Nigerian Politicians Lack Morals-Jaiye Gaskia

Mr. Jaiye Gaskia, is the Coordinating Director at ThinkAct consults. Mr. Gaskia has had stints with Oxfam GB, ActionAid International, the United Action against Democracy (UAD) and OccupyNigeria. In a chat with Benjamin Umuteme, Jaiye says the spate of defection of Nigerian politicians from one party to another shows that ‘they lack morals and are only there for their ambitions’. He also speaks on a wide range of issues.Happy reading!

The Spate of Party Cross Carpeting, What are your thoughts?

Basically I think it has not been unexpected especially when we get close to a general election in the country. Politicians move only with respect to their personal ambition. As the general election inches closer, as INEC roll out its time table we expect more of this to happen. Politicians move basically on the basis of their own ambition or they specifically declare for those offices in order to bargain for others things and for other patronage from the party. The most significant things about these defections is that it continues to demonstrates the very fact that Nigerian politics is devoid of principles, devoid of integrity, devoid of issues and that Nigerian politicians are bereft of ideas and visions and because they are not visionaries they cannot be committed to any platform because the platform that are available themselves are not on the basics of any principles, people would say perhaps the only hon-our that exist among politicians is like the honour among thieves.

And that is the problem. It is not just that people move from party to party, it is the ease with which they move across the party lines that is worrying. Take for example people have moves from PDP to APC and moved back to PDP and the same applies to the APC. In fact founders of the APC, people who was joint signatories to the application of APC for the merger of the legacy parties are no longer members of the party. Now you begin to wonder where is the commitment, where is the principles, where is the ideology, it tells you that these parties are basically the same that no why people can move that way.

What Is The Implication For Democracy?

There is a general implication for democracy and there is specific implication for citizen’s wellbeing. In terms of the implication for democracy; it simply goes to show that the very structure of the democracy process weak and is being continually weakened by these crossing carpetings because what this does is that it does not allow for the emergence and development of true parties due to the case with which people moved and if you cannot build real political parties that are themselves not just an assemblage of people but platform for articulating vision for the country, and if you cannot build that successfully then the impact is on governance.

It is governance that suffers it means that when parties actually get to power governance will suffer because there is no articulation of what the reason is, there is no articulate of a development plan as there is no articulation of how to overcome the development challenges of the country- that is really the big question here. Even at the national conference of the resolutions of conference is to ensure that politicians pay a more punitive price for cross carpeting. For example, instead of the ambiguity you have a situation where you automatically lose your seat, that seat becomes vacant then INEC holds a rerun election for that seat. You can then ascend power on the platform of the party you have joined. That should impose a little bit of greater discipline on how people move around. But ultimately the real challenge is building parties and not just platform to take power.

Will It Not Be Another Load Too Many For The Electoral Body?

It may look like too much load, but you see when a situation is really terrible then you require drastic measures and drastic measures are usually costly measures. They will be expensive but that is part of the sacrifice this country needs to make to enforce discipline among its political elite. To ensure that its political elites become more disciplined and more focused on the nation rather than among themselves. By the time it is demonstrated that this can be done people will be a little but more circumspect in cross carpeting. There will be a situation were they will learn a new method for negotiating their differences rather than taking the easy way out by decamping. In the advanced democracies people largely vote for parties because the parties have evolved over the years and they have come to represents something and what they now represents approximates to the general interest of the people. People want to see interest groups engage in a dialogue and people can now decide.

Look, for example, at the recent Scottish referendum. Two visions of the future of Scotland were presented and they were canvassed by two different parties. There was a vision of what Scotland will be and also there was a vision that Scotland would been better if it remained part of the U.K. The major reason why the nationalists lost is because they could not articulate a future that would be better. And these who were canvasing that Scotland should remain won because they were able to articulate their position better.

And that is what we expect from our politicians competing ideas. In Nigeria the elections coming up we have problems of insecurity in the country, there is problem of unemployment that has gone haywire, there is the question of the way our educational system has collapsed. What one would expect is a debate on policy. What .alternative by the parties even before candidates emerge campaigning is for candidates parties exist all through. When you issue a statement for example, about the ruling PDP, what we expect as Nigerians is that the statement should not just be a condemnation, it should also odder us an alternative. If you are saying this is not the right way for Nigerians, you should also offer us an alternative so that as citizens we can then engage in that debate because we also expect the ruling party to also justify its policies. But that doesn’t happen. And because it doesn’t happen, it now becomes a moral thing.

