COUNTING THE COSTS OF THE 2015 ELECTIONS

2015 Elections

It has always been said that democracy is expensive. In making that statement, many people tend to look at the cost of maintaining and sustaining democratic structures or, if you will, the various organs of government which, by the way, include the executive, the legislature and the judiciary.

It is also likely that those who make that statement speak on the basis of the amount that is usually allocated to the Independent National Electoral Commission, INEC, the electoral empire. If I recall correctly, the amount said to have been budgeted for the 2015 elections by INEC was about N75.0bn.

Truly, the cost of sustaining the structures of government is huge. Many Nigerians, for instance are united in their condemnation of the “fat” salaries and allowances earned by members of the National Assembly.

These are the direct costs of democracy that almost every one can point at.

However, now that we have just concluded the 2015 elections, perhaps we could make an attempt to look at some of the cost that may have gone down with the elections. I dare say that it would be near-impossible to quantify this cost.

Where and how does one even begin to count the cost of this election when everything really cannot be expressed in Naira and Kobo? Well, we could try and look at some scenarios.

First, we could look at the time NOT well-spent on official responsibilities by political office holders who ran for or campaigned for those who ran for elective offices in the just concluded elections. It is safe to say that while the campaigns lasted, from the very expensive party primaries right down to the elections proper, many political office holders spent more time on campaigns than in the discharge of the responsibilities of their respective offices. Consider, for instance, the President, serving governors, and serving legislators who ran for election or re-election. These ones are not statutorily required to resign before seeking a revalidation of their mandates. Consider also other public servants who assisted them in their respective campaigns. Work out the time they all spent campaigning. The time NOT SPENT AT WORK will amaze you. In the end, decisions that were not taken at all or that taken late because government officials were on the campaign trail would have cost the economy. How much? I don’t know.
Next, you might want to consider the fact that in an election year, many investors are cautious. They maintain “HOLD” positions in the periods leading to and immediately after elections. As such, decisions that could have benefitted the economy are suspended. A case in point here is the experience of many businesses who are mainly contractors to other companies who were told to “wait till after the elections” by those they do business with. Many of such businesses have not been able to do anything since the beginning of the year. They may have already sustained heavy losses servicing overheads.

The postponement of the election from the original scheduled dates of February 14, and 28 by six weeks to March 28 and April 11 took a toll on businesses. Preparations had already been made. Certain decisions taken, meetings scheduled and re-scheduled and diaries and calendars marked all in preparation for the February 14 date. Then like-play, like-play, we started hearing about possible postponement. And from a distantly possibility, the reality of the postponement dawned on the nation. Appointment had to be cancelled and business decisions put on hold. Monies were lost. How much? I don’t know.

Eventually, the elections came. The nation’s borders were closed for the statutory periods during the two elections. Banks and other institutions closed early to customers on the days before the elections. Many business had to hurriedly close also. Who bears the cost during the period of shutdown?

I know that democracy is expensive to maintain and sustain. The call is, therefore, to find a way not to make it too expensive. Government functionaries and those who take decisions that have impact on the entirety of the country must be mindful of the fact that every decision has a cost. But through proper planning, it is possible to minimize these costs so that businesses are not at the receiving end.

And on a lighter note, it is not only businesses that are affected by such decisions. Individuals are also. A friend shared a joke about a couple who originally planned to have a wedding on February 14, 2015. When their attention was drawn to the fact that elections had been fixed for February 14 and 28, they opted for March 28. By February 7, they started sending out their invitations. Then, boom! Jega announced the postponement. To cut the story short, the guy’s family was then said to have summoned him and tried to impress it on him that maybe, just maybe, God was using the postponement to tell him not to marry the lady. When my friend asked me what I thought about the matter, I coughed lightly, cleared my throat and told him “I DON’T KNOW”!

You can follow this writer on Twitter @ehissman

WORDS ON MARBLE: ACCEPTANCE SPEECH BY MUHAMMADU BUHARI, PRESIDENT-ELECT, FEDERAL REPUBLIC OF NIGERIA, APRIL 01, 2015

I am immensely grateful to God for this day and for this hour. I feel truly honoured and humbled that the Nigerian people have so clearly chosen me to lead them. The official announcement from INEC was the moment the vast majority of Nigerians had hoped and been waiting for. Today, history has been made, and change has finally come. Your votes have changed our national destiny for the good of all Nigerians .

