Why I pity Nigerian Politicians

THISDAY Newspaper- Dele Momodu

Please, forgive my bluntness on this matter. Nigerian politicians must rank among the most pitiable lot in the world. I will endeavour to substantiate this assertion. For most of our politicians, life begins and ends with controlling power and wealth. Nothing else is important. Not even the future of their children and many generations unborn would make them think and work as visionaries.

The average Nigerian politician hates his country with a passion. He lacks positive ambition. That is why his performance score sheet remains at F-Failure and he still believes he’s God’s own gift to mankind. He is unrepentantly shameless. That is why the roads leading to everywhere are in such a dreadful condition and he just can’t be bothered.

Except you live on a different planet, you must have noticed the total collapse of infrastructure in our country. That is even an understatement. The story is virtually the same everywhere you turn. You begin to wonder how our politicians can have the audacity to walk around the streets in broad day light to ask for your votes in such a commanding manner. How on earth can the ruling party at the centre and many of the junior parties at the state levels, even have the effrontery to call themselves political parties when all they do is to rig their cronies into power and share the booty immediately after?

The Nigerian politician loves the good things of life that he finds in Las Vegas and Sun City, but as far as he’s concerned such heavenly beauty is not desired or deserved by his own country. He has enough money to fly to any part of the world with his harem of women and a multitude of children. So what does it really matter if our country parades some of the filthiest cities in the world?
Yet no politician in the world travels aimlessly like the Nigerian politician.

He stays in the choicest hotels. He knows the juiciest restaurants in any world capital. And he lavishes handsome cash on fashion in the most exclusive shops for the super rich. No designer in the world can intimidate him. He’s a very familiar face on Rodeo Drive. All the estates agents know him in Malibu and Marbella. He loves to walk the hills of San Marino. The Swiss watchmakers close down their shops as soon as the oil-sheikhs of Nigeria saunter in with their latest madams.

I’m sure many Nigerians must have been asked if they knew this or that politician as soon as they walked into certain boutiques in London, Paris and Milan. You must have seen their pictures plastered on the walls of fame of restaurants in New York. There is no country where the rarest cognacs and champagnes are drowned with the rapidity we find in our country. Not even in France where some of the world’s finest vineyards are situated. You’ll be shocked to discover that the average white man has never heard of Dom Perignon or Cristal. But that is what our men of power pop with a vengeance in our part of the world.

The good things of life are supposed to be the reward for hard work. Not here. As they say, monkey dey work, baboon dey chop. The more you work, the less you earn. Most of our citizens have given up hope that when tomorrow comes, life will be better. They have come to see politics as a curse rather than a blessing. You only need to open the internet to see the level of despondency and crude bitterness.

Everyone and anyone is a rogue. No one who has a semblance of comfort is regarded as a friend of the people. Suddenly, success has become a burden and an albatross indeed. You can no longer work and hope to enjoy the sweat of your labour in bliss. But can you really blame the people. They have inadvertently come to the realisation that it is almost impossible to make it here without the hand of Satan dangling somewhere. How can you now claim to have done it the God’s way when most of your contemporaries have tried and failed? Such is the pestilence that has bedevilled our land.

The Nigerian politician is a rare breed. He has the heart of a lion. No amount of money is too little or too big to pilfer. He must make something from every transaction. Didn’t they say there was no free lunch in China? There is no free deal in Abuja and all the state capitals of Nigeria. Kickback is the key word. He must collect and collect until he begins to vomit.

Since we already agree that he’s shameless, he doesn’t have to hide the fact that he’s a thief. He runs back to his village to open his new sprawling mansion, and to take his latest wife. He would announce his arrival at the village entrance by the long stretch of his powerful convoy with his bodyguards, usually paid for by you and I, firing staccato shots in the air to tell the hapless people of the coming of the latest rogue from the city. After that brief visit, he’s not likely to come around again until the next festive season or when one of his usually aged relatives dies and he comes to declare surplus, as the cliché goes, and when his kinsmen find the opportunity to partake in the orgy of food and wines.

Everything has been bastardised by the Nigerian politician. He’s convinced that there is only one way elections can be won. You must be in the political party that controls the apparatus of power and coercion. Election is taken as a war, and those who can muster enough weapons from the armoury would always carry the day.

