Nige­ria: Why cit­i­zens must rise above lead­er­ship, now!

Sunday Trust - - VIEWPOINT - With Mon­ima Dam­inabo email: [email protected]­ 0805 9252424 (sms only)

Against the flood of avoid­able twists and turns mark­ing the course of the build-up to the 2019 gen­eral polls are a com­ple­ment of un­usual out­comes which ques­tion the dis­po­si­tion of much of the coun­try’s po­lit­i­cal lead­er­ship with re­spect to the mind­set of Nige­ri­ans. The ques­tion is whether a wide cross-sec­tion of Nige­ria’s lead­ers, are ac­tu­ally read­ing cor­rectly, the as­pi­ra­tions of the cit­i­zenry? Ques­tions over a likely mis­match be­tween the mind­set of the lead­er­ship and the as­pi­ra­tions of the cit­i­zenry lead to a deep­en­ing of the al­ready pal­pa­ble con­cern, over the gen­eral con­duct of pol­i­tics in the coun­try, and in par­tic­u­lar the prepa­ra­tions for the forth 2019 polls.

Dis­turb­ing as the mis­match may be, the sit­u­a­tion largely con­sti­tutes only a re­peat of the usual high drama that pre­cedes any poll ex­er­cise in the coun­try right from pre in­de­pen­dence years. In its es­sen­tial form, elec­toral ex­er­cises in this coun­try typ­i­cally fea­ture po­lit­i­cal horse trad­ing which is driven byun­veiled car­rot and stick tac­tics, with some sharp prac­tices in tow. Tak­ing some of the re­cent play­outs of the mis­match in no par­tic­u­lar or­der, are a few that send in­ter­est­ing sig­nals.

For in­stance, dur­ing the past week the Nige­rian Army de­mol­ished in Rivers State a camp in which the state gov­ern­ment was os­ten­si­bly train­ing those it called operatives of its ‘Rivers State Neigh­bour­hood Safety Corps’. Ac­cord­ing to a press state­ment from the Rivers State Com­mis­sioner of In­for­ma­tion Mr Emah Okah, the State had re­quested the Nige­rian Army ear­lier to pro­vide tech­ni­cal sup­port for the train­ing of the des­ig­nated operatives. But the Army was yet to re­spond as at the time of its raid on the camp. Not sur­pris­ingly, the Army would eas­ily latch on to the al­ibi of mil­i­tancy in the Niger Delta, for its clamp down on the camp.

Mean­while just be­fore the ac­tion of the Army, the Peo­ples Demo­cratic Party (PDP) con­trolled Rivers State Gov­ern­ment had raised an alarm that the Fed­eral Gov­ern­ment in­tended to desta­bi­lizethe state ahead of the 2019 polls. The ques­tion on many lips is that­even if theFed­eral gov­ern­ment - as Wike in­sin­u­ates - in­tends to use the mil­i­tary to sub­vert the will of Rivers State vot­ers dur­ing the polls, would such not only suc­ceed if the peo­ple them­selves have an axe to grind with the sit­ting PDP gov­ern­ment and al­low the mis­ad­ven­ture to hold?

Mean­while as if in a play­out of dif­fer­ent strokes for dif­fer­ent folks, the state chap­ter of the APC is swoon­ing un­der a lin­ger­ing shadow of not field­ing a can­di­date for gov­er­nor­ship elec­tions in 2019, fol­low­ing the un­re­solved is­sue ofa Supreme Court rul­ing which nul­li­fied the re­sults of the May 2018 lo­cal gov­ern­ment congress polls from which del­e­gates for sub­se­quent elec­toral ac­tiv­i­ties were sourced. In­ter­est­ingly, these de­vel­op­ments and oth­ers in the state pro­vided the ba­sis for for­mer Head of State Gen­eral Ab­dul­salam Abubakar, to­warn that Rivers State may con­sti­tute a po­ten­tial flash­point of cri­sis dur­ing the forth­com­ing polls. Is any­body lis­ten­ing to him?