INEC has announced that I, Muhammadu Buhari, shall be your next president. My team and I shall faithfully serve you. There shall no longer be a ruling party again: APC will be your governing party. We shall faithfully serve you. We shall never rule over the people as if they were subservient to government.

Our long night has passed and the daylight of new democratic governance has broken across the land. This therefore is not a victory for one man or even one party. It is a victory for Nigeria and for all Nigerians. Millions of you have worked for this day. So many have risked life and livelihood; and others have died that we may witness this moment.

And it is with a very heavy heart that I report many deaths and injuries amidst the jubilations yesterday. We send our sincere condolences to the families and friends of those who lost their lives; and wish speedy recovery to those who suffered injuries. I appeal to all our supporters to celebrate this victory with prayers and reflection instead of wild jubilation.

May the souls of those who died rest in peace. Let us take a moment of silence to honour all of those whose sacrifices have brought us to this fine and historic hour. As the results of the election have shown, their labour has not been and will never be in vain. Democracy and the rule of law will be re-established in the land.

Let us put the past, especially the recent past, behind us. We must forget our old battles and past grievances—and learn to forge ahead. I assure you that our government is one that will listen to and embrace all.

I pledge myself and our in-coming administration to just and principled governance. There shall be no bias against or favouritism for any Nigerian based on ethnicity, religion, region, gender or social status. I pledge myself and the government to the rule of law, in which none shall be so above the law that they are not subject to its dictates, and none shall be so below it that they are not availed of its protection.

You shall be able to go to bed knowing that you are safe and that your constitutional rights remain in safe hands. You shall be able to voice your opinion without fear of reprisal or victimisation. My love and concern for this nation and what I desire for it extends to all, even to those who do not like us or our politics. You are all my people and I shall treat everyone of you as my own. I shall work for those who voted for me as well as those who voted against me and even for those who did not vote at all. We all live under one name as one nation: we are all Nigerians.

Some unfortunate issues about my eligibility have been raised during the campaign. I wish to state that through devotion to this nation, everything I have learned and done has been to enable me to make the best possible contribution to public life. If I had judged myself incapable of governing I would never have sought to impose myself on it. I have served in various capacities and have always put in my best.

But despite the rancour of the elections, I extend a hand of friendship and conciliation to President Jonathan and his team. I hereby wish to state that I harbour no ill will against anyone.

Let me state clearly that President Jonathan has nothing to fear from me. Although we may not agree on the methods of governing the nation, he is a great Nigerian and still our president. He deserves our support and permanent respect by virtue of the office he has held.

This is how an honourable nation treats its servants and conducts its affairs; and this is how Nigeria should be.

I look forward to meeting with President Jonathan in the days to come to discuss how our teams can make the transition of administrations as efficient as possible.

Here, I want to thank my party for selecting me as its candidate. I thank our party leaders and members for the steadfast contributions they made to bring our dream to fruition. I thank INEC, the police and all other government agencies for performing their tasks in a proper manner and for refusing to be induced to undermine the election and the democratic process.

I also wish to thank religious Leaders, traditional leaders, the media, labour unions, Civil Society organisations, organised private sector, youths and students for their roles in this election.

I give special thanks to President Obama and his timely intervention and support for peaceful and credible elections in Nigeria and for sending Secretary John Kerry and other United States officials. The European Union – especially the United Kingdom, France, Germany and other nations that were actively involved in ensuring the success of this election are equally appreciated. My sincere thanks to the United Nations Secretary General Mr Ban-Ki Moon. The Commonwealth, China, India and other Asian and Gulf states are also hereby appreciated.

Finally our brothers in the African Union and ECOWAS have truly and clearly shown and demonstrate their commitment to our democratisation process. Former Presidents John Kuffour, Amos Sawyer, Bakili Muluzi and his team are well appreciated. I must also add my appreciation for the role played by civil societies, national and International observers, other world leaders in ensuring that Nigeria holds free and fair elections.

