Nigerian democracy and the concept of l’etat c’est moi
L’ETAT c’est moi’ (I am the State) is actually not a concept but a state of mind by which a ruler sees himself as the personification of the State. A statement attributed to Louis XIV who was King of France for over 72 years from 1638 to 1715.
Though Louis was king during the era of divine rights of kings, his unprecedented long reign is not unlikely to imbue him with a sense of entitlement not only to the rulership of the State but also found the State inseparable from him.
In the pre-colonial Nigerian setting, it was actually not totally very strange to hear the concept or philosophy of absolute rule wherein kings were dreaded as having the powers of life and death or to unquestionably determine those who rule.
In practical terms, that was actually not true. In Yorubaland, for instance, there is reference to the Oba as Kabiesi (the unquestionable). Yet, not in any of the Yoruba kingdoms or city states was any Oba unquestionable or had the powers of the gods.
However, since the inception of the current democratic rule in 1999, some political actors have become so entrenched that they are either perceived by the citizens as being indispensable in the political firmament rightly or wrongly. By the Nigerian Constitution, access to political power is only through political parties. Thus, the emerging tendency is for political actors to own such parties by which they do not only seek to realise their own aspirations but also determine the political destiny of others.
The crises bedevilling the two major political parties: All Progressives Congress, APC, and Peoples Democratic Party, PDP, are inexorably rooted in the sense of entitlement by powerful individuals or constituent groups who have sense of entitlement to the benefits accruing from membership. The APC from its inception left no one in doubt of its proprietorship, sharply divided between its two main tendencies which have held it by the jugular.
So jealously do the two APC tendencies guide their political harem that they do not mind injury to the party in the process. It was so that the party had no one else than a serving Governor in Mai Mala Buni of Yobe to act as its National Chairman. For almost two years, the Governor abandoned his gubernatorial duties to shoulder the onerous duties of the management of the party.
The double wahala for the party is that the people of Yobe were deliberately deprived of the services of their elected Governor and the nominations of their candidates hurt by judicial process which continued to haunt the party for violating the provisions of Section 183 of the Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria which forbids a sitting Governor from holding other executive positions.
It is such sense of ownership that the President not only unilaterally picked the National Chairman of the party but also sought that he be allowed “to determine my successor”. L’etat c’est moi, you will agree.
‘Emi lo kan’ was the strategy of the second arm of the ownership of the APC to put the claim of joint ownership beyond all doubts. In seeking to determine his successor, as if Nigeria is such a Banana Republic or his private estate, it was clear that Asiwaju Bola Ahmed Tinubu, BAT, was not Buhari’s choice.
The cat was let out of the bag when in the heat of the Presidential Convention, National Chairman, Senator Abdullahi announced Senate President Ahmed Lawan as President Buhari’s choice. It took the 14 Northern Governors to have saved APC from instant disintegration. The issue of vice presidential candidate is far from being over.
Dropping the politically memorable ‘emi lo kan’ bombshell in Abeokuta, BAT had boastfully beaten his chest about how he single-handedly determined Buhari’s running mate of which Osinbajo became the ultimate beneficiary.
It is however left to be seen if Buhari or his camp had such luxury of giving Shetima to BAT. The lingering troubles associated with the membership and composition of the Campaign Council stem from the intractable problems of harmonising the two contending forces.
The second name for the PDP is trouble. The party that debuted as an organisation for all and none, has now eaten the forbidden fruit of abandoning its foundational covenant to please individuals. The sacrifice of corporate for personal interests is the party’s Achilles heel.
Once by some manafiki the constitution or convention of regional zoning/rotation of the presidency was jettisoned, the central has refused to hold and may never hold. The fear of losing what appears a personal estate is responsible for the covetous combination of the office of National Chairman and the presidential ticket in one man, hand and region.
The more attempts at rationalising the sin, the more grace takes flight. Ingenious constitutional arguments were canvassed on how impossible it would be to oust the national Chairman to create even a feeble sense of balance, while losing sight of the worst infraction against the letters and spirit of the constitution in the possibility of power remaining in the North after eight years of Buhari’s harrowing regime.
The office of the Chairman will not be let go, not by Atiku Abubakar. No, not by the Waziri Adamawa. It is by those who have no confidence in Atiku wining the presidential election, whose fall-back pot of soup is the structure of the party. The Naira rain in the National Working Committee of the party has exposed monumental issues of concern. In finding personal solutions and carrying his own cross, Atiku has recently lost his composure.
In the Wike imbroglio which he brought upon himself by not allowing the injured lion of Rumuepirikom of Ikwerre in the Obio-Akpor lying and licking his primary election wounds. He gave Nyesom hope of a Vice President he knew he would not give him and the guy is not having the last laugh but some kokoma dance as one is sweetened by the pains of the other.
Most uncharacteristically, one is surprised that AA would personally sign press statement replying Wike over an issue he himself claims to have no locus standi. Each time Wike speaks and dances or his group speaks, the man who should be father to all as reconciliation coordinator, is the one who signs scathing replies.
To worsen the situation, Atiku who has tried the presidency for himself in vain, a record five times, since the M.K.O Abiola’s time in 1992, now went to the Igbo, assuring them he would make an Igbo person the President after his own tenure. Ndigbo was justifiably incensed by such L’etat c’est moi mindset.
I really don’t know how the Yoruba came about the saying admonishing Falana to mind his own business first before looking into the issues of others. It fits my brother and friend, Femi Falana, who from his university days and now has been minding other people’s businesses!
Nigeria, we hail thee.
Ebiseni is the Secretary General, Afenifere.