This election is unique like any other election in Nigeria, and what people call the third force, we know that even during the World Cup where 65 countries compete to win the cup, ultimately the final will be between two. This election is keenly between the Peoples Democratic Party and the All Progressives Congress. Of course, there may be a third leg but it is as unique as before.
This election is unprecedented. Nigeria of today is a country with high-level insecurity. There was insecurity in 2015 but what we have today is what I have never seen before in this country. Apart from insecurity, there is economic crisis and naira crisis which is not supposed to be a real economic problem but it was created by the present government to solve economic problems. Whether it is right or not is to be seen. It is an ambulance one because it is an emergency because it has been aggravated. There are socio-political problems of insecurity, banditry, kidnapping, economic crisis from the naira scarcity and an instrument of economic negotiation. All of these burdens are not new in the Nigeria political system. That is why they are aggravated and said to be so because the current government promised everything but opposite of what we are getting now. He promised to solve the problems but we arrived at this level where instead of the problems being solved it becomes worse than how they were in 2015.
I have always said it; people need to understand that democracy is far beyond voting. What we have been doing since 1960 in this country is what I call ‘rituals of the ballot box’. We mobilise people, spend a lot of money, register and deregister political parties towards ensuring that people can vote and we do that every four years to change political leadership but we have never succeeded in changing the political system. The way we view democracy should be beyond voting, unfortunately that is not the case. We only succeed in changing political leadership every four years. With that alone, we will never be able to achieve a systemic political change. So, how do we achieve that? It is by believing that democracy is not about voting alone. You may and may not vote but what is compulsory for us citizens is to be economically vigilant of every step taken by our political leaders.
You and I know that starting from the characters and actors in this political race, you can never point to anything that can bring change to this political system. It can’t just change. When Bola Tinubu was the governor of Lagos State, of course, history had it that he did a lot but to what extent will the masses in Lagos say they benefited immensely as citizens even in his government? I am not supposed to focus on individuals but we need to analyse issues. If we have been benefitting, how come people are crying this way in Nigeria today. If you look at where Atiku Abubakar is coming from, it is the same or similar answer we are going to get. There was insecurity and poverty at a very high level. The case of Obi is even more laughable because he is a super capitalist now representing a Labour Party whose ideology is socialism. For me, that is a contradiction. What we are saying is that we were merely expecting a miracle and that miracle will never happen and that will make Nigerians know that it is not the end of the road after all and that the voting on Saturday was a positive step to take in a democracy. By the time they take that first step, the second step, which is internal vigilance, must also be there. If we don’t take that approach we will continue to make the same mistake every four years.
What is best to you may be horrible to me, so I wouldn’t want to use that word to qualify any of them. What I am saying is that we will never know who is best and if you claim to know the best that means you are clearly subjective. We are merely wasting time by thinking that all we need to do and emphasise on is that voting can change any political system. A look at history will help. Between 1959 and 1965 that Africans started getting their independence, which country has been liberated through voting in Africa? The answer will be none. This is what we have done for years and we are not getting results. It is high time we started taking the second step of democracy, which is to insist that the government must do the right thing, whether you vote or not. For me, that is how Africans can build their political system. For the 2023 elections, there is no best among the ‘foremost’ three. In terms of security and welfare, which are fundamentals, none of the candidates can boast that he created a robust welfare package or strong security for the people when they were in government. If you extend it to the economy and infrastructure, each of them will get zero out of 10. The fact is that there is no yardstick that any of them can solve the current problems of the country. Therefore, what we have to do is the second leg of democracy, which is that every Nigerian should ensure that they are vigilant.
Until Nigerians realise that democracy is built by holding leaders accountable and not every four years ritual of voting, we will continue to perambulate. An average Nigerian will not know that after the Saturday election, the struggle has just begun. We just need someone to represent us so that there won’t be anarchy. We do not need the wisdom of Solomon to know that that is what we need to make the system work.
The system of government we have drafted is liberal democracy. If you look at the three prominent candidates, they are products of elite practicism. The political elite then concoct, baptise and prescribe to the people. It is like working from top to bottom. Ideally, if democracy is the government of the people, by the people and for the people, it is the people that are supposed to prescribe to the people who are representing us. That only three of them can come to the limelight is because the system is fundamentally designed to be antithetical to the interest of the people and that was why Fela Anikulapo Kuti described democracy as a ‘demonstration of craze’ which means everybody is doing it because people are also doing it. So, Nigeria is also following it hook, line, and sinker, therefore that ‘demonstration of craze’ instead of giving us good governance and security has given us a crazy demonstration. It is crazy because you must be crazy to continue to nurture a system that has been consistently aggravating our living condition. The way Nigerian democracy is designed is because it is a ‘text-book democracy’. We read it in the pages of a textbook and adopted it into our system hook, line, and sinker. Therefore, it is not designed to bring up good people with good ideas and good programmes. It is designed for the elite to have permutations and alignments among themselves and present themselves to us and we will have no choice but to make a choice between the devils as the case may be. What we can do to prevent the quagmire is to constitute a culture of internal vigilance by building a civil society. We must engineer the system to be able to produce better candidates in the future.
