Before we go into the business of today which is why Nigerian politics is STILL a dirty game, it is important I take us down Nigeria governance memory lane a little.
The return to civilian rule on 29th May, 1999 after a long experience in military rule was arguably one of the greatest things that happened to Nigerian people.
This is because the military regime which was hitherto the government in the power saw massive arrests of journalists and shutdown of media houses; massive arrest, detention without trial and sometimes prosecution of activists, labour leaders; and many Nigerians who openly criticized the then military government were tagged dissidents and seriously haunted.
Perhaps, 29th May, 1999 will forever remain green to many Nigerians especially those who have been detained or tortured by one military government or another for publicly expressing their concerns over issues they feel strongly about.
Despite inroads Nigeria has made on democracy, many Nigerians still believe a lot still needs to be done. This is because many observers have found it rather difficult to differentiate between the military junta rule and civilian administration because of the issues I will discuss later in this piece.
Do you wish to know why Nigerian politics is a dirty game? Hang on, as I explain to you why it is perceived so.
Why Nigerian politics is a dirty game
Now let us review why many people consider Nigerian politics a dirty game.
Point 1: High-profile political assassinations
For many Nigerians, names like Harry Marshal, Chuba Okadigbo, Funsho Williams, Bola Ige, and many other victims of political killings will forever remain in their memory.
These men were gruesomely murdered in cold blood because “powers that be” considered them a major political threat, hence, the need to eliminate them before.
No need discussing how these men were murdered in cold blood because we all know the stories behind their deaths. So, for many Nigerians who really know the precious value of human life, they believe that political ambitions that never last forever are not worth destroying the life of a fellow man.
Therefore, based on these politically motivated killings they consider Nigerian politics a dirty game.
Point 2: Fetish Practices
It is rather worrisome that Nigerian politicians who are devout Muslims and Christians could go to deities to swear as a proof of unwavering loyalty to a benefactor or as a tool to eliminate his/her perceived enemies.
Yes, it is not enough to talk about these things as secrets as we have seen them play out right in public glare in the past. Christian politicians in the quest to acquire political positions or win elections go before a deity to swear and meet native doctors to prepare one charms.
Many Nigerians therefore consider Nigerian politics a dirty game because of these fetish practices inherent in the game. For instance, we saw such event play out when a former governor of Anambra State swore allegiance to his benefactor before a seemingly deadly deity.
More so, many of such similar incidents have gone unnoticed, but this ugly incident came to public knowledge when the sponsor and the protégée refused to agree on money sharing terms.
Some politicians secretly make human sacrifices as instructed by native doctors because they want to win an election. This is outrageous and alarming! For these ungodly acts, many Nigerians think Nigerian politics is a dirty game.
Point 3: Lies and deceits
In Nigerian politics, it is often seen where many political leaders tell unbelievable lies to win people’s votes. Many pundits will not blame politicians anyway because, for them, that is the best way to win people’s confidence and votes.
And for many realistic experts, such promises that are not feasible should not be used to deceive the people just to win their votes. So, different strokes for different folks.
For example, we have seen a situation where a Nigerian politician promises to make one Naira equal to one Dollar in the wake of dwindling crude oil prices (which is the main stay of Nigeria’s economy).
One can’t help but ponder why someone would make such promises. So, politicians tell lies and come up with gimmicks to fool voters, get their mandate and when that is done, they will show their true colors.
This explains why over the years, Nigerian politicians are often considered most pathological liars ever known in human history. Some politicians often turn around to deny their campaign promises claiming they were either quoted out of context or misrepresented.
Regrettably, politicians are seen playing politics with projects and policies that people really care about. These lies and deceits explain why many Nigerians think Nigerian politics is a dirty game.
Point 4: Character Assassination
Nigerian politicians employ all possible evil means to win elections including destroying the good reputations of their opponents and plotting evil intrigues against him or her.
In the quest to win, they use unprintable words against their opponents especially when it is perceived that the opponent is a major threat. And in the long run when the electorates discover that such stories are lies, they will no longer trust the liar.
Surprisingly though, these Nigerian politicians have little or no regards for their reputation. This is one of the reasons why many Nigerians say Nigerian politics is a dirty game.
Point 5: Ballot box snatching and thuggery
It has become normal in many parts of Nigeria for ballot boxes to be snatched by rented thugs, taken to unknown locations and stuffed with fake ballot papers in favour of a particular candidate.
Before the introduction of card readers in the elections and outright cancellation of polling units (PUs) with any violence, this was the order of the day. Politicians were paying huge amount of money to thugs to snatch these boxes and stuff them at a secret location in their favour.
At some other locations, they send thugs to disrupt elections in their opponent’s strongholds so as to compel INEC (the umpire) to cancel election results from such polling centres, units and/or local government.
So, for many Nigerians who believe in fairness and allowing the wishes of the people to prevail, they consider such acts condemnable, hence this is why many Nigerians believe Nigerian politics is a dirty game.
Point 6: Corruption
The insatiable nature of man has led him to ruining people’s trust and confidence it took him years to build. Nigerians hardly associate politicians with good qualities.
For example, it is often seen for a humble man to vie for an elective position, and when he wins, he becomes powerful. He will start breaking traffic rules, misappropriating public funds (meant for the betterment of the people), becomes inaccessible by cutting off all links to the electorates, lose touch with reality, start enacting anti-people policies, etc.
Corruption is the bane of Nigeria development. This is because billions of dollars budgeted for projects which will better the lives of ordinary Nigerians are siphoned into private pockets and nobody asks questions. And sadly, some of the politicians can’t be indicted and prosecuted by anti-grant agencies because they are covered by immunity clause.
The Clause allows them to do whatever they like with public funds and go unpunished. This is one of the greatest problems facing Nigerian politics.
So, corruption is the major reason why many Nigerians think politics is a dirty game.
In conclusion, all these issues discussed above explain why Nigerian politics is a dirty game. A lot of negative words are used to describe Nigeria politicians. They are often considered to be greedy, liars, deceivers, backstabbers, corrupt, insensitive, bossy, chatterbox, touts, and many others.
It is not uncommon for parents to forbid their children from joining politics because of the bad name associated with it. These perceived politicians’ qualities are not far-fetched from the truth because politicians with such negative tendencies abound in Nigeria.
The win-at-all-cost attitude of many Nigerian politicians has not really helped the situation either.
To change this trend, Nigerian democratic system must be remodelled in a way that we have government of national unity. This way, when a politician wins, he will be compelled by law to absorb some members of the opposition in his cabinet.
By so doing, the “winner takes all attitude” which leads to lies, killings, character assassination, and other despicable measures taken to win elections will be curtailed.
Politics is not a dirty game, but the players have made it dirty because there are no stringent rules guiding how it will be played. Having observed this, Nigerian government must build institutes that will train politicians in leadership, honesty, morals, ethics, values, reputation reorientation and other key qualities needed in leaders.
Nigerian democracy is evolving and it is believed to be in its trial stages when compared to how democracy has developed and become embedded in countries like US, UK, France, etc. Hence, the name “nascent.”
To buttress this, before now, we used to see a situation where politicians were murdered mysteriously when their opponents think they may lose the race to them. But now this is no longer the case as the game is gradually becoming cleaner.
Nigerian politicians need value reorientation to help them understand what they are in politics to serve the people and not themselves. Also, they need to be made to understand that power belongs to the people: electorates.
Hence, this explains why democracy is defined as government of the people, by the people and for the people. The challenges devilling Nigerian politics have made many enthusiasts call for bloody revolution while some parts of the country are threatening to secede. But the truth must always be told, Nigeria politics is a dirty game and we really need to clean it up!
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