You can change the person in power, but you can’t change the institutional mindset, unless everyone is willing to pay their price. That is the painful lesson Nigerian politics teaches us today, as told through the eyes of Adeyemi Elvis Asunbo, a Nigerian engineer, now doing his Master’s degree at the University of Ottawa, Canada.
Anyone who is conversant with African politics would be quick to admit that politics in the continent is a far cry from what is obtainable in many other parts of the world. The continent of Africa is laden with political leaders and political systems that leave one wondering if the continent is serious about moving forward. Time and time again African nations continue to struggle politically, economically, socially, educationally, and technologically, just to name a few. Political leaders from across Africa make it look as though national development is rocket science. This is also not helped by the varying degrees of divisiveness noticeable among Africans who are substantially too busy with tribal bickering and sentiments, religious intolerance, and other negatives that we fail to properly contribute to the advancement of our respective nations.
Nigeria is of course not left out of this anomaly. One would have expected that a country blessed with so many natural resources and proven human capital potential would at least play a central role at coordinating herself properly and hence serve as an example for the rest of Africa. This however is practically not the case. While the world’s most populous black nation has made significant strides at development, it is clear for all to see that the country has a lot to do in terms of galvanizing herself for growth through strong and effective political systems and processes as well as a true sense of togetherness and strength in diversity.
The history and mechanics of Nigerian politics is such that it keeps an objective observer in perpetual awe. Essentially, Nigerian politics is a lot more complex and unpredictable than what is generally obtainable in various other nations of the world. Issues of religion and tribal attachment for an instance are often big determinants with respect to who would emerge as the winner in a political election. Often times, individual expertise and pedigree are overlooked, and citizens would rather go ahead to cast their votes for candidates who are popular – just popular. Even more disturbing is the fact that sometimes, politicians highjack political processes and install themselves into office. The quest for political power has largely now become a do or die affair, so much so that one wonders why these politicians are so desperate to get into office if their quest for political power is really about “serving” the people.
The just-concluded presidential election is a case in point. While an overwhelming number of Nigerians agree that they want political and economic change and that the country needs to experience an economic and political overhaul, a lot of them were opposed to voting for the other major presidential aspirant because of tribal and religious sentiments. Now don’t get me wrong, I believe people are, and should be entitled to electing and supporting their numerous candidates of political choice, however, when a supposedly educated and socially conscious person brings up issues like the fear of a candidate Islamizing a secular state unilaterally as a fore-front reason for non-support, then we get hints that there are fault lines deep in the fabric of the nation. More so, Nigerians from the south of the country felt that this contestant from the north should be resisted at all cost since people from that region had ruled the country far longer than anyone else and supposedly have an insatiable thirst for power.
While we might be quick to take swipes at Nigeria and her political situation, let us also be critical of ourselves and respective nations. A Nigerian saying goes thus: “Na condition make crayfish bend”. Translated literally it means there is an understandable reason why a cooked crayfish looks bent. The reasons for our situation might be understandable considering our national history and many other factors; however they are by no means justifiable and insurmountable. The earlier we came together and get our acts right, the better for us; and if you ask me, I’ll tell you we are on a journey, perhaps slow it is, but I am optimistic that we Nigerians and indeed Africans can get it politically right and move forward.