One-party State That Works

Where there is no vacancy, there should be no waste of money


Nothing could be easier than correctly predicting the outcome of elections conducted on the soil of Enugu State. I can, with certainty, state that the candidate of the PDP (or whatever name it chooses to bear) will win the governorship poll in February 2019, and so will all of the party’s candidates for Senate, House of Reps and House of Assembly.

What gives me such confidence?  I know Enugu has since become a one-party state.

The actual contest for positions will occur at the level of party primaries. Accordingly, Governor Ifeanyi Ugwuanyi, who will get the right of first refusal from his party, is almost sure to be re-elected. Deputy Senate president Ike Ekweremadu will return to the red chambers, as will Chuka Utazi and Gil Nnaji. Underperforming reps and assembly members are not likely to fly the party’s flag any longer.

Since we understand this situation, shouldn’t Enugu work to avoid the crises that often bedevil electioneering in the country? The funds to be wasted by the incumbent officeholders and their challengers in futile struggles could be saved and then used to build the several projects crying for attention at this time of endless recession. And I’m not yet talking about some N256bn the federal government has set aside for INEC.

No doubt, a non-performing governor could be unseated in a free and fair poll. We almost did that in Enugu in 2003! Then, we had cause to disagree with the vocalist in a radio advertisement who said “Shi haare ya”. We had ported to APGA the previous year, and our governorship candidate, Mr Ugo Agballah, did win on the strength of actual votes cast; the Nigerian factor reversed that victory, however.

Unlike in 2003, Enugu currently lacks a cantankerous, boastful and propaganda-loving governor. “Gburugburu” has striven to leave a landmark in every nook and cranny of the state and therefore has no real enemies to fight in 2019. All those that have printed or will print posters announcing their intention to occupy the “Lion Building” bear the mark of Nollywood – they are actors. And, indeed, a famous actor from the governor’s zone has been on Facebook and other online media to entertain potential voters. Money hard to get but easy to spend – I read a text with this title sometime in the 1970s.

Lest they misunderstand me, moneybags from the state should kindly keep the machinery of campaigns humming – the boys are hungry and look forward to this period every four years. INEC and political parties make a killing with forms sold at exorbitant prices; why wouldn’t they encourage many to contest?

Not that I applaud having a one-party state. Since 1999 I have, in several opinion articles and newspaper editorials, canvassed multi-party democracy because I know it ensures greater accountability in the running of public affairs. But I have had the entire nation in mind, not a peaceful state like Enugu.

The evil spirit that hampers free and fair polls in the country has yet to be appeased, as evident in the Ekiti governorship poll of July 14. Osun is next: card readers will still malfunction, ballot boxes will still be snatched and stuffed, and politicians will still use supposed security agents and INEC to manipulate election results. Will the judiciary be able to defend the sanctity of polls? Not likely.

The bandwagon effect – prompted by politicians’ penchant for avoiding opposition politics by crossing over to the party in power – has helped to entrench one party in many a Nigerian state. I know it’s cold out there! But politics should be played with at least an iota of principle. Work comes before pleasure. A good politician should be ready to lose some and win some.

When it comes to violence or wasteful spending in elections, ndi Enugu are among the least offenders. They should not change this perception in 2019 or later. We have chosen to rotate political offices peaceably; muscle-flexing is not necessary in the state.

Those who object to having zero opposition could be forgiven, however. I blame it all on the character of the average politician especially in this era marked by mass poverty and unemployment. Being in the ruling party attracts certain privileges: jobs, contracts and infrastructural projects. Failure is an orphan, while success has many friends! As I have counselled on many occasions, many whose eyes are fixed on money acquired by fair or foul means will not get the genuine money that lasts long and brings happiness; they should learn to work as a team in productive activities.

Having all politicians in one party may not lead to unity — there can never be a consensus on any issue anyway. Within each party are the seeds of the opposition too. I believe the winner-take-all syndrome is curable with inclusiveness, and the current governor (Chief Dr Ugwuanyi) scores high marks in this respect. It’s almost impossible for a governor or senator to satisfy the yearnings of even their own party members, but being party-blind and catering to all interests could engender peace and harmony. Debates, competitions, oversight functions – these are necessary in a democracy. When people stop migrating to the victorious party, we may witness a vigorous opposition, as Enugu did in 2003.

Opposition should, however, not be for its own sake. There is no virtue in tearing down whatever poses an obstacle to the realisation of one’s ambition. A state develops more when people eschew destructive politics – the tendency to criticise or refuse to help those who rule to rule well. That’s why some of us have since quit partisan politics and returned to our calling: holding leaders accountable to the people as we engage in a battle between right and wrong.

Every week in this space, I’ll be doing just that. No room for praise-singing. Every issue that concerns our state must be stated in clear, verifiable terms. This is not the time for throwing punches — we’ve got to cooperate and not compete.

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