By Ogaga Ifowodo
By Ogaga Ifowodo
Depending on your disposition, we are currently being entertained or embarrassed by the fight for greater access to the main banquet hall where the national cake (actually, petro-dollars) is shared.
If you consider this a gross exaggeration of the face-off between Governor Chibuike R. Amaechi and Governor Jonah Jang (as captain of President Goodluck Jonathan’s forces), then recall just one telling fact: So agitated by Amaechi’s election as chairman of the NGF was the Commander-in-Chief that he could not rouse himself to address the 50th anniversary summit of the African Union.
I do not believe the wicked rumour-mongers who claim that prior to his speech the President had been driven to have one too many by the news.
Suffice it to say that since then, his Peoples Democratic Party, PDP, has decided that its umbrella is not big enough to cover the President and an enemy-governor, causing it to push the latter into the rain.
Moreover, Jang has accused his victorious opponent of rigging and proclaimed himself the duly elected winner, even though he secured only 16 of the 36 votes.
With a straight face, Jang revealed to us that God is a democrat made in the image of the PDP. Which, naturally, makes God disapprove of only unsuccessful election riggers. “God is a democrat [who] does not support rigging but if you rig and succeed, that means God approves of it,” Jang said. It goes without saying that winners of free and fair elections are approved by Satan.
But what is the connection between a do-or-die battle by 36 governors to choose their chairman and the bloodsport called elections in our country? First, the well-considered thought by the anti-Amaechi excellencies of smashing the ballot box to prevent voting, as Ondo State Governor, Olusegun Mimiko, has disclosed.
Then, ask: Why would the Commander-in-Chief care so much who leads a voluntary association as to play the good old politics of divide-and-rule? Answer: Because power is all that matters in Nigeria. And the C-in-C knows something about the clout of the NGF, being a former club member.
If, despite his dismal record of non-governance, Jonathan is to “win” the second term that he so plainly covets, then all of the PDP governors must swear a blood-oath to implement Verdict 2015. Unfortunately, the NGF under Amaechi had become a “strange” instrument “used to oppress . . . the president,” according to Senator Jubril Aminu; a “formidable group of power wielders seeking to control governments at all levels,” according to PDP enforcer Tony Anenih, also known as Mr Fix-It. Something had to be done.
Funny, isn’t it, that a social club — no different from, say, the Police Officers Wives Association, the Nigerian Guild of Editors, or the Nigerian Union of Pensioners, except in the matter of power and trillion-naira budgets — should give the President sleepless nights? And even funnier that governors belonging to six political parties should have been such happy bedfellows until now? Funny, because we ought to assume ideological differences among the parties.
But not funny because in a country where states exist as appendages of the Federal Government attached to the petro-dollar super pipeline that runs from the Niger Delta swamps to Abuja and from there to every state government house, all ideological differences turn to vapour. And the governors could form a country club for the primary purpose of lobbying for an ever greater flow of petro-dollars into their coffers.
Which is why, with only one exception, they agreed with Jonathan to remove, for the thousandth time, a corruption subsidy on oil products if a great proportion of the moneys to be realised would come to them.
Why, top of the NGF’s list of 14 achievements since 1999 is that it was “instrumental in facilitating the release of excess crude funds . . . to the states in 2008” and that “the funds have been distributed several times since then to augment the income accruable to states.” The rest of the achievements are in the areas of study committees, seminars, working tours, etc., mostly with international agencies.
Incidentally, nothing about regional co-operation for economic integration and development, say along the lines of joint rail and road transport authorities, technology parks and trade zones, or environmental protection.
If you still question my analogy, then perhaps you did not hear Governor Isa Yuguda of Bauchi State declare that it is the turn of the North to rule the NGF.
Sound familiar? In Yuguda’s opinion, the contentious NGF election was unnecessary; similarly, Anenih wants to abolish primaries so the PDP can have Jonathan as its consensus candidate. “You can see,” said Yuguda, “that the need for election did not arise in the first place given the fact that we the governors of the North, who are in the majority, had chosen a consensus candidate before the election.”
In the absence of any genuine sense of patriotism and public service, our so-called leaders see Nigeria as no more than an elite social club. Which is why elections are a joke to them. Mimiko might disagree, but in the end, his camp smashed the ballot box by scorning the outcome of an election in which it participated