Is Nigeria's Adapted Homegrown Political System The Problem? by Morak Babajide-Alabi
Blog, Newspaper Column, Nigeria

Is Nigeria’s Adapted Homegrown Political System The Problem?

By Morak Babajide-Alabi

The events in the Nigerian political circles in recent times have been profoundly depressing. There is nothing cheery about the news coming from the motherland. From the north to the south, the east to the west, they are sad stories, without any exception. The politicians who are supposed to be the carriers of good tidings represent the models of how not to be good citizens.

The desperation of this class is worrying and concerning. The ploys and scheming to gain political controls are damaging to the development and progress of the entity called Nigeria. The pattern is becoming standard – the governor falls out with the deputy, the local government chairman and market union leaders. The party chairmen at all levels disagree with democratically elected officials. The state assembly members have become pawns in the hands of governors to achieve their ambitions. The decibels of the screams and shouts are getting louder and without any control.

The lawmakers have turned lawbreakers as they line up behind whoever butters their slices of bread most. They are willing to turn the laws upside down for the benefit of their benefactors. It is therefore not surprising that governing laws are stood on their heads to promote passages for those paying the “pipers.” The hallowed chambers that should be for lawmaking are now places for boxing and wrestling tournaments. What is democracy when there is no decency? Ask me again.

In these days, the executive members of the drivers and motor park touts gain unrestricted access to government houses. It is not surprising. As usual, it is getting nearer to when their services would be required. Going by history, they play essential roles in selecting political candidates who contest elections. They are equally beneficial in the outcome as the mighty muscles and “hot rods” under their dashikis intimidate the people. They are the enforcers who suppress the wishes of the masses.

The most worrisome of these developments is the lack of difference between the players in the two mainstream political parties. They are two sides of the same coin – six and half a dozen. The camps work with the same set of values. You could merge the All Progressive Congress (APC) and the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) with no clash of ideologies. The players would effortlessly blend into each other and co-exist.

Do you wonder how they will manage this? The two parties lack defined ideologies therefore nothing stands one apart from the other. The propelling force is the desire to grab power and control the financial resources, at the federal, state and local levels. It is, therefore, no surprise that the members align with the forces that can enhance their pockets best.

You will think the decamping and “re-camping” of candidates from one party to another should be of deep concern to all reasonable Nigerians. But cross carpeting has come to be part of our political culture and no surprise to anyone anymore. It is, unfortunately, a bargaining chip to get to government. Lamentably what this portrays for the country is that these politicians prioritise self-achievement over the interests of the citizens they profess to serve. Cross carpeting is not new in our political culture. Most of our so-called leaders are political vultures who scavenge from one party to another. The people running the country’s affairs had in the past hopped from one political party to another in search of how to achieve their dreams. Ideology is not an attraction to any of them, as there is none in the country.

How do you explain serving governors, senators, ministers or house of representative members dumping the parties they got elected on and nevertheless retain their offices? In Nigeria, a sitting governor is free to walk over to the opposition party and sign up for membership. An elected official can cross over to another party without a care for the manifestoes of the party he got elected initially. Do you wonder on what platform they will complete projects initiated? It is only in a country called the giant of Africa that a politician walks over to the opposition party to pick up a nomination for the next election. Who cares about the loyal party members that had been jostling for the nomination all the years before? There is no pretence as we know that these nominations are for the highest bidders. Who cares on what platform as long as they acquire the instrument of power?

I do not know how to say this without sounding critical. Nor do I know how to write without being disrespectful to the motherland. But whichever way this is perceived, I do not think it matters in the scheme of events. I am, however, pressed to air my views based on a quote by Alan Arkin. He said, “you’re growing or you’re decaying; there’s no middle ground. If you’re standing still, you’re decaying.” When a thing is rotten, you cannot cover the stinking odour.

It is not out of place to describe the political system we operate in Nigeria as a big joke. To say it is a disaster would be extreme, but to be frank, this is the how best to illustrate it. How do you describe a system that delivers nothing but pain and discomfort to the society it is supposed to serve? If you think otherwise, please enlighten me on how the political system we are running is not an abnormal and a clog in the wheel of progress.

A system that denies millions of Nigerians access to essential infrastructures, education, health and many more is as good as useless. I will happily submit myself to teaching by any reasonable person willing to outline how the common men and women benefit from the system. The cost of running the system, borne by the masses, has produced no direct impact on the populace. The system is so skewed in favour of the political operators that all the benefits accrue to them. To believe my claim, have a look at the huge wage bill of the “honourable” senators, the house of representative members, down to the local government councillors.

The political system is a misnomer as it has brought no gain to the citizens. You are probably wondering why I am making a sweeping conclusion here and thinking there is nothing wrong with the system. Just like me, you wonder why a system that is a success in other climes is a failure in the motherland. It shows that it is not a faulty system, but the individuals operating it are not abiding by the rules. They did not read the operation manual or they read it upside down.

I appreciate the history of the choice of the political system. The supposedly political system the country runs on is a “word for word copy” of the USA Presidential System. It was a wholesome import. As a youngster, I was an onlooker, but a keen follower of events, during the “search” for the best political system. It was not a cheap exercise. I recollect vividly when the military government of General Olusegun Obasanjo set up a 49-member Constitutional Drafting Committee (CDC) to fashion a constitution for a return to civilian rule. There were many suggestions, but the proponents of the Presidential system convinced us all that it was the best. The military regime abolished the regional governments in 1967.

Regrettably, the operators of the system have adapted it to suit their individual or group yearnings. The imported presidential system has been altered that the Americans would not recognise it is tailored after theirs. Although the system is a part of the constitution, we do not need any constitutional amendment committee to change anything. Changes are effected at the whims and caprices of the political class. It is Nigeria.

Do we still wonder why nothing works?






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