Activities across the country, especially in the Federal Capital Territory of Abuja and the oil-rich city of Port Harcourt, last weekend, brought to a pulsating and climactic end to the flurry of political events that culminated in the selection of presidential, gubernatorial and other candidates for the various elective offices by the 91 registered political parties that will participate in the February 2019 general elections.
The jostling by politicians – the serious, the not-too-serious and the outright pretenders – put the nation unnecessarily in a quandary, raising questions about what the real election will be like if mere primaries to select candidates is generating the kind of hoopla that was so pervasive.
In the ensuing tension-soaked exercise, there were altercations, wild protestations and even deaths that suggested that the issue at stake was not just public service. Who will kill because they want to offer themselves for public service? The kind of resources, especially financial resources, which were deployed by the contestants, removed every iota of doubt that Nigerian political struggle has become a matter for the rich. The excessive commercialisation of what ought to be a system of choosing prospective, albeit genuine leaders, confirmed the long held position that service has since departed from the nation’s definition of democracy. It is no longer a government of the people, for the people, by the people. It is definitely, in our opinion, obvious that the poor has been excluded from the whole arrangement, reducing it to abominable plutocracy- a government by the rich, for the rich.
It also drove home the apprehension that the nation’s treasury will remain in danger for as long as public officers see politics as an investment that must yield handsome rewards. The irony of it all is that, in the deliberately contrived confusion, the people, the fabled electorate that should have used the opportunity to decipher the real from the fake, got caught up in the maze as they joined in the hustle for the crumbs that dropped from the purses of the gladiators. The emerging scenario confirms the fears that political offices have been stripped of their worth in relation to what is expected of the occupants.
The situation is the same across all the political groups. The underhand deals, horse trading, blackmails and character assassination of participants by themselves, though anticipated in most political gatherings in every clime, took a disturbing turn for the worse, heightening anxieties as to what 2019 portends for the country as a whole.
Be that as it may, political analysts still harbour measured optimism that, perhaps, all hope is not lost. The political awareness among Nigerians, generated in the aftermath of the push and shove, and which is believed to demand from them the patriotic duty of insisting on holding political office holders accountable, is the basis for this perceived hope.
The extent that that hope is attainable is, in our view, dependent on the people’s willingness to compel the candidates to return to the issues that matter and which are germane to the progress, development and, most importantly, overall welfare of the citizenry. We are worried that this role by the people may likely be betrayed as they continue to strip themselves of the moral fibre needed to walk the talk in the democratic journey. When a voter is prepared to offer his right to choose a leader, the Permanent Voter’s Card, for sale, where lies the redemptory prospect for the country? That is the issue that begs for divine intervention.
It is from this standpoint that we urge Nigerians and, in particular, the political class, to draw the line between politicking, grandstanding and desirable public service. The politicians, as things are in the polity, have ascribed to themselves more than a fair share of public odium. It is time for them to purge themselves of the greed and wanton excesses and submit themselves for cleansing. On the part of the electorate, it has become pertinent to ask, how much is the future of their children worth?
It is apposite for everyone involved in the beautiful system we all Nigerians know as democracy to pause for a moment of introspection. It is imperative to recall the pain that was part of the struggle for this system of government that encourages popular franchise after many years of wasteful dictatorship, and to remember that the sacrifices of our heroes past must not be in vain. Now that the primaries are over, and even as the parties strive to sort out the fallouts of the brushes, we urge all to spare a thought for Nigeria and posterity.
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