The resent #EndSARS protest showed the effects and evil of power politics in Nigeria. Legal icon, Chief Wole Olanipekun in his recent interview aptly provide the expression of power politics “starting from the architectural layout of government and governance as wantonly displayed in the constitution foisted on us by the outgoing military government without any input by Nigerians.” The original five main reasons for #EndSARS protest are basically to correct the evil of power politics including the Special Anti-Robbery Squad (SARS) that destroyed all structures for good governance and accountability especially within the Nigerian Police. A retired Assistant Inspector General of Police, Femi Caulkrick described SARS acronym as a national and societal virus. SARS is one of the viruses of power politics laden not only on the Police but every structure of our governance as inherited from our colonial and military rulers bearing in mind that the organisation of Nigeria as a business enterprise is shaped by power politics. SARS viruses in the civil service, in the judiciary, in the executive, in the parliaments, in our education system and even in our religious settings, are responses to the greed and corruption of power politics.
Chief Obafemi Awolowo, in the last chapter of his autobiography written in 1959 warned us that “in determining what our defence and foreign policies should be, we must first of all settle in our minds which of two types of politics we prefer: Power Politics or Welfare Politics.” Chief Awolowo explained that, ‘in the interest of our people, we must never cast as much as a glance in the direction of power politics. In this nuclear, rocket and dollar dominated world we have no ghost of a chance to making any mark at all in this field. The paraphernalia of this type of politics are in themselves bewildering: a mighty array of armed forces whose claims must take pride of place in the disposal of public finances, territorial ambition, an arrogant and blustering attitude in international affairs, well-staffed and luxurious embassies in the more important countries of the world, a foreign policy that is motivated by cunning, chicanery and bad faith, an overpowering desire, stemming from sheer insensate national aggrandisement, to outwit, outshine or humiliate the other nations of the world… This kind of politics will not do Nigeria any good. It would bring miseries to our people at home, and notoriety for the welfare and prosperity of our people would have to be diverted to diabolical and fruitless channels…Nations which indulged in power politics have brought perpetual fear and heartache to their people… It is my submission that Nigeria should regard power politics as a poison, and should eschew it as such. If we choose welfare politics it will be well with us.’
Sixty one years after Awolowo’s warning, in the words of Sir Olaniwun Ajayi, ‘… all the political power there was and has ever been, has been used to promote self-interest and sectional or group interest.’ Dr Leo Magnus, a system engineer and a former Director in the Nigerian Civil Service based on his personal experience cited the Nigeria 1999 Constitution shaped by power politics that promote self-interest and sectional interest as the destroyer of all structures for good governance and accountability. Magnus explained that in Nigeria, ‘once you have access to power, you are above the law… once there is no accountability, there is no respect for responsibility. After all there are no consequences for dereliction. Our classmates in government are unfortunately enclosed in a flawed system.’ According to him, ‘if you refused to get corrupt, you are eliminated either from the job if you are lucky, or completely exterminated.’
My only biological senior brother, Michael Bamidele Obadimeji was not lucky, he was brutally exterminated. The Tribune Newspaper on Wednesday, 11th April 2012 with a publication titled ‘Obadimeji: One death, many causes’ provide a gory story of my brother’s extermination by the power politics in the power system: ‘The controversy surrounding the gruesome murder of Mr Michael Obadimeji, an Assistant General Manager with Ibadan Electricity Distribution Company during a night vigil organised by his church. MARCH 3, 2012 is a date the Obadimejis would `not forget in a hurry. It was the day their breadwinner, Michael Bamidele Obadimeji, an Assistant General Manager, Human Resources at the Ibadan Electricity Distribution Company (PHCN), Capital building, MKO Abiola Road, Ibadan, was brutally murdered on his way to a night vigil. The late Obadimeji, who had just been promoted shortly before his murder, was transferred from Jebba, Kwara State, to Ibadan in 2011 and was due for retirement in three years time. So, the University of Nigeria, Nsukka, graduate had been planning for his exit from the federal civil service. At the time of his death, Obadimeji was a law student at the National Open University of Nigeria (NOUN). But as fate would have it, he never lived to see his dream of retiring into the legal profession come to pass.’ The family trauma till date over the gun ridden body of my brother coupled with our aged mother emotional shock are some of our own price of a flawed structure and system of power politics ‘emboldened by the jaundiced 1999 Constitution.’ The case that should have been transferred to the Force Criminal Investigation Department (FCID) instead of SARS, could not see the light of the day.
After 20 years of democracy, the principal need of Nigeria is more than youth leadership for a new and better Nigeria. Many of our current leaders today started as youths. Our Minister for Transport, Rotimi Amaechi who is now 55 became Speaker at 33, became Governor at 41 and became a minister at 49. Our Minister for Works, Babatunde Raji Fashola, a former Chief of Staff to Asiwaju Bola Tinubu 21 years ago succeeded Asiwaju Tinubu as Governor of Lagos State at 44. Governor Wike of River State ‘has been in power for the last 15/20years.’ Dimeji Bankole was 37 as Speaker, House of Representative. The current Senate President, Ahmed Lawan who is now 61 has been in the National Assembly since 1999. What about Governors Tambuwal of Sokoto, Kayode Fayemi of Ekiti, Orji Kalu, formerly of Abia, Bukola Saraki of Kwara, James Ibori of Delta, El Rufai of Kaduna and many others – Diezani Alison-Madueke, Fani Kayode, Dino Melaye, Reuben Abati, Femi Adesina and many more. The reflection is that, ‘youths have always been in power, they became old in power’ in a flawed constitutional structure and system of power politics shaped by SARS virus especially of ‘the jaundiced 1999 Constitution.’ Power politics is the genesis of our politicians second term and third term syndrome and the current source of our problem. Obafemi Awolowo, Sardauna Ahmadu Bello, and Nnamdi Azikiwe started as youths and we see their legacies till date.
We need a change of mindset and our Constitution from power politics to welfare politics. Using the words of Olanipekun, our constitution need, “a total overhaul, a redrafting, a recrafting, and a total replacement, starting from the preamble to the definition schedule.” Nigeria’s power politics and Constitutional development went through the military and a ‘classic case of the ex-colonial state whose constitutional forms were designed more to satisfy the terms of colonial withdrawal’ and military ideology, hence cannot cope or care effectively with the realities of our own welfare and political conditions. Power politics is about idolatry of power, leadership with no humanity and a plague to any nation. Some of us still remember the SARS virus called “Kill and Go” raised and inspired by power politics to kill, to steal and destroy human life. According to Ecclesiastics 7:7, the oppression of power politics in Nigeria, is one of the major reasons behind the poverty, arsons, violence and the looters that hijacked the genuine vision of #EndSARS protest. Surely oppression makes a wise man mad. No body is born to be a thug. It is the power politics of the elites that makes them. The SARS viruses of power politics today shapes our thinking spiritually, economically, and socially. Take a Nigerian out of Nigeria, he or she flourishes and excels but in our own home many have become thug weaponry in the hands of politicians and brutality of our Armed forces. Dear Nigerian Youths, power politics is a poison, we first need a change of mindset, change of the structure and system for a NEW NIGERIA.