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A Government For The People By Jon Chikadibie Okafo

Government is that plinth upon which stands the social contract that binds us together as a free people eager to co-exist in harmony. It is the institution built with the belief that the people of a sovereign state are stakeholders in an enterprise that promises to guarantee fairness, equity and an enabling social and economic environment where each person can aspire to any position, no matter how lofty.

Government is that plinth upon which stands the social contract that binds us together as a free people eager to co-exist in harmony. It is the institution built with the belief that the people of a sovereign state are stakeholders in an enterprise that promises to guarantee fairness, equity and an enabling social and economic environment where each person can aspire to any position, no matter how lofty.

Democracy is what paints a beautiful picture of this scenario when it maintains that it is “a government of the people, for the people and by the people”. [Abraham Lincoln].

I have been compelled by incessant mind-bending occurrences to re-access the democracy being practiced in Nigeria; do we really have a functional democracy that at worst aspires to represent a government of the people, or is it a case of a government of the few, for the few and by the few? I genuinely believe that what we have in our country is far from a democracy in the real sense of it. What we have is a collection of individuals who could be likened to a fellow that feigned surprise when served a sumptuous dish in a feast, but came with a spoon hidden in his pockets. Worrying scenarios of very few individuals who have continuously formed a frantic mind-frame, which suggests that Nigeria is one big feast that must be ravaged endlessly while the majority salivates.

It is that time of the year when political vultures circle above us, forming alliances, negotiating, and back-stabbing each other, all with the view to either maintaining their strongholds or emerging as part of the new order. We are done with the elections and now it is the season of cashing in on promises made, a new government is in the making and our politicians are baring all fangs. Relevance is the word.

The ruling party, the PDP is at it again and I fear things appear to be business as usual. The cacophony of utterances could drive a man passionate about Nigeria insane; talks of zoning different political offices strongly suggests that there is a fight about which region is going to hold on to what. Where do the masses fit into the picture? Political jobbers and sundry characters are roaming about trying to negotiate themselves into the new government and the driving force remains a perpetuation of primitive acquisition.

The National Assembly remains the most insulting aspect of our democracy. This is an institution that ordinarily should be serving the interest of the people by making laws that will be seen to be upping the living condition of Nigerians, checking the excesses of the Executive, etc. Unfortunately, what we have is a National Assembly with men and women of unimaginable cheek whose recklessness remains mystifying. Mystifying because I am still unable to understand why these folks would be in an eternal pursuit of making laws that are both self-serving and silly. The amount of money, our money being wasted by the National Assembly makes ours the most expensive Legislature in the world. Just last week, we were jolted by a piece of news that is both not so startling and shocking at the same time; the first was an established case that the out-going Speaker of the House of Representatives, Dimeji Bankole borrowed the sum of N10b [Ten billion Naira] in his capacity as the Speaker of the House without consulting his mates. Secondly, it was revealed that members of this lower house “dash” themselvesN42m [Forty-two million Naira] every quarter! This amount I understand is outside other fancy perks which they collude amongst themselves to approve.

Where do we, the masses fit into this democracy? Why do we have politicians who are mostly men and women bereft of ideas on how to run a country? It is strange the type of arguments and laws streaming from the National Assembly, what you see is a well orchestrated parliament that demonstrates something akin to a comedy. When the “debates” appear to be going the way of a group with a different opinion, chairs and tables are used as weapons to break a few heads and restore “sanity”. Who could explain to me why the out-going Senate hurriedly passed a bill which forbade newly elected Senators from becoming chairpersons of “lucrative committees’’ in the senate [apologies to Abike Dabiri-Erewa]? Another attempt to preserve the status quo; it is the height of perfidy for lawmakers to make laws that will only serve their interests while repudiating moves that will benefit we, the people. A sound moral position of the best man winning is daily being slaughtered at the altar of our lawmakers. Our National Assembly is self-serving, wasteful and extremely too corrupt to attend to our needs as citizens of a democratic country.