The theory no matter how bizarre is not without foundation and justification. In truth, that is the main attraction of the People’s Democratic Party in Nigeria. The icing on the cake is that practically all the retired warlords in Nigeria are members of what is arrogantly described as the largest political party in Africa. One often wonders how they arrived at such thoughtless claims in a country where these irritants have ignorantly frustrated every attempt to conduct credible census and register citizens for identity cards.

It is difficult to find a Nigerian politician today who’s a true statesman. Everyone reverts back to ethnic jingoism as soon as politics is mentioned. None wants to be a nationalist or a true Nigerian. Zoning or federal character supersedes the Constitution. Merit has been sacrificed at the altar of greed and selfishness. And no Nigerian politician has been able to challenge the malady of doing the same things repeatedly while expecting a different result.

Nowhere is this madness so palpable than in what is called the Governors’ Forum, where every governor portrays the image of an Emperor. The latest craze is the belief that no one can unseat an incumbent Lord of the Manor. Even where the governor is about to complete his tenure, he believes he must install the next governor from amongst his lackeys.

The Nigerian politician does not even communicate with the people. He’s closer to his Alsatian dogs and German Shepherds. The Nigerian politician has murdered the principles of separation of powers. His deputy while in office is nothing but a glorified housekeeper. The duty of the deputy is to do what he is told, just like a robot. Any deputy who steps out of bounds is told in clear cut terms who dictates the tune. Those who survive are those who confess and atone for their sins of omission and commission early enough. The obstinate ones were promptly kicked out, sooner than later.

Not even the legislature is spared this fiendish treatment. Any speaker of a state parliament who carries his legislative autonomy on his head is soon disgraced out of office. And from many examples we’ve seen, there are always ambitious colleagues hovering in the wings to take over.

The governors now know who the boss of all bosses is. You must have noticed how they are filing to Abuja with their traditional rulers in tow to pay homage to their new Master. Gone is the swagger of those last days of President Umaru Musa Yar’Adua when they treated Jonathan with such mean disdain. Today the game has changed. Most of the governors now look like penitent school boys. We all have lessons to learn from all this.
The question on everyone’s lips is: Are we going to continue with this musical chairs forever? What is the way forward? I will attempt the answer on this page soon. No country has ever lived perpetually in stupidity. Something must give.

Femi Otedola’s Triumphant Return

I have read in many publications where it’s been written that Femi Otedola, Nigeria’s diesel baron has emerged the closest friend of President Goodluck Jonathan. In fact, he was reported to be the only non-government functionary who has coasted around on the presidential jet with Dr Jonathan everywhere he’s travelled.

I’m not surprised. Mr Otedola was only fortunate to have gambled his way back to power. The authentic gist was that at a time other businessmen were too timid to identify publicly with Dr. Jonathan, this young man chose to go for high stakes by moving closer to the lonely man. He told his inner circle of friends that he was ready to stake his last kobo on a man who was being humiliated by everybody.

Mr Otedola had his reasons. He fell from grace when Hurricane Sanusi Lamido swept through the banks and his flanks were exposed. This was the time Mr. Otedola’s waterfront office Zenon Place was to be opened on Walter Carrington Crescent in Lagos. Dr Jonathan was supposed to be the Special Guest. Many had thought the then vice president would decline the invitation. But not only did he attend, he spent quality time within the beautiful edifice and Mr. Otedola was deeply touched by the support demonstrated to him at his hour of need.

He promised he would swim and sink with Dr Jonathan. As fate would have it, the former president died and Nigeria’s luckiest man became the president. Today, Femi Otedola has joined the rare league of powerful businessmen who became First Friends. Chief Moshood Abiola was known to have been very close to General Murtala Mohammed and General Ibrahim Babangida. Dr Mike Adenuga was also one of General Ibrahim Babangida’s friends.

The maximum ruler, General Sani Abacha chose Aare Arisekola Alao, Chief Arthur Eze and Chief Emeka Offor as his best friends. Chief Fashawe was also a very close friend of President Olusegun Obasanjo before the friendship collapsed, and the remnants of the friendship were shared between Alhaji Aliko Dangote, Femi Otedola, Eze Festus Odimegwu, Jimoh Ibrahim and Mr Jim Ovia. Dr Sayyadi Abba-Ruma was President Yar’Adua’s best friend. Dr Goodluck Ebere Jonathan has settled for his best friend in Mr Femi Otedola, the cat with nine lives.In Nigeria, power is turn by turn.


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