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Pardon my bluntness: I hate politics. I mean the Nigerian variant of it. I have always believed, based on my observations, that politics is the biggest obstacle to our development.

By politics, I do not mean “the science of government” or “the administration of public affairs”, as political scientists may want to define it.

I mean, instead, “intrigues, intrigues, intrigues” that have little or nothing to do with the progress of our society.

I mean, as the Devil’s Dictionary puts it, strife of interests masquerading as a contest of principles” or “the conduct of public affairs for private advantage”.

The day our politicians begin to genuinely put the progress of the community above selfish interests, our journey to greatness will begin. But we seem to be forever stuck with this self-centred, greedy and uncaring bunch of people lording it over us.

Recent happenings in the polity have further confirmed my fears and strengthened my disdain for politics. President Umaru Musa Yar’Adua is evidently very ill.

What other evidence do you need than the fact that the man was in hospital for three months? To avoid his removal from office, his family rushed him down to Nigeria while he was still receiving treatment.

It would appear holding on to power is more important than the life of the man. The message seems to be: he would rather be late president than former president. That is politics, the Nigerian way. So they brought him in at night and asked the Acting President to revert to Vice-President with immediate effect. Nigeria did not matter any longer; it was all about personal, narrow interest.

Meanwhile, Acting President Goodluck Jonathan was busy playing his own politics. Having been empowered by the National Assembly to assume full presidential powers, all he needed to do was to start firing on all cylinders.

The challenges ahead

I mean facing the challenges ahead and moving the country in the direction that will take us to a higher level. But, obviously, Jonathan was not satisfied with that. He wanted more! We kept hearing “he has not seen the President since he was flown in from Saudi Arabia”. Does Jonathan need to see the President? If they deny him access to his boss, so be it!

He does not need any Yar’Adua to perform his duties. He has every power to act now. At the end of the day, Jonathan will be judged by the way he handles the challenges ahead of him, not whether or not he saw Yar’Adua.

If I were Jonathan, I would face the task squarely and pretend Yar’Adua is asleep or on leave. What Nigerians want is result, not politics. If you tell me to choose between Jonathan seeing Yar’Adua and having 24-hour electricity, I would go for electricity any day!

Here is another case of politics, the Nigerian way. Last Thursday, the Inspector-General of Police (IGP), Mr. Ogbonna Onovo, and the Minister of Police Affairs, Dr. Yakubu Ibrahim Lame, were engaged in a war of words at the Senate over the state of insecurity in the country.

Lame had threatened to deal with the leadership of the police force because they have failed the nation. Nice words.

That is the kind of things we want to hear, especially as we have genuine grouses against the police. The only trouble, as I would later learn, was that the political establishment is not too happy with Onovo for many reasons. The ruling Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) has lost two “important” elections since Onovo was made IGP – one in Edo, the other in Anambra.

Contrary to the initial fears, the elections were devoid of violence and the police were not available to be used for rigging, as usual.

The second grouse of the establishment against Onovo, I understand, is the way the police handled the public protests against President Yar’Adua’s prolonged absence from the country. public rallies

The police we used to know would have denied the protesters “permit” to hold public rallies or the protesters would have been harassed and brutalised. But the Save Nigeria Group, which has been at the forefront of the protests, has nothing but praise for the way the police, under Onovo, handled the rallies. Rather than harass the people, the police offered protection.

That is the way it is done in the civilised world. Now this was very strange to our political culture, and even stranger to the political establishment.

The early indications are, therefore, very uncomfortable for the members of the ruling political class, who may be jittery about the shape of events come 2011.

If the police force is behaving this way now, PDP may be in trouble in next year’s general election. This is not a good omen, so Onovo must go!

Without restructuring the security apparatus, we cannot have credible polls in Nigeria. That is very sure. Rigging is usually carried out with the full connivance of the security agencies.

Without a standing instruction that they should look the other way, the police are capable of reducing, if not eliminating outright, the incidence of electoral malpractices in Nigeria.

We saw this in Edo and Anambra. Now, in the name of politics, should Onovo be commended or condemned? Politics, played the Nigerian way, would see Onovo as an enemy. However, if the interest of the society is all that matters, what the political class would do is to help strengthen the police force.

