“First they came for the Socialists, and I did not speak out—
Because I was not a Socialist.
Then they came for the Trade Unionists, and I did not speak out—
Because I was not a Trade Unionist.
Then they came for the Jews, and I did not speak out—
Because I was not a Jew.
Then they came for me—and there was no one left to speak for me”.
The above popular quote of Pastor Martin Niemoller came home this past week as senators from the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) cried foul at the outcome of the ward congresses conducted last weekend by their party. The point must be made straightaway that none of the political parties in Nigeria, not the least, the PDP, has a reputation for free and fair democratic process. So really expecting the outcome of the party’s congress to be without complaint was asking for the impossible.
But then, Senators in Nigeria see themselves as a highly privileged lot, and they are. In fact they are over-pampered by a society very weak on standards and accountability. So our senators often find themselves riding high horses. To rub it in, they cannot do with merely being called senators, so they embellish their title and massage their egos with the epithet, ‘distinguished’, thus creating the superbly hollow title of ‘distinguished senator’ or simply, ‘distinguished’.
In another breath, being in the ‘ruling’ party, just like being of the ‘ruling house’ in some traditional chieftaincy traditions means that you can ride roughshod over others and even get away with blue murder sometimes, still because of our weak standards and system of accountability as a society.
Now, imagine that someone is not only a ‘distinguished’ senator but also member of the ruling party, PDP in Nigeria. That is a combo of privileges too awesome to imagine. Such people would literally be walking on air, not just riding on high horses. But for anyone who knows a thing about high horses, a time comes when their riders get down, either of their own volition or forcefully. When that happens, they realise how things feel everyday for those who cannot afford horses like them.
That is what happened to some PDP senators after the ward congress which indicated that the may be on their ways down their high horses. It turned out that those who did them in were their state governors, who, having amassed much larger electioneering war chests than the senators, hijacked the typically skewed and inherently undemocratic process in their parties. As many of the senators seek fresh terms in the senate, the governors; being on the homeward coast of their maximum two terms of four years each, have taken it upon themselves to demand a ‘right of first refusal’ as senatorial candidates.
It is all too laughable but that is Nigeria for you. First, the governors, just like the president and/or their supporters claimed that doing a second term in office is a given ‘right’, once they are sworn in the first time. Now, the governors have decided to push their luck farther by suggesting that after eight years as governor, they must be crowned with the senate seats as part of a retirement package. That is where the interests of the tin gods called state governors and those of the senators have collided and as is often the case with our politics, the interest of the persons with the deeper pockets (never mind the source) prevails, unless upturned by another interest with a much higher war chest, in this case the president. And that explains why the sulking senators were pushing him. And not wanting to upturn the applecart, he reportedly agreed on a ‘sharing’ formula whereby the governors get a senate seat they want and allow two senate seats for sitting senators. And the people? Who says they matter in political party equations here?
Many citizens have suffered in the hands of these tin gods in the states and the senators did nothing because they were not at the receiving ends. Often they dined and wined with their governors. So why are the senators sulking now simply because they have been outfoxed by smarter foxes? Oh please, these senators should let us be? All along when they were on chummy-chummy basis with their governors, sucking up to them and getting sundry benefits and support from their state coffers at the detriment of the citizens, we never heard of it. So now that they are suffering there are few people to speak up for them. As politicians, these same senators have helped create the very unfair and undemocratic cabal headed by governors. Interestingly some of these sulking senators are themselves former governors who wielded similar powers upon which they made themselves senators.
The sad fact about all this bickering is that the people and their interests do not matter at all. State governors and senators are fighting for elective positions between themselves and none is talking about wooing the people to vote them in. That sadly is how they play politics here and it is called ‘democracy’, their kind of democracy. Until they allow true democracy prevail, they will continue to suffer like this.