Apart from the usual buying and selling of goods that engage the attention of most Nigerians, the biggest business in the country, beside the oil and gas and some few others, is politics. Just like football, Nigerians like politics and they can play the game anyhow, with or without observing the rules, in and out of season. They do so because it promises the good life, there is high return on investment. It is glamorous. Politicians tell us what we want to hear and not necessarily what they will do.
The 2023 general election is just about three years away or even shorter than that, our politicians have started playing the politics of 2023. It is said that the crisis rocking the ruling party is about 2023. It is rumoured that they are even playing politics with the 774,000 jobs for which each beneficiary will earn N20,000 for three months, The recent altercation, though not necessary, between the Minister of State for Labour and Employment, Festus Keyamo (SAN), and the lawmakers over how the recruitment exercise will be carried out cannot be exactly divorced from the politics of 2023 and who will make political mileage out of that recruitment for rural Nigerians to carry out public works in their domains as a way of cushioning the effects of the COVID-19 pandemic The face-off between Keyamo and the lawmakers was shameful and ought to have been avoided. Also, the reported cancellation of the recruitment exercise by the lawmakers is uncalled for.
The Federal Government’s intention to offer the rural Nigerians this type of palliative via public work recruitment should not be politicized. The government meant well for these poor rural Nigerians. The plan to give them N60,000 for the work they will do in their local government areas for three months is no worth the energy and unnecessary exchange of words between representatives of the two complementary arms of government, the executive and the legislature. Both sides may mean well in the defence of their entrenched positions, but their interests must not in any way vitiate the recruitment exercise.
They should resolve their differences and ensure that these jobs are given to those who need it in the 774 council areas across the country. No doubt, the minister and the lawmakers are working for the good of all Nigerians. The recruitment exercise must not be allowed to tear them apart. It is good that the Minister of Labour and Employment, Dr. Chris Ngige, has tendered unreserved apology to the lawmakers for the altercation. There is hope that the matter would be resolved amicably. Please pardon me for the necessary digression and intervention on the issue.
Having dispensed with the recruitment exercise palava, let me go straight to the subject of the day, which is the 2023 election and the emergence of the new political force. On July 2, 2020, newspapers had the report that some eminent Nigerians, made up of politicians and activists, are mooting the idea of floating what they described as a ‘new political force.’ The big names behind the new political movement, as reported, include former Speaker of the House of Representatives, Ghali Na’abba, a former Deputy Governor of the Central Bank of Nigeria, Dr. Obadiah Mailafia, Femi Falana (SAN), Col, Abubakar Umar (retd), Prof. Pat Utomi, Mrs Obiageli Ezekwesili, Prof. Jibo Ibrahim, Yabagi Sanni, Isa Aremu, Prof. Chidi Odinkalu, Senator Shehu Sani, Alhaji Shettima Yerima and Funke Awolowo amongst others.
Former Chairman of the Nigerian Bar Association (NBA), Olisa Agbakoba (SAN), Femi Falana (SAN), Col. Umar Dangiwa and Shehu Sani, who was included in the list, have dissociated themselves from the movement based on the fact that they were not consulted by the group. Also, the Coalition of United Political Parties (CUPP) has distanced itself from the National Consultative Front, stressing that any member of CUPP who attended the meeting was on his own.
On why some Nigerians are thinking of forming a new political front some few years ahead of the 2023 general election, those behind the NCF offer some explanations. According to them, “A new ideological mass movement shall be initiated to embark on an immediate mass mobilization in every nook and cranny of the country for popular mass action towards political constitution reforms that is citizens-driven and process-led in engendering a new peoples’ constitution for a new Nigeria that can work for all.” The group also decried the rising insecurity across the country and called on the government to address the situation, among other things.
In fact, there is nothing wrong with any group aspiring to lead Nigeria and make things better for all of us provided their aspirations and actions do not violate the Nigerian constitution. It is within the rights of these Nigerians to form any political association or associations which will be subject to their being registered by the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC). It is true that the socio-political situation in the country is not what Nigerians want or expect. That Nigeria is not where it should be among comity of nations is not in doubt.
That Nigeria is not faring well in all indices of human development is crystal clear. That Nigeria needs a savior or even a miracle worker to lead it out of man-made decay and underdevelopment cannot be questioned. While not dismissing the group and its agenda and its capability to deliver its objectives, there are many questions that should be addressed. It will be recalled that prior to the 2019 general election, former president, Chief Olusegun Obasanjo mooted this kind of idea but which later fizzled out and he lent his total support to the PDP.
Is the new political front different from what Obasanjo touted before the 2019 election? What is new in the new political arrangement that Nigerians have not heard or seen before? Why is the group coming just now that the politics of 2023 is everywhere in Nigeria walking on its four legs? Are some of the members of the new political front so different from the existing politicians and their political parties? What will they offer Nigeria in terms of constitutional arrangement that is so different from the 2014 Confab report? There are so many questions that ought to be asked but time and space will not permit such a luxury.
I want those behind the new movement, some of who were privy to the birth of the democratic change we are enjoying now, to spare us some chance to think of who will lead Nigeria after Buhari using any of the existing political platforms, over 70 of them. We cannot be nursing the idea of a new Nigeria, a new nation and a new community once every four years or during any election cycle. Too much of everything is very bad. The solutions on how to make or remake Nigeria are in the archives gathering dust. We do not need moving and moving around the problem with new rhetoric or a rehash of existing ones.
Like I said when Obasanjo wanted to come up with such a new political movement before the 2019 poll, I will still say to those of our compatriots coming up with this new idea to shelve it and realign with any of the existing political parties to realise their dream for Nigeria. We should emulate the two dominant parties in the United States, the Democrats and the Republicans (for us the PDP and the APC) and switch allegiance between them as occasion demands and deepen our struggling democracy.
With PDP and APC, we have a choice. We must nurture and make our democracy grow despite its many imperfections. We really do not have time to waste over ideology, beautiful words and all the other political niceties which we have heard so many times. We need servant leaders and those who will do what they say and who will lead by personal examples. What Nigerians need is action, good leadership and good governance and not rhetoric.