FEATURE ARTICLE

Tunga Lergo, Ph.DMonday, February 3, 2014
tunga.lergo@sfcollege.edu
Gainesville, Florida, USA

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VULTURE POLITICS: NIGERIAN POLITICIANS AND CROSS-CARPETING

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nce again the Nigerian electorate is being bombarded by babble in the run to 2015 elections. The political fat cats-vultures is a better label-are now jostling for the best position ( the presidency) at the table in order to feast on Nigeria's abundant resources. That is what Nigerian politics has become-vulture politics. These political and economic vultures who produce nothing are at their best game, again.

Vulture politics (a notion of vulture capitalism, inspired by Newt Gingrich-one of America's presidential candidates-used to describe Mitt Romney's business model) is an apt analogy to Nigerian politics: Our politicians don't fix anything. They don't even create the environment for hardworking and enterprising Nigerians to produce and be productive: our graduates take three times as long to earn their degrees, only to be hangers-on without jobs; university professors have been reduced to involuntary vacationers due to the long-term closure of universities; ordinary Nigerians are physically and psychologically imprisoned by the traumatizing and unbridled activities of Boko Haram, Fulani herdsmen, and kidnappers. What a nation!

Our economic system is veiling itself as capitalism, but behind the fašade, it is vulture capitalism, where politicians scavenge for power not to legislate free-market principles or provide a safe environment for economic production, but to secure the best place for personal distributism. They have perfected the act of sharing our natural resources to the extent that even their dogs have their own fill. And while ordinary Nigerians engage in "suffering and smiling" stoicism, as Fela, (of blessed memory) will agree, each time the eve of elections approaches, politicians embark on their charade, claiming to be holier-than-thou saviors of the country and singing the same old fake gospel of redemption.

They create new political parties or amalgamate multiple parties to share the national loot, and tell us the same tired, worn-out rhetoric. They assure us that they are better than those in power. They vow to sweep out corrupt officials and corruption. They promise to be better managers of our resources. And each time, the electorate is deceived or manipulated into voting them in. Come election time, many innocent Nigerians die during campaigns, and millions line up in polling booths to vote. I have always prayed that, by some miracle, Nigerian voters would stay home, forego voting-the politicians don't really need their votes; they will still win without them-and allow the political vultures to vote themselves into power. We should not dignify this farce by providing a legitimate cover for their vulture politics. But the urge for political participation is built into the Nigerian DNA, and so, we are easily induced and seduced into attending the campaign rallies and polls. Compound this inducement with inadequate political education and the fractionalization of the Nigerian electorate into ethnic and religious divisions, and the band plays on; the scavenging continues with impunity. And each time a new election cycle approaches, the Nigerian electorate, hoping that the grass is greener on the other side, jump the fence, only to be disappointed. The vulture politics must stop. But when? And who will lead? The 2015 elections are fast approaching. INEC (one institution that we still have faith in) has released the election time table (February 14, for Presidential and National Assembly; 28 for Governorship and State Assembly), and we are being deceived again. Two major political parties strut before the Nigerian electorate. One has morphed into All Progressive Congress (APC), which is nothing but a rebirth of Buhari's CPC, the 2011 major opposition party to Peoples Democratic Party ( PDP) , with new garb and a coalition of different attachments.

Dubbed a mega party, APC seeks to convince Nigerians that it has a magical broom strong and effective enough to sweep Nigeria clean of corruption, poverty, unemployment, insecurity, and so forth, making it seem more dependable than PDP. Unfortunately, APC's quest to defeat PDP started on the wrong foot: many Nigerians are not convinced that this party is any different from the one it seeks to sweep out. So far, instead of endearing itself to the electorate- an electorate it has ignored so far, APC has only succeeded in sweeping the fat PDP governors and lawmakers into its fold, and so busy sweeping out the old debris into its party that little attention is being paid to the plights of Nigerians.

So is APC the promised party? Perhaps! But many doubt it, for "nothing good can come out of Nazareth," at least, not this time. The power structure of APC is comprised of the same old politicians wearing different hats, some have left the protective shade of the umbrella that has given them cover for corruption, and have picked up brooms to sweep the crumbs to their side of the table.

There are some Nigerians who are not short of creativity and insight and are not fooled by the drums of decamping from the party with the umbrella to the party with the broom. Examining the character of PDP members who have decamped from PDP to the "new" party, some Nigerians explained the APC acronym as the "Association of Past Criminals." Others say it is the "Alliance of Provoked Cheaters"; yet others have christened it, "All Political Criminals"; a friend of mine sees it as, "Association of Present Criminals"

Other skeptics have noticed that, by composition and leadership structure, APC is a Muslim party. Although the party has denied it, the taste of the pudding is in the eating: The leadership structure of APC, the ethnic and religious composition of the decamping law makers and governors, and the deafening silence of the party leadership in the face of the northern pogrom by Boko Haram and the Fulani herdsmen seem to support this conspiracy theory.

So what can APC offer to Nigerians? We already know what PDP has been offering since 1999: very little. But at least the PDP is fighting, albeit through a long, drawn-out, timid war against Boko Haram in the north, nomadic Fulani atrocities in the middle belt areas, and kidnappings in the south. The APC has not even explained their intentions regarding this war; in their discourse, they have barely mentioned Boko Haram, and not once has the problem of nomadic Fulani in the Benue, southern Kaduna, Jos, and other middle belt areas been addressed. Is it surprising, then, that APC is perceived as a Muslim party? In 2011 Buhari's defeat sparked a spate of killings of non-CPC-supporters, Muslims, and non-Muslims in Kaduna state and other parts of the north; this tragedy is still fresh in the collective memory of northern minorities and they are not attracted to the "new" party.

Therefore, the APC stands on precarious ground. It needs to clean its own image-it has the broom. If they present Buhari as their presidential candidate, they will have no hope of winning. But if it is a different candidate- a northern Christian or Southern Muslim- it may help to debunk the notion that APC is a Muslim party. PDP doesn't have that negative narrow image. PDP transcends particularisms. The image of PDP as a national party is one aspect that appeals to many. It cannot be cocooned, and so it bears the seed of Nigerian unity. Unfortunately, its elite structure is a collection of vulture capitalists and politicians. President Goodluck is yet to declare his intention for 2015, but come 2015, PDP will make a good showing. It has the party structure, the state money, and the rigging edge over APC.

Before anyone accuses me of being a PDP supporter, allow me to preempt him or her: I am not. I do, however, support any party that is concerned with the interests of the country, a party that will not only use a broom but a bulldozer to clean and bury-forever-the stench that pervades our dear country, a party that will unite Nigerians of all ethnic groups and faiths not under an umbrella, but an iron canopy. As the situation currently stands, removing the umbrella from the Nigerian electorate in order to sweep out the overfed political vultures and replace them with gaunt and hungry ones is not in the best interest of the country.

While we await a real savior, I would rather leave the fat vultures to continue filling their bellies, so the remaining scraps may reach ordinary Nigerians, than to replace them with starving vultures who will not drop a crumb. So far, APC is not the promised one. It has little to offer. Between APC and PDP, there is scant difference. However, better the vulture that is belly- full than the one that is gaunt and hungry.

Tunga Lergo is Professor and Sociology Coordinator, Department of Social and Behavioral Sciences, Santa Fe College, Gainesville, Florida, U.S.A

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