By Ahmad Muhammad Auwal
Since the transition to civil and democratic rule in 1999, Nigeria has witnessed series of ethno-religious conflicts stimulated by different political factors. This has been the major cause of the country’s economic regress and political instability. In fact, politics has never been as tough as it is in the present dispensation. Political activities, as well as electioneering campaigns for the 2015 general elections in Nigeria have taken different coloration from previous ones. Two major political parties, the People’s Democratic Party (PDP) – ruling party and the All Progressive Congress (APC) – the opposition, are the most vibrant in the race to acquire different political offices in the country. These parties are preparing fervently to record success in the forthcoming general elections.
As politicking gets tough day-by-day, the most challenging issue in the country is insecurity, which has been heightened by the insurgent activities of the Boko Haram terrorist group. The group came to prominence in 2009 with its incessant insurgent activities of kidnappings, killings and bombings which have affected both the economy and political stability of the country. Boko Haram attacks have claimed hundreds of thousands of lives, displaced almost half a million Nigerians, destroyed thousands of properties in the Northeastern part of the country and caused several threats to Nigeria’s security.
The most disturbing aspect of the insurgent activities of Boko Haram is the abduction of over 200 schoolgirls in April last year from Chibok, Borno state. The southwestern and southeastern parts of the country also have their own fair share of the insurgent groups which include the Oodua People’s Congress (OPC) and the Movement for the Actualization of the Sovereign State of Biafra (MASSOB), among others. Insurgencies, coupled with different ethno-religious conflicts and leadership failures have been the major challenges to the security of lives and properties in Nigeria.
As commentators and critics have noted, under the current political dispensation, public corruption has become more pervasive in our country than ever before. Almost on a daily basis, the media is awash with news about the high level of corruption in our country. Nigeria has been described as a “weak state,” leaning towards failure, a “crippled giant,” a nation of “wasted resources,” where oil has become a curse instead of blessing to its citizens.
As a state, Nigeria has failed to meet the basic human needs of its population; it lacks transparent and accountable political institutions and it has not produced sustainable or equitable economic growth. What is being experienced today in Nigeria is what most scholars call leadership crisis, leadership challenge, failure of leadership or lack of leadership. In his work titled, The Trouble With Nigeria, Chinua Achebe noted that “the trouble with Nigeria is simply and squarely a failure of leadership. There is nothing basically wrong with the Nigerian character. There is nothing wrong with the Nigerian land or climate or water or air or anything else. The Nigerian problem is the unwillingness or inability of its leaders to rise to the responsibility, to the challenge of personal example which are the hallmarks of true leadership.” Achebe identified tribalism and corruption as Nigeria’s twin evils and “in spite of conventional opinion, Nigeria has been less than fortunate in its leadership.”
The survival of a nation depends on the good leadership and the respect it has for the virtues of democracy. If a true democracy is, as it is popularly conceived, a government of the people, by the people and for the people, it is therefore justifiable to say that Nigeria’s brand of democracy has given the world a reason to think that the basic or elementary principles of democracy are after all, questionable and inadequate in the country.
Regional and faith-based politics have been the key challenges posing serious threat to the political stability of Nigeria. These have been witnessed in the 2007 and 2011 political activities. Politicians of nowadays divide the electorate along ethnic and religious lines. All these are facts that gave some the basis to state that “the country is dancing on the brinks of disintegration.”
The campaigns of the two major political parties in Nigeria have been characterized with verbal attacks. In the media, the two political parties have been attacking each other with derogative statements and sensational advertorials on a daily basis. The question here is: are the media regulatory agencies and professional bodies asleep? A lot needs to be done to control the situation because inciting statements made by politician and hate campaigns disseminated through the channels of communication are capable of endangering peaceful-co-existence, security and the country’s existence as a political entity.
Although it is perceived as “a dirty game” in some quarters, politics should not be fought as if it is war and political parties and politicians need to engage in responsible politics in this country.
Nigerians have so many things in common, which they have shared for so many years. The focus of the electorate should be on which of the candidates has the vision and leadership qualities to resolve some of our deep-seated problems that cut across the ethnic, religious and social divides.
For the future of the Nigerian state to be guaranteed, government at all levels should imbibe a democratic culture which promotes values such as popular participation of citizens in decision-making, fundamental human rights, a free press, the curbing of corruption, and above all, shunning of all anti-democratic vices in dealing with issues of the state.
Importantly, media regulatory agencies and professional organisations must rise against the use of media for the promotion of hatred and intolerance among Nigerians, especially during election periods. Media regulatory agencies and professional organisations like the Nigerian Press Council (NPC), National Broadcasting Commission (NBC) and the Nigeria Union of Journalists (NUJ) need to take measures to ensure that media houses do not broadcast or publish inciting comments and statements made by political parties and politicians so as to save the nation from crises.
I will like to conclude this piece by quoting from the words of the Nigerian writer and Nobel Laureate, Prof. Wole Soyinka who stated: “Let’s say there are prospects for a new Nigeria, but I don’t think we have a new Nigeria yet.” We must learn to live peaceful with one another. God who created us has His reasons for bringing us together in one country and preaching hatred and intolerance among ourselves will not help us in any way.
The words of a former American President, Abraham Lincoln, are instructive here: “Our nation will never be destroyed from the outside. If we falter and lose our freedoms, it will be because we destroyed ourselves.”
Auwal is a 400-level, Mass Communications student at the Nasarawa State University, Keffi, Nasarawa State.