By Zainab Suleiman Okino
Finally, the cat was let out of the bag. Nigeria is not poor. A country where a handful of politicians can raise up to N30 billion from sales of forms to aspirants in about a month cannot be said to be poor. Just one political party and well- heeled politicians.
The Naira rain which has poured in for the governing All Progressives Congress (APC) in these past weeks is not just proof of the ruling elites’ hoarding of hard currency for a day like this, but the Naira’s depleted strength and the dollar’s sky-high at 585 Naira per dollar can now be traced to the mismanagement of the country’s monetary policy.
The evidence is in the coming to light of the now open aspiration of the man who has a job to do at that level (of managing the Naira), but decided to be partisan in favour of the ruling party, contrary to global norms and ethics, and the laws establishing the CBN.
For these officials at the top, there is no more pretence about the possibility of using independent bodies like CBN, EFCC or INEC as instruments of coercion to corrupt the system and advance their self-centered goals. Whatever we thought we knew about the ugly face of PDP of yester-years has been replicated over and over by the APC.
Or how else do you explain the party’s unprecedented dive into indecency and corruption by other means, by charging 100 million Naira to purchase a presidential form and the mad rush by even technocrats and ex this and that to pay in the face of a crippling purchasing power, ASUU strike and at a time families of hundreds of abductors are selling personal property and borrowing to pay ransom?
How did a party that threw up an austere Buhari become so monetised that it is now for the highest bidder? How could a political party so betray the trust of millions that brought it to power? When did it become fashionable to woo voters not with strength of character and capacity, but with money?
And if I may ask, what will the APC do with the billions collected from individuals, who obviously dipped their hands in public tills, other than to apply same to possibly influence the outcome of the election? These may be rhetorical questions but in the fullness of time, posterity will help unravel the answers and how the party embraced profligacy, waste, corruption and jettisoned the change mantra that got Nigerians to vote them in.
Enter Emefiele, the money man
Until the Central Bank governor, Godwin Emefiele’s unethical approach to his schedules by jumping into the fray of APC’s gamble with Nigeria, I could almost swear we had seen it all with regards to the political voyage of Nigeria. However, here we are today, that a sitting CBN governor who has not done enough to salvage the economy, who was hand in gloves with the ruling party, in his closet support and willingness to do the party’s bidding, now openly contesting his eligibility for election in court.
Bad enough, that the apex banker wants to be drawn to the political mud and murky waters, but even curiousier that he had the effrontery to go legal and drag in the nation’s election umpire, INEC. How dirty can we go as a people? Emefiele’s entry into the APC presidential race is generating crises in many fronts; a man holding a sensitive position of over-sighting the economy went to register under a political party in his ward, hoping to get the plum job at the top. As if that is still not bad enough, the CBN governor, perhaps intent on compromising another sensitive independent body like INEC, the governor hopes to run for the presidency even as a sitting CBN governor.
Where else can this happen except Nigeria. For the ruling party, this is another first in political revisionism. The mess is so embarrassing that Emefiele even had the frivolous reason to ask INEC not to disqualify him, with the game-plan of subverting a process yet to begin. Surely, Nigeria has become a play-turf for dirty politics.
…Is the game plan tenure elongation?
Indeed the game plan being incubated in the closets is coming to light. This last Monday, a popular lawyer, elder statesman and SAN, Chief Robert Clarke, called, for tenure elongation for President Muhammadu Buhari. In an interview with Arise Television, Chief Clarke said the constitution provides that the president can extend his tenure for six months in the first instance if the conditions are not right, by which he meant violence and the spate of insecurity in the country.
“The Constitution provides that the president can stay longer than eight years. I’ve always said it. It is in the Constitution. If the situation in which we are now continues, and it is impossible to vote in the 2023 election, the Constitution says if the situation persists, the president will write INEC in view of insurgency, in view of kidnappings, in view of Boko Haram, I don’t think, in these different areas of Nigeria, we can have a good election.
“The Constitution says I am going to stay for six months and in the first instance. So, the fact that the Constitution says the president cannot stay for eight years is wrong, because the same Constitution says he can be given six-six months if those conditions (insecurity) persist. The alternative then is for Mr President to continue as president, allow the security watches to carry up the mopping up and Nigeria will become stable”, the legal luminary averred. I dare say we had traveled this road before.
Although the president has since denied tenure elongation plot and reiterated his readiness to hand over in May 2023, there is no smoke without fire, as watchers of Nigerian politics know very well, over time. I hope history will not repeat itself as happened in Ex-President Olusegun Obasanjo’s tenure extension plot that failed woefully.
Jonathan’s gamble and about turn
Until few days ago, ex-President Goodluck Jonathan had enjoyed an international goodwill in the committee of nations. For allowing a free and fair election and handing over to the opposition, Jonathan enjoyed a special place in the hearts of Nigerians even as he served as a democracy icon and a symbol of how democracy can work in Africa . In a nutshell he was a brand ambassador for Nigeria and democracy in Africa. All that went with the wind in a few hours of unmitigated disaster of hobnobbing with the APC, with the hope he would be made a consensus candidate.
Imagine an ex-president, who descended so low; and visited the chairman of the party that dethroned him, only to be told the home truths (that he is just another aspirant). After being hounded from office to pave way for Buhari, the same Fulani elements that so derided him while in office, bought the APC nomination form for him (Jonathan), and before he received the embarrassment of his life.
So in one fell swoop, Jonathan was again demystified. It is therefore not a surprise that the press statement from his spokesmen, Ikechukwu Eze smacked of anger, venoms and frustration.
Meanwhile our new found collaboration among ethnic groups appears to be working now that political interests are at play. In this game that politicians play, have you noticed how our ‘unity’ has been reinforced. Fulani herdsmen paid for Jonathan’s nomination and expression of interest forms; Emefiele got Northern elements to buy his. Same thing with Timipiye Sylva, while the Senate president Ahmed Lawan got a southerner to purchase and present his form to him, with all of them claiming to be friends with the aspirants of their choice, the same way no one talks of ethnicity or religion when it comes to sharing the national patrimony. So next time you see them talk of marginalization and North-South divides, just know that their interests have been affected.
*Zainab Suleiman Okino is the chairman of Blueprint Editorial Board. She can be reached through email@example.com