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Season of political migration
MOST Nigerian politicians have a hireling’s loyalty and a tramp’s footlooseness. They are birds of passage and are almost forever in flight. It is once again their season of mass migration, a reaction to their rejection. Birds obey a biological bell, a bell of ringing good sense, and migrate, but Nigerian politicians move further away from decency and desert after defeat.
They rig elections but protest and defect when they see themselves as victims. There has been a rash of defections following party primaries. Many of the defectors were ranking members of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), a party with the amorphousness of a threatening beast in the dark. Some of them have sought refuge in the Action Congress of Nigeria (ACN), which claims to be a liberal party, but which is exclusively associated with and dominated by one man, a sort of individual, dictatorial totemism. Is the ACN becoming the last refuge of scoundrels?
The primaries were a perverse pantomime in many cases. In some parties, delegates were told to take a running jump and winners were declared without elections. The Governor of Lagos State, Mr Babatunde Fashola, was named the candidate of the ACN without pretence to a democratic exercise. Many PDP governors intimidated challengers with the significant, even sinister, help of party and presidential officials and they were nominated unopposed. Some of the favoured governors had initially been opposed to President Goodluck Jonathan’s candidature in the April election but became slobbering fans of the president when they faced the humiliating prospect, indeed certainty, of not being fielded in the election.
Dr Olusegun Agagu, former governor of Ondo State, must be gurgling like a tickled baby. He used to be friends with Dr Olu Agunloye, former boss of the now corrupt Federal Road Safety Commission. Dr Agunloye accompanied Dr Segun Mimiko to the Presidential Villa on a visit to the late President Umaru Yar’Adua after Dr Mimiko was sworn in as governor of Ondo State. The court had removed Dr Agagu as governor, stating that his victory was the result of an electoral sleight of hand.
Dr Agunloye, whose political experience until then was limited to the appointive side, became a partisan politician. He joined Dr Mimiko’s party. Dr Mimiko is a veteran of political changeability, a serial defector, like many Nigerian politicians. He moved from the Alliance of Democracy, a party that espoused leftism, but chose a conservative economist as its presidential candidate, to the ruthlessly right-wing PDP. He is now a member of the Labour Party.
Dr Agunloye believed he would easily get a senatorial ticket of the Labour Party. He is Governor Mimiko’s friend, or he was until a few days ago, and the governor is in firm control of the party in the state. But the ticket was given to a man who stared at the stars for many years, using equipment designed and manufactured by foreigners. Nigeria deceives itself that it has presence in space. Dr Agunloye was brought down to earth and says he is now a member of the ACN.
Leading politicians have left the PDP for other parties in Benue and Plateau states. Mr Jonah Jang, the governor of Plateau State, must be a masochist. His state has been in bloody turmoil but he is seeking re-election. He is a typical Nigerian politician; he sees enemies everywhere, even under his bed, but he does not want to quit. He has offered insipid leadership and achieved little. The violence in the state is not an excuse for his dourness and virtual do-nothingness.
An award-most awards given in Nigeria, including National Honours, have the prestige of dope-aided Olympic medals-claimed that Mrs Grace Folashade Bent was the most active senator from the North in 2010. She vigorously campaigned for the PDP primaries and the wife of the president, Mrs Patience Jonathan, was conspicuously present at her rally. But Mrs Bent was defeated in the primaries by a mere local government chairman! What does this say about the influence of the wife of the president and even that of the president?
Mrs Lola Abiola-Edewor has been gratingly voluble. Her comparison of her alleged senatorial primary election victory with the presidential election clearly won by her father has the foul smell of sacrilege. Most of the primary elections diminished democracy. Some governors were like paranoid potentates and made sure that their opponents were not elected.
The primaries, almost violently contentious in some places and actually so in others, may be a foretaste of what to expect in April when the nation goes to the polls. The primaries taste awful and such elections in April may be like a bone in the throat of democracy. However, some of those who lost, especially national legislators, may have got their just electoral deserts. National Assembly members are not very popular now.
Many politicians have access to apparently inexhaustible funds. It is not money honestly earned and the politicians are ready to spend what is required to get into office. About five years ago, a magazine published extensively documented corruption allegations against a recent defector who is running for governor. The Economic and Financial Crimes Commission appears trapped in the country’s vast morass of amorality and cannot effectively fight corruption.
The Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) did not exactly shine in the Delta State governorship rerun. It showed organisational frailties in some areas and has been accused of infamy by Mr Edwin Clark, the biggest loser in the Delta State rerun. President Jonathan bounced Mr Clark and he is back in the cold.
Powerful and desperate forces are arrayed against INEC. The electoral commission is a raw, unarmed platoon against a fearsomely equipped army intent on electoral conquest. The dubiousness of the party primaries suggests that INEC, which may not have a guardian angel because it is no saint, may stand no chance against the forces of electoral felony.