As a young girl in secondary school, I caught a glimpse of a book with one of my teachers and the title made an impression, though I never had an opportunity to read it as I was in a boarding school where access to non-academic Literatures was a bit of a challenge. I cannot recall with certainty, but the book must have been titled, ‘My father’s Mercedes is bigger than yours’ or something close.
I never forgot that title and though it sounded a bit childish back then, I finally came to realize the punch line as I grew into the complex world of adulthood. When I look at the Nigerian situation today, that title readily jumps to mind and makes perfect sense as a use case. It appears as if the two major political parties in the country and their supporters are struggling so hard to absolve themselves of corrupt practices and in the process are making statements that connotes “my thief is better than yours”.
Shortly after former Vice President Atiku Abubakar emerged winner of the Peoples Democratic Party guber primaries and was named its candidate, allegations of corrupt practices began to emerge against him, mostly from members and supporters of the ruling All Progressives Congress (APC). The mudslinging was palpable! One wonders why these allegations were not brought forth long before now, but then that is not the point of this article. This article is not to absolve anyone of corrupt practices, as the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) and the law courts have their jobs cut out for them. But what is baffling is the ease with which we point accusing fingers. If indeed Nigeria is to make any headway in the fight against corruption, then citizens must stop taking sides with the elite on either side of the divide. It is true that the Peoples Democratic Party held sway for 16 years; it is also not controversial that we had opposition parties during that period which saw politicians cross-carpeting from one party to the other depending on where their bread was being buttered. Only a few have always remained in the opposition and even at that they either changed party at some point or their party merged with another in order to get political millage and relevance. Take for instance, President Muhammadu Buhari. He contested the Presidency under the All Nigeria’s Peoples Party (ANPP), then contested under the CPC and finally the APC, where he got his much sought-after victory. Bola Ahmed Tinubu, who is seen as the de facto godfather in the South-West, initially contested the Lagos governorship under the Alliance for Democracy (AD) . The party later metamorphosed into the ACN, which later merged with the ANPP and CPC to form what is now known as the APC. So my point is this: the line between the APC and PDP as we know them today is blurred and it is grossly erroneous, or disingenuous to be perfectly honest, for anyone to judge any politician in Nigeria based on what party the person belongs to. In a country where there's no clear ideological divide between two major parties, it becomes even more nonsensical to try to adjudge politicians this way! There has been a lot of moving around sometimes without any other reason than very selfish interests, and we must all understand that in order to be considered fair in our assessment. Tagging one politician a thief or a bigger thief, as is now the order of the day, based on his or her party affiliation is totally misplaced, mischievous and most times malicious. It is nothing more than a rather cheap weapon used by one group to undermine the qualification or lack thereof, of the another.
We must learn to call a spade by its rightful name. A spade! Anyone who is found wanting must be pointed out. Knowing that corruption runs across all divides is the first place to start as we approach the 2019 general elections. There is nothing like a big thief and small thief. A thief is a thief. It is either we are ready to tackle corruption by going after all those who have one way or the other dipped their greedy hands in the national cookie jar, or we "manage it like that". All the candidates of political parties have emerged and we have a pool to choose from. There is no need for the campaigns of calumny or social media wars, which often times do not translate into anything. Citizens should look out for issue based campaigns, socio-economic agenda that benefit them and speak directly to their values to make informed decisions. The habit of looking at one particular party for the criminals while assuming that all members of another party are saints is dangerous for a democracy like ours. In doing this, we miss the chance to x-ray the candidates and to ask them to tell us exactly what they have to offer the nation and her citizenry. We should not be deceived again. It is not enough for one politician to reel out the sins of his opponent. He should take some time to tell us what he is bringing to the table.
When we look back at 2015, one of the mistakes we made as a nation was failing to ask the APC, exactly what type of change it meant when it kept on mouthing to us the Change slogan. We were too desperate to oust the incumbent but ‘fantastically corrupt’ government without weighing the other option. We, in our vengeful stupor missed the opportunity of demanding a blueprint of what the opposition would do to right the existing wrongs then. We ran with our emotions and voted accordingly. After the elections and APC assumed power, we began to ask questions which ought to have been asked long before the polls. Of course it was too late and we had to take whatever was churned out to us. Now, history is presenting another chance and it will not judge us fairly if we bungle it again. Good thing the two major primordial sentiments that the elite use to exploit the vulnerable Nigerian electorate are not prevalent in this 2019 election - ethnicity and religion. The two major contenders are Muslims and from the Northern part of the country, which means that Nigerians can actually look at the two individuals dispassionately and vote wisely. Their running mates are also both Christians and from the South of the Niger. The two Running mates are well schooled, intelligent and capable as seconds in command. That one is from Southeast and the other from Southwest most likely will not be too relevant in what promises to be a keenly contested election next quarter.
I know this may sound cliche, but we need to choose wisely this time!