In the pit that is politics in Nigeria, pittances are pearls.
They are a stark mark of unyielding and unbending poverty, the kind of poverty that pulverizes the mind, laying waste to what there is and seeding a disease that is invisible but invincible.
Nigeria is a land lain waste. From the beginning, it was trampled under the boots of callous colonialists. Independence came in 1960 and while a newly independent country was struggling to find its feet, its oppressors came in khaki uniforms, pledging death and issuing decrees.
Then came the weasels of war which were only forerunners to the wolves unleashed against the Southeast between 1967-70 as a country crumbled under the weight of its wannabes.
Between 1970 when the war supposedly ended and 1999 when the delicacies of democracy again danced their way to Nigeria’s starving tables, Nigeria’s khaki-clad tormentors let the country enjoy only brief moments of respite.
Their shadows loom large even till this day as the infamous Abacha loot continues to come home and with it a litany for the leeches that continue to leer at Nigeria’s nakedness.
Since 1999 however, Nigeria’s tactful and treacherous traducers have been mostly civilians rebranded as politicians. With the return of democracy came all the dreams that had been cruelly aborted under different military regimes – dreams of free speech, of elections, of independent media, but most crucially, of a free prosperous people.
With the distinct possibility of elections came the formation of political parties which are the associations that necessarily support the mechanics of democratic elections in Nigeria.
Into these different parties decorated by different names and symbols but markedly similar in their scandalous lack of ideology have dispersed many of the dupes responsible for the depredations that currently afflict Nigerians.
All manner of people are politicians these days. People convicted of drug-running and fraud in foreign countries where the law takes no prisoners have returned to Nigeria and become political heroes. People wanted for crimes in other countries straddle Nigeria’s political space with magisterial authority.
The results are riotously clear for all to see . Leadership in Nigeria has come to be afflicted with a poverty of ideas and implementation. This has birthed a country crippled by incompetence, inertia and corruption.
In the last eight years especially, Nigerians have lived a leadership nightmare. As poverty and insecurity have scythed through Nigeria with terrifying consequences, Nigerians have been forced to look at themselves over and over again.
It is said that people always get the leaders they deserve. Nigerians have never had good leaders in the country.If this argument holds true, Nigerians have never deserved good leaders.
The 2023 general election is fast approaching. Already, it has thrown up all manner of permutations. The major and minor political parties have since put forward their candidates. Campaigns have long opened. The usual suspects are in the race along with a couple of newcomers who are threatening to breast the tape on their first attempt.
For the Labour Party and Peter Obi, its candidate, an earthquake rumbles deep in the belly of Nigeria’s politics.
The weight of his words on the campaign trail gives off the whiff of someone who knows just what Nigeria’s problems are and what has to be done to solve them. If he wins the race, he may yet be overwhelmed by the problems. But that he seems to have a handle on the challenges has made many Nigerians to take notice.
But more than the wisdom he exudes when discussing Nigeria’s seemingly intractable challenges is the mammoth danger his personal and political philosophy poses to a disease that is at the heart of Nigeria’s leadership failures.
It is the politics of crumbs and craps and crabs and craft with each feeding off and sustaining the other. With bad leadership having hastened the institutionalization of poverty around the country, Nigerian politicians – master opportunists that they are – have deified money while refining the role its plays during elections.
The strategy is simply to hand out chicken feed to gullible Nigerians in exchange for their votes. The items usually range from clothing to seasoning, a little rice and some money here and there.
Recently, the items have been upgraded to include some beans with the stipend jumping from two thousand naira to five thousand naira and even ten thousand naira in some cases. The result is that many Nigerians are hooked.
Where are they sharing money, many people ask during elections? They should come and share money, say. While some Nigerians have retained their senses in spite of the lure of filthy lucre, out of the mentality of the maddening mob for whom elections are only about money has emerged a stereotype that the politician who does not share money cannot be trusted.
This stereotype has become a rod for Peter Obi’s back. The astute business man who as Anambra State Governor brought an unprecedented level of shrewdness and prudence to public spending has maintained all through his bid to become Nigeria’s president that he abhors this nauseating politics of craps and crumbs.
He has steadfastly maintained that he is a firm believer in the fact that money should be spent properly. Many of Nigeria’s political buyers and sellers have taken offence at him, slapping their ears shut at his words.
It was Peter Obi’s conviction that he could not participate in such breadcrumbs politics that saw him jump ship from the Peoples Democratic Party shortly before its primaries descended into an unregulated match of avaricious buying and selling.
Peter Obi’s courageous stand in a country where many values have been lost to the vicious cycle of vice spun by vultures has ironically brought many Nigerians who want a sanitized country aboard his charabanc of change.
However, for political merchants like Reno Omokri whose farcical flippancy knows no bounds, Peter Obi’s stinginess won’t suit Nigeria if he becomes President. Omokri recently warned that were Peter Obi to become President, ASUU will embark on an unending strike as he would be unwilling to meet the demands of the members of the union.
Reno Omokri who was an aide to Goodluck Ebele Jonathan when the latter was president definitely belongs to the league of leeches who having latched on to Nigeria in the past to great benefit want a return to the past.
In spite of his many shortcomings, President Muhammadu Buhari has tried to plug the many leakages to public funds deliberately designed by the komodo dragons who feast on the country. For them, a president who shares money is not just a president but a prophet and even a physician who will cure Nigeria of her infirmities.
But such is not the kind of President Nigeria needs now. Nigeria needs a president who has a track record of accountability and transparency with public funds.
Unless Nigeria gets such a president who will be willing to lead the way by force of personal example into office, a desperate country will be doomed to repeat the mistakes of the past.