The central thesis on the conception of politics is the fact that many people see it as the “struggle for power” through which politicians and political gladiators capture the “minds and resource of men and nations”, by all means. The stratagem of deception in the political game is very ripe in developing nations like Nigeria where due to high level of illiteracy and poverty, politicians manipulate the minds of the people using religious, ethnic, linguistic and regional sentiments, which hit at the roots of political culture to gain attention for the purpose of securing power into political offices. While some scholars like David Easton see politics as “authoritative allocation of values” William Zartman believes that politics is the process of handling demand made by the public on the government and demands that are either not properly handled or not handled at all which escalate often from politics to violence”. For the ordinary person in the street or village of Ebonyi state, Zartman’s understanding of politics could be said to be what has shaped the nature of the politicking in the state for the 2015 general elections.Sorry, there are no polls available at the moment.
The way and manner the demand of Ebonyians were handled by the incumbent administration in the state sparked off the political controversy that nearly consumed the state in the Party primary elections leading to the forthcoming elections. The good thing is that the controversy has helped to open the political space in the state for the first time since 1999 that Ebonyians now have opportunity to decide through their votes who occupies any political position from State to National Assembly elections and the governorship in the state. Today and before the elections on 14th February, 2015, it is difficult to predict a winner in the National Assembly elections among the contending parties: APC, PDP, APGA and Labour. Candidates of the parties for the Six House of Representatives seats and three Senatorial positions are as good and strongly rooted as the other. The same applies to the governorship election where they are strong candidates representing the political parties especially PDP, LABOUR and APC in the person of Engr. Dave Umahi, Architect Edward Nkwegu and Senator Julius Ali Ucha, not undermining the strength of the Candidate of APGA Sen. Anthony Agbo.
The most fundamental situation in Ebonyi today is that the political struggle for power has opened up so many issues in the state and questions are been raised as to the unity of the different groups that make up the state from Afikpo to EKUMENYI, especially on the governorship position. If Ebonyians are one, should there not be a formula to share what belongs to the state in such a manner that all citizens will have a sense of belonging? If during the agitation for the creation of Ebonyi state led by late EZEOGO DR. AKANU IBIAM who hailed form Afikpo and Ebonyians did not create division as to the unity of the state, does it not apply also that living together and in holding political offices, all parts of the state should have equal participation and contribution to the development of the state? During the agitation for the creation of the state, EZEOGO DR. AKANU IBIAM revelled as the Father of the State hailed from Southern part of the state with the “disadvantaged population and numerical strength”, yet the federal government in deference to the position of the revelled Ibiam, created the state, why should a problem now arise at the point of sharing the common patrimony of the state? These questions have become necessary in view of the fact that the campaign messages of some of the political parties have introduced new concepts in the presumed unity of the people of the state and appear to defeat the campaign of unity and peace agenda promoted by the current administration throughout its years in office from 2007 to date.
There is no doubt that every politician wants to gain power. The essence of democracy is for people to assess their leaders or those aspiring to lead them and choose them based on their democratic credentials or political sagacity. But the politicians on their own use any instrument as message including deception to win elections and do nothing afterwards hence a renowned Russian leader, Kruschev, one time said that “Politicians are the same all over, they promise to build bridges even where there is no river”. That is why a Professor of Political Science in the University of Ibadan, OBC Nwolise, stated that politics is a struggle in which the “the gladiators often apply all forms of strategies and tactics to win, including deception. Those men and nations who are deceived in the process lose (freedom, power, resources etc.), and grow lean, while those that deceive them gain (freedom, power, resources, etc.), and grow fat. This is why politics and governance, especially international politics, require minds, brains and bodies that are properly schooled and tuned for them”. It is no wonder that even after 16 years of return of democracy to Nigeria, there are more “democratic deficits” in many states of the federation than democratic dividends.
