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Nigeria’s Political Culture And Elections

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The current global concern for Nigeria’s political growth has continued to call for a review of the nation’s , electoral system with its political culture. This was a major focus of Obama Administration during Acting President Goodluck Jonathan’s (now president) visit to Washington D C few weeks ago.

During a meeting with the United States Council of Foreign Relations, President Goodluck Jonathan promised to clean up the nation’s Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) and to put credible people there who would raise the stake for a free and fair election in Nigeria.

This seemed fair and laudable indeed. But as experience has shown, it is one thing to declare an avowed intention for free and fair election and another to bring it to reality. One major constraint that has over the years continued to hinder our electoral system and success with democracy is our parochial or minimal political culture.

Anthropologists have identified three segments of a nation’s culture, namely behaviour patterns, artifacts and belief system. It is from these clusters of beliefs, attitudes and opinions that a nation’s political culture emerged. This is because political decisions are not made in a vacuum. They are made within the context of institutional arrangement that reflects the societal values, attitudes and political mores.

Political scientists look at it as shared  values, attitudes, belie political institutions. The characteristics of a particular political culture are important variables in helping to answer some fundamental question about behaviour that leads to stability or instability of a country.

If we consider Machiavelli’s view of political culture and conduct of election and Mostesquieu’s conditions for democracy, we may raise a brow against Nigeria’s quest for a free and fair election. Machiavelli

believed that to have a sound political culture, the actual conduct of politics and the “moral habits” of citizens must coincide with the norms of behaviour prescribed by state’s constitution.

The 1999 Constitution of Federal Republic of Nigeria provides such condition. Embedded in it are: It universal Suffrage, representative government through competitive political party system, a presidential form of government based on the principles of separation of powers and checks and balances, to mention a few. All stable and successful democracies depend on these

But it is not enough to have these features in our constitution. Montesquieu provides a link between the constitution and value system. Looking at a democratic society, he concluded that its main features may not lie in any neat institutional arrangement but in the spirit or intention behind them, not in the laws but in the spirit of the laws.

By implication, the political parties which organise millions of citizens in terms of shared values, common identities and overlapping interests are the fulcrum for expressions of nation’s political will and for exercising this “spirit of the laws” They stimulate interest in politics and educate the public and the uninitiated about outstanding problems which require solutions. They crystallise opinion and create consensus and will that are the basis for conducting an election that should reflect the spirit behind the constitution.

But it is there that the good story often ends, When the party banners are carried into the political combat of election, it becomes a theatre of the absurd. The repetitive patterns of electoral violence, rigging, falsification of popular vote and disenfranchisement breathe hatred and alienation into the political arena.

This is further compounded by PDP’s dominance of our political party system, even though our constitution has no provision for one party state. This has gradually developed into a warped version of authoritarian democracy in which PDP has become intolerance of opposing opinions of other parties. It was worse during Obasanjo regime. Was it not then that we began to hear of do or die politics, a view of politics that disregarded the “general will” and constitutional provision?

What are the effects of this on our political culture? First, it has kept it on a cross road between subjective and parochial .Winning an election becomes a question of using corrupt method to deliver votes to the dominant or incumbent party. Secondly, citizens maintain passive relationship to the system because their votes don’t count. It cannot count when thugs unleash terror at voting centers, cart away ballot boxes and stuff them with fake voting cards. This keeps people from developing the right political attitudes and role that will make them loyal and patriotic.

I usually leave polling booth not in high spirit but in a state of shock or morbid gloom because like most voters I am powerless to exert any real influence in politics. I have been unable to determine who should rule me. Every election in Nigeria has been characterised by similar experiences: Is the procedure for transferring power from one government to another right?

Certainly, President Obama and members of his Council of Foreign Relations might have contemplated similar question. It was good that Acting President Goodluck Jonathan promised them an electoral reform that would swing Nigeria to the positive side of a true democracy.

Mr. Goodluck Jonathan has a lot more to do to guarantee that. Nigerians need a political transformation that will shift our political culture from its narrowness to an active and broad culture where voters would no longer be bullied out of the polling centers. We need a political culture in which people will see politicians working not for selfish or parochial interest but for the public good. We need a political culture that will help us develop the right political attitude and role for loyalty and patriotism. These will raise our political behaviour above the prevailing rigging, chaos, uncertainty and violence that raise global concern about our political culture.

Otonna rides in Port Harcourt.

