Esau’s Plate of Porridge and the Nigerian Electorate

Eddy Odivwri

This is election season. Not quite. The national election proper is about eight full months away. But the fever has already seized us. It is not for nothing. Not only has governance been suspended, the smell of the dollar is all over the place. And that is our bane. In a few days, the ruling All Progressives Congress (APC) will have its own presidential primary contest. Twenty four men have been screened for the contest.

The rival Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) had its presidential primary last weekend. It eloquently bespoke of what is to come: that the “digital politics” of today is defined only by cash. No wonder the likes of Peter Obi who would not dole out cash so mindlessly (even though he has it), had to quit.

The collection of nomination form alone from the two leading parties was a matter of financial heavy weather. While the PDP charged N40 million, the APC charged a whooping N100 million, thus raising the bar of the contest beyond the reach of ordinary good men. In an economy strewn with hardship and a punitive economic climate, the demand of such a huge registration fee for a mere political aspiration speaks volumes of how pretentious we are in mouthing our determination to have a better country.

How much honesty can we truly expect from a man or woman who doles out N100 million to buy nomination form, while dealing with the public treasury?

Last weekend, we all witnessed dollar rain. It was heavy. PDP party delegates suddenly became like prized princes and princesses who must be courted with bags and bales of hard currency.  This weekend, the rain might even be heavier as the APC files out for its presidential primary contest.

It is bad enough that the fate of the future of over 200 million people is being determined by less than four thousand people, which questions democracy as a majoritarian rule, yet, it is even worse that the rational reasoning of these less than 4,000 persons is being circumscribed by the oodles of dollars.  At the sight of dollars, the reasoning capacity of the delegates is no longer assured. And that seems the only currency that is considered a legal tender in the electoral market.

Sam Ohuabunwa, one of the PDP presidential aspirants (he scored just one vote) put it succinctly.

When asked if he was embarrassed with his just one vote, he said, not many people will remember their surname when dollars are on the table. True!

So, that is where the delegates have become like Esau. The story was told in the Bible of how Esau, an elder of a twin, had returned from the field one day very famished. He saw his idle younger brother (Jacob) preparing a pot of porridge. Esau could not endure his hunger. He asked for food from Jacob, who saw his brother’s situation as an opportunity for “transactional politics”. He demanded for his brother’s birthright if he must give him the porridge. Foolishly, Esau reasoned: of what use is birthright in the face of this pang of hunger? He staked it without a second thought, and ate the porridge. And so, Jacob became the elder and till today, the contention between Esau and Jacob has continued to haunt humanity.

In the same vein, our political class, represented by these so-called delegates is staking our future on the table, in exchange for wads and bales of dollars (some of which are now being said are fake), forgetting that he who quenches his/her hunger today will sooner or later get hungry again. How can these delegates be so short-sighted as to sacrifice our future because of the momentary allure of dollars?

In my Delta State, I saw a video of how a delegate, on returning from the ‘Delegates’ Voyage’, quickly bought a car to celebrate the ‘harvest’. In the face of dollar, the reasoning faculty of delegates is compromised. They end up electing the wrong aspirants and the consequence is that they will battle poverty, lack, hardship under-development, insecurity, ignorance and all such ill warts of governance for another four years or even eight years, long after the temporary sweetness of the porridge (dollars) has turned sour. And another set of delegates will come, make the same mistakes, and the cycle continues. Who will redeem us from this scourge? 

It has become such a lucrative venture to be a delegate. A tik-tok joke had captured it quaintly when a little boy was asked what he would like to become in the future, and he quickly declared that he would want to be a Delegate.

But inherent in this Delegates’ misdemeanour is the big issue of character, integrity and honesty, all rolled into one.  How can it be explained that delegates will openly collect dollars from each and every of all the aspirants, whereas they know they will vote for just one person?

It was alleged that the son of the former Vice president, Namadi Sambo, Mustapha, who contested and lost his bid to be a member of the House of Representatives, had engaged the services of Vigilante and hunters to recover the N100 million he spent on delegates, after he scored only two votes. First, how did such a “small boy” get the N100 million he spent on bribing delegates?

Again, a social media post, in describing the source of the huge monies being spent by politicians captured it so well: that the huge monies are the money of the people, stolen from the people and now being used to buy the people.  The delegates know most of the monies are stolen from public treasury, so they argue that what they get is just their own little portion from the irrecoverable loot. A vicious circle of sorts.

If they (delegates) deal so dishonestly with the aspirants like that, how and why will they expect that the aspirants, when they eventually win, will deal honestly and rightly with them? They would be deemed to have had their due, and thus should not expect the elected persons to be responsible to them anymore.

Rightly or wrongly, politicians who spend hundreds of millions of Naira or even dollars buying nomination forms, more millions to bribe delegates and even much more millions to campaign, see their efforts as investments for which there must be a bounteous return. Therefore, such politicians are not expected to be exactly saintly in dealing with the treasury when they get into office. The implication is that good and devoted governance will take flight. And the people will suffer, because a few delegates, yesterday, had cadged away the fortunes of the people.

The Igbo and Presidential Cross

Eddy Odivwri

I am gradually losing hope on the future of Nigeria. Now I understand why the late Chinua Achebe wrote that book, There was a Country.