I assure all foreign governments that Nigeria will become a more forceful and constructive player in the global fight against terrorism and in other matters of collective concern, such as the fight against drugs, climate change, financial fraud, communicable diseases and other issues requiring global response. I want to assure our fellow African nations that Nigeria will now stand as a more constructive
partner in advancing the matters of concern to our continent, particularly with regard to economic development and eradication of poverty.

Former head of state and president Chief Olusegun Obasanjo, General Yakubu Gowon, Alh. Shehu Shagari, General Ibrahim Babangida, Chief Ernest Shonekan and General Abdulsalami Abubakar deserve commendations for their statesmanship and words of caution and counsel for peace during the tense moments of this electoral period.

Most of all, I thank the people of Nigeria for reposing their confidence in me at this trying moment. Our nation wrestles many challenges including insecurity, corruption, economic decline. I pledge to give you my best in tackling these problems.

The good people of Nigeria, your obligation does not end with casting your ballot. I seek your voice and input as we tackle these problems.

This will not be a government democratic only in form. It will be a government democratic in substance and in how it interacts with its own people.

No doubt, this nation has suffered greatly in the recent past, and its staying power has been tested to its limits by crises, chief among which is insurgency of the Boko Haram. There is no doubt that in tackling the insurgency we have a tough and urgent job to do. But I assure you that Boko Haram will soon know the strength of our collective will and commitment to rid this nation of terror, and bring back peace and normalcy to all the affected areas. We shall spare no effort until we defeat terrorism.

Furthermore, we shall strongly battle another form of evil that is even worse than terrorism—the evil of corruption. Corruption attacks and seeks to destroy our national institutions and character. By misdirecting into selfish hands funds intended for the public purpose, corruption distorts the economy and worsens income inequality. It creates a class of unjustly-enriched people.

Such an illegal yet powerful force soon comes to undermine democracy because its conspirators have amassed so much money that they believe they can buy government. We shall end this threat to our economic development and democratic survival. I repeat that corruption will not be tolerated by this administration; and it shall no longer be allowed to stand as if it is a respected monument in this
nation.

I ask you to join me in resolving these and the other challenges we face. Along the way, there will be victories but there may also be setbacks. Mistakes will be made. But we shall never take you for granted; so, be rest assured that our errors will be those of compassion and commitment not of wilful neglect and indifference.

We shall correct that which does not work and improve that which does. We shall not stop, stand or idle. We shall, if necessary crawl, walk and run to do the job you have elected us to do.

I realise that the expectation of our people today is as high as their commitment to change has been strong and their belief in us unshaken. While we pledge to begin doing our best without delay, we would like to appeal to them to appreciate the gravity of our situation, so that we become more realistic in our expectations.

We will govern for you and in your interests. Your vote was not wasted.

This is not the first time Nigerians have cast their votes for us, and this is not the first time they have been counted; but this is the first time that the votes have been allowed to count. With the help of God, we pledge to do our utmost to bring forth the Nigeria you seek.

Thank you for your patience and attention.

GENERAL MUHAMMADU BUHARI, GCFR
PRESIDENT-ELECT
FEDERAL REPUBLIC OF NIGERIA

AS #NIGERIADECIDES2015, I AM INVOLVED. . . AND SO ARE YOU.

The level of unpredictability of the Nigerian political scene has inched up, not a notch but, several notches higher. In fact political pundits say that the unpredictability in the political landscape has reached an all-time high.

True, the stakes are high.
True, the frenzy is high.
However, the debate is low.
The punches are even lower.

In the first few years following Nigeria’s return to democracy in 1999, it was normal for many to refer to the country as a fledging democracy. I had to find out what “fledging” means and discovered that it came from the word “fledge”. Merriam-Webster Online Dictionary says that “fledge or fledging” means (of a young bird) “to acquire the feathers necessary for flight or independent activity; to leave the nest after acquiring such feathers”.

Interestingly, I don’t hear that expression “fledging democracy” often these days. Could it be that in the light of Merriam-Webster’s definition, Nigeria has now fully developed the wings necessary to fly and has left the nest? Some will nod in agreement. There is also the alternative argument that the ‘fledge’ or ‘fledging’ process was aborted. Again there are those who will agree with this position. My personal opinion is that though we may not necessarily be where we should be as a nation, we definitely are no longer where we used to be. We did leave the nest. But we are not exactly flying. Yet.

