BY Guest Writer
BY KOLAWOLE JOHNSON
One truly sad allegory of the Nigerian political process in recent times is the palpable hunger for good governance; the quest for leadership that will not confine promises to the dustbin of history after the elections, a leadership that will not dash invested hopes and aspirations but with the required knowledge that will convert intentions to laudable programmes for the people. This search has, no doubt, defined our political culture. And this is empirical.
Lucian Pye, an American political scientist, defined political culture “as the set of attitudes, beliefs and sentiments which give order and meaning to a political process and which provide the underlying assumptions and rules that govern behaviour in the political system”.
Political culture is, thus, the composite of basic values, feelings, spirits, and knowledge that underlie political progression. In simple terms, the citizen’s widely shared beliefs, feelings, opinions, and emotions affect their political judgements, which inadvertently dictate the direction of political development.
The class struggle between the political class and the people appears to have indeed formed in the populace a political culture that tends to identify with whoever looks like them or appears to have shared in their pains.
Goodluck Jonathan said he had no shoe; it resonated with the people, same as his meteoric rise from the rubbles. The Buhari living room with a 14-inch television and old sofa in Daura sold like wildfire as he was seen as part of the talakawas — the underprivileged. While some members of the elite saw the story of his never increasing herds as a lack of productivity, many of us called it contentment and proof of integrity. The people are not to be blamed, and neither are the gods; it is the effect of the political culture the system has practically conditioned the people to. Now, Peter Obi is harvesting from that. His simplicity is it.
The political class lives large in opulence unrelatedly to the abject poverty around. Obi is wiser, though a billionaire yet appears like the common man. His lifestyle, in addition to his English orientation, having lived in England for years, became so apparent in government (hin no dey give shishi), that is yet working for him at the moment. Britons are known for their conservative culture.
Just so we know, simplicity, just like integrity, poor background, and some other widely shared beliefs or mundane perceptions can not substitute for good governance. Thus, verify. Once we are in, we are stuck. The minimum is four years.
The rage against the system is extraordinary. Nigerians crave a performer in the office of the president; a thinker, a visionary leader, a strong character with the right intellect for precise decisions. To a considerable population, Obi is running on these credentials and thus seen as a standard for good governance and the solution. Truly, is he?
For instance, Peter Obi’s handover note, which is supposedly part of his selling credentials at the moment, was a subject of controversy. While Obi claimed to have left N75 billion, his successor described the claim as a “hoax”. The then secretary to the Anambra state government said, “The N75 billion was not there; it was not handed over to anybody…”.
Despite being the sole importer of many finished products in the country, Peter Obi has repeatedly said that he would move Nigeria from consumption to production, perhaps the same way he promised to turn Anambra into the industrial hub of West Africa while campaigning in 2003. Is Anambra now the industrial hub of West Africa? It is pertinent to ask this question to evaluate properly if he indeed matched action with his electoral promise.
In 2006, Obi made a declarative statement that education is not for the poor. He forced Anambra secondary school students to pay three terms (first, second and third term) school fees at once. Many of the pupils from less-privileged homes dropped out of school. You may need to verify how this policy of his impacted negatively on school enrolment the following session.
“While Obi gloated about savings, there is no signature project to remember his regime except that his regime took the first position among all states in Nigeria in the democratisation of poverty – mass impoverishment of the people of Anambra. According to the National Bureau of Statistics, poverty rose under his watch in Anambra from 20% in 2004 (lowest in Nigeria then) to 68% in 2010 (a 238% deterioration).” — an excerpt from Soludo’s article “…Beyond The Elections”, published in 2015.
In 2019, Obi said on television that he invested $30 million in SABMiller and the investment is now worth $100 million. Checks revealed that only $12 million was invested in the name of the state. Where is the remaining $18 million? Besides, the investment is barely worth $3.5 million today. Mazi Nnamdi Kanu claimed Obi took Anambra’s money to invest in personal businesses. Perhaps, he is talking from facts.
As of the first quarter of 2014, according to the Labour Party candidate, Anambra state had $56 million and N12 billion in Fidelity Bank, His bank! His bank!! His bank!!! Ditto two other banks where he had silent interest. What then is called conflict of interest? Even the state investment in SABMiller, a family business of his, was unethical! I remember winning a job in a very transparent biding exercise in 2017 in one of the government parastatals. The DG denied my company and gave the job to his family company. The political Bourgeoises promote themselves at our expense. I have since learnt to focus on the private sector.
Peter Obi is not a fresh quantity that just dropped from another planet. He has been part of the system we are protesting against. Can he then suddenly become the standard for good governance by any stretch of the imagination? Verify and know what to expect if he becomes president.
I remember how President Muhammadu Buhari dismissed Boko Haram before the 2015 general election. Ditto subsidy. Yet, the government is nearing N2.5 trillion in petroleum subsidy in 2022 alone. Brandishing figures on the country’s woes is not enough; there must be pragmatic solutions on the table. Anyone can quote figures and reel out data to amuse his audience. Flesh out the solutions; let the people interrogate them and see if you’d deliver if handed the mandate to govern.
It will definitely be unseemly to claim the country has been bankrupt of good men as leaders. Goodluck Jonathan, of course, was referred to generously as a good man. Buhari was called a good man without any baggage of corruption. Real-time solutions are better than the “the boy is good” herd mentality we all seem to bandy around. Verify and have peace.
An average Igbo man is a gifted marketer. Destalker, a comedian, shared a joke about how Ebuka convinced his friend, who is not physically challenged in any way, to buy crutches. ‘Ebuka tell am say make him buy the crutches keep am now that them they on promo, because hin no know wetin fit happen to him leg for future’. Obi is no doubt a good marketer.
Fantastic enough that he is consciously engaging the people directly; we must, however, know that we are only rooting for one of them, not one of us. He is not Saint Peter Obi.
Kolawole, a socio-political analyst, writes from Abuja.