There are no differences between the parties. It is not as it party A holds this principles or party his principles. It as not as if I move from party A to party B, there is a moral question about my person. There is really no integrity involved, the parties are the same. It like somebody who is wealthy and has two vehicle in his compound. From what is happening is it not tending towards a one party state? That’s one of the readers of cross carpeting which is actually based on politicians ambitions.

Because of that ambition, you go to where you think your ambition can be realized better. Usually that is the ruling party of the federal level. At the state level that is the kind of thing we witness. There is also a different dynamics that has been involved. This is not the first time that we will have dual alliance. As part of our history we have always have the conservative alliance and the progressive alliance. You had the UPGA alliance and the Nigeria National alliance in the first republic. In the progressive parties alliance against the NPN. The difference now is that what the APC managed to do is to break the jinx of those parties not been able to fixed together into a party which has always happened. Their detection as soon as the election begins they spilt into their component units.

That is what the APC has managed to do by actually taking the step to fuse and then apply for the preregistration of the legacy parties. Because what would have happened is that people have been going back to their CPC to that CAN but now the only option for them is to go to the PDP and these are quite a few of them that cannot contemplate going back to the PDP. For example some people have said the APC primaries are going to tear the party apart. The worst that can happening that you have people who have lost, who will be disgruntled, who may not play an active role in the campaign. But I do not see a Buhari list the primaries and then crossing to PDP but if the legacy parties use still in existence, he would have gone back to the CPC.

So have gone back to the CPC. So in the midst of all these, there is still a possibility that we would actually develop among the ruling elites they will manage and develop the two parties system. The biggest question would be the Presidency over the next two general elections you will see that across the country that there will be changes in states between APC and PDP if these parties remain. It is the presidency that really matters. If they are able to take the presidency, then they would have broken that jinx in the country as change in the ruling party at the federal level which has never happened in a democracy.

Again, it is potential but it’s a potential that is not automatic because the attitude and the ambition of the politicians is very likely to undermine the potential been realized or delay the realization of the potential because right now people are beginning to go each to themselves and their ambition because that is what is driving them right now. The only good thing is that people cannot quickly go and register a political party between now and the general election. You will see that part of the challenge we also have is that the two big parties are a also engaged in a battle to co-opt adopt and swallow the smaller parties. Perhaps like APGA, the Accord Party may field candidates at the state level but who for all intent and purposes are in a alliance with the PDP as far as the Federal level is concerned and you can see them as appendages of the PDP.

Then of course there as the labour party which ought to be significantly different. if you look at all the parties in terms of manifestoes, this was the only party that was established on the basis of ideology and a principle. What has happened in the last 10 years is a different thing entirely. The ideology has been bastardized and the party turned into a stock exchanges, into a trading complex. Some people have said Automated Teller Machine for the leaders of the party to bargain with different politicians that feed disgruntled. Look at Daniel in Ogun State and Opeyemi Bamidele in Ekiti state. They go there with their money, buy their slot and after they have finished go back to their party. In the case of Opeyemi he is saying he want to decide between the APC and the PDP. It might be difficult for him to go back to the APC because he has stepped on toes, burnt fingers that fed him, so he might had accommodation in the PDP.

See Mimiko used the party for 8 years now his second term is going to end and he knows that for his political career to advance there is no future remaining in the party and he can not go to APC so he went back to his party and took his structure. When he came in he took his structure from the PDP to build the state branch of the labour party. Now that he is leaving to the PDP he is moving with his structure leaving the labour party hollow and without no structure the way the met it. and that is part of the challenge and what you will likely see is that there will be a formal split and the p[arty will be controlled by what you call the legacy owners and there will be a faction that will be controlled by those who want to make it an appendage of the PDP.

The Court Judgement, What Do You Make Of It?

There are two dynamics involved in this. Initially, this was an originally plan of the Nyako Camp. On the basis of technicality the judgment was expected. It was sound the cause the constitution is very clear who the receiving authority is in the resignation of the deputy governor, it is to the governor, it is not to the house. If the house purports to have such a resignation letter, the challenges was that present that resignation letter. Secondly, if the house had the resignation letter it ought to have been forwarded to the governor because the receiving authority is the governor. Initially, my suspicion is that the action is by Nyamko camp, ‘rather than two of us be impeached at the same time, say that you have resigned. Resigned in a manner that is unconstitutional so that we can bring you back later’.

