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Politics in Nigeria: Are Nigerian elites the alpha and Omega

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Politics is just the affair of the elites. The voting population (‘the people’) are a mere instrument for the realization of elites’ interest.

Politics in Nigeria has been in this direction for many decades. It is the elites that determine who becomes who when and how or even get what when and how. Reading some fascinating books on Nigerian politics and governance will not only mesmerises you or leaves you standing akimbo on the way politics is played here but pushes you into high tensed political oblivion.

Decisions and indecisions on whom to or not to lead, rule or govern are taken solely by the elites with little or zero inputs from the ‘people’ and this is done for the protection of the people’s interest as elites would always say. In reality, a man who is not consulted cannot be represented and a man who is not represented can never be given what he needed and he who is missing in these dots or circles (apology to President Muhammadu Buhari) is just a mere follower.

The people are mere followers in the comity of national affairs for many decades. After his emergence, the candidate of the National Party of Nigeria, the NPN, Alhaji Shehu Aliyu Shagari was determined to choose his running mate from the Igbo extraction.

Shagari sought to place the name of the wife of a diplomat from Onitsha but elites from the Southeast within the circle of NPN rejected her nomination. Shagari had to constitute a “search committee” which later came up with the name of another woman Mrs Abigail Ukpabi, a lecturer from the Alvan Ikoku College of Education.

As if Mrs Upkabia was not from the Southeast, elites again demanded her nomination to be withdrawn citing today’s most controversial issue. Her gender! Mr K. O. Mbadiwe, a party stalwart from the region met with President Shagari and told him without any equivocation that if the Vice Presidential slot belongs to the region, then it shouldn’t be “woman”. Because according to him in Igboland “It is the woman that goes to man, not the other way round.”

(Read Bolaji Abdullahi, 2017 On a Platter of Gold. How Jonathan Won and Lost Nigeria), if anyone were to doubt Mr Mbadiwe’s claim one need to read or be reminded how Prof. Chinua Achebe presented Igbo woman in his book the “Things Fall Apart” as a subservient gender during the pre-colonial society.

Elites have been the alpha and omega in the politics and policy decisions in Nigeria, in 1998 when the military administration of General Abdussalami Abubakar (Rtd) determined to hand power to the civilian rule, another power tussle within the elites circle unfolded.

Northern elites, the ‘Kaduna Mafias’ the most powerful elites in the history of politics in the country had the latitude to select who will replace the military administration. The formation of a political party has since paved the way for the selection of candidates that will participate in the country’s 1999 general election.

The Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) having to be the favourite by most of the First Republic bureaucrats and politicians on one hand, and retired senior military officers in the region on the other hand begun permutations and combinations on which of the faction would have his candidate in the ballot paper.

The Generals’ favourite was their fellow General in the struggle while the retired First Republic bureaucrats such as Malam Adamu Ciroma and Ahmad Joda had Dr Ikwueme as their candidate. Where is the ‘people’ the over hundred million Nigerians whom the civilian administration, the “democracy” seeks to serve? The elites have taken everything and living everything to themselves. The Chiromas’ faction had since forgotten their fellow Comrade after noticing his show during the 1999 Jos Convention.

It was reported that the Igbo community appeared in their traditional regalia dancing and singing ‘kwenu’ which systematically or logically sent a message that the country’s leadership is leaving a united Nigeria to a particular community that neither forgive nor forget the incident of civil war that took place with its people.

The deep-seated animosity that characterises the community was quite open to notice. And this is how President Olusegun Obasanjo got the ticket on a platter of gold. Although Gen. Obasanjo was not the favourite of his community, the support he received from Northern elites gave him a reason to win the 1999 Presidential election leaving Olu Falae, a fellow Yoruba from the Southwest complaining of election malpractices.

Prior to this, the 1993 power tussle which saw the Chief MKO Abiola on the ballot paper was purely elites’ consensus. Although Abiola was known to be the most acceptable candidate in his time largely due to his philanthropic activities, it was the consensus of the elites that paved him way to emerge winner of the presidential ticket of the Social Democratic Party (SDP).

The Jos Convention of 1993 returned him the leading contestant with 3, 617 votes while the second and third contestants scored 3, 255 and 2, 066 respectively. This meant that a run-off election would have to be conducted if consensus was not reached.

A consensus was reached under the supreme guidance of another Northern elite, General Shehu Yar’adua who forced his political godson Alhaji Atiku Abubakar to step down to MKO Abiola but to be given a running mate slot.

Unfortunately, Atiku couldn’t make it to the ballot box in 1993 until six years later when the same elites that scuttled his first Vice Presidency felt the need to compensate him. Although Abiola emerged the ‘winner’ of the country’s 1993 Presidential election, elites’ consensus saw his coming as an unwise decision. So he never came and the rest is history now. But the question to ask here is where is the ‘people’? Where is the so-called mandate of the people? Elites have agreed within themselves to consume it. But, even the recent posthumous recognition of his victory was a consensus reached by the elites for the realization of their political interest.

