By Kola King
Events of the past few weeks lend credence to the belief that politics has been reduced to a racket for the simple reason that the All Progressives Party, APC has totally monetized the race for president raising the stakes by fixing the presidential nomination forms at a princely sum of 100 million naira. Despite the prohibitive price for the presidential forms every Tom, Dick, and Harry has been flooding the party secretariat signing 100 million naira cheques for the presidential forms, without batting an eyelid as if money was being plucked from a tree. The general impression is that the political process is being turned into a bazaar or casino with gamblers staking their cards in a bid to make a deal after which things will be turned over to buccaneers, pirates, and sundry crooks, so to speak, who have amassed wealth by both fair and foul means.
For a government that came into power with the cardinal aim of fighting corruption, ordinarily, it should be worried that part of these funds may be proceeds of corruption and even possibly money from drug-related businesses as the nation has been awash with reports of several multi-billion naira drug deals being busted by National Drug Law and Enforcement Agency, NDLEA, which culminated in the arrest of a celebrated cop Abba Kyari, a Deputy Commissioner of Police. Indeed nothing stops drug barons from bankrolling politicians with the aim of getting a reprieve from the drug war whose tempo has reached a fever pitch under the leadership of Brigadier General Buba Marwa.
Since the political season flagged off politicians have been behaving as though on steroids. The ruling All Progressives Party takes the cake for the most outlandish manner in which it has handled the political process of organizing the party’s primaries. In a bid to raise funds for the party, the leadership has given the nod to everyone to participate in the primaries during which the party’s flag bearer for the 2023 presidential race would be elected and with the president giving his blessing to their aspirations. If the aim was to up the ante so as to deter a lot of candidates instead it has achieved the opposite effect; it has opened the floodgates of aspirants.
The mad rush of candidates for the presidential race is an indication that the political class is more interested in the naked pursuit of power than the well-being of Nigerians. Generally, politicians have been behaving true to type as if they are from another planet. Apparently, the least of their worries is the insecurity that has become widespread spreading across the six geopolitical zones. As they go about pursuing their ambitions, they appear oblivious of the fact that farmers are being driven away from their farms, the naira is in a free fall, inflation has skyrocketed and the cost of living has hit the roof. The truth is politicians are mostly opportunistic and self-serving.
In the main, with real governance taking a backseat to politics, politicians are preoccupied with the chief objective of securing tickets for president, governor or senate, or membership of the House of Representatives as the case may be. So far, the APC has garnered over 2.63 billion naira into its coffers for the sale of forms for various positions. Overall 25 candidates have purchased the 100 million naira forms for president. No fewer than 105 governorship aspirants, nearly a thousand National Assembly aspirants, and more than 1500 aspirants for State Houses of Assembly have picked forms for various offices.
This is why despite the fact that the Academic Staff Union of Universities (ASSU) has been on strike for close to three months, the government has paid scant attention to the demands of ASSU. A series of meetings have been held between the government and ASSU but nothing has come out of those meetings.
Instead, the government had announced that it will begin to enforce the No Work No Pay policy as long as the ASSU does not call off its strike. The bone of contention is the FGN/ASSU Memorandum of Understanding signed in 2009 but which has been implemented in the breach. Part of the demands includes the payment of earned allowances and the implementation of the University Transparency Accountability System, UTAS, funding for revitalization of public universities (both Federal and State), proliferation and governance issues in State Universities, promotion arrears, withheld salaries (owed for over 20 months in some cases), and Non-remittance of third-party deductions.”
In all this, both the government and ASSU have been locked in a war of words over the UTAS developed by the university dons, with the government insisting that UTAS failed the rigorous integrity test set up by experts. The government would prefer that the university system be enrolled in the Integrated Personnel and Payroll Information System, IPPIS, deployed in the Civil Service, which does not conform to the peculiar demands of the universities. Now ASSU has extended the strike by another 12 weeks. Caught in the middle of this official neglect and brazen incompetence and mismanagement of the education sector are thousands of students whose future is at stake since there is no end in sight to the strike.