Between when the plan was hatched and now a lot of things have happened, people have gone back to PDP as it seems-even the Ngilari-that is why I think the other dimension, the PDP using it as a ground design now coming through all of that is also the lack of principles and integrity of Nigeria politicians. Again if it is all about personal interest and ambition that I suspect too that it is very likely that the former governor (Nyako) may also win his case because again the ground is that he was not personally served-this has been decided in previous impeachment cases.

The service is to the governor the only way you can serve it at the government house gate is that a court grants you leave to serve it publicly. On the ground of technicality, we might still have another swearing-in in Adamawa State. I think that for the APC and particularly the Atiku campaign, they were confident that if the election were held they would win. They also knew that advances were been made to this deputy governor, and so they actually feel betrayed that this is a grand designed by PDP to prevent their losing that election at least to delay and that is why Atiku issue that statement to say ‘this was just a delay of the end of PDP in the states that they are still wait in for them in February.’

The Seizure Of Arms Money By South Africa, Where Did It go Wrong?

Let us ask ourselves pertinent questions if this transaction were legal, why go through the back door. You don’t have to buy the arms from the South Africans, and if this were official, South African states needs to know since the transaction was going to take place in their territory. And given that all of you are signatories to the convention on the sale of arms to the wrong person, it would have required a simple diplomatic discussion before that will happen. Lets reverse the situation, if South African were buying arms from companies in Nigeria, without the knowledge of Nigerian, what would we say as Nigerians what would be the response of our government.

The first $9.3 million why in cash. Every where in the world where such huge sum of money has been transferred in cash it has been because those doing such transactions don’t want the funds to be traceable and if you do not want the fund to be traceable, then it is illegal, how was this money appropriated was it in the budget, the National Assembly is also trying to cover up by saying this was not extra money, it was coming from the defense budget they had already approved. Ok, which line item is it coming from?.

Thirdly, the Ministry of finance say it is not aware of the transaction. How could you use such money without the knowledge of ministry of finance without the knowledge of Central Bank? Without they been aware and also co-approving. If it is coming from NSA office, the Presidency then it is official but if you are actually going to move Nigeria’s money then the ministry of finance and the CBN do have a place where they would sign be force that amount of money can be taken out. That is the simple procedure, in this case none of these was followed. Which lends credence to the fact that these deals where been put together to buy arm yes and largely because people were going to make huge profit from it that they do not want it trace back to them that is why they were doing it in these way. The second one went through a bank.

Some have argued that if the first case demonstrated ineptitude and the propensity for corruption how can you engage such companies both of which are no longer legally registered, that mean you do not do your due diligence before entering into contractual agreement with companies. How can you contract a firm in south Africa which broker arms sale but at the moment you contracted it no longer has that license? Is that the only firm in South Africa, couldn’t you have booked for other ones that were legitimate. Again, it tells us that probably there is something shady about the amount of money involved. If they were legitimate for example it would reflect on the South African Stock Exchange stock and it will reflects through their system and also reflect through our system. But as it now, you are doing business through an illegal company and people are trying to justify that. The most charitable thing we can say about the second seizure is that somebody was incompetent. If you are incompetent at that level and in such a scale you have no business remaining in your position.

There Are Arguments That Its Part Of US Plan To Frustrate Nigeria In The Insurgency Fight?

And why would the US not be interested in fighting terrorism in Nigeria.

They Want To See The Fulfillment Of The Prophecy That Nigeria Will Disintegrate By 2015, Some Have Argued?

Lets assume the US wants Nigeria to collapse. You think that the US wants Nigeria to collapse at a price that would undermine its own security. If they want Nigeria to collapse they should probably fund politicians to say we are succeeding, but to allow terrorism when they know that ultimately the backlash will be on them? We are just simply the territories where the terrorist are over running simply because they cannot operate on US territory but ultimately the target is the US. The people Boko Haram have alliance with their ultimate enemy is the US empire. So why would the US want that to develop in its backyard called Nigeria. If the US wants Nigeria to break , certainly it would do it at far less cost to itself.