We have been talking about reforming the police for ages, but the political will is always lacking. It is not in the interest of the politicians for us to have a strong, independent police force. It would spell electoral doom in most instances. Yet, we cannot do any electoral reform without strengthening the police.

By the way, I do not hold any brief for the IGP. He is able to defend himself. If he can’t, that is none of my business. We all have our grouses with the police force. I have written a million times about them. We have cases of extrajudicial killings.

We have cases of laxity, poor attitude to work, brutality and corruption. I will be the first to list all these weaknesses. But I am also aware that the Nigerian state does not really treat the police very well. Most of the budgets are released only on paper.

Onovo said at the Senate hearing on Thursday that the force “has been operating under unhealthy environment, characterised by proliferation of firearms, high rate of unemployment, unnecessary display of affluence by some people, and other vices capable of frustrating the efforts of the police”. Let’s condemn the police if we must, but we should stop masquerading personal interest as public interest.

Another instance of politics the Nigerian way could be found in the bye-election conducted in the Kebbi Central constituency to fill the vacancy left behind by Senator Adamu Aliero, who is now the Minister of Federal Capital Territory (FCT). Shortly before the election in December, a politician said (in confidence): “Our major problem is Attahiru Bafarawa.

If we take care of him, we’ll be okay.” Bafarawa was the governor of Sokoto State and had formed another political platform, the Democratic Peoples Party (DPP) to seek power. His party was a leading contender for the slot. A few days to the bye-election, the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) arrested Bafarawa and charged him with stealing N15 billion. Ordinarily, that is a good development. We should all be happy that we are fighting corruption.

The only problem, though, is that as soon as the election was over and PDP won, Bafarawa was released. Politics the Nigerian way. “A strife of interests masquerading as a contest of principles”.

We condemned Nuhu Ribadu for politicising the anti-graft war. What has changed?

You now understand why I hate politics? Or should I say more?

And Four Other Things...

On Olusegun Adeniyi

My article, last week, on President Umaru Musa Yar’Adua and the Gang was interpreted by some readers as an attack on presidential spokesman, Mr. Olusegun Adeniyi, who is also my predecessor as Editor of THISDAY. That is quite interesting. But let me put it this way: I know too much about what is happening in Aso Rock than to hold Adeniyi responsible.

That would be too naïve of me. I know very well that Adeniyi was not the one who said the President should be hurried back home from Saudi Arabia even when he was still recuperating; I know very well Adeniyi was not the one who deployed troops without the knowledge of Acting President Goodluck Jonathan; and I know Adeniyi is not the one that chose to downgrade the Acting President to Vice-President. I would, therefore, be chasing shadows by holding Adeniyi responsible.

The ‘Eating’ President

Aljazeera, the new darling of cable TV subscribers in Nigeria, broadcast an interesting bit of news last Wednesday. A man named Zubari Ali, said to be a cousin to the president and a spokesman for the extended family, told the world that Yar’Adua “walks, talks, eats…” Anybody who has been really puzzled over the true state of health of the President should be fascinated by this. That means there was a time Yar’Adua was not eating, talking or walking.

While I feel so much pity for the President and wish him full recovery, I sense that the road to recovery will be long and tortuous. If he were my father or uncle, I would not support playing politics with his life the way it is being done now.

His living in good health should be more important than being president. I would advise that he be taken proper care of. I wouldn’t be telling the world that he is talking, walking and eating when he still cannot show his face to the public.

PDP and 2011 Declaration

The Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) met last Tuesday and declared that a Northerner must emerge as its presidential candidate in 2011, in continuation of the “power rotation” policy of the ruling party. From 1999-2007, a Southerner, President Olusegun Obasanjo, ruled. Therefore, said the party, the North must fill its slot from 2007-2015.

Although, we may argue that power rotation is unconstitutional, and some may counter-argue that it is a way of keeping the polity stable by dousing sectional tension and anxiety, these are not my immediate thoughts. I’m just thinking aloud: if a Northerner wins the election in 2011, will he leave office after just one term (in 2015) or do his constitutional two terms and leave in 2019, thereby giving the North 12 unbroken years? I no know book o!

Source: The Chronicle

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