“Dividends of Democracy” is one popular lexicon celebrated by political office holders in Nigeria. It is an odd grand norm of those in power, be it the presidency, states or local governments, to elevate government schedule of duties to an honour to be celebrated or feast about. This tradition is in itself completely absurd. The celebration of dividends of democracy has risen to the level of a pass time and contemptuous corrupt practice. At any given time politicians deliver on their mandates in form of projects executed with tax payers’ money, a crowd of jobless youth, the media space and time are often rented to celebrate what is simply the reason for being in government. Beneficiary contractors and communities where such projects are sited are not left out in the bandwagon effect as they even go beyond their means to appease and celebrate the politician and the project which more often than not were shabbily executed.
By simply rallying round some community leaders and handing out customised ‘Ankara or T-shirts’ of the man in power, the mostly illiterate populace and gullible public especially women and youths who lack good understanding of governance especially the role elected office holders play join in the fray and are hoodwinked into believing the so called “American Wonders” done by the politicians. The military ruled Nigeria for years and it was visible that they had laudable projects to its credit. The better part of the foundation and current state of the nation today was an aftermath of that regime your perception of that era notwithstanding. They took it for granted and celebrated none knowing fully well that it was a call to duty and service to our father’s land.
An average Nigerian politician has a ‘Vuvuzela Mentality.’ The trumpet blowing syndrome and a haughty sense of nobody else does it better than I do. This underscores the evident lack of continuity in government and the reason for deficiency of purposeful leadership the entire show has often elicited and the ridiculous level of under development witnessed throughout the nation. With pictorials and graphic presentations of projects purportedly done occupying media spaces and time, the truth of the matter is that they are manifest in sheer propaganda and covered with the dark hood of deception. The money spent on the media and the celebration most a times runs close the actual budget for the project so celebrated. A visit to the state where such high quality pictorials of the seeming development emerged tells the direct opposite in the entire jamboree of propaganda and dishonesty. A one kilometer asphalted road, building of a self-contain cottage hospital, construction of boreholes, launch of all sorts of poverty alleviation programmes and even launching of exercise books in primary schools are celebrated with pump and pageantry only for the import of many or all of them to fizzle out few months later.
The famous one kilometre radius tunnel built by former governor of Enugu State, Chimaroke Nnamani, was in that category of propaganda extraordinaire and deception. It was nothing short of an over-head bridge and Enugu people can testify to that sham. So also are other numerous highly celebrated white elephant projects which bore the insignia of wastages around the country. A good product does not demand much promotional spree. It gets desired patronage on its own merit no matter the point of sale. Good thinking is an outcome of a good product. States that are doing well do not need to buy into advertisements or propaganda to be known or noticed. Their works are good testimonials for prudence and diligence in managing available scarce financial resources. The wisdom of putting state resources into the right beneficial projects is a lesson always ignored by those in power. It is so vital that in it lies the fulcrum of development which is abundantly in short supply.
Regular deployment of the paraphernalia of political power and that of the media as a tool and key accomplice to driving home the programmes and intentions of political office holders are not lost in Nigerian political firmament. They often pay their ways through one thoughtful designed media patronage or the other and once such messages are frequently echoed or weaved into a media campaign of say six months through the print and electronic media, it sticks like a gum of truth in peoples’ consciousness. However, when the reality of the political gimmicks dawn on everyone, people become unimaginably furious and disillusioned leading to some politicians being booed, insulted or stoned when they visit their constituencies.
At the heat of campaigns for elective political offices, so many little things matter to politicians and they are as humble as doves. They can stop by an old woman roasting corn by the road side or ‘mama put’ to eat as sign of empathy or humility. They also pledge to do the unthinkable. So many outlandish promises tantamount to the one a man gives his girl at bed time tend to be the order of the day. After the celebration of victory, the voters are shut out completely as the same politician who traversed the length and breadth of remote villages in search of votes zooms pass in tinted SUV’s and police escorts without much attention or concern to the disappointment of all. This unfriendly political culture is annoying and the habit in itself completely silly. Execution of projects for the good of the people is a social contract designed to be fulfilled after elections. It is morally offensive, scorns the law of fairness and in contravention of the oath of the office for an elected officer to celebrate his responsibilities or assume he does the people favour by keeping to his schedules and part of the bargain.
Before elections, a deal to be kept was struck between the electorates and elected. The electorates are always faithful in playing their parts at the polls while the elected shamelessly abandon theirs immediately after inauguration. Paying good attention to investments in human capital development, quality and affordable education, provision of excellent and affordable health care services, availability of class electricity power supply should interest those in government. In these few instances and many more can we be free from the vestiges of penury, want and underdevelopment states and the entire nation experiences. Propaganda is not the answer to societal development. Deliberate and conscientious attempt aimed at executing good and people oriented projects is.
. The writer, Eze is a media and communications specialist is the publisher of thenewinsightng.blogspot.com.