Please don’t be alarmed, it’s not the end of the world yet. Truth is, we can do without them all, I mean the politicians. We don’t need them at all to survive. But then, who actually is a politician? According to the learned authors of Merriam-Webster Dictionary, a ‘politician’ is “a person experienced in the art or science of government”, he is the one “actively engaged in conducting the business of a government”. The authors didn’t stop at this positive description, perhaps knowing human beings as they are, particularly the stock of politicians from Nigeria.
It is stated further in this Dictionary that a politician could also be a “person primarily interested in political office for selfish or other narrow, usually short-sighted reasons”. This latter definition aptly captures the true character of Nigerian politicians, who go about spending fortunes on elections meant to secure a political position of service. They go to any length, just to secure victory, including engaging in very devious schemes such as rituals and even murder. One of them actually once declared that politics to him was a do or die affair.
Nigerian politicians are a rare breed, different from the ones we hear of in other enlightened jurisdictions. Ideally, political parties should exist and thrive on their principles, their manifestos and their objectives, whether to be a party of the left, pursuing social reforms and a radical agenda, or on the right, working diligently to preserve the status quo. This is why section 224 of the Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria, 1999, as amended, has provided that “the programme as well as the aims and objects of a political party shall conform with the provisions of Chapter II of this Constitution”.
Chapter II has to do with the fundamental objectives and directive principles of state policy, in relation to political objectives, economic objectives, social objectives, educational objectives, foreign policy, environmental objectives, culture, obligations of the mass media, national ethics and duties of the citizen. Within the political objectives for instance, the State is expected to provide adequate facilities for and encourage free mobility of people, goods and services throughout the Federation. Within the scope of the economic objectives, the State is expected to control the national economy in such manner as to secure maximum welfare, freedom and happiness of every citizen on the basis of social justice and equality of status and opportunity, to promote national prosperity and ensure that the economic system is not operated in such a manner as to permit the concentration of wealth or the means of production and exchange in the hands of few individuals or of a group of people.
It is expected that political parties would frame their constitutions and objectives to ensure that suitable and adequate shelter, suitable and adequate food, reasonable national minimum living wage, old age care and pensions, unemployment, sick benefits and welfare of the disabled are provided for all citizens. Within the social objectives, the political parties are expected to guarantee that every citizen shall have equality of rights, obligations and opportunities before the law, the sanctity of the human person and human dignity, to guarantee the independence, impartiality and integrity of Courts of law, and easy accessibility thereto, to ensure that exploitation of human or natural resources shall only be for the good of the community and that the conditions of work are just and humane, with adequate facilities for leisure and for social and religious and cultural life. Within the educational objectives, political parties are expected to ensure that they work to eradicate illiteracy by ensuring free, compulsory and universal primary education, free university education and free adult literacy programme.
Now, these objectives are very encompassing, covering virtually all aspects of human existence. They were deliberately inserted by the drafters of the Constitution in the hope that politicians would run with it through the political parties and formulate their objectives and manifestos around these objectives and implement them for the good of the people when they eventually get to power. This is why it is stated in section 6 (6) (c) of the Constitution that “the judicial powers vested in the Courts “shall not, except as otherwise provided by this Constitution, extend to any issue or question as to whether any act or omission by any authority or person or as to whether any law or any judicial decision is in conformity with the Fundamental Objectives and Directive Principles of State Policy set out in Chapter II of this Constitution.” In other words, these principles cannot be enforced in any court, since the politicians are already directed to ensure that the constitutions of their political parties reflect these principles. But you can trust Nigerian politicians; they believe more in security votes than building roads. And I’m told that this is part of the reasons why the Boko Haram war can never end, given that the money allocated for that is really huge. And since the major provisions in the Constitution dealing with education, roads, housing and other basic infrastructures are non-justiciable, the consequence is that there is so much money in the hands of politicians to be spent based on their own discretion, to the detriment of the common good.
Having observed Nigerian politicians for a long time, the Supreme Court of Nigeria recently had this to say about them, in the case of APC v. Marafa:
“The democratic system this country adopted was borrowed from the United States of America and other Democratic Nations of Europe. Those from whom we borrowed this system are steadily forging ahead in all areas of endeavour in order to create stress free and economically viable nations. For this great country, some politicians either are ignorant of what party politics is, or out of mischief, have continuously dragged this nation backward. If care is not taken, this class of politicians will drag this nation to the Stone Age, where all of us will be consumed. I once again, as this Court has consistently preached, urge this class of politicians to play the game according to law and guidelines which they themselves have enacted. It is only when this is done that sanity will take centre stage in the domestic and international affairs of this great nation.”
Why are politicians not interested in making life easy for the common man? It is premised on some devious logic. The politicians reason that if their followers are empowered sufficiently, they are well educated and well fed, then the concept of perpetual dependence will stop and there will be nobody to deceive during the next election. Then also, the politicians employ deprivation and starvation to hold their followers captive and in permanent bondage, so that none of them would be able to square up with them as to even dare compete with them for political office. The selfish vision of the politician is to be a local government chairman, move to the House of Assembly, then become the governor and thereafter retire permanently to the National Assembly as a Senator. Per adventure he gets too old to continue, he would prefer that his son or daughter should take over from him. In that way, the politician will not really be interested in developing his followers or delivering to them what he terms as the dividends of democracy.
Upon attaining power, the politician will only devise clever means of siphoning money, put all his family expenses on the State revenue and begin to live larger than life. And not having performed to implement any agenda for the development of his people, he is afraid to go back to his original base, where there is no power supply, there is no water, no hospital, no schools and virtually nothing to make life meaningful. So, he has to steal enough money that he considers sufficient to last himself and his family their lifetime, enough to supply power, enough to hire and maintain armed policemen, enough to send his children abroad for their education, having refused to pay local teachers well and caused them to embrace constant strikes that rubbish the education calendar. He has to loot the public treasury to be able to buy a private jet since he has failed to transform the aviation sector whilst he was in office and now he doesn’t want to experience flight delays and cancellations.
This is the common story of the Nigerian politician, regardless of the political party he claims to belong to, his primary focus is to be in government perpetually. So, if his party loses in an election, he doesn’t wait for the sun to go down before embracing the winner and dumping his own party and if his former party is able to displace him in the next election, he goes back to that platform without any thought at all. So what do we do? It is to ‘kill’ all the politicians through self development by all their followers, self awareness to make a change so that votes may count and taking personal responsibility to demand accountability and good governance. The greatest way to defeat a monster is to confront him.
•Ebun-Olu Adegboruwa (SAN) writes from Lekki Lagos.