Two international callers, one from the United states of America and the second from the United Kingdom, who have had sufficient patience to follow through the advocacy activities of the human rights platform that I currently works for-HUMAN RIGHTS WRITERS’ ASSOCIATION OF NIGERIA [HURIWA] successfully put several calls across to me not long ago to express their divergent opinions regarding the state of the Nigerian Nation.
These callers, one an American Caucasian citizen and the second, a Nigerian- born but British naturalized scholar expressed consternation that Nigeria is speedily sliding towards the precipice of anarchy and doom because of what they analyzed as the overwhelming dominance of the political public space by characters they considered as social misfits and persons with dubious credentials who are only in public life for what they can maximize and steal for themselves from the public treasury.
I tried all I could to convince them that their observations may not be the accurate representations of the reality on ground in Nigeria and I used examples of some good Nigerians that are today holding public offices in Nigeria not necessarily for self -enrichment but more particularly for the positive impacts their contributions to the enthronement of democracy and respect for the rule of law could go in transforming Nigeria’s bad international public image.
I even went as far as listing out some names of great minds that are today engaged in one public function/office or the other just as I reminded my callers that these statesmen and great iconic women figures are not in the category of the never-do-wells that they had earlier said dominate the public political space in Nigeria. But these persons stuck to their guns and in effect stated that it may take a revolution to change the nation of Nigeria for the better.
My American caller, a lady in her mid thirties appeared more informed about the political development in most parts of the country than most of us who live in Nigeria. She has been a frequent visitor to Nigeria.
She took me on a guided oral but powerful tour of the political scenarios in the South Eastern states in the last four years and particularly narrated the bad development in much of these South Eastern States whereby according to her assessment, democracy has not actually improved the living condition of the majority of the citizenry just as she concluded that the collapse of respect for the rule of law and constitutionalism coupled with a weak civil society have collectively contributed to the unprecedented corruption in these South Eastern States. She singled out the state of Abia as a case study where the current administration has elevated bad governance and deception to an art.
She was of the considered opinion that the current governor of Abia state- Mr. Theodore Orji has spent more time in the United States of America than he has done in Umuahia, the grossly underdeveloped rural capital of Abia state. Each foreign trip he embarked upon is marked with fun and staged fun-fare on take off point and on his return.
Speaking about the agricultural and industrial potentials of Abia state which she said were yet to be galvanized, my American caller said Aba stands in a unique position to become the Japan of modern day Nigeria if the enabling environment is created and the functional social infrastructure of roads, electricity, good security and other essential services are provided by the political administration and that institutions such as the Small and Medium Scale Enterprises Agency [SMEDAN], the Nigeria Industrial Bank [Bank of Industry] and other commercial banks are compelled institutionally by the Federal Government to provide their services and credit facilities on liberal but protective terms to the thousands of talented shoe makers in Aba, Abia state. Recently, the garrulous Central Bank of Nigeria’s governor Mr. Sanusi Lamido Sanusi was the guest of the Abia state governor who organized a public lecture on youth empowerment but sadly because of the suffocating state of affairs in that state, the ordinary traders in Aba and Umuahia were not allowed to ask probing questions to the nation’s top banker to respond on why he hasn’t done anything positive to make commercial banks to offer genuine services to thousands of local talented investors in Abia state.
Gladys Fitzgerald [names unreal], my American caller also told me in clear terms that the practice in most South East states as in other states of the Nigerian federation whereby state governors single handedly appoint their foot soldiers and post them to man the respective local council areas as sole administrators is a breach of section 7 of the constitution of Nigeria which clearly stated that the system of government at the local council stage must be democratic. She used Anambra state as a case study whereby the state governor, Mr. Peter Obi failed to conduct or supervise the free and fair conduct of local council elections in the last seven and half years that he has ruled as the state governor in spite of the fact that he relied on the courts of competent jurisdiction to reclaim his mandate which was stolen by the Peoples Democratic Party [PDP] controlled in Anambra state by pockets of illiterate and dubious rich political god fathers who were milking the state dry out of the Federally shared allocations due to the state monthly.
The caller from the United Kingdom who ironically is a woman also spoke about the bad shape of politics in the Northern states of Nigeria and blamed the political elites for failing to implement programs rich in contents that ought to halve the high rate of poverty in those states. Using Jigawa state as an example, she reminded me that recently the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission [EFCC] arrested the first son of the state governor for alleged money laundry and that the father defended his son for having in his possession over $50,000 USD and claimed that his son was on his way to Egypt to convey his two year old daughter to a Cairo-based hospital for treatment for sundry illness. My British caller who incidentally was born in Kaduna state of Nigerian Parents but later naturalized as a British Citizen, then questioned the rationale of the justification by the Jigawa state governor of his Son for seeking foreign medical attention for his daughter even when the state governor of Jigawa state failed to erect a standard and well equipped hospital facility in that state since he came to power in 2007. What an iron?
My conclusion to both of these foreign based callers is that Nigeria is unfortunately witnessing what I may call growing ‘toiletization’ of Politics and that indeed it will take the collective action of all lovers of Nigeria to stage series of organized but peaceful civil unrests and/or revolution similar to the middle East or North American revolution to chase away these social misfits that have captured political power in Nigeria through the corruption of the electoral system and manipulations of the electoral body that conducts elections- the Nigerian Electoral Commission [INEC].