In the case of Ebonyi, the campaign messages from the political parties appear to be anchored on two issues that have no bearing on the challenges facing the people but mere deception to gain power or to determine who has supremacy over the state or to deepen the sentiment of disunity in the state. One of the messages is POWER SHIFT propagated by the PDP, the other is POWER MUST REMAIN IN ABAKALIKI BLOC preached by Labour while APC is canvassing for power to Ezza Nation. Ebonyi today is the poorest state in the federation and that is a statement of fact. Infrastructural development in Ebonyi is zero. The education sector is almost collapsing as unaffordable tuition feels is already keeping many students out of school. It is disheartening that in many public schools even with population of over 2,000 students, less than 1% register for WAEC Examinations while private schools are strangulated by over bearing extortions by State Ministry of Education thereby occasioning mass exodus of Ebonyians to Cross River for WAEC Examinations. The major projects of the current administration on water, road, New city for the state nicknamed OCHUDO City, agriculture etc have been abandoned. There is virtually nothing working in the state and since the preparations for the 2015 elections began with the attendant crisis occasioned by attempt to impose a candidate on the citizens by the Governor of the state, every other developmental project is in comatose. While the PDP with a Candidate from Ebonyi South is rightly sending the messages of Unity, Equity, Justice and Fairness to elicit the support and sympathy of Ebonyians (because of the manner governor Elechi mishandled his promise to hand over power to the south), and promising to address the difficulties currently faced by the citizens in the state if elected; Labour Party is asking Ebonyians to forget Power going to the South which clearly indicates that ab ignitio, the promise of handing over power to the South by the Governor was a mere deceit. APC is projecting the egalitarian nature of an Ezza man and being the progenitor of EKUMWNYI in Abakaliki Bloc ought to have received consideration first if power were to return to the bloc instead of Izzi but unfortunately, the conspiracy against Ezza man even within Abakaliki bloc has reached such a water mark that the search for unity in Ebonyi and among EKUMENYI people is rather a mirage and this has been worsened by the policy of clannish sentiment within EKUMENYI people. This makes the quest from an APC angle an uphill task.
I see what is happening in Ebonyi today as the beauty of democracy. It is the same thing happening in Akwa Ibom, Abia, Rivers, Niger, Imo, Benue and many others. People are becoming more conscious and participatory in democratic activities and every group demands representation. With or without any charter of equity written or enshrined in people’s heart in these states mentioned above including Ebonyi, the people are aware that if one part of the state has occupied the office of governor, it is only right for another part to take its turn. From 1999 to 2007, Ebonyi North had its chance for governor of the state, Ebonyi Central is serving out its 8 years in May 2015, and it is only natural that the next governor comes from the South except there is anything to indicate that the South is no longer part of Ebonyi state. That Governor Elechi’s attempt to impose a Successor failed under PDP and he then moved his supporters to Labour and returned governorship ticket to the North against his earlier promise to hand over power to the South is a dangerous inconsistency which Ebonyians must resist. The question is why should the Southerners in Ebonyi be made to pay the prize of mishandling and mismanagement of PDP crisis by Governor Elechi or can what happened be said to be a deliberate act on the part of the governor to deny South opportunity to rule the state?. The reason why many Ebonyians especially the elites who determine the future of this state are with the PDP is not because of Engr. Dave Umuahi, but in the interest of justice and for the sake of the future of the state. If North and Central zones of the state have produced two terms governors of the state in the past 16 years, there is no ground of argument why a Southerner should not be the next governor. The person of Dave Umuahi for whatever he represents (“devil or saint”) is not as important as interest of justice, equity and sense of belonging which his election will bring to the people of the South. What the people in the South ought to understand is that despite the freedom expressed by way of democracy, what is happening today being misconstrued as David Umuahi’s project supposed to be South project which if it fails, is not a failure of Dave Umuahi but failure of the South to protect its own destiny and defend its rights and privileges, therefore, win or lose, Dave is already a political hero of the South. Those who deserve sympathy do not include Dave Umuahi but rather the ones working against the interest of the South because posterity will hold them accountable. The options in this election should not be that of Labour, APC or APGA for the governorship election, but between justice, equity, fairness and injustice of denying the South opportunity to rule the state simply on the ground of conspiracy of population. Population and size were not ingredients of consideration during the struggle for the creation of Ebonyi State; it is shear bad leadership and show of shame to apply such principles in determining who governs the state in 2015 simply because of lack of integrity and honour on the part of political leadership of the state. The Campaign messages should address the problems confronting Ebonyi people, education and poverty and not to introduce division, hatred among ourselves and deepened suspicion and bad blood among the citizens who hitherto co-existed as brothers. After all if the two governors from the Abakaliki bloc in 16 years could not bring meaningful development to the people of the state especially those from North and Central, there is nothing to suggest that those in the race today from the bloc will make any difference. One may be tempted to ask: If Professor Onyebuchi Chukwu was rejected because it was argued that the process of his emergence was unilateral, Dave Umahi emerged through a democratic process of political party primary election based on the interest of the party, and he is still being rejected, so is the campaign to stop the South a case of ingratitude to EZEOGO DR. AKANU IBIMA father of Ebonyi State or a matter of political exclusion. Surely this attitude and posture will NEVER move Ebonyi state forward. Politics and campaign of division is not the gateway to political sustainability, peace and stability. Democracy is a game of freedom and participation but freedom without rationality leaves us with disorder and chaos.
- Uhuo is a Political Scientist and Commentator on National Issues.