Editor's note: If there is one thing the Muhammadu Buhari's administration has been continuously praised for, it is the anti-graft war it launches against corrupt politicians.
In this opinion submitted to NAIJ.com, political critic, Rosemary Egabor, writes on politics in Nigeria and why it is important for Nigerians to support the Buhari administration's anti-graft war to save Nigeria from the hands of corrupt leaders.
As a young Nigerian who has lived to see politics in our country go from average to worse with regards to good governance, I felt it was necessary to look through the history of politics in Nigeria to track where its citizens and leaders got it wrong and also focus on politicians, today’s politics and how it has affected the development of our country.
Our path to democracy began when the federation of Nigeria was granted full independence on October 1, 1960. The Monarch (British) of Nigeria was still Head of State but legislative power was vested in a bicameral parliament with executive power in a prime minister. The federal government was given exclusive powers on foreign relations, defence, commercial and fiscal policies, there was substantial measures of self-governance for the country’s three regions (North, East and West).
Then political parties represented the main ethnic groups. The Nigerian People Congress (NPC) represented largely the interest of the Hausa’s and Fulani’s in the northern part of Nigeria, the National Council of Nigerian Citizens (NCNC) represented the interest of the Igbos in eastern Nigeria while the Action Group (AG) represented the Yoruba’s in the West.
During the 1959 elections in preparation for Nigeria’s independence, NPC won 134 seats in the 312 seat parliament, NCNC with 89 seats and AG 73 seats. The first post-independence government was formed by a conservative alliance of the NPC and NCNC with Sir Abubakar Tafawa Balewa as the first Prime Minister. Nigeria then proclaimed itself a Federal Republic in October 1963 with Nnamdi Azikwe as the first president.
From January 15, 1966 began the successive military governments with General Aguiyi Ironsi from January 15 1966 to July 1966, General Yakubu Gowon August 1966 to July 1975, Murtala Mohammed July 1975 to February 1976 and General Obasanjo February 1976 to 1979. Democratic governance returned with Shehu Shagari under the flag of National Party of Nigeria (NPN) as the elected president in 1983.
The Military came to power again in December 1983 to August 1985 under Major General Mohammed Buhari. From August 1985 to August 1993 Major General Ibrahim Babaginda. He annulled the famous June 12 election in which Chief Moshood Abiola of the Social Democratic Party (SDP) was believed to be leading in the presidential election, I can say for sure that I was old enough and conscious of the unrest in the country with riots and protests in different parts of Nigeria which I personally experienced. General Babaginda handed over to Ernest Shonekan August 1993 to November 1993, General Sani Abacha November 1993 to July 1998 (Nigeria’s 7th coup) finally General Abdulsalam Abubakar from July 1998 to May 1999.
General Abubakar appointed the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) to conduct elections that brought in Obasanjo as a civilian president in 1999 under the People’s Democratic Party (PDP) ending 16 years of consecutive military rule.
From my view the Military Hangover on leadership has no doubt played some significant roles in the way our politicians govern today. For more than a decade the government in power did not take in to cognizance the people that elected them to serve and manage their collective resources for the benefit of the nation. To them government is a source of enriching themselves. What those in government need to understand is that the relationship they have with the people who voted them in to power is like that between the employer and the employee of which the goal in this case is good governance and the reward is Vote-in, bad governance Vote-out.
Today politicians are ill prepared for the task ahead in terms of personal capacity development. Through their Godfathers and unidentified source of money, they feel qualified, seek for power and satisfy their greed to the detriment of the people they were elected to serve. In Nigeria our people have been a sleeping giant, a country with people that never question the motives and actions of those in power, a country with people that seem satisfied in their little corners. Are our people ignorant? Where are our youths? Demanding for good governance is not a privilege but a right.
In the 70’s and 80’s we had Student Associations that were the voice of the people and constructively made their positions known on issues affecting the country and good governance including the infamous SAP (Structural Adjustment Programme) introduced by General Babaginda in 1986 whose effect we still feel till today. Unfortunately today our students and young ones seem to be more concerned about the material things of life without hard work
As a result of SAP in 1986, the obnoxious devaluation of the naira started at N1 to $1 and today N350 to $1 for a country that was solely import dependent with no clear plan on export oriented goals. About 20 years after we are still talking about diversification of the economy.
There must be a limit as to the use of federal character in appointments, competence should not be sacrificed in strategic areas like Technology, Engineering and Science that will accelerate the development of the country.
The Judiciary has a major role to play in improvement of Nigerian politics especially in the areas of justice delivery. Anarchy would be the order of the day when people cannot get justice from the court. The recent directive by the Chief Justice of Nigeria (CJN) to have a special court to try corrupt cases is a welcome development. This will help in eliminating unnecessary delays perpetrated by some lawyers in the country who are only interested in abuse of court processes.
Nigerians must support this government in its fight against corruption or good governance will be a mirage. Speaking of good governance and no one being above the law the case of the South Korean president comes to mind. Park Guen-Hye (2013 to 2017) was the first woman president of the country but was impeached on December 9, 2016 on charges related to influence peddling by her top aide Choi Soon-Sil. The impeachment was upheld by the constitutional court to remove her from office on March 2017. She has since been in detention and undergoing a lower court trial for charges of abuse of power and bribery. She has been replaced by a new president Roh Moo-Hyun. This shows how a government can be effective.
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The Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) should ensure compliance to the laws of campaign funding in Nigeria. The 2010 electoral Act as amended states the spending limit for example the position of governorship is N200million. It is the duty of INEC to ensure compliance
Today we are yet to know what a Senator or member of the House of Representative earns. In other countries like the USA it is in the public space through the Member Representative Allowance (MRA) and Senators Official Personnel and Office Expense Account (SOPOEA)
I must state categorically that Nigerians are part of the failure of our democracy. The various government agencies must continue to sensitize the people on the need for good governance and voting for the right candidate. It is pertinent to mention that SERAP (Socio-Economic Rights Accountability Project) has been very active in the demand for good governance. The citizens of Nigeria, in particular, must be made to appreciate the importance of participating in the political process and challenging unpopular government decisions and actions. The national press and other news sources should play the crucial function of advocating for citizens’ understanding of government activities, public policies, and development plans.
So did we ever get it right as a country? We never got it right from the point General Abdusalam Abubakar handed over power to the first civilian president Olusegun Obasanjo, the people have never demanded for good governance and accountability from those elected in to office and that is why we are where we are as a country.
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