A few days ago, I asked Emeka, a civil servant and a friend, what he thinks about Nigeria’s National Development and the past administration living up to their promises, only to get a response that almost made me weep; he stated that “Corruption remained rampant, funds meant for development disappears, and the gap between the rich and the poor widened.” Emeka himself said he felt deceived and betrayed by those in power.
No doubt, politics in Nigeria has long been characterised by a web of deceits that have hindered the progress and development of our nation. While generally politics is often perceived as a platform for leadership and service, it has become a realm where deceit, corruption, and power play have dominated the landscape in recent years.
Upon asking Faith, a friend of mine, whom I have known for quite a number of years living in Ikeja, Lagos State, She too responded, “Every election cycle brought with it a new wave of promises. Politicians would rally around us, the masses, with their eloquent speeches, pledging to eradicate poverty, create jobs, and improve infrastructure. Like many Nigerians, I desperately cling to these words, hoping for a better future. Yet, as the years passed, little changed’; corruption remained deeply rooted, and the gap between the rich and the poor grew wider. I wondered if the pursuit of power and personal gain had overshadowed the genuine desire to uplift the nation and unite us.”
For instance, corruption has plagued the Nigerian political landscape for decades, with politicians using deceitful tactics to amass wealth and consolidate power in broad daylight. Corruption has undermined our nation’s development, from embezzlement of public funds to bribery and nepotism. In past political administrations, promises of transparency and accountability are often mere rhetoric, as politicians manipulate the system to their advantage, leaving the masses disillusioned.
We are a country rich in diversity, with over 250 ethnic groups and multiple religions. However, politicians often exploit these differences for their gains, using a divisive style to secure support from particular groups. This has been prevalent in past elections and campaigns; they play on religious and ethnic sentiments, creating a dangerous divide among the populace and distracting them from the real issues. This deceitful practice has not only hampered our national unity but also perpetuated conflicts and impeded progress.
Upon close examination, one can discern that beneath the ongoing Boko Haram and terrorist crisis that plagues Nigeria; there are clear indications that corrupt politicians exploit this turmoil for their personal gain. This dire situation can be likened, albeit as an extreme example, to the tragic bloodshed between the Hutu and Tutsi communities in Burundi and Rwanda some time ago and the military and paramilitary turmoil in Sudan. It is crucial to emphasise that this problem originated from specific sources; it is not an inherent and insurmountable aspect of nature. For instance, the Hutu and Tutsi populations resorted to violence only after their political leaders incited them to do so. The genocide was meticulously orchestrated by a small group of unscrupulous politicians with the intention of maintaining their hold on ‘power.’ Election campaigns in Nigeria are often filled with grand and sweet promises as politicians compete and fight for votes. However, these promises are conveniently forgotten or deliberately abandoned once in power, leaving citizens languishing in poverty and a bad economic state. Politicians nowadays are ‘masters’ of deceit, making lofty commitments during campaigns only to prioritise their personal interests and political survival once elected. This cycle of deception erodes public trust and fuels cynicism among the populace, leading to a disillusioned electorate.
Marred by political violence, often orchestrated by politicians themselves, is the day’s order in the political terrains. The recruitment and utilisation of thugs during elections have become commonplace, with politicians employing violence to intimidate opponents and manipulate electoral outcomes, which we have witnessed in the general election since 1993 till date.
According to Al Jazeera’s coverage of the February 2023 general election in Nigeria, Tobi, an eye witness, a Nigerian voter in Lagos state, prepared for voting only to witness on Akerele Street, approximately two kilometres away from the intended voting unit, a distressing incident which occurred around 2:30 pm (13:30 GMT). A yellow minibus stopped near the gate of Falolu Road, and five masked individuals armed with black pump action rifles emerged from the vehicle.
The presence of Nigerian and international journalists witnessing the scene did not deter the ‘assailants,’ who fired shots into the air, causing chaos among the crowd. Displaying alarming audacity, the masked men seized the presidential ballot box and destroyed the remaining two before vanishing. Consequently, voting at this polling unit, which had 934 registered voters, was cancelled. In close proximity, on Adedoyin Road, little evidence remained of polling stations 35 and 36.