In neigh­bour­ing Akwa Ibom State rages a storm fea­tur­ing a power tus­sle whose origin was more than a co­in­ci­dence with the de­fec­tion of Se­na­tor Godswill Ak­pabio from the Peo­ples Demo­cratic Party (PDP), to the rul­ing APC and his new zeal to boost the for­tunes of his new base in the state. Or­di­nar­ily a vig­or­ous cam­paigner for any cause he be­lieves in, Ak­pabio’s re­cent en­ter­prise in the State has had telling ef­fect on the bal­ance of power there.

At the level of the Fed­eral gov­ern­ment, a new sea­son of se­lec­tive dis­tri­bu­tion of the car­rot has just been launched with the ad­min­is­tra­tion dol­ing out favours which many as­so­ci­ate with its ‘hid­den agenda’ of win­ning ‘emergency’ sup­port from crit­i­cal sec­tions of the Nige­rian so­ci­ety. First was the dis­tri­bu­tion of small pack­ages of soft loans to low cadre small scale traders and busi­ness per­sons, un­der the ‘Trader Moni’ scheme, in re­spect of which the ben­e­fi­cia­ries would pro­vide their Per­ma­nent Vot­ers Card (PVC) num­bers as part of their re­spec­tive par­tic­u­lars. That el­e­ment alone has cast doubts over whether the fund so dis­bursed was for as­sist­ing the ben­e­fi­cia­ries or con­script­ing them to vote for the rul­ing party.

Next is the ges­ture of re­duc­ing the fees payable for var­i­ous ex­am­i­na­tions by stu­dents in the coun­try. Af­fected ex­am­i­na­tions are the West African School Cer­tifi­cate (WASC), Joint Admissions and Ma­tric­u­la­tions Board (JAMB), Na­tional Ex­am­i­na­tion Coun­cil (NECO) and Ba­sic Ed­u­ca­tion Ex­am­i­na­tions (BEE). And to serve as the ic­ing on the cake is the re­cent in­crease in salaries of the coun­try’s or­di­nar­ily over worked po­lice of­fi­cers. By how much this ges­ture of salary hike for the po­lice - which took so long in com­ing - has vin­di­cated the ad­min­is­tra­tion is a mat­ter of con­jec­ture. How­ever, its tim­ing to co­in­cide with the rag­ing clam­our by the coun­try’s labour move­ment, over a new min­i­mum wage for work­ers in­clud­ing the po­lice, re­mains an is­sue.

Put suc­cinctly, what­ever sig­nal the gov­ern­ment is send­ing to the peo­ple with these de­vel­op­ments and oth­ers not men­tioned here, may be kept by top guns in the gov­ern­ment, close to their chests. How­ever, whether the ges­tures con­vey the de­sired mes­sages to the peo­ple is another mat­ter al­to­gether. For in much of these de­vel­op­ments, the re­spec­tive operatives of the var­i­ous gov­ern­ments are of­ten act­ing smart by half, as they seem to still be see­ing the Nige­rian so­ci­ety as one gullible mass of cred­u­lous in­di­vid­ual ac­tors. Yet noth­ing can be as far from the truth as such an as­sump­tion.

Nige­ri­ans in gen­eral seem to be much more in­formed and pro­gres­sive than most of the in­di­vid­u­als who now oc­cupy po­si­tions of author­ity within the lead­er­ship com­mu­nity, some even at the dis­plea­sure of their con­stituents. How­ever, while this ten­dency to un­der­rate the cit­i­zenry by some lead­ers may be con­ve­nient for now, its days are num­bered. All through the his­tory of so­cial up­heavals, so­ci­eties re­volt against the lead­er­ship when­ever the aware­ness of even a few of the more ac­tive and en­dowed el­e­ments of the cit­i­zenry gain the ca­pac­ity to ef­fect change. And change al­ways takes place.

The coun­try’s his­tory with mil­i­tary coups pro­vide enough les­son that in­tol­er­a­ble muck in the ranks of the lead­er­ship, has an ex­piry date.

For Nige­ria such a date is not far away.

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