The South-East and the judicious use of their voting power, By Uju Okeahialam


The veteran American Politician, Tip O’Neill, described his approach to politics by publishing on the title that “All politics is local.” One sees a spirit of that assumption at play where some politicians defy party position to stand on what their constituents want.

One sees it also when politicians ignore public endorsements of their candidacy from a prominent party figure (president or not) who is unpopular with their constituents—talk less of allowing them to come and campaign with and for them. The same spirit often has the tacit endorsement of party hierarchy when candidates are told to ignore some highly controversial positions held by their parties but which are unpopular in those particular communities.

That is why people like Senators Kyrsten Sinema and Joe Manchin could hold back their votes for what Democrats call President Biden’s signature agenda. They did so not because they wished the failure of President Biden, but because they could not sacrifice the existential needs of their constituents on the altar of party interests. And it is basically, because they know that their own political fortunes rest on supporting what their constituents want—after all, they are representatives of their people.

A careful observation of this classical political strategy, it appears, is a memo that many Nigerian politicians have not received, read, or applied, especially in the South-East geopolitical zone. Therefore, the aim of this piece is to adduce some reasons why the idea of the localness of all politics have not permeated the Nigerian political space, and why the political actors from the South-East who have publicly shown a disregard of the ideology should not be voted for in the forthcoming general elections. There will be no effort to launder the candidature of Mr. Peter Obi here as some may assume with a title tilting towards the South-East.

That endorsement had been taken care of with four previous publications. It will be important to simply follow the argument here with the intention of using the assurance from INEC of the forthrightness of the 2023 election to prove the power of the people to claim the localness of all politics.

At the heart of why Nigerian politicians do not accept the localness of all politics is the unspoken belief that we are not yet a democracy, a government of the people, for the people, and by the people. Several party officials and most candidates do not get their mandates as officers and flag-bearing members of the party through open and non-controverted electoral process.

Some parties do not have a unified executive body with the result that the various executive bodies run parallel primaries and elections. In the process they present different candidates for the general elections. In some places there are no official primaries held; yet bogus figures are announced as voting in the sham primaries. At other times no primaries are held, no bogus figures are published, yet candidates are presented as flag-flying representatives of the party.

Nigerians should also not forget in a hurry the role of the courts in the sabotage of the localness of all politics. Once a governor reigned who did not campaign and was not on the ballot on the election day on the logic that victory belongs to the party and he was the original candidate produced by the initial primaries. At the same time when a representative changes political party and is challenged, the same court adjudicates in support of the candidate and not the party. What of the governors who gained victory through the courts whereas the electoral body found them deficient on the election day? What about the objection of INEC on the illegality of a candidate who, under duress, got the electoral umpire to declare him winner? Regardless of the bad precedence, INEC warned, that could create, they were ignored by the courts. What about the jettisoning of concluded party primaries in order to accommodate someone else who did not take part in the duly INEC monitored primaries? And there are many other illegalities like that.

The Electoral body herself enjoys a near-divine status and sometimes tries to share electoral victories like gods to whomever they wish—a claim the biblical tempter made while trying to get Jesus to switch his loyalty from the heavenly God. Severally, it is assumed that elections in the country are not so much about the people’s choice, but the one the Electoral body chooses. Do they always stand their grounds in defense of the electoral laws on primaries and how candidates emerge? Do they always and immediately issue return certificates to those declared by the people or the courts? Do they always supply evidence from their systems to the courts when such would have turned victory to the people’s choice against their anointed choice?

What about the security forces? Do they always maintain the peace and revere the sanctity of the electoral process for the people’s choice to emerge? Do they take part in intimidating the people in order to grant unfair advantages to those they are more connected to? Are they unable to neutralise the thugs that come to snatch the ballot boxes? How often can it be said that they exhibited the comportment of hear no evil, see no evil, and speak no evil for the emergence of something or someone that the people have not chosen? The above and more, prove the fact that the system and its operation do not see the sanctity that all politics is local.

Political powers in the Nigerian political space is granted by some forces in the electoral umpires, the courts, the security outfits, and some cabals. Therefore, the smart politicians in Nigeria do not always come to the people with sincerity to solicit for their votes. They do not always want to engage the people through unbiased debates so that the people can discover whose ideas align with their interests. All they do is to try to win the appeal of the forces they imagine will help them get in.

