Hooligans in Power By Emmanuel Nwachukwu
As Nigerians watched with consternation the free-for-all in the Rivers State House of Assembly recently, one cannot help but wonder the type of individuals that have come to dominate our political arena. Sadly, what is happening in Rivers State is not peculiar to the state alone but a microcosm of the current state of politics in Nigeria in general. The President cannot absolve himself from the trouble in the state. His cohorts have done a good job of stoking the flame. They must now watch the fire burn and hope that it does not engulf the rest of the country.
Sadly, the real losers in all of this are the people of Rivers State, where government has grounded to a halt. Worse still, they will now have to pay the hospital bills of the legislators wounded in the brawl, and if they have to be flown abroad, their travel expenses and those of accompanying family members and friends; and of course, the cost of replacing the computers and equipment vandalised by the fighting legislators. In most democracies, people will be on the streets by now protesting and demanding prosecution and answers from their misbehaving elected officials; but not so in Nigeria. Unfortunately, corruption is so deep rooted and widespread in Nigeria that even the trade unions and the civil society that would normally lead these protests are also compromised. With weak institutions, a corrupt police and corrupt judiciary, there is no recourse for the Nigerian public. And so the average Nigerian politician, with very little concept of what public service actually means, rides roughshod over the electorate and treats them with abject contempt.
The current state of affairs in Nigeria is not just the problem of leadership but also that of a cowering electorate that is ready to take anything you throw at them. Stories abound of states and public institutions where civil servants are owed several months salaries, while their governors and ministers spend their time hopping from one lavish celebration to another. Foreigners will find it bewildering the amount of time our governors and elected officials spend attending weddings, birthdays and funerals. You wonder if these people do any work at all.
Most agree that our values in Nigeria have been eroded by long years of corruption, that we are no longer able to tell the difference between right and wrong. This situation is exacerbated by a so-called elite that has become the bane of the nation. You find them in the academia, the judiciary, the civil service, as traditional rulers, and even on pulpits. They love to be addressed by their many titles, feigning high intelligence — Honourable, Prof, Doc, Chief, Double Chief, High Chief, Architect, Engineer, Pastor, Quantity Surveyor, and so on; and woe betide you if you fail to address them by these titles. Only in Nigeria, only in Nigeria!
It is almost a year now since the Otedola/ Lawan bribery scandal hit our newsstands. The evidence laid out before Nigerians suggested that this would have been a relatively easy case to prosecute. One year on, courtesy of our weak institutions, the accused are still free, in their posts, as if nothing has happened. Who knows, these individuals may even be in Jonathan’s honours’ list for 2013! Anything is possible in Nigeria. Our dear Dr. Doyin Okupe may even be drafting government justification for giving the award, even as we speak, to coin the phrase. He would no doubt be counting on the docility and gullibility of his fellow citizens.
As Nigerians ponder in despair where this country is headed, we draw some hope from the likes of Governors Babtunde Fashola and Adams Oshiomhole. Given the unique challenges of Lagos as a metropolis of over 10 million people, what Fashola has achieved in six years in office is remarkable. This is notwithstanding the pressure he would be under, not least from his own “Oga at the top”. The same is true of Oshiomhole. Driving through Asaba, the capital of Delta State, with its flooded streets and very few tarred roads, it is hard to believe that this state gets over four times what Oshiomhole gets in revenue allocation for Edo State. Perhaps, someone ought to tell Governor Emmanuel Uduaghan to take a leaf from these progressive governors.
One is filled with awe and amazement when one listens to stories of some Speakers of state Houses of Assembly that have as much as 40 personal assistants; how can this be, how can this be? How can people get away with this in a supposed civilised society, in the 21st century? We learn from history that there is bound to be a day of reckoning as a few bandits cannot continue on a wanton looting of the treasury, whilst 70 per cent of their fellow citizens wallow in squalor, on less than $2 a day. We are getting closer and closer to the edge in Nigeria, and all it now requires is a little spark for the people’s anger to erupt. Even the Speaker of the House of Representatives, Alhaji Aminu Tambuwal, recognised this in his recent address to the Chartered Institute of Management, when he remarked that all the ingredients for a revolution are now present in Nigeria. Most Nigerians agree.
The ongoing roforofo in Rivers State, sadly, is not about ideology or some debate on how best to improve the lives of the people of the state. It is about bruised egos, about personal ambition, about power and greed, about money and the control of resources, and as some have put it, about teaching Governor Chibuike Amaechi a lesson.
The Inspector-General of Police will not be proud of the way his officers have conducted themselves in all of this. If anything, it reveals the extent of his challenge in reforming the Nigeria Police. He has changed their uniforms; he must now change the man from the inside.
Some allege that the wife of the President cannot absolve herself from the trouble in Rivers State. This will be regrettable if indeed it is true. Apart from perhaps the USA where the role of the First Lady is a high profile, most people in Europe, Asia and the developed world would not know the first names of the spouses of their prime ministers or presidents.
The President must now caution his Minister of State for Education, Nyesom Wike. His energy and time will be better served focusing on a collapsing education sector hallmarked by mass failure by students and candidates alike in public exams.
As 2015 beckons, Nigerians must decide if they want democracy or the rule of the jungle.
The brawl and vandalism we witnessed on the floor of the Rivers State House of Assembly were not acts of honourable men but actions of hooligans in power. The powers that be, may have fallen out with the state governor, but they must accept that he has a mandate from his people to govern. It is called democracy.
•Nwachukwu, an international business consultant based in London, wrote in via Emmanuel@pssolutions-ltd.com
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