Call them sycophants, bootlickers or hucksters, political jobbers are part and parcel of politics or any administration. Essentially, they are poster boys for those in power who act for personal gain. Like stringers, they supply the boss with information from real or perceived enemies so as to gain his confidence. Political jobbers are skilled in propaganda as they use every opportunity to remain relevant in every political process. As if they have cast a spell on those in power, these astute political acolytes have a way of convincing power-handlers that they have a profile of all their enemies.
The activities of political jobbers are not often based on any ideology. More often than not, these hucksters operate in a clique. They see themselves as the protectors of their Oga’s patrimony. If anything, they are responsible for the “Do or Die” politics we are currently experiencing in Nigeria. They don’t and won’t accept defeat because doing so would make their meal ticket to expire. Besides, how do they explain to their benefactor that they could not deliver?
The writer has tried to paint the picture of what happens in our political process to underscore the point that if there are loopholes in our polity, we should not look far. While bootlickers employ praise-singing as a tool for massaging the ego of their boss, they also rent crowds to complete the job. With an army of jobless youths at hand, it is easy to recruit young people to snatch ballot boxes, burn the house of political enemies, intimidate voters and even bribe security agencies to turn a blind eye on political rascality.
It would seem that even those who occupy high-profile offices in the nation are not bereft of the tendencies of those they pay as sycophants. This is because they often create artificial poverty to punish the people. Once money is difficult to come by and the prices of goods and services are high, the poor masses become vulnerable. The present situation in Nigeria is not any different. As it has happened in previous general elections, when elections are approaching, life becomes extremely difficult for the citizenry.
However, as the elections are drawing very close, cash begins to flow. Erstwhile critics of the administration would start hailing government. The reader might wonder, why? Well, the reader is not farfetched. Not only has money exchanged hands but political jobbers have delivered. Yes, they have succeeded in buying hungry voters. In the last general elections (2019), both internal and external observers found that vote-buying was a decisive factor in the democratic process in Nigeria. Political buccaneers went as far as paying voters on the spot so that their candidates can have their way.
Nigerians have always blamed the failure of elections in the country on the ruling party or government of the day. Perhaps this is because they control the electoral process and security apparatus. Well, while there is some truth in that position, there is little or no inquiry about other important arrow-heads who aid and abet political-corruption leading to loss of lives and property. Be they security agents, clerics, party officials, friends and family members of the political class, political jobbers clandestinely recruit other foot-soldiers to deliver their candidate.
They derail electioneering and elections. When their candidate fails to win, they create confusion. As we saw at Capitol Hill in the US during the election that brought Joe Biden in as the 46th President of the United States of America, post-election violence is often the product of a pseudo-political godfather who convinces fellow electorates not to accept the outcome of the election. While they are relishing a cozy life in the comfort of their country-home, the poor are busy killing one other, destroying the lives and livelihoods of their fellow country men and women. The April 2011 three-day post-election violence in Nigeria which claimed the lives of more than 800 people and displaced 65,000 persons following the presidential election is a case in point.
Sadly, these political jobbers are from among us. Residents of every community in Nigeria know those who incite or execute violence. They know those who call the shots. Accordingly, if we are looking for those who sponsor hoodlums to cause mayhem during elections, we know where to find them. The only challenge is that most times, these people may be highly connected. They can pay for bail and jail the accuser. The security agencies know them but the problem is, their cash makes a good case for them.
If their party or candidate wins, they intimidate the opposition. While that is done to distract the public, they begin to access contracts. They begin to remind those whom they helped to ascend power that “it’s payback time.” By becoming a public contract racketeer, a poor man before elections suddenly becomes rich. He goes to Church, declares a fat thanksgiving and begins to blame his unemployed classmates in the village that they are in that condition because God is not on their side. Such is the paradox of our polity. The painful part is that these enemies of the nation either end up squandering the money on foreign trips or using substandard materials to execute contracts.
To get it right, every political party or ward in the country must weed out political jobbers who are determined on truncating our nascent democracy. The National Orientation Agency (NOA) and Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) must insist on voter education. If we scale up literacy, open up the economy and reduce poverty, voters would begin to think and choose wisely. Shrewd “politicians” who are only interested in stomach infrastructure must be reminded that Nigeria is our common patrimony. As such, it must be protected from pirates who are bent on sinking the ship of the nation. God bless the Federal Republic of Nigeria!
Fr. Dyikuk is a Lecturer of Mass Communication, University of Jos, Editor – Caritas Newspaper and Convener, Media Team Network Initiative (MTNI), Nigeria.