Think again it’s the laziness of the Nigerian ruling elites trying to blame every body for their own ineptitude. Is it the US that undermines the fighting capacity of the Nigerian Military. Since the return to democracy over N15 trillion has been pumped into the Nigerian Army and they are still having this problem. We have the problem of morale, we have the problem of fighting capacity, we have the problem of lack of equipment. We should ask our leaders what have they done with all of these funds. Does it means the US has been preventing the Nigeria Armed force from buying arms since 1999. Under Obasanjo, there was a military reform programme for 8 years and money was pumped here.

Our international peace keeping role have partly been funded by the US. Let the Nigeria citizens be very clear that this is a failure of our own leadership and that they should stop looking for excuses. Yesterday it was the US, today it is the South Africans, tomorrow it is Cameroun and it will be Chad. Why is it that we cannot keep our own orders. Why is it that security agencies cannot coordinate properly? Is that also a problem of the US or South Africans. That one arm of the Armed Forces is doing something and the other arm does not know. That is a failure of our own leadership. It comes down to the fact that these elites including the military elites, it is about personal turf, personal ambitions and what you can get out of the process, it cannot be about the national interest. The most ridiculous thing that is happening right now is that the defense headquarters is fighting the systems rather than the cause. And they will continue to have these general court marshall because people will continue to rebel.

Is This Not A Dangerous Signal?

Instead of them to actually sit down and ask themselves why is this happening, they are adopting a law and order approach by trying to punish those who are dissenting. It is not just other ranks that are dissenting. Officers are also dissenting, so you should start asking yourself question why are morale so low, why are people willing to turn their guns on their officers rather than the enemy. This was the same thing that happened to the US towards the tale end of the Vietnam war.

Troops started murdering their commanders, they called it ‘freaking’. It was one of those things that contributed to their losing the Vietnam war. So our military should be asking themselves questions: why are the other ranks asking questions. And they are not asking too many questions. They are simply asking if we do this, do you have our back. What is going to happen to their families if they dies. Are they protected, do they have body armour. Are Boko Haram better armed than they are?.And if you cannot answer the questions in the affirmative. Do we expect them to respond. These are the issues that we should begin to look at.

This does not mean the military will not fight indiscipline but the focus should be on something because this indiscipline is rooted in something-the material reality-and unless you correct the material reality, this indiscipline will continue to be a threat to the military and to democracy itself because eventually what might happen is that some young military officers might say they want to get rid of this leadership both military and political, and we will be back to the military rule. People think military coup is not possible or it will not be accepted by the international community.

Yes the international community will not send troops to Nigeria rather they will simply gave conditions and they will sanction them, and once those military coupist announce there will be a transition in 24 months it will be business as usual. So the political leadership should be very weary and worried and understand that it is not just us that they are endangering, they are also endangering themselves. At least even if it is only in their own interest they should do what is right.

What Is The Way Out Of The Situations We Now Find Ourselves?

In the short term, there is an election coming up. The citizens have a major role to play. It is important that as citizens of Nigeria, we should try as much as possible to intervene and makes sure that it is the collective issues that are been discussed and not the personal antagonisms of individual politician. As citizens we have a role to play by bringing our issue up, by ensuring that we engage the political elites on the basis of our interest and not on the basis of their ambitions.

That is in the short run, In the middle to long term I have been convinced before and my conviction further strengthened at the National Conference that this current political elites are incapable of transforming this country because it is bereft of ideas, it completely lacks the ability to generate a new vision for the country. And that, therefore, means this country is at a point where it urgently needs to create a new political elite. And that means the we need to start working towards having an alternative political party because if we don’t do that the end result of all of this is a mutual exertion of these parties, they will collapsed of some sort before we start having some reformation. I think the best way to avoid that is for activists to be political. We are at the junction in our country where the only option is to be political.

Activists Don’t Have The Money To Throw Around, How Can They Get Elective Positions?

They don’t have the money to throw around but what they have which they have never converted into political capital. They have clouts with the ordinary people! And we have made great use of these social capital when it comes to protest when it comes to criticisms of the government. what we need to do is to find a way to translate this into political capital. And we can only do that if we show seriously that we want to build political platforms that are actually different from existing political platforms. We have to start on the basis of principles. We are not going to have immediate results. There has to be a short, medium and long term goal. But the fact is that we have to start now.

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