Those that supported and marketed the sinful lie that a vote for President Jonathan was not a vote for the PDP should make haste to explain to me what is happening now in Nigeria. The same mentality is being employed by members of the ruling party to partition our resources to their otimkpus and cronies. Names are being dropped, people are being considered for appointments not on merit but on tribe and connections, as usual the role of godfatherism is peaking. The mind frame of members of this ruling party worries me a lot; the intensity of their greed is exceptional. The interest of the men and women of the PDP seems to be on exploiting every possible weird chance that will lead to access to the corridors of power-and wealth. That is why I look at the present arrangement of “zoning” key government positions as being dodgy. Unless we are told the truth, which is that government in Nigeria, is about “chop-I-chop”, the argument for zoning is weak. Favoured politicians from different parts of the country will soon be chosen to represent their various zones in the big feast.

In an earlier essay, I did wonder what made Governor Peter Obi of Anambra State to support the Presidential bid of Jonathan Goodluck. Mr. Obi is not a member of the PDP but APGA; in his capacity as the Chairman of the South East Governors Forum, he teamed up with his mates to campaign for President Jonathan. We were told that they reasoned that Goodluck Jonathan had the interest of the Igbos at heart but it appears to me that we were sold a dummy. Having realized this, Mr. Obi is now singing a different tune; blame Igbo PDP members for any disappointment to be suffered in this present government. Igbos are now left with the option of having one of theirs as the Secretary to the Federal Government. How does this translate to “having the interest of the Igbo man at heart”? Is President Jonathan a tribal President? I am sure that the leadership of Ohaneze Ndi Igbo will be having sleepless nights at the sudden realization that they made a mistake in supporting President Jonathan. Well, this can only stop the moment we see that promised second Niger Bridge, a fully operational Akanu Ibiam International Airport, Enugu, a Container Terminal at Onitsha, and many more.

But then, it will be totally wrong of me to narrow my outlook to a section of Nigeria only. The wider picture of Nigeria shows a gloomy atmosphere; the level of ignorance, poverty, disease, violence and crime across our country is really high. The idea of a “one Nigeria” diminishes in substance when one sees the level of poverty and ignorance in the North of our country and the depressing level of environmental degradation and poverty in the Niger Delta. It would be nice to hear the contributions of members of the National Assembly towards alleviating the misery of members of their constituencies; I say this because these men and women collect millions of Naira for “Constituency Projects” with nothing to show for it. I earnestly hope that President Goodluck Jonathan will have the moral strength to re-structure our National Assembly. It is my considered view that the NASS represents a waste-pipe in our economic life as a country- a country struggling with so many set-backs, the huge amount of money spent in running the National Assembly should be channeled towards meeting the expectations of the populace. We are not asking for much. Our country is blessed abundantly but we are still in the wilderness because of the actions of a handful of people who conspire amongst themselves to hold our country to ransom. It is quite worrying that in this 21st century, the Giant of Africa is still grappling with epileptic power supply, bad roads, derelict schools, non-existent health care system, religious bigotry and violence, uncontrollable cases of armed robbery and kidnapping, an uninspiring and poorly motivated police force, lack of clean water, etc. This is really sad indeed. Is it not strange that while Nigerians are suffering and dying in their thousands daily, our politicians and ex-Governors are being arrested and tried in Europe for stealing billions of Naira of public funds?

My undying optimism makes me believe that things could turn for the better in the next four years of President Jonathans reign. He must not continue with the ways of yore; a situation where a few men and women sit down together and carve up Nigeria to sustain their avarice is unacceptable. We are tired of being asked to be patient-the time has come for us to start insisting that our leaders perform the very functions they were elected to carry out. It is quite encouraging seeing the level of awareness amongst my compatriots, people are beginning to ask questions, Nigerians are beginning to see the essence of their democracy, which translates into a government of the people where their voices matter. Truly, ours is a beautiful country of very beautiful people-we are truly a cheerful lot. It will be wrong for us to leave our country in the hands of a few charlatans whose only aspiration in government is represented by the size of their Ghana-must-go filled cash!

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