Opinion: This Is Not Democracy – By Kazeem Akintunde
Democracy, as I was taught in secondary school 40 years ago, is defined as the Government of the People, by the people, and for the people. But what I am witnessing in Nigeria now, going by the primaries of the two leading political parties, seems to have a new definition, which is, ‘government of the rich, by the rich, selected by a few, heavily induced to mortgage the future of unborn generations.’
The ongoing charade across the country has again shown that we are not practicing the true democratic form of government as espoused by those from whom we picked the concept. Even before the real contest among the registered 18 political parties in the country, the process of picking and/or selecting party representatives has thrown up the reign of party delegates, who are currently smiling to the banks. To get nominated by your political party to serve your people as a member of the State House of Assembly alone, you must be ready to spend humongous amounts of money to settle delegates, who at the end of the day, end up collecting your money but voting for the highest spender.
One of those still smarting from how he was treated by delegates in the PDP primaries for the Kaduna North Federal Constituency is Adam Sambo, son of former Vice President, Namadi Sambo. The young man was defeated despite allegedly bribing delegates with N2 million. In his federal constituency, there are only 38 delegates that would determine the fate of three PDP members eyeing the ticket. Being a ‘smart’ politician, Sambo Junior felt that N76million should get him the ticket with a promise of giving each of the delegates another N1.5 million once the ticket was in the kitty. But another aspirant offered the delegates N2.5million while the eventual winner, an incumbent member of the House of Representatives, gave each of the delegates N4m each.
The N76 million Sambo spent on the delegates only fetched him two votes and the young man was so disappointed that he asked the delegates for a refund. To him, he saw nothing wrong in his action, insisting that it was the directive given to stakeholders of the PDP that any sum given to delegates by the various aspirants for their support should be returned to those unsuccessful in the primary elections.
“I would like to state that as a matter of fact, there was nothing ‘dramatic’ about the request, and it is unfortunate the media has been purporting it as such. Delegates themselves are aware of the directives given by the major stakeholders of the PDP in the Kaduna North Constituency that any sum given to delegates by various aspirants for their support should be returned to those unsuccessful in their primary elections. This was done to encourage delegates to vote for the aspirants based on their qualities and not just their perceived spending power, and to hold them accountable for the candidates they put forth. As a mark of respect for that agreement, some delegates in Kaduna North constituency have started to reach out to unsuccessful State House of Assembly aspirants….. followed by my fellow contender, Shehu Usman ABG and I. Therefore, I am not acting in isolation or making any ludicrous demands.”
His ‘senior’ brother in Kaduna State PDP, who contested for the governorship ticket, Comrade Shehu Sani, made it known from the word go that he was not ready to give money to delegates but that he should be voted for based on his track records. It couldn’t have come as much of a surprise to him then, that his ‘track records’ only fetched him two votes and he seems to be at peace with his conscience after losing to Honourable Isah Ashiru – an admirable trait, considering that politics should not be a do-or-die affair. The activist turned politician in a social media post, said, “The Kaduna PDP Governorship primaries has been concluded. I lost and Honourable Isah Ashiru won. I wish to congratulate him. Two Delegates voted for me without me having to give them a dime. Unfortunately, I don’t know who they are, so I can appreciate these clean votes.” In a humorous twist, after his post went viral, over 300 delegates called Sani, claiming to be the two delegates that voted for him.
While it can be said that Shehu Sani was expecting to lose the election as he told the delegates that he would not be spending a dime on them, the same cannot be said of another aspirant in the South East who collapsed and almost died after the results of the delegate election were announced. The sad aspect of the whole scenario was that the delegates were heard in the background, singing and praising the winner of the election while our man, who had also spent millions of naira was still at the scene. His heart could not cope with the double humiliation and he fell like a pack of cards.
Peter Obi, a presidential aspirant on the platform of the PDP, after a tour of the country, saw the charade in the build-up to the Party’s National Convention and quickly threw in the towel. Obi, former Governor of Anambra State, in a letter to the PDP National Chairman, Iyorchia Ayu, stated that he had to quit the party and drop his presidential ambition after it became glaring that there is no way he could clinch the ticket of the party. In contention with him are four heavyweight politicians that seemed ready to spoil delegates’ silly with dollars.