This is why some analysts think that this year’s election will mark a defining moment for us as a country. For me though, I do not think that the level of political awareness and sophistication has improved. I also do not think that there are serious campaign issues by the presidential contenders. Neither do I think that many voters will still not vote along ethnic and religious lines. Nevertheless, I do believe that the party that eventually wins at the centre will acknowledge that the election wasn’t the piece of cake it used to be and will, therefore, work a lot harder to ensure that it is returned to power in 2019.

Every Nigerian that is duly registered to vote should go out on February 14, 2015 and exercise his or here civic responsibility. As for those who are whining and complaining whether Goodluck Ebele Jonathan (#GEJ) and General Muhammdu Buhari (#GMB) are the best candidates we could get in a country of nearly 170 million people, maybe you just didn’t know. Well then, it is my pleasure that there are 14 presidential candidates, not 2! Surely, among the 14 presidential candidates, you should be able to find someone that meets your minimum criteria. The candidate you vote for does not necessarily have to win the election. I know who I will vote for. So, I urge you by all means vote for your preferred candidate and vote according to your conscience.

In fact, I think it is sheer hypocrisy on the part of some people who claim the neither GEJ nor GMB meets their criteria. I ask, where were they when Prof Pat Utomi ran for president? Did they vote for Gani Fawehimi when he ran for president? Did they vote for Dele Momodu? When Fela Nikulpo-Kuti ran for president nko? Did they vote for him? Make dem park well joor.

It is my hope that the process through which the political candidates improve with time. Therefore, I leave us with 2 quotes that I consider relevant:

“War is too important to be left to the generals” – Georges Clemenceau (1841-1929)

“I have come to the conclusion that politics are too serious a matter to be left to the politicians” -Charles De Gaulle (1890 – 1970)

You can follow me on Twitter @ehissman

READING CONTRACTS AND AGREEMENTS COULD SAVE YOUR CAREER, BUSINESS AND . . . YOUR LIFE!

Contract 2

We begin the year on a legal note. I am doing this because over the Yuletide season, a friend shared with me a bad experience he had in the course of the year based on a contract he had entered into, a contract he never quite understood. As he narrated his ordeal (eventually an out-of-court settlement had to be brokered), I felt I would be a bad friend if I didn’t share with you all the dangers of signing a contract without first reading or understanding the terms of such a contract.

I know that many Nigerians do not take the pains to read or understand contracts or agreements. This behaviour goes all the way up to those who run the affairs of this country. Was it not last year in the thick of the Academic Staff Union of Universities’ strike that a highly-placed Nigerian came out to blame those who signed the agreement with ASUU for not understanding what they signed? I know that such a statement is debatable. He was either right or being mischievous. What is however clear is that it is critically important to understand agreements before signing them.

Now, let me issue a caveat: I am not a lawyer. Like a friend of mine would say, “I was not even beckoned, let alone called”.

But be that as it may, there are things that make sense. And it makes great sense to read a contract before putting pen to paper.

What I really do not understand is why a man would sign a document he does not understand and has not sought legal counsel on. I hear that a lot. “Oh, I didn’t read it at all.” Or, “I didn’t really understand it”. By simply signing the dotted lines indicated, many have made very grave mistakes. Especially in my country, Nigeria.

How do I say this? Never sign a contract you have neither read and understood nor have it explained to you by a lawyer. Any contract at all. That includes an employment contract!

That’s right. Many young graduates, having waited for so long to get a job, do not even bother to read the offer letter before they sign. Difficult times are what they are: difficult times. They should not rob us of our common sense. The reason I’m asking you to make sure you have read and understood every contract before you sign is that your not reading first can come back to haunt you!

Why should you read a contract document before you sign? Well, you should not for the following reasons:

1. ONCE A CONTRACT IS IN FORCE, IT GENERALLY CANNOT BE ALTERED UNLESS ALL THE PARTIES AGREE.

2. AND, WITH VERY FEW EXCEPTIONS, CONTRACTS CANNOT EASILY BE BROKEN.

3. WHEN A CONTRACT IS BREACHED AND RESULTS IN LITIGATION, IT CAN PUT A LOAD OF STRESS ON YOU

4. WHERE THERE IS NO LIABILITY LIMITATION, THE ENSUING CLAIMS AND DAMAGES THAT RESULT COULD CONSTITUTE A DRAIN ON YOUR RESOURCES

By the way, a contract may be broadly defined as a mutually binding and enforceable agreement between two or more parties to do – or not do – something. According to http://www.lawhandbook.org.au, a contract consist of four essential elements:

• There must be “offer and acceptance”

• There must be “intention to create legal relations”

• There must be “consideration”

• The parties must have “legal capacity” to enter into a contract.

