Like the “Game of Thrones,” the current fractious attempts to grab power across Nigeria’s political landscape have enriched analysts’ knowledge of the intricacies and nature of the centres of power. More so, it continues to expose the greed of many Nigerian politicians, who claim to be leaders serving the interest of the people when indeed they are “Lords” enslaving you and me, the masses. They also offer us a good picture of how variegated and polarised the country has become under the auspices of our dear democracy.
In some climes and indeed if only our politicians are people of conscience who truly mean well for all of us, this unfolding drama could be an asset; albeit, with the apparent centrifugal tendencies of the gladiators in the Nigerian arena, it could be detrimental for the country – it’s not just bad for the health of the polity and fragile democracy, but also for the socio-economic progress of the country. Competition is good to the extent that it is healthy and that is one of the cardinal principles of democracy.
The various blocs or cleavages, acting singly sometimes, but mostly in concert with others, influence the power play in any society. They are the melting points on the political chessboard and serve as the clearinghouses in the distribution of the spoils of public office. In connivance with their stooges and godfathers, they influence who occupies what post and who gets involved in the appropriation of the benefits of the national, regional and local offices. Interestingly, many of the acclaimed candidates have only expressed interest in one office or the other just to strengthen their bargaining powers, as such a statement of intention helps them to attract relevant attention.
As I write, some of them are already on the negotiation table; negotiating how much they would get and what offices they would fill with their cronies when the candidates they support win. So, even before elections, these greedy elements are already sharing the national cake, distributing the wealth of the nation as if it is their inheritance.
As I have argued in my book, Reporting Business and Economy, each dispensation creates its own centres of power, and what is happening now just proves that. This is in part because centres of power evolve over time. When governments change, the centres shift in the sense that some formerly influential people leave the stage, while others get in. The relations and friends – cronies of the principal officers become centres of influence in some ways. They become appointed as aides and confidantes of presidents, vice-presidents, governors, and heads of departments and government agencies.
An interesting episode in the current political opera is the emergence of a number of acclaimed not-for-profit organisations, springing up by the day and drumming different choruses in favour and/or against some aspirants, whilst pretending to be non-partisan. They purport in some sense to be alien to the formal political party arrangements, to gain people’s trust and sentiment.
I hope some of them, definitely not all of them, mean well for us, and it is important to ask if these sects canvassing for democracy and sometimes starting with plain voter education, are truly our guardian angels, who can lift us from the current quagmire. These seeming politically inclined NGOs are creations of individuals or shared philosophies aimed at overcoming certain obstructions through a movement of some sort, similar to the strategy adopted by the French President, Macron, ahead of his first election.
Yet we know that, as some sociological theorists claim, it is the individual that thinks, not necessarily the group. For, as the argument goes (and this is well articulated by Karl Mannheim in his book, Ideology and Utopia, An introduction to the Sociology of Knowledge): “There is no such metaphysical entity as a group mind which thinks over and above the heads of individuals, or whose ideas the individual merely reproduces.”
So, who are the groups that sprouted overnight to populate the political scene as the struggle for 2023 got on the way? Whose interests or voices did (do) they represent? Did the emergence of these groups have anything to do with the proliferation of interest within the ruling party, All Progressive Congress and the main opposition, the People’s Democratic Party? With supposed NGOs buying expensive nomination forms for their candidates, did their emergence have anything to do with arrangements to save aspirants the trouble of having to explain they were able to pay for APC’s N100 million forms, or PDP’s cheaper one at N40 million?
Some party insiders hold the view that indeed that was probably the case and really the arrangement was also to garner sympathy that the candidates are only yielding to the call of the people, who are so interested in their candidacy that they even went all the way to buy for them the nomination forms. Truly, many politicians take Nigerians for a ride and must really think we are fools.
Many analysts are right in noting that many of the so-called non-partisan groups are mere hirelings, perhaps a form of what we in Nigeria describe as “rented crowds” that appear to give authenticity to events that would otherwise flop for lack of genuine support. In some cases, where the groups are not originally owned and sponsored by politicians, the promoters and leaders of the group are commercial agents who sell their crowd to the highest bidder, irrespective of ideology or personality. This is indeed a creation of the current political dispensation in the country and shows how dangerously creative our actors could become in the struggle for power.
Indeed, we have also seen industry groups that have benefited from the backdoor arrangements of some public office holders trying to give back to their cronies by purchasing nomination forms for them to run for the presidency, governorship, senatorial offices etc. These are beneficiaries of the political gladiators and given the level of ignorance in the country, it is easy to manipulate people to believe those gladiators are messiahs.
What do these gladiators make of the Nigerian arena, a mockery and economic damage! They will make the contest unhealthy, as they continue to divide us along social, ethnic, and religious lines, many a time using our sentiments and playing on our intelligence. Make no mistake they are enemies in the open but friends behind the doors. What keeps them together is their ability to continue to lord over our common resources by dividing us along multiple lines. They are masters of the art and, unless the Nigerian masses become wise enough, they would continue to plunge the country into more mess.
Our economy cannot recover without the right people in government, managing our resources in a way that creates mutual prosperity and value for all of us. It would not happen by accident; you and I have to ensure we choose the right set of people at this time, and not be fooled once again.