Corruption, leadership failure and what we call bad followership are problems but they are symptoms of the problems. How do you create a leader out of the political system that did not evolve from your socio-political and historical experience? This system that we borrowed from the pages of textbooks and political systems is like expecting a human to be born of a snake. It can never happen. How do you not expect corruption in a country when the reward system is highly skewed? Is it not the government of Nigeria that signed on paper and made it a law that the minimum wage should be N30,000. I mean N30,000 for the citizens of a country where a bag of rice is between N47, 000 to N50,000. If you want to say corruption is common among the followers, what about the leaders? The same problem of anxiety which attracts the followers is the same thing that makes corruption attract the leaders.
My advocacy is that no new system works if it does not evolve. It is different from being created and copied by hook, line, and sinker. It evolves in the sense that the system goes through socio-economic and political processes, historical and cultural experiences and it then evolves to a level that it can be applicable to all of them.
I heard this during the campaigns that people should not vote based on ethnicity, religion but by competence. There is nothing like that in a democracy. This liberal democratic form of government that we are practicing does not favour anybody who has not been able to steal from the wealth of the Nigerian people. In Nigeria, people will still vote based on ethnicity and religions because those are the things pushed to us by the political elite. That is why we have everything reduced to two or three candidates and these three candidates are products of elite baptism that baptise and present them to the people. How we will adjust the democratic system that we have on ground to evolve as a larger system that we can use to develop our foundation should be a focus. That cannot be done by only one person. Journalists, historians, local intelligentsia, the traditionalists, religious leaders and everybody will be involved.
Religion is a private affair and it has no base in the public at all. We must understand this and put it where it is supposed to be. If you are either a Muslim or a Christian, it should be private. Religion is used to cause problems in this country. Once you allow religion in the public space, it destroys the system.
This is another opportunity for me to correct the erroneous information that goes on in the public. None of those political parties have a manifesto. They have what you can refer to as campaign promises. Campaign promises are not the same as manifestoes. Manifestos are products of ideology that a political party has, whether it is capitalism, neo-nationalism or communism. Whatever ideology a political party has gives birth to political programmes, so none of the dominant three political parties that we see has an ideology at the moment. How would a super capitalist be the candidate of a Labour Party, a socialist party and you are talking about ideology? What they are saying is not an ideology. Is it an ideology to say you will provide electricity and fight poverty? I also assume that nothing concrete will come out from them because they are not made up of an ideology.
Whoever becomes the president of Nigeria should first of all learn to work in a single society. To me, that is the number one thing, because the top-bottom political elite produced him for the people. Since he is coming from that background, the first programme that he should execute is to open himself to the bottom and create a connection with it. In other words, he can make and amend laws to suit the yearnings of the people. That is the only way. He can solve the problem of electricity and insecurity. You cannot solve insecurity where you are drinking hot tea at a round table. That is why people are calling for community policing.
The intellectual position is that it is attributed to the character of the political elite. Once the political elite have desperation and anxiety in their character, they tend to be involved in rigging, attack, character assassination and finally assassination of the opponent. They are always desperate because of the monetary gains there. In other countries, people rule because they want their names to be part of history. In Nigeria, we all know that people go there to actually better their lots.
I think so. This ambulance naira policy will to some extent influence the decision of the people. A section of the ruling party is saying the policy is targeted at them, another faction within the same political party says the policy is designed to attack the opposition party. The opposition party is also divided. It said it supports the policy but another faction does not. The take home for you and I is that when there is insecurity in terms of kidnapping and banditry as well as corruption in a political system, what happens is illegitimate exchange of money and the only way people can exchange money illegitimately is through the use of cash because it cannot be traced. If the government brings up a system to curb the problem, I think the administration has done the right thing theoretically. However, is it the right time for such? Does the country have the appropriate infrastructure to cater to that? The answer for that is either yes or no. It depends on the orientation you have. If you come from the administrative perspective, you ask yourself that there is not time a change will be effected that will not cause pain to the people at first. If you are now talking from the perspective of the people, you will remember that people in the villages do not have banks and without good networks, so how do they conduct their business transactions? If the government had listened to the people and collected their opinions, it wouldn’t have caused chaos. It was problematic because it didn’t come from the feeling of the people from the grass roots. It came from the political elite. It is a fundamental step that Nigeria needs to stop kidnapping, banditry, insecurity amongst others.
Well, we do not need the wisdom of Orunmila for us to know that Nigeria needs to be restructured through constitutional amendment. These two are the evidence that the current system cannot work, so whoever becomes the president after the election on Saturday is to connect with the people so as to get the right approach to solve the problems.