For the want of a nail the shoe was lost
For the want of a shoe the horse was lost
For the want of a horse the rider was lost
For the want of a rider the battle was lost
For the want of a battle the kingdom was lost
And all for the want of a horseshoe nail
The above rhyme frighteningly sums up what has been happening to Nigeria’s hard-won democracy as it is being desecrated by a band of politicians whose guiding principle is self, driving force is power and inspiration is lucre. As we travel towards another era of political war and the sharing of the spoils thereof, the politicians are again at each other’s jugular as they jostle to grab every opportunities.
In the quests for individual diadems, they brook no obstacle. In fact, in the altar of politics, nothing is too sacrosanct to be sacrificed. That much has been in display of late in Nigeria. Governance has since taken a back seat, where they ever existed. It is now politics, dirty, grimy, soulless politics.
See the mess they have made of political party’s internal elections. See the shenanigans all over the land, in many state houses of assembly such as Rivers, Edo and lately, Ekiti and Ebonyi. At another level, the police, under the control and authority of the Executive arm are being used to lay siege on the National Assembly through the attempt to frustrate and stampede out the Speaker of the House of Representatives.
The event of last Thursday, where the speaker and other legislators were denied free access to their offices and later tear-gassed by the police, remains the greatest assault on democracy. Every time I train or talk to people about democracy, I stress the fact that the existence of the legislature as an independent arm of government is what defines democracy. This is as opposed to the era of the military where the other two arms of government – Executive and the Judiciary existed. Thus, the Legislature is the engine room of democracy. An attack on this therefore is a clear attack at the very foundation of democracy.
It insults the sensibilities of Nigerians for the police to do what they did and the president’s spokesperson, Doyin Okupe, claims the presidency has no hands in it but that the police are doing their legitimate duty. Nigerians have had a harrowing experience watching acrobatic displays by desperate lawmakers who had to scale fences to gain access into the National Assembly. We watched as news reporters struggled to report the news in tear gassed environment, coughing and choking in front of television cameras. We saw legislators panting, clothes torn and some close to fainting for the same reason. And I kept wondering, what if someone had dropped dead as it happened in 2007 with Dr Aminu Safana in the House after one of the fighting sessions?
Someone asked why Speaker Aminu Tambuwal and the other fence-scaling representatives did not just turn back home rather than put on such ‘un-parliamentary’ displays. Truth is if they had been unwise enough to do so, they would have been done with. Later when the House sat, I saw a few of the PDP bigwigs like Deputy Speaker Emeka Ihedioha and Leo Ogor in the chambers. Who knows if they would have done the abracadabra of leading a few legislators to claim to remove the speaker had he and his supporters not forced themselves in there? And that is what just happened in Ekiti state where seven members claimed to have removed the speaker in a 26-member House and the state governor now recognises the criminal leadership of the House.
And while all these happen, there are many loose cannons in government circles mouthing political obscenities and sounding drums of war. The latest is Governor Ibrahim Shema of Katsina State shown in a trending online video, describing the opposition to his political party in the state as ‘cockroaches’! Yes, you read that correctly. It was the same description of hate used in Rwanda during the 1994 genocide. And just like in Rwanda, the man in Katsina was in the video urging his supporters to squash the ‘cockroaches’.
Pray these politicians don’t destroy this democracy by first losing the nail.