Nigeria: 2009 and 2010 Should Be Written Off

The events of the last three months have made it clear that for Nigerians the years 2009 – 2010 should be written off as The Dark Ages. The period saw Nigeria’s pre-eminence in the world lost and its place as a Regional Power completely demolished. There was nothing to write home about: not in football, not from ECOWAS, not from African Union. Not from anywhere. Even the Presidency of ECOWAS

 won by the President of Nigeria set the organization back when the President could not attend meetings talk less of chairing the meetings even when held in his back yard in Abuja. Nigeria’s presence in World Conferences such as United Nations General Assembly was not noteworthy as she was represented at the ministerial level when most other countries had their chief of state. 

Internally the country was in even a worse state. Half the time there was no head of the executive and when there was one, the nation was in a comatose state. It is still doubtful that we have a properly approved 2010 budget. The manner of the budget presentation to the Legislature was dubious, the budget debate even more dubious and the signature on it suspicious. With such doubts surrounding the budget, its implementation remains to be seen. 

As I write it is not clear who the chief executive is. The appointed Acting President, the wife of the President, the Presidential spokesman, etc all seems to act as if each were the chief executive. Whoever is the chief executive does not talk to all the members of his/her cabinet whose loyalties are fragmented. The substantive President has had no communication with the heads of the other arms of government for months. As for communication with the opposition that has not happened in years. The left hand and the right hand are at war. 

How did Nigeria get into this mess? The answer is very simple. Nigeria’s much praised democracy is only in the heads of its elite leaders. Nigeria is a one party state. The one party state is run by a den of thieves, with each thief in competition with others on who would accumulate more wealth than the other. Even though there is competition among the thieves each reflexively covers for the other and nobody covers for the poor citizens. Peoples Democratic Party is a party without people. It is populated by hungry lions feeding on people, but by taking the name with the word “people” in its name it was able to fool Nigerian people. 

A glance at the depth of penetration of PDP in the governance of Nigeria is revealing. PDP controls 31 of 36 State governorships (86%); 85 of 109 senate seats (80%); 260 of 360 House seats (73%); and of course the presidency and the vice. I do not have the breakdown of the control of Local Governments but estimates range from 90% to 95%. 

As bad as this control is, it is worse when you consider that the rest of the positions not controlled by PDP are scattered among five warring political parties AC, ANPP, APGA, PPA, etc. APGA for example has the governorship of Anambra, but zero members in the State House of Assembly and zero members in the State Delegation to Abuja. For all practical purposes the state should be considered under a PDP leadership. This kind of situation is duplicated in most other State where AC or other parties are said to be in charge. 

Nothing will change this situation in 2010. As it was in 2009, so it is in 2010. Many Nigerian aspiring politicians have given up on joining other political parties as the results of elections are conceded to PDP long before the elections are held. In Anambra 26 candidates wanted to run for governorship candidate under PDP’s banner. Any wonder that only 27% of registered voters voted in Anambra election and only a slightly larger percentage did so in Ekiti re run? 

How do we get out of this mess? 

The solution is easy to see, but very difficult to implement. The solution is to create a credible opposition and the time to do it is now. The next election is roughly a year away. There is sufficient evidence that a vast majority of Nigerians are unhappy with PDP’s dominance and would want a change. One of the evidence is the election of Mr. Obi in Anambra representing APGA. Another is the near election of the AC candidate in Ekiti. While nearly two does not a trend make, it is insightful. Many pundits believe that if the election were free and fair, that PDP’s dominance would be checked. In effect, the real solution is a free and fair election. 

A free and fair election starts with credible candidates. In Anambra the PDP candidate, Mr. Soludo was credible as was Mr. Obi and if one ignores the past of Mr. Ngige and Mr. Uba credibility could be awarded to them. It made for a competitive race. 

This brings us to the strategy for 2011 elections:

    * Each political party needs to start looking for credible candidates as this is the most basic requirement. These would be young men and women with strong reputations for honesty and integrity, with strong accomplishments under their belts, and notable involvement in community affairs and service to their people.

    * No political party has the resources to match PDP at the national level. These other parties therefore need to strengthen their basis on the local zones. AC could try to extend its footprint in SW, APGA in SE and ANPP in NW and NE. AC and APGA could reach a gentleman’s agreement in SS.

    * Voter Register was an issue in both Ekiti and Anambra. It will be even more critical in 2011. Each party has a responsibility for the accuracy of the Register. They will have to demand it in time to go over every name on it and prove its authenticity. They must start now to register their supporters. The more people a party registers the more possible votes.

    * Each party must telegraph to Abuja that it has enough resources to keep a close eye on the election in the areas it has candidates. Each must flex its muscle whenever INEC or the government engages in “unsportsmanlike” activities and of course refrain from playing dirty. One good turn begets another is true for good turns and bad turns.

    * The parties must have a reasonable understanding that it may be necessary to form coalitions after the elections to govern. It is not possible that in 2011 a single party would be able to oust PDP’s entrenched position. Ganging up seems to be what is needed. If PDP smells a strong move to oust it from its preeminent position it might force it to be more humble.

    * The presidency is the top prize, however there is sufficient wisdom in winning at the State Level and even a greater prize could be hiding at the LGA. A good governance at the local area could turn out to be very useful in the future. Parties must seek to oust PDP at the local level. It will hurt much more eventually, and it would be easier to do. 

The time to make a change possible in 2011 is now. It is important to pay attention to the goings on in Abuja over Yar’ Adua and Jonathan, but that would be fighting for mussels when the real thing is 2011. 

Benjamin Obiajulu Aduba 

Boston, Massachusetts 

February 25, 2010