Little wonder ASSU had lamented that the political class continues to demonstrate gross insensitivity to the plight of education as they shuttle between Europe and America to celebrate the graduation of their children and wards sent to world-class universities abroad while neglecting the children of the poor saddled with an education sector that has gone to rot and a system that has fallen apart and virtually collapsed.
Furthermore, ASSU said “The result of the criminal neglect of education and gross mismanagement of the nation’s patrimony is evident in the collapse of the security architecture of our nation. Insecurity is getting worse by the day and spreading like the harmattan inferno in hitherto peaceful and secured parts of Nigeria, including university campuses. ASUU warns, once more, that unless something drastic is done to reverse these ugly trends, the country may be headed for a state of anarchy.”
In this strange season in which governance has been abandoned for politicking, victims of the Abuja –Kaduna train kidnap are still languishing in captivity more than forty-two days after their abduction along the train corridor. The government has continually wrung its hand helplessly saying it was finding it difficult to take out the terrorists in order not to harm the abductees. Even so, a pregnant woman was reported to have given birth in the den of the terrorists. More disturbing is the fact that the Minister of Transport Rotimi Amaechi who should be coordinating the rescue of victims has been running from pillar to post in a bid for the party’s presidential ticket.
As if that wasn’t enough for Nigerians to chew on, more galling reports have emerged that the recent presidential prerogative of mercy was traded for cash. According to reports, drug dealers, cases of money laundering, scammers, and sundry criminals were pushed forward for a reprieve; being a cash-for-pardon racket. Already senior officials of the Ministry of Justice are being grilled by the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission, EFCC for their roles in the sleaze that passed off as clemency or presidential pardons.
Still, Nigeria never ceases to amaze since both the bizarre and outlandish keep rearing their ugly heads. Now reports were confirmed that Fulani herdsmen and Almajiris have purchased the APC’s expression of interest form on behalf of former President Goodluck Jonathan, calling on him to heed their plea to take a second shot at the presidency. When the news broke Jonathan’s media aide, Ikechukwu Eze issued a press statement disassociating the former president from that obvious charade. Suddenly Jonathan who was called unprintable names by the APC in the run-up to the 2015 election has now turned into a beautiful bride. Without a doubt, Jonathan has had a fortunate stroke of serendipity in politics since his palm kernel was believed to have been cracked for him by the gods. At this point, he would be pushing his run of good luck too far if he thinks he can rely on men to crack his palm kernel for him.
More bizarre is the action of the Governor of the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN), Godwin Emefiele who has plunged into partisan politics and rushed to court to seek a restraining order to enable him to run for office. Mercifully the courts threw out his prayers. Emefiele wants to eat his cake and have it too. The action of Emefiele has demonstrated how low Nigeria has sunk in terms of sanctity and decency.
Like Ceasar’s wife, Emefiele is expected to be above board, but he has thrown all caution to the wind in his vaulting ambition to run for president. For him, the virtues of probity, integrity, and morality seem to count for nothing. He has used the weight of his office to engage in politicking while playing fast and loose with the truth. He has neglected his core duty of maintaining a sound financial system in Nigeria and ensuring monetary and price stability, amongst others.
As it is, the Central Bank Act forbids its governor from “engaging in any full or part-time employment or vocation whether remunerated or not, except such personal or charitable causes as may be determined by the bank’s board.” Yet Emefiele had become a card-carrying member of APC since 2021. By his actions and conduct, Emefiele has brought odium and opprobrium upon his exalted office. In saner climes, Emefiele would have tendered his resignation for his action which bordered on conflict of interest.
It is therefore not surprising that the Chairman of the National Drug Law and Enforcement Agency, NDLEA, Brigadier-General Buba Marwa has called for mandatory tests for all those seeking high office to determine the state of their mental health and the likely consequences of their ruinous drug-related habits on the coffers of government because this expensive habits could be detrimental to the finances of the government they plan to lead.