What do you mean losing hope on Nigeria, at a time we are celebrating unprecedented 23 years of unbroken democracy?

Of what use is this celebration of 23 years of unbroken democracy when the country stands disunited? How can a section of the country perpetually be regarded as second-class citizens, that only a few oligarchs have the standing right to rule and govern the rest of us? What kind of democracy is that? In the 21st century? No way!

What are you talking about?

What kind of question is that? Are you not in this country? Didn’t you see how, last weekend, the politicians voted for another northerner, an Hausa/Fulani man to keep ruling this country again, after an Hausa/Fulani would have done eight full years by next May? This is coming against the loud cry for an Igbo President. The two Igbo men in the contest managed to garner just fifteen votes. Yes, 15! One had 14 votes and the other just one vote.  What kind of oppression is that? Are Igbo not Nigerians? Don’t they have the right to also rule this country?

Is that why you are bitter?  Please calm down. Ask yourself why the 100 Igbo delegates at the PDP presidential primary did not vote for their brothers? Ask the Igbo delegates if they believe in their leaders,  if they love their leaders; if they support their own? Is it not a shame that all the Igbo in the five states of South East, plus the Igbo in Delta State and even Rivers State, all dumped their brothers and went plucking dollars from Fulani trees, all in the name of transactional politics?

Is it not said that charity begins from home? So, where is the charity from the Igbo home for the Igbo aspirants? And you are lamenting here. Look, you should blame mother hen first, for exposing the chicks, before blaming the hawk that swooped on them.

But the Igbo in Rivers voted for Gov Wike and…

(cuts in)… so where did that take Wike? Do you know most of the states in the South south voted against Wike? Southerners don’t like their own? Unlike the north! Imagine Aminu Tambuwal from North-west stepping down for Atiku Abubakar from North East. They bond better than the south. Imagine Imo State, the closest neighbour to Wike’s Rivers State voting completely against Wike. What kind of bad belle politics is that?

Before you rant endlessly, find out why Wike’s neighbours dumped him for the faraway Fulani man. Is it from my mouth you’d hear that Wike is generally regarded as a bully, who will ride roughshod over everybody if he gets the ticket? Do you know how harshly he recently tackled and abused the leader of the PDP in Imo State? Do you know how many bridges he burnt with his executive ill manners? You think everything is money? My brother, as they sing in church, it is not by power, it is not by might… How do you expect him to earn or win the support of such people he so openly denigrated? Do you see, in him, the presidential attributes? So, look inwards and find out the things troubling Wike and his Igbo brothers. 

Is Wike also an Igbo?

He is a peripheral Igbo. Does his name not tell you so? Or can’t you see how he recently started wearing the Igbo red cap?

So, if Wike was rejected because of his uncouth nature, was Anyim Pius Anyim not enough gentleman? Did he not have the suave and pedigree of a leader? Why did he not earn the support of the Igbo delegates, at least?

Ask yourself whether Anyim or Sam Ohuabunwa was prepared to spend money. How much dollars did they bring? You plant sparingly, you reap sparingly. A standard law of nature.

 So you mean, it is a contest for dollars or a contest for brotherhood and competence?

Sit down and be asking me JAMB questions there. Did you not hear when they described it as transactional politics? The question to ask is why did the Igbo contestants not mass up their financial muscle to match whoever cash-for-cash, dollar-for-dollar, or Okporoko-for-Okporoko? Are the Igbo not the richest set of Nigerians?  Even the Kingdom of God suffereth violence and the violent taketh it by force, so says the Holy book.  The Igbo must rise up and rally round their own, if the marginalisation jinx is going to be broken. They did it to Ekwueme when the South East governors led their people in 2003 to vote against Ekwueme. In 2019, they did it against Peter Obi as the running mate to Atiku. Now they have done it again against Anyim and Ohuabunwa.  Another contest is coming up next week in the All Progressive Congress (APC) presidential primary. There are Igbo—core and peripheral, in the contest. They should rise above the shenanigans of dollar rain and rally round their own, at least. Even then, there is the ultimate contest next February. The highly-rated Peter Obi is now in another party—the Labour party. Would all these Igbo patriots, ready to serve, be shunned again because of the cash-and-carry politics of today?  As long as the Igbo contestants are laid back, divided and not willing and ready to throw all their hearts into the ring, I can bet you that the presidential sceptre will continue to be elusive and a shadowy mirage.  Will the Igbo carry this cross forever?

Your emphasis seems very strong on ethnic affinity. Should we embrace ethnicity at the expense of character, capacity and competence?

By no means! The point we are making is that there is no part of Nigeria that has an exclusive reserve of men of character, capacity and competence. If it is found in the north, it is found in the east as well. If it is found in the west, it is found in the east as well. And if it is found in the south, it is very much available in the east. What is good for the goose is good for the ganders.

True. But please tell the Igbo to take themselves seriously. Then and only then, will the rest of Nigeria respect and take them seriously. They have made indelible marks in trade and commerce. They can do even better in political governance. Let it not be that the south east will collocate only with IPOB, violence, beheading and mindless killings…. A word is enough for the wise!

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