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NIGERIAN POLITICIAN AND THE REST OF US
By Rev. Fr. Ojaje Idoko
 

As a judge in the Catholic Church tribunal I am used to the job of the ‘defender of the bond’. The defender of the bond as the name implies, argues at every point for the validity of marriage. Under no circumstance is he expected to say that the bond of marriage is not there or invalid. Most of the time, he is caught in the trap of defending the indefensible. It is not an enviable job.

I am a believer in the fact that playing opposition politics is an act of patriotism. I propose that anyone who chooses to play opposition politics shouldbe celebrated because it is not easy to find counter opinion in the face of glaring facts. It is made very difficult when the government in power is doing very well, delivering on electoral promises. What are they to oppose? You cannot oppose good governance if not you will incur the people’s wrath.  It is in such situation that the popular slogan, “there is no vacancy in government house” makes meaning.  In every democratic system of government, opposition acts as the check and balances of excesses of the government in power. By definition of terms and intentions, it is the conscience of the polity. Without it, the system descends into autocracy. However, the opposition is meant to be a positive opposition and not a clog in the wheel of progress. An opposition that challenges every good initiative of the government for the sake of party politics cannot said to be opposing only the government but also the people. It is also disheartening when a government in power does everything to score cheap political point. Such an action will alert the opposition to begin to act in ways and manner that suggest negative opposition. So what do we Nigerians get from those in government and those in opposition?

It is understood that while patriots think of the people, the politician thinks of the next election. In Nigeria all we hear about is the next election and so the question is; where are the patriots? This is compounded by the fact that our elder statespersons have political biasesandmost of them are godparents to politicians who are occupying position of authority. Those who are not political godfathers are ethnic bigotswho are always beating the ethnic drums of war. In such a situation, they are not able to speak for the nation. When they speak about politics it is either to defend an ethnic interest or a covert way of defending someone whose interest assuages their financial burden. Such elders patronize the person in authority for contracts, appointments or outright cash and material gifts. Such is the burden of the Nigerian state and people.

I am of the belief that the Nigerian politician thinks that the people are fools who have been conquered and have no choice.  The greater part of 2016 and the first four months of 2017 were used by the National Assembly, especially the senate to fight for personal ego. Every time you watched the debate on the floor of the Assembly, one distinguished senator or an honorable member of the House is raising a ‘point of national interest’. You would adjust yourself on the edge of the seat hoping to hear that they have finally found courage to debate the issue of the marauding militant cattle headsmen. You would think that it is time to raise the fact of the darkness that is fast enveloping the land for lack of electricity. Oh! He is going to move the motion askingMr.President to declare a state of emergency on condition of our national roads. Not any of those. It is simply because a government appointee made a statement during a press interview that put the senate or the national assembly in bad light. The person raising the issue will come up with a newspaper and announce that the story is contained on page 57, bottom left corner of an obscure newspaper that does not sell more than 1000 copies nationwide. So every other important national issue for that day will be stood down so that they can take this ego trip. They will eventually refer it to a committee after majority of themhad spoken on it for over three hours. Such a person will be made to appear before them to explain to them why he or she should speak in such a manner about the senators. And every week we get such ridiculous invitation. At a point I began to wonder if the national assembly is a law enforcement agency or the law making arm of the government.

My bigger concern is the feelings I get that politicians have made party politics to become a profession and a way of life. For them everything flows from politics and everything must be seen from the prism of party politics. For them nothing happens for nothing as there must be a political reason. We all heard of the debate that has been going on since the Chibok girls were taken into captivity over three years ago. The drama of the tears of the then First Lady, Patience Jonathan explains volumes in this respect. The silence of the presidency for about eighteen days after the incidence is also appalling. It was reasoned then that the presidency doubted or rather believed that it was an orchestrated exercise to discredit the sitting government. Such has been the theory since that horrifying incident. Disheartening as it seems, some people are of the belief that those who acted the drama are continuing with it in series with the gradual return of some of the girls.

The issue of recovery of the nation’s looted funds has become so political that we no longer think of the fact of looting and stealing of our common patrimony. It has become which party is probing what party and for what reason? When some of us sit at the corner and watch the way we are going about governance in Nigeria, we cannot but ask, ‘who did this to us?’ Does the nation exist for election of politicians into offices? In a state at the moment, the governor has declared a state of emergency on payment of salaries. He is said to be owing some of the workers up to ten months of unpaid salaries. The story is that he is declaring this state of emergency because the Local Government Elections in that state is close at hand. Of course the workers and everyone in the state is angry and they believe that this fire brigade approach is aimed at putting the governor’s political party in good standing with the people before the elections. For the people they have lost faith with the governor and so they believe that if not for the upcoming election, there would be no consideration for the welfare of the workers and their millions of dependants in that civil service and farming community state.

The opposition parties are complaining that the nation and states are being misgoverned. I have heard some people who have had the opportunity of governing before and did everything possible to put us in the current sorry state, also complaining.  They are now watching from the sidelines like the rest of us and are complaining and promising that given the chance they would perform wonders. Nigerians are wiser now. To fall twice over the same stone is a proverbial disgrace. It is bad enough that we have same bunch of politicians as Nigerians and it does not matter which political party one belongs to. We have realized that a political party is only a vehicle for politicians to get to governance to remain the same. Majority of politicians in Nigeria have cross carpeted from one political party to another before. What difference does it make when there is no political ideology? We even have the case of governorship aspirant who lost at the primary election of his political party where he had had many commanding positions. He quickly decamped to another political party early enough to win the new party’s ticket and goes on to become governor. At the moment the indigenes the state are complaining that the situation is worse than before. One civil servant said to me, “We sold our dog and bought monkey”. I just hope and pray that politicians understand that you cannot fool all the people all the time. We do not believe any of such grandstanding anymore because we know all of them to be the same.

In conclusion, Nigerians are losing faith in the present political structure that is not result orientated and on the politicians that drive the structure. Yes, there are some who are genuinely struggling to deliver on the electoral promises. Aside such negligible few, the rest are simply hoping that we know nothing but we do know so much now. They struggle to mouth political promises and projects, aimed at positioning them for future electoral fortunes. They always have their eyes on the next election. That is why, the opposition should do much more than what we are hearing and seeing at the moment because opposition politics is good for the nation. But politicians in Nigeria have proved so far to be the same, in the opposition or in government.

 

Rev. Fr. Ojaje Idoko

(Director of Pastoral Affairs department of the Catholic Secretariat of Nigeria)

 

 


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