The street was strewn with fragments of shattered green glass and discarded completed ballot papers lay trampled in the gutter. Such incidents during Election Day in Nigeria raise questions about the underlying reasons. The deployment of violence undermines the democratic process, leaving citizens and the electorate feeling disempowered and marginalised, vulnerable to the whims of others. This deceitful tactic perpetuates a culture of fear and suppresses genuine democratic participation.
This is also no doubt common over the last 10 years among Nigerian politicians, where party switching has become a recurring trend in Nigerian politics – mostly between the dominating parties, as politicians opportunistically move from one party to another in pursuit of personal gain. This deceitful act demonstrates a lack of ideological commitment and a focus on self-interest rather than the welfare of the people. Such political opportunism undermines the stability of political parties, weakens party ideologies, and fosters a culture of unprincipled governance.
This has occurred for years; for instance, in 2006, just before his tenure with President Olusegun Obasanjo was set to expire, Atiku realised that he lacked Obasanjo’s support to run for the presidency. As a result, he left the ruling People’s Democratic Party (PDP) and joined the Action Congress of Nigeria (ACN). Although Atiku returned to the PDP in 2009, he failed to secure the party’s presidential ticket for the 2011 elections. Consequently, he again announced his departure from the PDP and joined the All Progressives Congress (APC). Atiku cited various reasons for his defection, including the prevalent “impunity” within the PDP. Similarly, Jimi Agbaje was a member of the ACN in Lagos State until 2007, when it became evident that then-Governor Bola Tinubu had chosen Babatunde Fashola as his successor. In protest, Agbaje defected to the Democratic People’s Alliance (DPA).
Remember in 2013, Ifeanyi Ubah, an oil magnate-turned-politician with aspirations of becoming the Governor of Anambra State, left the ruling PDP and joined the Labour Party. Nuhu Ribadu, the former Chairman of the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC), also switched political parties in 2014. Ribadu abandoned the APC to join the PDP, intending to contest the governorship position in Adamawa State.
In 2022, The Punch Newspaper reported that Senator Ajibola Basiru, the Chairman of the Senate Committee on Media and Public Affairs, announced the composition of the National Assembly. According to Senator Basiru, when the National Assembly was inaugurated on June 11, 2019, the All Progressives Congress (APC) had 63 Senators in their ranks. However, recent developments indicate that at least ten Senators from the APC are considering defecting to the opposition People’s Democratic Party (PDP). These Senators are reportedly “dissatisfied” with the APC leadership’s handling of the last primaries, which resulted in them being denied return tickets to the National Assembly.
This also shows that the Nigerian political landscape is often dominated by a select few, the political elite, who wield significant influence and control over our nation’s resources and decided to ‘rule’ for decades, leaving no place for youths and younger generations. Through deceitful tactics, these elites manipulate the system to consolidate power and amass wealth, neglecting the needs of the majority. The result is a grossly inequitable distribution of resources, exacerbating poverty and hindering social and economic development.
The deceits of politics in Nigeria have left an indelible mark on our nation’s development and the lives of us, the citizens, with little effort to alienate this menace. To truly address these issues, there is a need for comprehensive, whole electoral reforms from the 1999 constitution as amended, transparency and accountability mechanisms in the system and the cultivation of ethical leadership. As citizens, we also have a crucial role in holding politicians accountable and demanding genuine change in the office and after office – or holding certain political positions, perhaps not because of us alone but our children yet unborn.
Personally, enlightenment by staying informed, engaging in constructive dialogue with ‘politicians’ and actively participating in the political process are among the few major ways we can take our nation back; we can help dismantle the deceitful practices that have hindered our nation’s progress for far too long. The path to a better future lies in dismantling the deceits of politics and building a system rooted in transparency, all-inclusivity, and true service to the people and one another. Only then can we usher in an era of progress, unity, and prosperity for the entire citizen.