“I came to offer my services to Nigerians free of charge through the platform of PDP, but PDP decided to sell it to the highest bidder. I did not steal government money and I have no intention of stealing it in the future. Nigerians have suffered so much as a result of this type of politics of buying political offices. This is the reason why Nigerians cannot hold their leaders accountable for failure because they have sold their right to good governance over a morsel of bread. I left PDP in order to change this narrative”. Obi has since pitched his political tent with the Labour Party.
In the same camp, forced to also throw in the towel with Obi is Mohammed Hayatu-deen, another presidential aspirant under the PDP. The business mogul stated in a letter to Ayu: “I wish to reiterate that I did not join party politics and to contest for the presidency because of personal gains and inordinate ambition, but in order to serve our country. It is therefore based on personal principles and with great humility that I have decided, after wide consultations, to withdraw from this contest, which has been obscenely monetized”.
Democracy and democratic practice in Nigeria is now a business venture where those that have apparently looted the country in the past, owing to their ridiculous spending during elections, spend parts of that loot to perpetuate themselves in offices without a care about offering services to the people. Aside professional politicians, another set of people in partisan politics are people of clearly questionable character and ill-gotten wealth who have made humungous amounts of money from illegal businesses and are ready to spend like there is no tomorrow in a bid to get to office and hide their shady past. It is no wonder that many Nigerians have completely lost hope in the country and leaders and are doing all they can to get out of the country. The form and manner the 2023 general elections have taken so far have shown clearly that nothing good will come out of the entire process. This is because I cannot imagine myself spending such huge amounts of money to get to an office and still be thinking of rendering any services to the people without recouping what I’ve spent.
Already, PDP presidential aspirants are no longer spending naira to ‘take care’ of delegates, but dollars, with some offering as high as $25,000. I will not be surprised if each of the Presidential delegates went home with as much as $50,000. Nigerians should not be shocked when their ‘leaders’ steal in the region of billions and trillions in the coming year. Even without vying for, or being in an elective office, the country’s citizens watched in incredulous shock as a former Accountant-General of the Federation, Ahmed Idris, was recently picked up by the EFCC for cornering about N80 billion.
Politics – nay, ‘democrazy’ is now purely a business enterprise and while the old-time politicians are retiring, they are now nurturing and grooming their children to continue the looting of our commonwealth where they stopped. In that league is Lai Mohammed, through his son, Folajimi, who was rejected by delegates in Lagos. But Mustapha Lamido seems lucky in Jigawa State as he has been elected governorship candidate of the PDP in Jigawa, same state where his dad, Sule Lamido was at the helm of affairs for eight years as Governor. Attahiru Bafarawa’s son, Sagir, is also in the race to govern Sokoto State, while Ahmed Adamu Mua’azu, son of former Governor of Bauchi State, is also in the Governorship race in Bauchi State. In fact, the list is endless. Pam Jonah Jang, son of former Plateau Governor, Jonah Jang is seeking House of Rep ticket under PDP in Plateau State, while El-Rufai’s son, Bello, is also eyeing the Rep seat in Kaduna State under APC.
Other children of past political office holders that are also seeking political offices include Erhiatake Ibori-Suenu, Omose Igbinedion, Chinedum Orji, Orode Uduaghan, Kola Abiola, Ladi Adebutu, Idris Ajimobi, Olumide Osoba as well as Khadijah Okunnu-Lamidi among others.
Reacting to the trend, the executive director, Civil Society Legislative Advocacy Centre (CISLAC), Auwal Musa Rafsanjani, expressed concern, warning that politicians should not turn democracy into a monarchy. He said that a situation where governors and former governors are pushing their children, who may not have the necessary political experience and capacity to occupy political offices, could end up breeding incompetence and mediocrity in governance.
“This trend of politicians who are still in office or have left office trying to keep their family members in governance, some of them, their children and relatives who are not even known to be in the political cycle but just to secure political favors and also, maintain their stronghold on the treasury, is worrisome. They are now ensuring that without popular support from the electorate, they can use their influence to ‘install’ their relatives. This is not really a good development because it is not on the basis of popular support or democratic credentials, competence or experience in their political or social life.”
For now, party delegates are cashing out and it will soon be the turn of the ordinary masses on the streets when it is time for campaigns and real elections. They will also be ‘settled’ under a stomach infrastructure that will buy them votes and further impoverish the citizens and in the process, mortgage the future of their unborn children. Such is the unfortunate situation that Nigerians have found themselves, even though for most, this is not the quality of democracy we prayed for.
See you next week.
– Akintunde is a top journalist