NIGERIA'S GENRE OF DEMOCRACY: A VERY COSTLY PROPOSITION

Can anybody tell me why the two dominant parties in Nigeria, PDP and APC decided to hold their conventions on the same dates( 10-11 Dec) in Nigeria's Political and commercial capitals, Abuja and Lagos respectively. Was it a coincidence or a deliberate plan? Is it part of the struggle for power and supremacy? They literarily shut down the two cities, effectively paralyzing meaningful economic activities. They caused so much agony for any one who had business to do in those cities. Many Roads were blocked and the rest were congested with vehicles.

Though no official work free days were declared, there was little work in the Public sector most of the week especially during the Conventions. Many Civil servants could not get to work as they were blocked especially and those who managed to force their way found that they could not be productive. Most of the Public servants, from Ministers to the permanent secretaries and to all the advisers and assistants; all the political appointees of the President,the Governors and local government Chairmen were all away from their offices most of the week. If you had appointments or business to do with Governments all over the Country, you were on your own. It did not matter and no one seemed to care. Does any body know or is any institution of government conscious of how much the Nation lost in the week to party conventions and that which had been lost to the Primaries and congresses in the states earlier on.And this is happening at a time, when income from oil is dwindling and therefore we should be working overtime to diversify our income sources to help close the gap.

If it is only productive losses in the Public sector and loss of business opportunities in the Private sector that we are talking about, that should really cause us much concern, but when we add the direct costs incurred in all these political democratic processes at the expense of the Tax payers, then the matter assumes alarming dimensions. Most, if not all the political office holders, from the President to the Councillors and all their political appointees and aids were sponsored to the various conventions at public expense. The cost of their transportation, Accomodation and out of station allowances were paid by the different governments. These guys are on their 'private ' businesses, so to say and yet they receive out of station allowances or per diem!

Most of these Public servants are automatic delegates to the congresses and conventions and so benefit from the largesse of the contestants and candidates who try to over reach each other by ' lobbying, convincing, convicting' and when necessary out rightly bribing the delegates. When people tell you it is expensive to win elections in Nigeria, they are speaking essentially about the cost of 'convincing' delegates to vote for you at congresses and primaries, payment to the party and its officials( on top and below the line) and to the electoral umpires to cooperate with them when the need arises. Direct expense appropriated to the general electorate is usually insignificant, limited mostly to some entertainment on Television, bags of rice, salt and stock fish and in some cases some small change distributed at the pooling booths. So one would expect that these public officer delegates will bear their own expenses after all the largesse from the different contestants. But no way. They take from the mother and also from the daughter!

In this Country, we declare Public holidays to go and enlist on the voters register, declare work free days to go and verify if our names are on the register, give work free days to go and obtain temporary voting cards and yet another work free days to go and get the permanent PVC voting cards. And yet some people, after all the lost man- hours may never get the PVC cards and some who get, may find their names missing on the list on Election Day! What a pitiful analogue Country! Are we saying there are no simpler ways of doing all these without disrupting economic activities, even in this information technology age. Can't we 'transform' these processes and save money, time and reduce the unnecessary suffering of Nigerians.

Then can we begin to calculate the economic losses that will happen next February, during the elections. Governance and Government business will virtually cease throughout the Federation as most of the Public servants will relocate temporarily to their constituencies. Even the supposedly apolitical top civil servants and heads of Agencies and Parastatals will be required to go and ' deliver' their constituences or wards or LGAs or States as the case may be. Otherwise 'odawogu'. All these people will receive their full pay plus allowances when they are on these partisan assignments. I think, this is very unfair to the electorate and tax payers. This whole arrangement is skewed against the common people of Nigeria who sweat and cringe everyday to eck out a living with little or no support from the governments. They have no gratuity, no pensions, no safety net and have to earn daily wages.

Thereafter, when the elections are won and lost, the incumbents will do the legal battles in the courts with public funds. Then, they will appoint hordes of people into necessary and 'unnecessary' positions, including the PA to the PA and SA to the SA. All in the name of democracy! Guys, we did not invent democracy, can't we go and learn how other countries especially those we aspire to be in the same league with,conduct this democracy business. They do not all hold conventions on the same day and they stagger elections! It does not have to be this costly to the Economy and to the tax payer. If we have people who worry about our Economic growth, more so now that oil revenue is threatened, they should persuade our Political leaders to rethink these redundant political processes and adopt modern processes and create an environment where economic activities will proceed uninterrupted, while we do our politicking. Is this at all doable?

Mazi Sam Ohuabunwa OFR

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