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That Nigeria May Heal

May 3, 2010

I have watched with an amalgam of awe, concern, and interest as Nigerian politicians have made and broken alliances, built up and ruined coalitions, and renewed once broken political courtships. In 2009 I sent a private mail to one of our political gladiators, whom I considered to be among the “progressives” in Nigeria, urging upon him and his colleagues the need to ignore the distraction of a “Mega party.”

I have watched with an amalgam of awe, concern, and interest as Nigerian politicians have made and broken alliances, built up and ruined coalitions, and renewed once broken political courtships. In 2009 I sent a private mail to one of our political gladiators, whom I considered to be among the “progressives” in Nigeria, urging upon him and his colleagues the need to ignore the distraction of a “Mega party.”
I am sure that some damage has been done to his political party already. The legendary political flirtation of Nigerian politicians, for nothing more than pecuniary interest, has rather weakened the foundations of our democracy, which in the first place were poorly made.
It is not strange that some have excused their return to the “biggest party in Africa” on the “selfish ambitions” of some persons in the “opposition.” But where is this “opposition”?  The Nigerian state is politically poor, and poverty of politics usually produces poverty in governance. This is our plight today.
I recognize seven reasons for this poverty of politics in my nation:

    •    Poor vision: We can only reach for what we can see, either with our mind’s eye or with our physical eyes. Generally, we hardly act like people who have seen tomorrow. Our politicians can only see 2011 and that’s it. The present efforts at our electoral reform are obviously being made with 2011 in mind. Will an enduring result be achieved? If our planning is not practically a decades-long one, as clearly the evidence indicates, our politics is blind and our future is bleak.

    •    Obtuse disposition: Do our politicians not know that we need internal democracy within their parties in order to achieve global democracy in Nigeria? We don’t need committees on electoral reforms, educational reforms, economic reforms etc. We know what the issues are. We have documents produced by similar committees in the past. We deliberately refuse to know.

    •    Vile politics: Our political language is vulgar, and so our politics is poor—without fruits. Words are usually converted into pictures. Words and phrases in our political lexicon such as “capture,” “ruling party,” “turn of.....,” “no vacancy,” “political stakeholders,” “cabal,” etc convey very unpleasant and exclusionary images to the electorate’s mind. We need words by our politicians that inspire, bring to light the better things that we hope for, and that turn us into inventors of good. We need enduring words that leave behind echoes long after their originators have left the earth.

    •    Education deficiency: Ignorance—both academic and social—has corrupted our politics. Consequently, there is lack of enquiry into the aspirant’s judgement, vision, hope, beliefs, programs, and strategies. And since the knowledge and character of the greater part of our politicians are very poor, the propagation of the electorate towards the light of requisite knowledge is slow.

    •    Resignation to fate and apathy: I must admit that many visionary, knowledgeable, and unscrupulous Nigerians that could have stepped into the Nigerian political ring are reluctant, and in some cases, outright fearful. Some of the very religious have completely excluded effort and relied wholly on “divine intervention.” But if divine intervention in our individual lives, as experience supports, usually coheres with individual efforts, how then do we expect the exclusion of our necessary human part when it comes to the whole nation?

    •    Terrorism in our midst: When it has become a crime for one to get involved in a political contest, and so the supreme price must be exacted then poverty of politics has set in, in the sense that the best may hardly come forward. When logical arguments cannot be countered logically but with violence, then there is poverty of politics. In a particular state in Nigeria, while there are many candidates vying for a senatorial seat and other elective offices, there is yet nobody that has indicated interest to run for the office of Governor of that state. The reason is that the incumbent governor has deployed killers that should teach would-be “audacious” gubernatorial aspirants a lesson. A pastor has since been killed in that state two days after preaching against mismanagement of public funds by the incumbent governor. The people know about those things, but they live in fear. I am talking about Benue state where I hail from!

    •    Youth abuse: The abnormal use of our youths constitutes an abuse, which has further eroded what remains of our political purity and integrity. The hiring of thugs is done mostly among the youths from whom sound education has long been snatched by the same employers.

In view of the uncertainties that lie immediately ahead, and the present poverty of our politics, I urge the suspension of elections for the next five years. Between now and 2015, we must clean up our politics, institute enduring electoral reforms, bequeath ourselves a true Constitution of the Nigerian people, and build the needed infrastructure in the energy and electricity sector, transport sector, health and education sectors etc. Political parties that shall survive and evolve workable programs and ideologies up until 2015 will be eligible to field candidates for elections. Can this be achieved constitutionally? I answer in the affirmative. Section 305 (3) (d), (f) of the Nigerian Constitution provides room for a “doctrine of necessity.”

After May 29, 2011, the national assembly and Acting President Jonathan may continue in office by virtue of a proclamation of state of emergency in the federation based on section 305 (3) (d), (f), with periodic extensions by the National Assembly every six months. I do not suggest the dissolution of the National Assembly because those legislators are needed to make this work. All state governors whose terms expire on May 29, 2011 shall vacate their offices. Repeated polling shall be done in each state by credible means using mobile phone texting, internet, and other means, whether such governors should be retained for the next six months having regard to their present performance. This shall be done every six months until 2015. This shall also be done for each state legislator. If a governor or legislator is rejected nominations shall be asked also by polling; a nominee with the largest votes after a series of polling exercises that must last for a week shall be governor or state legislator for the next six months.

There is no urgency about having “elections” next year. We must heal our nation and clean up our politics before any conventional elections in Nigeria. But what shall become of Acting President Jonathan (or whoever will head the national Unity Government) and the National Assembly during the emergency regime? Who assesses them? Every year, there shall be a national referendum about the performance of each national legislator and the head of the National Unity Government. The outcome shall attract similar rendition as described above.

Leonard Karshima Shilgba is the President of the Nigeria Rally Movement (www.nigeriarally.org ) and Associate Professor of Mathematics with the American University of Nigeria.
TEL: +234-8055024356; Email: [email protected]


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