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                                                                                                  PARTY CAMPAIGNS & THE PHOBIA OF TRUE FEDERALISM
                                                                                          By: Sir Henry Olujimi Boyo (Les Leba) first published in February 2007

Last week, this column republished “The Masses as Victims of Government” It discussed the wealth divide within the nation and the struggle most of the population faces to survive on less than a $1 a day whilst a minority lives lavishly and the government turns a blind eye to meeting the basic needs of the masses. All republications can be found in the archives using the below link.

(See for this series and more articles by the Late Sir Henry Boyo)

Today’s republication highlights the correlation and ongoing issue of questionable leadership and increasing poverty in Nigeria. It points out the discrepancies between a higher national income and a failing system, which opens up the floor to relevant questions that should be asked by the masses. It discusses the consistent brainwashing of empty promises on the part of political candidates and criticizes the party structure which makes it impossible for an honest, well-meaning candidate to be selected. The article points out the lack of SMART (specific, measurable, achievable, relevant, and time-bound) goals on the part of candidates which one could use to assess progress/success at the end of a term. Despite the initial publication of this article, a lack of change has made it necessary to resurface as history continues to repeat itself, and will persist until the mold is broken.

As you read through the below article taking note of previous events and rates, keep in mind its initial publication (2007).

The registered political parties have now hit the campaign trail, pleading with the erstwhile ignored proletariat to make their candidates the preferred choice to plunder the common treasury for the next four years.  The outgoing political office holders and their cohorts may be the only Nigerians who would score performances at all levels as satisfactory, while Nigerians in general have become poorer as social infrastructure have fallen into decay; energy supply has faltered below pre-1999 levels, unemployment level has risen, and inflation has further reduced the purchasing power of incomes!  

These failures have occurred at the same time that we have earned more income as a nation than at any other time in our history!  Where did all the moneys go?  One may ask!   The sprawling estates in choice locations and the healthy overseas and domestic bank balances of the cast of the drama may provide a correct answer!    Regrettably, we have an electorate that appears endowed with a short memory and the commonplace promises of ‘we will bring you power supply, roads, water, and build hospitals and schools at every nook and cranny still appear credible!  False and empty promises which have been repeated ad nausea since the advent of the second republic in 1979.  

The EFCC has guesstimated that political office holders have stolen over $500bn while the rest of us languish ignorantly in poverty and worship and adore the same thieves who are responsible for our miserable conditions!  Once again, Nigerians are being encouraged and coerced to come out and vote a new class of political opportunists whose main ambition and objective is how to give their dirty fingers uninhibited access to public money!  Like goats to slaughter, Nigerians have poured out in their millions to register for the right to choose their favoured oppressors for the next four years!

A friend encouraged me to register so that we could vote people who have the interest of the people into power!  I must have disappointed him when I replied that I would not register because I do not know what the parties and the candidates in my community stand for apart from the general knowledge that both candidates and party want power to improve on the figure of $500bn alluded to by EFCC. Indeed, a former Senate President declared the right of politicians to recoup the investment they made to get elected once they got into power!  This assertion has since been confirmed by the open running battles between incumbent political office holders and their godfathers and sponsors in various states in Nigeria.

It costs loads of money to win public office, and it would be as difficult for the camel to pass through the eye of a needle, as for an honest, God-fearing, public service-oriented candidate to win any primary in Nigeria, as morality and high ideals will never buy you the votes of party members!  So, if the party structure can only throw up bent politicians, then unfortunately, the choice available to the electorate is that between the devil and the deep blue sea!

Most Nigerians will agree that the level of corruption, lack of accountability and the arbitrariness of politicians in power are symptoms of a grave imbalance in our political association as a nation.  The federal constitution of 1999 was crafted by an outgoing despotic administration to protect their backs and ensure that ‘the monkey de work, baboon dey chop’ (Translation: People slave hard at work for the benefit of the lazy) culture remained sustained also in a democratic dispensation, in spite of the inherent dangers of instability and retrogressive development that this system entailed.  Although the overt intention of our military buccaneers was the enthronement of democracy under a federal structure, the letter and the spirit of the 1999 constitution is a far cry from a truly federal system of association.

Nigerians have become uncomfortably aware of the enormous powers of an incumbent president in the last eight years and have endured an Imperial President with so much power, and the reduction of the states to mere puppets and playthings for the big man at the centre, with devastating consequences in all facets of our political economy.  So long as the centre controls the emoluments of the judiciary and also has absolute control over state and federal police and other security agencies, the man at the centre can disobey court orders and get away with it, and the fear of full-blown dictatorship will subsist.

Not one presidential aspirant or party has talked about redressing the inequities in the 1999 constitution as they also look up to this document to support their own dictatorship and clamp down on any opposition.  The thorny issue of the controversial land use decree, which in one stroke robbed communities in Nigeria of the titles to their lands, and the inequity in a revenue allocation formula which depends on the booty from the colonized territories in the Niger Delta for the modern developments in Abuja and all other states except those of the Niger Delta remain non issues in current campaigns.

Not one party has so far come up with any structured plan on how to regenerate the groundnut pyramids and hydes and skins industries in Kano, or the reactivation of the oil palm and cocoa exports in the eastern and western regions respectively!  There are no projections of average schools and hospitals that would be established per unit of population or landmass so that we can assess their success or failure at the end of their term.

There are no plans to control our national debt, particularly the domestic debt, which will touch N3 trillion (about $25b) in another two years in spite of the fact that most of these domestic borrowings by government have not brought any succour to the lives of Nigerians but have brought huge and bountiful rewards to the banks!  No party has come up with concrete plans on how commercial lending rates will fall to below 10% so that industries can survive and unemployment fall as promised by the outgoing government in 1999!

The parties must declare whether their governments will continue to give more than the $7bn uncollateralized, unsolicited and untenured loans to banks at less than 6% while borrowing from the same banks at 17% interest with their bond sales, only to closet the money in the vaults of the CBN, in spite of the crying needs for infrastructural development!  It would be illuminating and refreshing to be educated on how the problem of too much money (excess liquidity) that has scuttled monetary and economic policy over the last eight years will be exorcised from our system and an assurance on how the constant fuel price hikes will be overcome and the value of our national currency, the naira improved so as to bring succour to industrialists and improve the purchasing power of the naira in our pockets.  Until I find a political party which parades clean, honest people who did not buy their way into power and who will be ready to transparently address the issues discussed above, I am afraid, I will be better served with a ‘siddon look’ attitude!

Save the Naira, Save Nigerians!


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