Saturday, 23 February 2013

Musical chairs

A certain and by no means negligible number of Nigerian politicians are of the view that we need a serious opposition party come the 2015 elections. Failing that, they say, we might as well accept that we are a one-party state under the ruling PDP, which is why we are now being assailed from all sides about the proposed merger between ACN, CPC and ANPP. (There’s no point spelling out the abbreviations, as I hope will become clear.)

In fact, ACN and CPC did try something of the kind in the run-up to the 2011 elections but nothing came of it because of that great bugbear of Nigerian society: ego. ‘Who are you? What do you think you’ve done? You’re too small, you can’t compare yourself to me,’ is the response one gets from an ‘elder’ one hasn’t sufficiently crawled before. Consider Buhari, the former military dictator who caused three young men to be executed by a retroactive decree. Later, when we became a democracy and he put himself up for election, he was asked whether he regretted the murders and ‘declared in the most categorical terms’ that he ‘would do so again’. He failed in that election, and in the next, whereupon he ditched a by-now frustrated ANPP and formed CPC, of which one senior aide said: ‘He is the leader of our great party and we are comfortable with him. Anyone he anoints as candidate in any elective position would be automatically accepted by the party leadership.’ Then there was his behaviour in the immediate aftermath of the 2011 presidential election when, losing once more, he went into a sulk and didn’t appear to mind much how his party fared in the gubernatorial election the following week, which was why it clinched just one of the 36 states.

As for  the Tinubu-led ACN, it was the national chair who openly scoffed at the notion of internal party democracy – ‘we reject such an idea’ – on the grounds that, ‘it is the leadership of the party that understands the manifesto of the party and knows what the people really want.’ Among the things the people ‘really’ wanted was for Tinubu’s wife to become a senator and for other of his family members to be slotted in here and there in order that they might partake of the national cake baked in the swampy heat of the oil-producing Niger delta. Besides, this same Tinubu was once governor of Lagos State and we know all about the things he didn’t do because we know all about the things his successor did do with the same resources.

Which leaves ANPP, once dubbed Abacha People’s Party on account of the profusion of the dead dictator’s cronies within its ranks. Nobody seems to know what this party ‘really’ stands for, although much the same can be said of the others, and this despite ACN’s claim to be following in the footsteps of Awolowo, the best president Nigeria never had, according to received wisdom. In other words, we have to go all the way back to the nationalist movement of the 1940s and 1950s to uncover evidence of serious-mindedness. With regard to ANPP specifically, it should be noted that one of its founders under its original name is a fellow called Tom Ikimi – sorry, Chief Tom Ikimi - who once served under the dreaded Abacha and is now chair of ACN’s merging committee for the proposed new party.

This is the tragedy of Nigeria: power for its own sake. It’s not as if we don’t know what we need to do, only that we don’t want to do it. Worse yet, the less we do the more we grandstand. Everyone knows that Nigeria will fail to meet the 2015 Millennium Development Goals by a long way, what with higher infant and maternal mortality rates than Liberia and the Democratic Republic of Congo, yet the government gets up committees to deliberate on how the country can become a serious player in the global economy by 2020. They call it a Vision. Would that visions were so easily realised, although I’m not sure that I would forgo the ‘sitting allowance’ in an expensive Abuja hotel in order to encourage them in their fantasy. After all, I am also entitled to a slice of the national cake but then it will never happen because it is only shared among the select few, the well connected whose job is to hang around the corridors of power, which is where the cake is divided and why no serious work ever gets done. Literally so. During the 2011 Commonwealth Heads of Government Meeting in Perth the papers were full of pictures of President Goodluck Jonathan, his wife and what appeared to be half the government gathered around an actual cake to celebrate Madam’s birthday. These pictures may or may not have graced the pages of the Australian press but what did do so was a report that Jonathan thereby missed a pre-arranged meeting with stakeholders to discuss mining opportunities back home, Australia being a significant player in the industry and Nigeria being much in need of foreign expertise, in this as in so much else.

So, yes, we desperately need change, but surely not the kind offered by those currently posing as potential saviours of a country so far gone that many are beginning to wonder whether it will even survive as a single entity come 2015. The evidence is overwhelmingly in their favour, which begs the related question: should Nigeria survive? I would say not and I hazard that most would agree, most being those who must generate their own electricity, provide their own water and generally pay for everything from security to school fees to healthcare. In other words, getting worked up about whether one gallery of rogues should replace another in order that the nation might move forward is merely a distraction, as indeed many have understood, hence the increasing calls for a revolution.

Copyright: Adewale Maja-Pearce


Sunday, 17 February 2013

All about Naija

At long last - and at the prompting of friends - I have decided to start my own blog. One person did suggest I remain anonymous but I don't see the point. Nigeria's venal leaders (and I'm going to be blogging a lot about them) have never given a damn what people write. As a former governor once remarked, how many people can even read, much less access the net? This is true enough, especially in the north, where Islamic fundamentalists are busy wrecking havoc because those who were supposed to send them to school preferred to squander the billions the country has earned from crude oil on foreign property, private jets, and harems. As I write, one former governor is detained at Her Majesty's pleasure for money laundering, another is a vegetable after taking the controls of his latest toy, and a current senator (and former governor) took as his fourth wife a 13-year-old Egyptian he bought from her parents for $100,000. This last-mentioned explained that the Prophet himself married a minor and that, in any case, he followed the Koran and not the Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria he has otherwise sworn to uphold. This explains why the Child Rights Act has been in abeyance since 2003.

That said, the real challenge will be to find fresh ways to write about this awkward, frustrating, maddening entity called Naija.That it could be so much more than it has allowed itself to become - that we have allowed it to become - is a cliche in itself. And I say 'we' because it has always seemed to me simplistic to put the blame on the leadership alone, as has been fashionable for many years now, ever since our most celebrated novelist said so in a pamphlet. But the leaders are themselves Nigerians, albeit of a more desperate disposition given what they had to do to get there - murder, drugs, racketeering: all the Mafia-type activities. Oppressing your fellows is merely a matter of circumstance. Even the gate man hired to protect us in our homes because the police aren't up to the job, being themselves steeped in the corruption that has failed to deliver electricity to my neighbourhood for the last five days, will show you that he is 'a somebody' before you even wondered whether this was indeed so. The intellectuals are worse, but more on them later.

My self-imposed brief is to post a weekly blog and see what the experience has been like this time next year. See you in cyberspace.

Copyright: Adewale Maja-Pearce