On daily basis, there are several contracts we enter without even knowing or recognizing that we have entered into a contract. Signing a receipt after using you credit/debit card is an example. What that simply means is that the bank agrees to pay the vendor and you agree to pay the bank. For many of you that have ever bought an air ticket, how many of you can confidently say that you ever took out time to read the “Conditions of Carriage” attached to the ticket? Not even lawyers do that. Yet, that is a contract, nonetheless. Of course, I am also aware that many sign tenancy agreements without bothering to read them. We are just interested in the keys to the property so we can “move in”.

And oh, I must also not fail to mention that today, we also enter into contracts online when we click on the “I Agee” button. Very often, we do that when we open those free e-mail accounts (yahoo, g-mail, hotmail, etc.), open social network accounts (Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, etc.) or make purchases online. By clicking on the “I Agree” button, we are bound by the conditions of use of that service.

I know it is not easy reading a contract document. Typically, it contains so much of legalisms and leaves the non-lawyer confused. However, the website http://www.lawyers.com helps us with explanations of some legalisms you’ll most likely find in several contracts:

• Integration (or Entire Agreement) Clause. Basically, it means the contract is the complete agreement between you and the other person. What you sign is what you get, regardless off what you talked about before signing the contracts.

• Liability Limitation or Waiver. This may work a couple of ways. For one, it may protect either a seller or a buyer if he breaks or breaches the contract. The clause may specify a dollar (naira) amount the person owes the other if the contract isn’t honored. For instance, most employment contracts in Nigeria stipulate that one month’s salary in lieu of notice. That’s a liability limitation.

• Arbitration Clause. Generally, this means that if you and the other side have a disagreement about the contract, you both have to let a neutral third party – an arbitrator – try to settle matter before you may file a lawsuit.

• Force Majeure Clause. This is common in business contracts. It protects both sides from having to pay damages if either is unable to complete the contract because of an act of nature. For instance, if you agree to ship fresh produce to a buyer in another state but an earthquake makes the roads impassable, the buyer can’t hold you liable for damages for not delivering the produce.

• Assignment Clause. This is common in many contracts, such as leases, loans, and business contracts. The clause either bars (or lets) either side of the contract from transferring the contract to someone else.
So, as a rule, Jason Alderman in this article here helps us with what to do before we sign a contract:

• Ensure that everything you were promised verbally appears in writing.

• Make sure all blank spaces are filled in or crossed out before signing any documents –including the tip line on restaurant and hotel bills.

• Don’t be afraid to ask to take a contract home for more careful analysis or to get a second opinion. A lawyer or financial advisor can help.

• Don’t be pressured into signing anything. If salespeople try that tactic, walk away. (Be particularly wary at timeshare rental meetings.)

• Keep copies of every document you sign. This will be especially important for contested rental deposits, damaged merchandise, insurance claims, extended warranties, etc.

• Take along a “wingman” if you’re making an important decision like renting an apartment or buying a car to help ask questions and protect your interests.

• Be wary of “free trial” offers. Read all terms and conditions and pay particular attention to pre-checked boxes in online offers.

So, there you have it people. It’s a new year. And even though it sounds like straight out of a condom advert, be protected.

You can follow me on Twitter @ehissman.

#EbolaGate: The Handshake as a Threatened Symbol

handshake 1

ebola greeting

It seems that all of a sudden, the handshake is about to disappear. Thanks, but no thanks, to Ebola Virus Disease that is currently ravaging many parts of West Africa.

In order to avoid any form of contact and avoid contracting the deadly virus, many Nigerians are now shying away from shaking hands. Even some who still summon the courage to shake hands with others soon after resort to washing or sanitizing their hands.  