The power tussle that saw Late Umaru Musa Yar’adu, a younger brother to one of the Northern elite, General Shehu Musa Yar’adua, the former Second in command under the military administration of General Obasanjo was entirely elite’s consensus.

The emergence of the former Katsina State Governor, an alleged ‘sickler’ as the presidential candidate of the Peoples Democratic Party in the 2007 general election was largely due to the connection he enjoyed with the former President Olusegun Obasanjo, an elite in his own right.

Although it was apparent to Nigerians, Obasanjo’s handpicked Umaru despite many contenders, elites within the circle of the party reached a consensus before his emergence. General Buhari defeats were not without the interest of the elites. Although his inability to belong to a national party or a party that had a national outlook had been a contributory factor for his earlier predicaments, his 2003, 2007 and 2011 elections defeats were largely a consensus reached by the elites.

Goodluck Ebele Jonathan emerged President after a consensus had been reached by the country’s elites. Jonathan rode to power as Vice President when the Presidential candidate of the PDP felt impossible to work with Obasanjo’s anointed candidate, Peter Odili.

Odili was the choice of the outgoing President Obasanjo as per VP slot is concerned, but Umaru feared Odili will not be loyal to him looking at his exposure and age.

Umaru could not tell his godfather this but had people around him to guide him on how to approach the matter. Former EFCC boss, Malam Nuhu Ribadu was quite handier in this fight. Ribadu used his office to remind President Obasanjo Odili’s case with the EFCC. Obasanjo could not do better than to stand on his preferred choice but Ribadu maintained that Peter Odili’s case reached alarming proportions to the extent that the United Kindom and the United States of America became aware of it.

At this juncture, President Obasanjo had nothing to do but to allow for the choice of a different person to work with Umaru Musa Yar’adua. Jonathan came into being when Ribadu identified him as a humble guy who neither interfered nor intervened in the processes of investigating his boss, Diepreye Alamieyeseigha.

Jonathan was sworn in as the Governor of Bayelsa State when the State Assembly impeached his boss. GEJ was invited to the Villa for this purpose. He was intimated of the purpose of the invitation but rejected the nomination as it was presented to him.

A well-acknowledged humble man said he was satisfied with his governorship position. After giving it a second thought, GEJ accepted to work with Umaru as a running mate. The long term health issue and the subsequent transition on to the glory of President Yar’adua created room for elites to converge again for consensus. The persistent calls by the elites from the different circle of power in the country to relinquish the office of the president to GEJ on acting capacity created a lot of political commotion in the country.

Having completed the remainder period of his boss, GEJ indicated interest to contest for the first time the office of the president which he was occupying. His decision to contest had caused serious lamentations from the ‘people’ specifically from the Northern extraction. Elites within the Peoples Democratic Party gathered yet again and reached a consensus within themselves that President Jonathan should contest the office. He contested and won by the power of elites’ consensus. Before consensus that paved him way to contest was reached, elites had agreed within themselves that power should move to the Northern part of the country.

Upon the fulfilment of his six years in office, GEJ was reminded of the agreement he entered with the party’s elites before he was accepted to go for the highest national position. Having surrounded by a faction of the party’s elites from across the country, he was advised not to listen to the callers, they are merely power mongers whose ‘born to rule’ mentality will never corrode.

Jonathan heeded the ‘assurance’ given to him and contested for the second time but elites’ consensus was against his ‘selfish’ ambition. Jonathan paid for not fulfilling the promise he took during the elites’ consensus and he had his name tarnished as the most corrupt and clueless president to preside over the national affairs. Moreover, GEJ lost its power to the opposition candidate Major General Muhammadu Buhari (Rtd).

But even the emergence of President Buhari in 2015 was not without elites’ intervention or in the real sense of the matter it was purely elites’ consensus itself. Post-election antecedents would remind us how he became a periodical customer of the election tribunal.

From 2003 to 2011, Muhammadu Buhari registered his grievances on election malpractices that saw him a loser of those elections. After series of disappointments, elites from different circles and parties across the country reached a consensus to support their arch-rival this time round, to at least ‘save’ the country from the incompetency of Goodluck Ebele Jonathan’s administration. Elites agreed within themselves to support Buhari in order to defeat Jonathan and he was defeated handsomely.

Elites’ consensus has been the definitive term or a determining factor of winning or losing a political seat in Nigeria. At all levels of government, elites’ consensus determines who wins or loses in every contest.

The over 200,000,000 population are more of noisemakers whose voices are hardly heard or at most heard in disguise because even the recent ‘direct primaries by the APC was acknowledged to favour the interest of the elites. Politics in Nigeria is indeed a consensus reached by the elites for reaching their selfish interest.

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