ended the cold war and led the in­ter­na­tional coali­tion to vic­tory in the Gulf War. Barak Obama (2009-16) fa­mously passed the Univer­sal Health Care Act.

Is such tra­jec­tory mir­rored in Nige­ria? I see mainly re­cy­cled per­sons in gov­ern­ment. For in­stance, Gen­eral Oluse­gun Obasanjo (rtd) was Head of State in 1976-79. Twenty years later, Obasanjo re­turned as an elected pres­i­dent and served two terms. Ditto Gen­eral Muham­mad Buhari - mil­i­tary Head of State (1983-85). Thirty years later Buhari is now an elected in­cum­bent. Audu Og­beh who served as Pres­i­dent Shehu Sha­gari’s min­is­ter (1979 - 83), is a serv­ing min­is­ter to­day! Oth­ers like Prof. Jerry Gana, Am­bas­sador Baba Gana Kin­gibe, Paul Unongo, Ior­cha Ayu, the late Adamu Ciroma are among a lead­ing caste of peren­nial res­i­dents of the cor­ri­dors of power. Since 1999, the cir­cu­la­tion of same set of politi­cians con­tin­ues. Names like Atiku Abubakar, Barn­abas Ge­made, Bola Ahmed Tin­ubu, Abubakar Bukola Saraki, Orji Uzor Kalu, Rabiu Kwankwaso, Ge­orge Akume etc. are liv­ing an­ces­tors to in­cum­bent politi­cians. Some of these per­sons - re­tired gen­er­als Oluse­gun Obasanjo, Theophilus Dan­juma, Muham­mad Buhari, Ibrahim Ba­bangida - be­long to the “Class of 1966” sol­diers who “won” the Bi­afra war. Se­na­tors David Mark (Benue), Tunde Og­beha (Kogi), Jonah Jang (Plateau), were “coupists” in 1983 as well as mil­i­tary gov­er­nors. Most of them were in gov­ern­ment be­fore French Pres­i­dent, Em­manuel Macron was born!

Our po­lit­i­cal ter­rain is fraught with bun­dles of be­wil­der­ments and hang­overs. Are the rep­re­sen­ta­tives rep­re­sent­ing the core in­ter­ests of their con­stituents? When I trav­eled to Umuahia last year, I saw “mil­i­tary block­ades and gar­risons” ev­ery­where. Peo­ple told me this was only the epi­logue of the “Op­er­a­tion Croc­o­dile Smile” waged against sup­port­ers of the In­dige­nous Peo­ple of Bi­afra (IPOB) as un­armed Igbo youths were de­hu­man­ised in the muds, in the forests, on the streets, and many lives were lost. Although I fol­lowed the news, what I met con­firmed the cliche, “see­ing is be­liev­ing.” Come to think of it, I never heard any of the Peo­ples’ Demo­cratic Party (PDP) Abia se­na­tors; Theodore Orji (Abia Cen­tral), Enyin­naya Abaribe (Abia South), Mao Ohuabunwa (Abia North), or Abia mem­bers of the House of Rep­re­sen­ta­tives openly re­buke the as­saults or its ex­cesses. Not even their Gov­er­nor, Okezie Ip­keazu. So I asked my­self, who are these rep­re­sen­ta­tives rep­re­sent­ing?

Sim­i­larly, Benue State is re­port­edly the Nige­rian cap­i­tal for hu­man slaugh­ter by the Fu­lani herds­men who also re­port­edly wrecked havoc in Adamawa, Ebonyi, Edo, Ek­iti, Kaduna, Kogi, Kwara, Plateau, Taraba as well as Zam­fara states. Sadly, it has been ma­jorly non-elected voices of the Catholic Church, Hu­man Rights ac­tivists, Femi Falana, and Dr. Oby Ezek­we­sili who strongly con­demned the pogrom-like scourge. Although, I thought this was a life­line for the Benue Se­na­tors David Mark and Barn­abas Ge­made (South and North-east), to demon­strate that they are both op­po­si­tion stal­warts and de­pend­able rep­re­sen­ta­tives. •Adu­lug­bais­apo­lit­i­calsci­en­tist.

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from Nigeria

© PressReader. All rights reserved.