Nigeria’s Fourth Republic Political System: Any Lessons Learned So Far?

(By Simon Abah)

Conservative pundits have pointed to the fact that most of Nigeria’s Fourth Republic politicians have not excelled in industry and have not carved a niche for themselves in civil society. Most were never part of their party’s inner caucus before they were selected to be elected. Lots of them just happened along and were anointed to lead. How then do you expect to entrust billions of naira to them monthly and expect probity, accountability and the provision of basic infrastructures?    The forte of a man who is not prepared for office most likely may not be to develop but to make history. And people who set out to make history for history’s sake don’t serve well. Can you therefore see our bane? This is why this generation of politicians may never be able to take us to the Promised Land.”  

FOR a nation of over 160 million, it is hard to believe that we are yet to find and replace towering political personalities such as the late Dr. Nnamdi Azikiwe, Chief Obafemi Awolowo, and Sir Ahmadu Bello, Tafawa Balewa and many others in today’s political corridor.   Were these personages without faults? No mortal is. They believed in Nigeria, followed the strictest code of personal discipline, and their political appeal reverberated more with Nigerians of their time than the shortcomings they had. They campaigned for independence (Though history says it was given on a platter of gold) in different political groups with the resolve to emancipate the Nigerian from colonial rule. Politics after independence was without prejudice to the dignity of the men in the other political camps. Criticism was taken in good faith without bad blood. Criticism in many instances was offered after a careful review of facts. Reviews of the facts in public encouraged empathy and a great following. Why are today’s politicians different and why haven’t they measured up? Nigerians in this dispensation have taken for granted the importance of a strong political system and have allowed themselves to be deceived by politicians who want power at all cost.

  Between 1999 and 2007, there was not a single politician in Nigeria who had a massive following that can be compared to that of the late Alhaji Aminu Kano, Alhaji Abubakar Rimi, Alhaji Waziri Ibrahim, Chief Bola Ige, Alhaji Lateef Jakande or Alhaji Balarabe Musa (who unfortunately was impeached) and others. It has become worse since then. It was rare to see politicians defect to other parties but today it is fashionable for officials who have served out their tenure under one party to defect to another without shame. Aren’t there ideologues’ anymore? Are political parties formed without an ideology and strict code of conduct?  How come the recent registration of a new party, that should give Nigerians an alternative to the dominant party, is beginning to fan the embers of ethnocentrism by the request of a certain elder statesman for a section of the country to contest the Presidency in 2015?  Which section in particular?

  I recall that there are three geographical regions in that section. Do we now form parties only to win election at the centre? Shouldn’t politicians be concerned about bringing development to the grass roots level, building roads, bridges, railways, developing agriculture, making the environment conducive for investors, strengthening social service units to take care of abandoned children, beggars and mentally disturbed people on the streets and empowering the man. When will this winner-take-all debacle foreclose in this country?

  Political pundits have reasoned that ability alone does not make an elected leader succeed in governance but experience is needed. They argue that such politicians must have been educated, must have succeeded in industry, the public would have investigated them; they would have come through the ranks of the party and never just selected to run for an election. They would have handled minor and major assignments and passed the mark over time and must be willing to implement the party’s cardinal points. Alhaji Lateef Jakande succeeded in Lagos between 1979 and 1983 because he believed in his party, the UPN, and also because he implemented the party’s cardinal points (mass housing scheme and others) to the letter. Are we surprised why they got a following, loyalty and lifelong friends?

  In the history of the United States only President Gerald Ford was privileged to have the vice presidency and presidency thrust on him without election. This lack of political preparedness led to his defeat by President Jimmy Carter. History is replete with instances of men who have failed in their field because they were not prepared for office. Conservative pundits have pointed to the fact that most of Nigeria’s Fourth Republic politicians have not excelled in industry and have not carved a niche for themselves in civil society. Most were never part of their party’s inner caucus before they were selected to be elected. Lots of them just happened along and were anointed to lead. How then do you expect to entrust billions of naira to them monthly and expect probity, accountability and the provision of basic infrastructures?    The forte of a man who is not prepared for office most likely may not be to develop but to make history. And people who set out to make history for history’s sake don’t serve well. Can you therefore see our bane? This is why this generation of politicians may never be able to take us to the Promised Land.

   Fourteen years into the Fourth Republic, there is still no adequate power supply, no rail network, no good roads, same old nonfunctional refineries, agriculture is dead and Ajaokuta Steel Complex is what it is, a white elephant project. The minerals in Jos and everywhere in Nigeria are not mined; the civil service long dead is still dead. State assets are privatised to cronies and our politicians are collecting elephantine salaries higher than the salaries of their counterparts in the developed world while we groan without hope for a better life. To make matters worse, our country is still pitted against North, South, East and West with tribal jingoists ready for political war always.

   So nothing happens when people rig their way to office, when monies are stolen and laundered. Nobody is held accountable for his words anymore. “I will only rule for one term” can be jettisoned to the wind and nobody will hold you accountable for that when you decide to renege and contest for the second term. It is all “in the will of God’’.  Politicians politicise religion (a private affair) leading to religious pogroms that constantly besiege us in this country but their victory at the polls was the “will of God” so they claim and nothing happens. Today’s politicians cannot manage the opposition and dissenting voices in the house, and they see people from the other side as always trying to subjugate them. There are now “pro” this governor and “anti” that governor – instead of pro state. But it is the “will of God” for them to lord over us so nothing happens. Our mentality must change.

  Countries that don’t leave everything to chance and ride on the will of God excel. You are either executed in China for corruption or given a long jail sentence. The IRS in America investigates tax fraud as a state crime. Between 1991 and 1996 Japan had five prime ministers who were either forced to resign due to a vote of no-confidence, implicated in financial scandals, or their parties suffered massive defeat in a general election. A unique case in point is that of Prime Minister Morihiro Hosokawa, who became prime minister from August 9, 1993 to April 28, 1994. He resigned because of allegations that he misused personal fund in the 1980’s when he wasn’t even a prime minister.

  The late former Prime Minister of Japan Kiichi Miyazawa was once quoted as saying, “A nation can be governed either by the rule of right or the rule of might. I will not stand by the rule of might. The position of prime minister should not be acquired by really trying to”.

   Our politicians should take a cue and rule by the rule of right.

• Abah is an executive team leader, Rinasham Multi Services Ltd, Port Harcourt.

“Opinion pieces of this sort published on RISE Networks are those of the original authors and do not in anyway represent the thoughts, beliefs and ideas of RISE Networks.”

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