If you ask the question: “what are the qualities needed to be a successful politician?” chances are that you will get a negative or cynical response: craftiness (wayo) ability to fool the people, greed, sycophancy and the lust for power and the perks of office.
Chita Baghat, best selling Indian novelist, equally says this of his country but adds that this stereotype has developed over the decades through numerous examples of politicians being self-serving, unethical and manipulative. Some even believe that sycophancy is the only way to succeed. As for deception, they all believe that it is easier to manipulate the masses than govern them.
The outcome of the weekend’s convention of the ruling Peoples Democratic Party, PDP is the best example of systematic sycophancy in our politics. Candidates for sixteen out of eighteen elective offices who have run the length and breadth of this country, campaigning by saying they are dissatisfied with the status quo and are agents of change, abandoned the race once they sighted the red eyes (or did they see carrots?) of the President. Some of them, like the candidate for the chairmanship from Bauchi, Dr. Musa Babayo, had a clear mandate from his zone, as did all the other consensus candidates that were upheld but in his own case, the party high command disregarded this mandate and asked him along with the other losers to step down. What did he do in protest? He buckled under instead.
From those things that happened, most citizens will be disappointed with the party and the candidates. This goes on to tell us about the weaknesses of both the party and the candidates. For Babayo, it says that a person, no matter how good he is, must learn the tricks of sycophancy to survive in this country. Otherwise he is a persona-non-grata. The conduct of our politicians says of them that no limits are too low and no compromises are shameful. Otherwise, the one with a strong mandate coming to the centre from his zone would have stood there to insist on being treated with the same respect with which winners from the other zones were treated. Someone made the point about the top in Nigeria being so crowded and that if you look around, you will see that the sycophantic ones are most likely to manoeuvre themselves ahead. So why wait? Why argue with the high command? By surrendering one’s right and kowtowing to the high command, the one who eats the humble pie might get a tap on the shoulder to come pick up a government post. With a post comes power and VIP perks, not responsibility as ought to be the case. Is there a thing called moral responsibility in a Nigerian politician? Sorry, “No”!
The second thing of note is the fact of the fear of the PDP in elections. It’s curious but true that a self-styled democratic party harbours a phobia for election. It instead chooses the process of consensus and boardroom compromise. The outcome of the PDP convention is yet another indication that democracy in Nigeria is losing ground at an alarming rate. The ruling party, which is lucky to have no serious challenge whatsoever from the opposition, is becoming known for nurturing sycophancy and nepotism in the name of consensus. As a consequence, the PDP has been rewarding inefficient and incompetent persons who are placed in party and government positions. Some say this is arising from the fear of losing power and the losses associated with that are too high to even be contemplated. But a party that does not itself harbour the tenets of democracy in its internal affairs cannot bequeath this as a legacy to the nation. I personally hold the view that the Machiavellian techniques of the PDP are just to cover dishonesty and selfishness. Machiavellian policy never pays. It is no exaggeration to say that our politicians today are more sinister in their manipulative politics than the colonialists who coupled together our various tribes into one nation ever thought of. They even disrespect basic national interest. It is almost certainly true that our politicians hate to see increased awareness, literacy, economic and social development because doing so will erode their manipulative politics.
Does anyone think that the “New” (read youths) Nigerians will continue to accept things as they are coming from the old politicians? I say “no”. The character of politics and politicians must change from favouritism, nepotism and bias that have formed the bedrock of our system,otherwise it is difficult to see how manipulative politics will help the PDP to rule for 60 years as proclaimed by its leaders.
Prince Vincent Ogbulafor, former PDP national chairman, once boasted that the party would rule Nigeria for 60 years. Ironically, the same party he idealized so zealously booted him out before he could complete his constitutionally defined tenure. He was disgraced out of office and forced into political retirement.
It is not enough for the PDP to continue to flaunt itself as the largest party in Africa if it cannot set standards for internal democracy, freedom of choice and fair play. Credibility should be of critical concern to the party rather than the monotonous emphasis on being the largest political party in Africa.
The putting the party leadership in the pockets of the President and Governors, designed to frustrate transparent process in the conduct of elections, puts a moral question mark on the sincerity of the ruling party to organize free and fair elections for the country. It is obvious that the PDP is allergic to free and fair elections. Can Bamanga Tukur who is a beneficiary of this political skulduggery stop the rot or reform the party or return it to the dream of its founding fathers?