Grimot Nane, PhD

Nigerian Politicians and their Craze for Power

Grimot Nane

We continuously and increasingly hear Nigerian politicians avidly preach the importance and benefits of ‘continuity in government’ as the best way to serve the nation. After one cuts through the meaninglessness of what they are saying, it is easy to identify their raison d’etre as the will to amass as much wealth and power as possible by way of ‘uninterrupted’ malfeasance, misfeasance and nonfeasance.

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‘Continuity in government’ as touted by politicians in power is simply an excuse for venal and mediocre politicians to perpetuate themselves in power regardless of their performance or misdemeanours with the backing of societal “black holes” called political parties. On a party level, this means that their parties should remain in power perpetually. On a personal level, it implies that they, the politicians, should win as many elections as the constitution permits or hold high political office perpetually.

Political parties and their respective politicians are supposed to uphold and protect the “public interest” or “public good.” However, these politicians touting ‘continuity in government’ immiserate every aspect of society and are determined to be perpetuated in office to achieve their anti-societal nefarious goals. Society’s gain spells loss for the politicians/parties vice versa. Well, the people who constitute society allow them to do so with impunity and those who can organise society to resist or end such practices are either not willing to pay the price or want a part of the national cake!

In a properly organised and functioning nation ‘continuity in government’ is the stuff of good enforceable public institutions not politicians. Tarring of roads badly making travel unwholesome, the establishment of schools and hospitals that will predictably crumble, the creation of parastatals for rent-seeking purposes and theft, the increasing extravagance of protocol and paraphernalia of office; these are symptoms of a stark lack of ‘continuity in government’ in Nigeria besides their origin – lack of purpose. Yet, the politicians in power whose projects are destined for failure or short-term mediocrity are hailed by supporters as “trying.”

I have lived in countries where the building/maintaining roads, building/running schools and hospitals, building / running parastatals and the enforcement of law have nothing to with politicians directly but are functions of civil servants. Civil servants are the “custodians” of ‘continuity in government’ by design. The best governed societies in the world are so because of the unqualified excellence of their civil service.

Unfortunately, the civil servants in Nigeria with few exceptions are just as venal and mediocre as the politicians. Nigeria’s political instabilities with numerous government changes had an unchanged civil service, but it soon produced thieving “Super Perm Secs” and “ever-present elite bureaucrats.” The big and disastrous consequence of such is that the degree of mistrust between elected/appointed politicians and career civil servants is maximal; who will steal more. You now have ‘party political civil servants’ in the service as a “try your luck” antidote to the politician/civil servant conflict.

One may even predict that the Nigerian civil service is the new breeding ground for party politicians. Instead of political patrons backing untested political aspirants who commonly turn around and bit the fingers that fed them, why not back a civil servant that has served the interest of a party very well behind the scene and has proven he or she can be trusted? Is grooming civil servants for electoral office not an efficient attempt at continuity, as perverse as it may be? Who would better sabotage the government of a new party in power?

In Delta State, Tony Obuh, a former permanent secretary, is now obviously the People’s Democratic Party heir-apparent as governor. One may ask if he was PDP civil servant while in office. Why not? For the governor, Dr Emmanuel Uduaghan, to unrelentingly back a former permanent secretary as his one and only successor he must have “done very well” by him. Tony Obuh is but one of such innumerable cases.

The next time you hear a politician in power, or his or her supporter talking about ‘continuity in government’ correct them, if you can, by proposing ‘continuity in venality and mediocrity.’ They will understand easily.

  • PERSPECTIVE is published every Monday. Dr. Nane is an errant scholar and economist. Follow him on Twitter: @Grimot

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