Here is my hypothesis- Nigeria is indeed experiencing the growing phenomenon of toiletization of politics and by this I mean that the Nigeria’s public political space is dominated dangerously by characters whose shady and shoddy criminal past were overlooked before they emerged on the political scenes and as the old saying goes, it is too late to teach an old fox new tricks. In the same vein it is too late in the day to expect that a convicted fraudster or bankrupt elected into political offices whereby the enforcement of anti-corruption laws are weak and compromised, to become a clean and repentant person who would run or administer the resources of the public kept in his/her custody with transparency and accountability.
Toiletization of Nigerian politics is derived from the fact that in Nigerian politics of today, the good, the bad and the ugly are engaged in fierce battle of their lives to control the organs of governance and in most cases the ugliest and the very bad people emerge ‘victorious’ in a political race that is heavily polluted by money and other corrupt practices. To be more precise I got the concept of toiletization from the word toilet which in the words of the Wikipedia, the online encyclopedia, means a sanitation fixture used primarily for the disposal of human excrement and urine, often referred to as a toilet/bathroom/lavatory.
One place whereby this toiletization of politics is noticeable is in the election into the national and state assemblies. For instance, the Bauchi state House of assembly recently suspended the lone female member of the Bauchi state House of Assembly just for the so-called ‘offence’ of standing for what is right and just by opposing the transfer of the local government secretariat of Tafawa Balewa Local government area council from where it has always been situated dominated by Christian minority Bauchi citizens to another dominated by the Hausa/Fulani Moslems. She simply got chased out literary for speaking out in a political assembly whereby the elected legislators are expected to express their opinion without let or hindrance.
My readers may be wondering why I used Bauchi state House of Assembly as a perfect example of where growing toiletization of politics has become dominant, but they need not wonder or too long because I drew my conclusion upon reading the recorded document and minutes of the plenary sessions in which the only female member of the Bauchi state House of Assembly member was recently suspended and the dozens of grammatical errors I noticed showed me that we indeed have a long way to go to ensure that only square pegs are put in square holes and to make sure that politics is dominated by some of the best minds in the mold of philosopher kings as documented by ancient Philosophers such as Socrates, Plato and Aristotle.
Did I hear you say that I am spreading wrong stereotype of what most people say about Northern political space dominated by half baked graduates? You are dead wrong because I can tell you now without any fear of contradiction that in my beloved Imo state, there was a time that a certain governor of the Peoples Democratic Party was quoted to have regarded the installation by a private telecom company of telecom mastheads as part of his Imo state government ‘democratic dividends’ or achievements made by his government with the several billions of fund that accrued to the state coffers from the federation account and the internally generated revenue. In much of the South East states such as Abia and Ebonyi states, the state government uses fronts to place generous media commercials to congratulate the state governors for drilling boreholes which cost less that five percent of the total cost of those glamorous commercial advertisements sponsored dubiously with taxpayers’ money by the stooges of these never-do-wells who parade around as governors.
So just like in Northern Nigeria whereby state governors spend huge sums of public fund junketing around the globe while their people wallow and die out of poverty, the Southern Nigeria is replete with instances of growing toiletization of public politics and sadly, the populace are too busy chasing bread and butter and are not bothered to ask probing questions from their elected politicians to give proper account on how the peoples money are used to serve the people. In Lagos state for instance, there is even what may be called growing toiletization of the civil society because only recently a study showed that last year alone, the populace spent N1 billion naira to stage series of social get-togethers or what is known in local parlance as ‘OWAMBE’ social meetings.
In a drunken state of mind, how can the members of the civil populace fully understand their roles as the real owners of the Nigerian sovereignty who ought to watch the activities of politicians to ensure that the nation is not ruined through corrupt practices? If majority of the people living in Lagos state alone have developed this deadly gluttonous tendency as to have spent a whooping N1 billion naira on social and highly unproductive ventures, how then will the growing toiletization of Nigerian politics not exacerbate? The other day, a yacht hotel belonging to the Lagos state ministry of tourism purchased reportedly from the UK worth several billions, disappeared into thin air and the people have not asked from the state government the whereabouts of this priceless assets.
Sadly, what makes the toiletization of Nigerian politics much more dangerous is the ignominious roles played by religious leaders who encourage these corrupt politicians to go on stealing spree without checks and balances. Recently, a certain pastor acquired a choice private jet even when about 70 percent of his members are impoverished and to make matters worst, the President of Nigeria Dr. Good luck Jonathan was the Chief Guest of honor at the unveiling ceremony of this exotic private jet. On the last count, over five pastors own private jets in a nation whereby over 85 percent of the citizenry are too poor that many die from malaria and typhoid.
In Niger state, the state governor was shown in some media cruising in an exotic private jet celebrating his birthday not too long ago and this state is one place whereby the state of infrastructure in the rural primary schools have deteriorated to animalistic level so much so that pupils receive lessons under trees or seat on the fallen debris of their derelict school buildings from where lessons are dished out by their highly impoverished teachers. Anambra state is warming up to hold another governorship elections and the majority of those running for office are money bags who can not account for the sources of their wealth including one of them facing prosecution over alleged participation in the monumental heist of petroleum subsidy running to nearly N1 trillion Naira. Nigerians; wake up and stop this bad phenomenon of growing toiletization of Nigerian public politics. It is now or never.
+Emmanuel Onwubiko is head; Human Rights Writers’ Association of Nigeria and blogs @www.huriwa.blogspot.com.