I can still remember; time has faded nothing. As a child growing up in the village in the 70’s, I would be woken up by 4am most days by the knock on the door of my brother’s house by some political intruders. That was precisely in October 1978. They were politicians coming for consultation for the forthcoming 1979 general election; my brother was a man of relative means and one of the opinion molders in the village.
I saw an endless stream of visitors from week to week, and from month to month, one year before the election proper. I would not sound hyperbolic to say that everybody in the village was upbeat for that election, especially after 15 years of military interregnum. I still recollect, as children, how we trekked for eight miles to catch a glimpse of Chief Obafemi Awolowo‘s helicopter that landed at Amuro-Mgbom Primary School when he came for consultation ten months before the election primaries of his party.
But that is in the past. We have regrettably and pitiably consigned all these enriching, elevating and ennobling experiences into the dustbin of history because our politicians have changed the rules of the game even before takeoff.
Today, we are almost in the month of August, and our gubernatorial aspirants have a date with history in February when the Independent National Electoral Commission fixed for the election. But where are the governorship aspirants? Where are the contestants, both the serious and the unserious? Where are the political jobbers whom I may classify as ‘they also ran’? Where are the Senatorial aspirants, the Houses of Representatives and Assembly contenders? Why is everywhere in Ebonyi State like the graveyard when we have just about four or five months to the election?
Why is nobody talking when we have before us an important and crucial election that will define us or defile us as a nation? Why are they still speaking in monologue when they are supposed to be talking in dialogue, canvassing for support? Why have they not gone, like Naaman, for a bathe at River Jordan in preparation for an election which, as it is said in ecclesiastical circles, will either prove to be a day of atonement or a day of retribution for us? Or are they going to Okija instead? When we speak alone in our secluded homes, it’s just a dim voice, but when we speak together and talk to each other, we form a force. Let the talking begin.
Now that it is becoming increasingly clear, through the magnanimity of Chief Martin Elechi, that the governorship slot is going to Ebonyi South Senatorial Zone, why are our potential contenders still in their cocoon, or are they waiting for the God-Father? Where are the Dave Umahis, the Hyacinth Ikpors, the Timothy Odaahs and the Dave Nwachukwus? Where are the Professor Egwus, Professor Chukwus and Professor Ogbus? What of the big masquerade, Chief Anyim Pius Anyim that bestrides the state like a colossus? What about Omezue Agboti and Anyim Ude?
Whether we like it or not, one of these people must emerge as the next governor of Ebonyi State. But why is none of them talking, or have they become deaf and dumb as my friend Barrister Iduma Iduma succinctly put it? What of the opposition? They are even worse, their sickness is as worse as that of the Blind and Dumb Demoniac that took Jesus some time to heal!
For me, our guber hopefuls are not talking for two reasons. It is either they are waiting for the God-Father with his anointing oil or they consider that the time is not ripe enough.
Whichever way, there is serious political disconnect among the populace because of the behaviour of our politicians, and this has led to a serious and operose decomposition of democracy in Nigeria. Unlike my childhood days when politicians would knock from door to door canvassing for votes and promising, in truth, to do this or that when elected, our latter day politicians do nothing of such because they are waiting for the anointing to fall upon them like the one-eyed Samson who, out of desperation, pulled down an edifice in a paroxysm of torment.
Instead of working their way through for the endorsement and acceptance of the masses, our governorship hopefuls are competing among themselves for the master’s attention and loyalty. And the worst is that when they eventually get it, they do little or nothing because they derive their power not from the consent of the governed.
This indeed has robbed our democracy the necessary growth, impetus and finesse we had anticipated would trickle down over this relatively long period of uninterrupted civilian rule. Our political landscape is dull and unenchanting because we have short-time politicians with short-time visions. They foray into politics not adequately groomed for leadership. As a student, I watched and was carried away by the political oratory of Dr Nnamdi Azikiwe as he came for campaign in Calabar. I loved the tintinnabulation, percussion and the boisterous cymbal of Dr K. O. Mbadiwe’s words and voice, the man of timber and caliber, caterpillar and bulldozer. What of Chief Obafemi Awolowo who was our own Socrates and Plato put together? Chief M.K.O Abiola was not a superlative orator, but you cannot help but be stupefied by his mastery of proverbs as he laced every word that rolled out of his mouth with it. As we interviewed him that night during his campaign tour of Delta State at the country home of Olorogun Ibru at Sapele in 1993, you cannot but fall in love with his wits which was a reflection of his intellectual profundity. All these men and many more were political mesmerizers who could hold you spellbound and petrified for hours and days on issue-based politics. But where are they now? All that we have now in Nigeria are opportunistic politicians waiting for ‘letters of credence’ from their big masters!
Our politicians are not helping matters. From the east to the west, they are not talking because they shy away from debate; they shy away from issue-based politics because they believe that when they have the godfather on their side they have all. That is not the type of politics we want to nurture in Nigeria. There is the urgent need for the political class and civil society in Nigeria to save our democracy by redefining it and veering it away from the clutter and stranglehold of god-fatherism and the master-servant relationship.
As we approach the February political dateline, our politicians should work hard to earn our votes instead of depending for political endorsement. If Barack Obama had waited for such in America, I’m sure no person would have given him any because in America, there is no godfather, you must prove your mettle and convince them of your capability for them to repose their confidence in you. Obama stomped from state to state, county to county and from one interest group or racial bloc to the other to win the votes from blue states and red states. His charisma, oratory and innate intelligence won the heart of Americans as he sailed against the wind to emerge the first African American US President.
One thing that our politicians must note, which I believe they already know, is that power is not given on a platter of gold; it is not the head of Uncle John the Baptist. It must be struggled for, that is why political scientists call it power struggle. Apart from Senator Igwe Nwagu who has openly declared to succeed Elechi, no other governorship aspirant in Ebonyi state has done so.
As 2015 approaches like the hurricane Katrina, our political aspirants should be silent no more; they should begin to talk now. They should come out openly and begin to dialogue with the people they intend to lead on the best way forward. We need it because, as Rod Parsley would put it, ‘our times demand it, our history compels it, our future requires it and God is watching us.’