Opinion: Of migrant politicians and political prostitution – By ANTHONY AKINOLA
Quite a number of Nigerians are politically aware, even if their level of political participation hardly goes beyond voting in an election. They could be heard taking sides at election time, arguing vociferously as to why they would support one candidate against another. My recent visit to beloved Nigeria, coinciding with the Ekiti governorship election of July 14, 2018, reinforced my insight into the thinking of the locals as to the possible direction of their votes in the election.
At the highly-impressive Afe Babalola University, Ado-Ekiti, I encountered a local chief and another lady visitor to the institution who talked animatedly about how they would rather vote for the candidate of the Peoples Democratic Party, than that of the rival All Progressives Congress. In praising Aare Afe Babalola for founding a university that has provided job opportunities for hundreds of Nigerians, they said Dr Kayode Fayemi of the APC would rather build his own university in Ghana, providing jobs for the people of Ghana instead of Nigerians. Even if this was mere propaganda, it was one story that made the rounds. The discussants also alluded to lack of patriotism on the part of Fayemi, saying that his tenure as the Minister of Solid Minerals has not resulted in the discovery of mineral resources in Ekiti State in spite of its richness in that respect. Further, the anti-Fayemi prospective voters asserted he had agreed with the Federal Government to establish a “cattle colony” in the state, despite the rejection of such an idea by the majority of Ekiti people.
For the pro-Fayemi supporters, and as if it was outgoing Governor Ayodele Fayose of the PDP that was seeking re-election, they said the latter was corrupt, crude, and arrogant. The non-payment of salaries to workers became an important issue. They said Fayose was seeking a third term in office, and that the official candidate of his party in the election, Prof Kolapo Olushola, was a mere puppet. They further alleged that Fayose was building a personal house on the premises of the State House where he would be directing the affairs of Ekiti State. In an electoral campaign in which Olushola was hardly visible, the “I will win the election” monotonous utterances of Fayose did not help matters.
There was “vote-buying” in the Ekiti governorship election. However, the election was highly competitive. Fayemi polled 197,462 votes to Olushola’s 178,121. The small margin of victory suggests, in my view, that the PDP could possibly have won the election if its post-primary election disagreements had been amicably managed. Fayose was alleged to have imposed his deputy as the PDP candidate, disregarding the aspirations of more established members of the party. There were quite a number of noticeable defections from the PDP to the APC, and the implications of such defections could hardly be underestimated in a political environment where most voters owe their political loyalty to their acclaimed leaders.
The culture of defecting from one political party to another has been one visible aspect of the Nigerian political behaviour, especially in the practice of the presidential system of government. In the Second Republic (1979-83), this writer observed the phenomenon and described it as “party cross-building” (see my book, Party Coalitions in Nigeria) not the least because the observed mass movements were mainly from minor political parties to those with capability or potential to win the Presidency. However, the continuing defection of politicians as an established or accepted culture as it is on current scale suggests indiscipline, intolerance, impatience, opportunism, political immaturity, and lack of commitment to serious ideological standpoints.
Sadly, these defections are encouraged and will continue to attract the attention they do not deserve until we have a community of voters that are adequately educated and imbued with confidence and independent-mindedness in the political choices they make. Until that happens, the fortunes of the Nigerian state will continue to be manipulated by undisciplined migrant politicians, shameless political prostitutes, gamblers, and selfish speculators.
The late Prof Anthony Kirk-Greene of Oxford University, who died recently at the age of 93, once described our purposeless politicians as “cobwebs in the corridors of power…” It is to the cherished memory of this quintessential intellectual and scholar that I dedicate this article. I believe his illustrious academic outing ended with me. At his very old age, he spent quality time to read through the manuscripts as well as write the forewords to the two books I published in 2013 and 2014. May his great soul rest in peace. Punch
Dr Anthony Akinola, Oxford, United Kingdom