In fact, not long after an Ebola-related death was recorded in Nigeria, some new forms of greetings known as “Ebola Greeting” emerged among the ever-creative Nigerian social media users. While some of those greetings are quite hilarious, the message is simple: be safe.

But before #EbolaGate, the handshake was “the perfect non-verbal communicative contrivance” (See link here). According to Joshua Rapp Learn, “The handshake is one of the highest forms of symbolic currency with the power to unite, divide, seal deals, and broker peace.” In his article published here, Joshua Learn further describes it as “a ‘universal norm of reciprocity’” whose “rejection sends a powerful message.”

 

The handshake is, according to some sources, said to have originated in medieval times with the etiquette of knights. However, other sources say it appeared later in the courts of British nobles in colonial times. (The reader can click here and here for further readings on this).  Again some say that the handshake originated in war. There rationale is that in order to demonstrate that the intention is peaceful and that the hand does not bear any weapons, the handshake was adopted as the gesture. Today, athletes (including boxers and wrestlers) often shake hands before and after the match to show that they bear no ill will towards each other. Political gladiators also do this, usually after elections, to demonstrate that they have forgotten the bitterness displayed during the election campaign. (I’m really not sure whether this applies to Nigerian politicians. Someone please confirm for me whether Ogbeni Aregbesola and Senator Omisore have shaken hands).

Another school believes that this custom did not originate in wars but in marriages and was then carried over to war situations. 

Well, irrespective of how or where it originated from, the handshake over time became a symbol of friendship, commitment, agreement and peace. In spite of this, the handshake had at some time in the past been criticized as a possible mode of disease transfer. For instance, during the London 2012 Olympics, the Head Doctor at the British Olympic Association, Dr Ian McCurdie, reportedly warned athletes against shaking hands with their rivals. His reasons? In plain language, athletes could pick up sicknesses which could affect their performance.

Today, even though there has been no official warnings against handshakes in Nigeria (the refrain has been to wash the hands or use a hand sanitizer), many are already finding the handshake a clumsy proposition. It is a custom, symbol or gesture many young Nigerians would rather do without.

How the dramas over handshakes play out in the days ahead depend on how soon the Ebola epidemic is contained.

And The “Jeep” Disappointed Him

I love my country men and women. That’s because in their thoughts and actions, they never cease to amaze me.

It just seems that we are wired to think in a way that does not really solve our basic societal problems but to give us the “cool” feeling that we have been able to ensure that at least it no longer affects us.

Why, for instance, do we think that the solution to bad roads is to drive “jeeps”? And just in case you are unfamiliar with Nigerian lingo, a “jeep” is the Nigerian word for four-wheel-drive vehicle (an SUV). In the warped reasoning of the Nigerian elite, if roads are bad (even if it’s his neighbourhood road), he has no business calling for collaborative efforts from his neighbours to fix it, reporting the matter to the relevant government agency to take action or insisting that the government lives up to its responsibility. No!

He sees only in one shade, the I-pass-my-neighbour shade. For as long as we can show off to our neighbours, we are good. That’s part of the reason why many will not join in a communal effort to fix a neighbourhood road or be part of the call for government to do what is right. Such Nigerians think, “afterall, I have a ‘jeep’ that can adapt to difficult terrains.” This partly explains the large number of four-wheel-drive vehicles or SUV’s on Nigerian roads. It seems a lot easier to buy a “jeep” than worry about the roads.

But such thinking is delusional because bad roads also affect “jeeps” as we shall see from the following story.

In the neighbourhood where I live, the roads have just been passable. When a portion of the road broke down about a year ago, it was the management of the school in the estate that took it upon itself to fix it. Other neighbours, including some ‘Big Men’ (former-this and ex-that, movers and shakers in both religious and political circles), felt it didn’t concern them.

We woke up one Saturday morning in May 2014 to see workmen milling around the estate. What was going on? It turned out that the contracts for up-grading the roads to and in the estate had been awarded and the contractor had just mobilized to site. That was the beginning of our ordeal.

There’s no need to go into details as to how we were assured that the project would take only two weeks. This is August and they haven’t even finished digging the drains.

To cut a long story short, as they dug the drains, they heaped the sand right in the middle of the roads. Those of us with smaller cars could no longer drive into the estate: we had to look for where to park outside. For the “Big Men” in the estate, however, they continued to climb the heap of sand and drive right into their homes with their “jeeps”. No collective attempt was made to tell the contractor to at least factor the convenience of residents into the construction project.

