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‘Up politics, down governance’, By Isaac N. Obasi


In Nigeria, politics is everything. But the greater problem is that it is bad form of politics that dominates. This form of politics inter alia is not development oriented but it is politics of personal aggrandisement, enrichment, wealth accumulation and domination without qualms. Evidence in the present governance system adds to the validation of this long held thesis of this writer. For example, in spite of the highly fragile nature of our polity and its hopelessly insecure state, which everybody sees and acknowledges, politicians are moving around as if all is well. When the structure, infrastructure and super-structure of our society are all in shambles, politicians are still moving around the country in self-delusion of nation-wide consultation for the realisation of their future political aspirations. Which future you may ask?

It appears that there is a wool covering their eyes otherwise, they would have asked themselves the nature of this FUTURE which for many people, appears not to be ASSURED. Yet some who are in the periphery of this politicking think that the FUTURE IS ASSURED. I like the courage of conviction of such optimism except that it is not evidence-based and driven. 

Nigeria to the knowledge of everybody is facing a serious threat to its existence. It appears it is only those who are part of the problem or those benefiting from the system that would hypocritically disagree. Nigeria’s problems are as tall as Mount Kilimanjaro. Few examples will suffice. First, there is pervasive insecurity of imaginable proportion that has never been experienced in the history of this country. Secondly, there is the fiscal crisis of the state (poor revenue amid very high expenditure, rising debt, rising inflation etc). Thirdly, there is the dangerous strikes by the academic (ASUU, ASUP etc) and non-academic unions in the higher education sub-sector that have kept thousands of students at home for too long. Fourthly, there are other strikes or threat of strikes by unions in almost all sectors of the economy. Fifthly, there is the issue of the crumbling aviation industry yet to be satisfactorily resolved. Sixthly and highly dangerous again (when it concerns youths) there is high unemployment rate with high youth joblessness and restlessness.  Seventhly, there is the more and more politics of domination and further threats of domination, and exclusion, and the list goes on and on. 

Nigerians expect those in office now to offer concrete solutions to these problems. But what we see is the abandonment of governance (call it breakdown of governance) for full scale empty politics where public resources are unabashedly wasted in the name of consultations across the country. This is happening while workers and pensioners are languishing in abject poverty with some not even paid their salaries. 

What is the essence of 10 presidential aspirants (and more) for example consulting one traditional ruler whose best offer is to wish all of them well? In some areas for instance, some of the traditional rulers have already taken sides with aspirants in their domain and yet other aspirants are wasting tax payers’ money travelling around consulting same royal fathers. The same applies to other notable figures who are consulted. The way this political consultation is done presently is adding to the fiscal crisis of the state. Take it or leave it, public money and other resources are used to move around thereby creating more huge debt amid poor revenue. In any case, many of these politicians have been retained in office for over seven years now to enable them accumulate and be able to donate same to their party in a disguised manner of buying forms.

And coming to the more unpardonable form of bad politics, is the outrageous issue of using one hundred million naira (N100,000,000) to pick pressidential election nomination form. Paying huge sums of money for nomination form has suddenly become the most important requirement that one is capable to govern Nigeria (i.e. the most important demonstration of capacity to govern Nigeria). The problems facing Nigeria are ipso facto swept under the carpet. 

To what extent can Nigerians entrust their future to politicians who have demonstrated lack of capacity to resolve prevailing problems that pose serious existential threats to us? Where will such politicians get the capacity to turn things around in future? By the way, is it not a joke carried too far, that those who contributed to the festering of these problems due to their lack of capacity or willful negligence to provide solutions, are coming round to pay one hundred million naira as their evidence of capacity to govern us? When and where did possession of money constitute the most important capacity or competence to govern a nation? 

Come to think about of it: (a) if the government fails to resolve satisfactorily the current strike by the Academic Staff Union of Universities (ASUU), (b) fails to rescue safely the victims of the Abuja-Kaduna train kidnap, (c) fails to resolve the lingering fuel crisis for both land and air travels, (d) stop corruption with impunity as evidenced by possession of easy money by political parties which they will in turn use to buy their way during the 2023 elections because the poverty-stricken nature of the society, then  there is no moral right for anyone in this dispensation to aspire to govern us. For if it allowed, it implies that our problems would continue to fester and the best we would get are lousy excuses that have been with us for a long time now. 

By the way, if the Federal Executive Council shares collective responsibility for decisions of the government, why would an erudite professor and a serving vice president not be in a position to persuade members of the Council on the need to meet ASUU’s demands especially the monetary component which is not bogged down by ideological differences and rigidity? The excuse that there are limited funds cannot convince anybody any longer, as it is a matter of setting priorities right than lack of funds. It is inexplicable that the vice president can feel comfortable with ASUU going on strike under this government for a longer period of time. His most expressed and proffered solution (during the 2022 May Day celebration) was to ask the Nigeria Labour Congress (NLC) to appeal to ASUU to embrace dialogue. 

Yes constructive dialogue is ultimately the answer but not the type of dialogue that produces non-implementable agreements, MOUs-turned into Memorandum of miss-Understanding, and MOAs-turned into Memorandum of in-Actions. This has been the case with this government the political party of which regrettably has the word ‘Progressive’ attached to its name. Unfortunately, what many people see all over then are ‘Retrogressive’ actions rather than what the name suggests. This prompts one to ask one again: that if the capacity to resolve issues now in 2022 (when one is in power) is lacking, where will the capacity come from to resolve such issues in 2023 if one wins an election to continue to be in power? It is therefore likely, that the same retrogressive and reactionary forces would hold the winner down from performing to the satisfaction of the generality of Nigerians. 

From every indication, the manner of politicking has made four year tenure to be reduced effectively to three years since practically no governance has been taking place since this year. It is as if what we have now is ‘up-up politics and down-down governance’ thereby leaving the mounting problems and existential threats to fester. Nigerians have a choice to make and if they follow their usual retrogressive trajectory dressed in deceptive progressive language, Nigeria would move from its present hospitalized state into the Intensive Care Unit (ICU).   

Prof. Obasi, a public policy expert is of the Department of Public Administration, University of Abuja. Email: [email protected]      

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