Nigeria: From an imperfect democracy to a perfect mess

July 18, 2013
2 mins read

“The PDP appears to have added public brawling to its list of accomplishments. The self-proclaimed largest party in Africa has turned into a fight club that employs the police as ushers for its matches…When the interest of the nation is subjugated so that the narrow, parochial interest of a clique in power is served events like we see unfold in Rivers will soon become common place.

As a new breed of imperial rulers run amok and with impunity violate Nigeria’s constitution, the days ahead seem gloomy and uncertain”– Bola Tinubu writing on the events in Rivers State.

FRANKLY, it is not often that I agree with Bola Tinubu, ACN opposition figure and former governor of Lagos state. But he has been spot on this week, in his well-publicised analysis of events unfolding at a dizzying pace in Rivers state.

As a matter of fact, the title of today’s piece has been borrowed from his analysis. Bola Tinubu has put into perspective the issues at stake in Rivers state and the analysis underscores why patriots must be worried about the events, with portents for democracy in Nigeria. It is good that an opposition figure can relate with these events with so much perspective.

Last week, the video of the infatile, coup-like attempt by a handful of legislators to depose their Speaker as part of the grand agenda to impeach the state governor, went viral on the internet. It was incroyable (as the French say) to witness the level of degeneracy amongst legislators ostensibly sworn to making laws for the good governance of our society.

Granted that hardly any of these chaps won a free and fair election, but to confront the fact that Rivers state has been paying for the creature comfort of thugs, pitiable coup plotters and hired guns, makes a mockery of Nigeria’s political space.

But politics is the game and in the bare-knuckled setting of Nigeria, this is warfare by every means. In truth, the gladiators are far too gone to be bothered by what a shocked nation of onlookers feel about their misconduct. Democracy and its consolidation mean very little in the situation unfolding in Rivers state. A tendency must win and ensure the adversary is completely bloodied!

Let us be clear about the situation; in the beginning it was about the president and his ambition for 2015. And this is despite the strenuous denials to the contrary. The Nigerian Presidency must be one of the most powerful in the world, yet, there is the intrinsic weakness of its present occupant: a real political lightweight without much political antecedent.

This duality jars because it disposes towards extremities in conflicts. Rivers state magnifies this nastiness for so many reasons. It’s Madam Patience Jonathan’s home state and within a ‘region’ that President Goodluck Jonathan must claim rightfully his own, in a political bragging game against other groups of the nation’s ruling elite.

Rotimi Amaechi’s sins are therefore almost unforgivable. A weak presidency cannot afford an assertive governor within the presidential neck of the wood: fight with Bayelsa over oil fields; winning NGF election despite presidential objection; and never sufficiently massaging the First Lady’s inordinately domineering ego. This afterall is Patience Jonathan the “Jesus Christ” for some Legislators in Rivers House of Assembly; an unpardonable act of omission by a governor that used to be a Speaker!

As night follows day, things might end up messier, not just in Rivers, as we inch closer to 2015. Uniquely, Nigerian politics ensures that the most strident opposition shares the PDP with President Jonathan. That rankles far more than the tilting at the windmills, by the wilderness-based opposition. The troops must forcefully rally, otherwise the big stick will be wielded to force the recalcitrant into line; there is willingness to sacrifice a few individuals for the overall agenda.

Chess aficionados will recognize a gambit; sacrifice some pawns to achieve an ultimate checkmate. President Goodluck Jonathan’s expired and feuding old men, Bamanga Tukur and Tony Anennih, are expected to wield stick and carrot, while another old man, EK Clark leads the gung-ho division of the Sunny Kukus and Asari Dokubos.

We are in for a long and bitter feud; no prisoners will be taken and none will emerge without being bloodied as we approach 2015. Bola Tinubu is right; I reluctantly admit it: our imperfect democracy is threatening to become a perfect mess!

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