Then it happened!

One “Big Man” who owns a chain of exotic “jeeps” was driving home one night and veered off the slippery and sinking sand and right into the dug-out drain. The head of the vehicle lay prostrate leaving the back right up in the air on the road. Trust Nigerians, the next “Big Man” driving out in his “jeep” the next morning expertly maneuvered his vehicle to the free side of the road and drove on. Like we say in Nigeria, “no shaking”.

But there was “shaking”. The workers resumed in the morning and as if by a grand conspiracy, dug out the other side of the road. Effectively, every vehicle was hemmed in (or out, as the case may be).

It’s been one week now since that incident. The “jeep” is still praying in the ditch. The workmen still come and pretend to be digging. The road is still messy. It still rains heavily. Residents still struggle for space to park their vehicles outside of the estate and then walk the heap of sand into their homes. The “contractor” is still faceless. The problem is still unresolved.

But we carry on, nonetheless.

Beyond Politics: Let’s Go To Equity

Many Nigerians like politics but pretend they don’t. If you doubt this, take a stroll to the vendor stand. The members of the Free Readers Association of Nigeria (FRAN) you will find at the vendor stand (many of them unemployed youths, some lowly civil servants, and some, touts) are very likely to be discussing two issues: Football and Politics. If there is no vendor near you, no wahala. You can try the pepper soup joint down the road. You will find very robust political discussion. Even if you are too “tush” or too “ajeboish” for these places I have mentioned, you can go to twitter facebook or play around with your remote for some local TV station and you will still find a high level of political discourse from your fellow countrymen.

We love to discuss politics. And football. But then ask any member of such a “panel” or forum to run for political office. His response will be “I don’t like politics”. If the man who daily discusses politics and political office holders does not “like” politics, then who does? And when he finds someone he knows making a move to become involved in politics, he goes, “ah, politics is dangerous ooo”.

So, the typical Nigerian shies away from running for political office and discourages loved ones from doing same. Yet this same Nigerian loves power and the benefits that flow from the corridors of power. Most are quick to criticise those at the helm of affairs for bending rules or circumventing the process. Yet when an opportunity to circumvent the process presents itself, these same critics hardly think twice about it. They think it doesn’t matter. I can cite several familiar examples. Have you ever been in slow-moving traffic and then out of nowhere emerges a siren-blaring convoy with gun-toting and horse-whip-waving uniformed men trying to create a way for a “big man” hidden behind tinted glasses? Have you observed that as soon as this convoy successfully creates a way, many buses, taxis and other vehicles struggle to join the convoy and get out of the gridlock? What do you see on the faces of fellow countrymen trying to do that? You see excitement and smiles.

I understand that power sweet. It can even be exhilarating to find oneself receiving preferential treatment. Nobody likes waiting in a queue. Many do not enjoy following the process. But to change things, we must endure these basics. The popular position is to lampoon politicians and blame them for all that is wrong with our society. There are excesses among the political class alright. Their behaviour is very repugnant, to say the least. Foreigners coming into our country for the first time receive a kind of shock (yea, culture shock, if you will) when they see the lengths of convoys of political office holders and the sheer number of aides that mill around them. Even more appalling is the way they conduct themselves. In many fora across the country today, the talking point is what happened in the hallowed chambers of the Rivers State House of Assembly of recent. Yet, the problem is deeper than that.

Somehow, I wonder whether we condone impunity because impunity is latent in us. We have come to a stage in our national life when we must begin to re-evaluate our value system. It is important to note that in defining a value system, the keywords are “consistency” and “ethics”. In otherwords, we must be prepared to apply the same rules of conduct on a consistent basis.

I love politics but I am not aware of a separate assembly line for producing politicians. What political office does basically is to accentuate the hidden character flaws in a man. The man who may not be holding political office may actually be doing as much harm as the man he criticises. I am not against calling on political office holders to be accountable and to behave responsibly. We must do that and more. We must embody the behaviour we expect of others and the larger society. He that comes to equity must come with clean hands. Let us think. Surely, we can stand for something positive.

Have a great week!