Consequently, they do not serve the interests of the people whom they claim to represent, but those of the forces they imagined brought them to occupy the exalted offices. The summary of these is that when people in leadership know that they do not depend of the people to get to political power, it will be unthinkable for them to insist on the local interests of the people. It is true that as people in leadership there may be somethings they know that the rest of the people may not know—things that call for some levels of “give and take.” However, no one compromises with the core interest of the people he or she represents. Doing so means that they don’t believe in that core and are deceiving the people for their selfish interests or they are bad negotiators, to say the least. Any of these form the hinge on which this work also argues against the re-election of all PDP and APC Congress men and women of South-Eastern extraction who are supporting the platforms of their parties against the core interests of their marginalized people.

In the Nigerian political space, the people who have suffered more from the hands of a political class (with less concern for the need of the people) live in the south east. Despite the bloodletting in the region occasioned by the acts of the herdsmen, the unknown gunmen, and those of the other wielders of the instrument of force—giving the many rounds of nomenclatured military dances—these so called representatives saw no need to strengthen the security network to protect their people.

On the other hand, their forces only attack the spontaneous apparatus that emerged to fill the gap of their inaction. Instead of tapping into how the group’s presence can be harnessed for a greater good, they embarked more on how to neutralize them to inefficiency. As a result, the region has witnessed more bloodletting with claims and counter claims of who is doing what. Their people only wanted a safe space to be and do their business; but at the end the place has known less peace. If they know that all politics is local they would need none to counsel them to perish the intension of going back as their peoples’ representatives, since they failed in guaranteeing the interest of their people.

With many pushing for the realisation of an independent state of Biafra, these political leaders from the region made no attempt to interface with the people for a more superior argument to emerge in the greater interest of the people, even in the existing Nigeria. For them every agitation is an attempt to deprive them of their meal-ticket; and so must be resisted. No wonder the suspicion that some of them aided the rendition of Nnamdi Kanu has survived. They failed to realise that the agitation can be a bargaining chip to get something more for their region from the bigger Nigerian tent—since the agitation arose out of perceived or real sense of marginalisation in the Nigerian tent.

When the cries for restructuring was in the air and with the emergence of a government that campaigned on the same grounds, they failed to take the advantage of that to better the lot of their people. They rather bowed on the altars of those who do not want a restructured Nigeria, against their own peoples’ desires. And I do not blame them because they knew that it was not the peoples mandate that they are holding. For them all politics is not local but means of filling and satiating one’s pockets.

How long can these last, one may ask? The answer is, as long as the people let it continue to happen. This now forms the next aim of this work—recommending that the South-East people should arise during this electoral cycle to vote only for those who understand and accept that all politics is local, since those already there do no uphold that tenet and are bad negotiators. This will entail voting out all the APC and PDP candidates who presently occupy political posts and are seeking another term or a fresh mandate. This is because if they did not fail in securing the people from the bloodthirsty herdsmen and the ravages of the unknown gun, they acquiesced to let someone from another region be the presidential candidate of their parties without their registering their disdain. It is not enough to show that you equally contested for the position but that you failed to negotiate successfully on the interest of their marginalised people whose position is supported by equity, justice, and fairness.

Although some of them acquiesced on the acclaimed saying that politics is a game of numbers yet there is no homogeneity in the voting pattern of Nigerians. Consequently, politics is also a game of intelligent lobbying and negotiations to convince the other on the justice of one’s cause. If these men and women who pose as the preventatives of the people are not able to convince the political class from the other regions after all these years of democratic politics two reasons can be adduced. It is that they are not trusted by their politician colleagues or that their people are not trusted. If it is that their people are not trusted why did they resist the cry for an independent Biafra? Does that mean that they seek the slave status for their people forever? If on the other hand it is that they themselves are not trusted, then it is time for the people to vote in those who can be trusted and who can successfully negotiate for the interest of their people in the public square—knowing that they are true representatives of the people; and who, because all politics is local, cannot endure in the political space if they fail their people.

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