Victor Otonna

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Opinion

Policing The Police

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But for my intervention a few days ago, a woman in distress, alone in her car and a police man, with finger on the trigger of the gun he had, and sitting in the front of the woman’s car, would have had a forced labour. What was the woman’s offence? – “Driving one-way”! The police man was so inexperienced and naïve that he was unaware of when a monitoring device was inserted in his uniform. A pregnant woman driving into the Rivers State University (RSU) campus was held up by an armed policeman for driving “one way”, resulting in the police man getting into the car, amidst traffic jam.
The policeman’s name-tag indicated the part of the country he came from and his behaviour spoke eloquently about his level of perception. Despite telling him that the person he was interacting with was a CSP, the policeman insisted on all of us driving to his “superior officer”. The empathic superior officer who knew the identity of the intervening civilian, advised the gun-carrying policeman to make an apology and let the matter end there, sans brown envelope. The distraught woman drove into a clinic less than fifteen minutes after.
This matter is being brought to public attention because of rising estrangement between the police (who should be friends of the public) and the civilian population. The sad image of the police has become such that many of them wear the uniform only in their offices when on duty, so as not to be identified as policemen or women. Similarly, ex-police officers feel ashamed to admit that they were once police officers. What accounts for the odium?
Firstly, to cut off one’s nose, to spite one’s face, is a great folly. Despite the “no victor, no vanquished” slogan after the Nigerian Civil War (1967 – 1970), the best-trained and most highly experienced police officers in Nigeria were cleverly frustrated and weeded out from the job. They were replaced with quickly promoted, poorly trained and local authority police personnel. The result was a drastic fall of the status and professional efficiency of the Nigeria Police. So, we deserve what we have currently, since a smooth transition was not allowed to take place. You can’t have your cake and eat it!
Secondly, there are glaring evidence and proof of “toxic” postings and deployment of police personnel across the country, whose ulterior motives are not lost to discerning Nigerians. Recently there was a private investigation involving statistics of deployment of divisional police officers in the southern part of Nigeria. The result of that enquiry was quite instructive, nor could the motives of such postings have been accidental. One flaw in our management system is that we do things believing that no eyes are seeing or watching. A good example of this obtuseness is the inability of a policeman to be aware of someone installing a monitoring device on his uniform. Yet he was busy threatening, finger on trigger!
Thirdly, long years of military rule obviously altered the psyche and attitude of Nigerian masses. Soon, the belligerence and attitude of impunity, which are associated with military culture became a standing lifestyle of the Nigerian masses, generally. This aberration has not ceased to be a devouring cancer in Nigerian social culture. The results of this anomaly include growing militancy, brashness and lawlessness bearing a common name of indiscipline.
What we call corruption in Nigeria has a unique history and development, and, like a cancer phenomenon, infects and seeks to destroy remaining healthy parts of the society. Without mincing words, the civil war provided great and unstoppable opportunities for various aberrations to have strong foot-hold and anchor in Nigeria. The euphoria of victory did not allow what lurked behind that national experience to be discovered. The military, unwittingly became the midwife for the enthronement of a cancerous anomaly.
A few people, who saw the dangers ahead, did propose the adoption of diarchy or combination of military and civilian government as a solution to the Nigerian dilemma. When that proposal could not be accepted by the Nigerian masses, the military top hierarchy devised what it knew best — setting up of a booby-trap! As astute strategists and tacticians, the military allowed Nigerians to have a “toxic” 1999 constitution, designed by astute spin-doctors. Like the gift from voodoo masters, Nigerians received a parting zombie-gift that transmogrified into our current political economy. Serves you right!
The standard-bearers of the “Greek-gift” of the outgone military, are the Nigerian security and intelligence apparatus, which politicians and their various parties cannot do without. There is also a need to give the hint that the matter was not solely a Nigerian affair, thanks to global oil and gas politics and capitalist economy. When we add these antics and shenanigans to the growing influence of Islamic global brotherhood, what we have can be interpreted best with reference to Afghanistan experience.
Apart from contending global power blocks and interests, the Nigerian political economy is caught in the web of vicious global politics and economy. With oil and gas as the mainstay of the Nigerian economy, we should be asking why, for example, the value of the Nigerian money, the Naira, should continue to decline; Why over 80 percent of Nigerians are poor and hungry, in the midst of obscene affluence for a clever few! Why is there growing state of insecurity in Nigeria, and why such hypocrisy! Are there no sponsors of insecurity! Why! Who?
With a gun-carrying policeman earning less than N80,000 as monthly salary, and having perhaps two wives and five children to cater for; how does he cope with the current economy? Are some parts of Nigeria not bearing a heavier burden of supporting the nation’s economy? Would a policeman not lobby to be posted to a greener pasture or juicy duty-post? In the peculiar economy of the nation, can those who hold the power of command and postings not be selective who is posted where? Why are there oppositions to restructuring, sane dialogue and state police, among other agitations?
Policing the police would require more than mass protests against police brutality, public complaints commission, etc. Neither would monthly lectures for police personnel and pontification connected there with, help matters. Apart from total restructuring and overhaul of the entire security network, all personnel should be posted to serve in their home states for the next two years. Later the police, security and intelligence organs of the establishment must face some probe. Defective structures collapse eventually! Dr Amirize is a retired lecturer in the Rivers State University, Port Harcourt.

By: Bright Amirize

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Opinion

Check Activities At Eleme Junction

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Eleme Junction connects the Aba-Port Harcourt Expressway, East-West (from Eleme), Oyigbo and Igbo-Etche Roads.
It houses many motor parks through which people travel to and from the state – through Igbo-Etche to Abia, through Eleme to Bori, then to some riverine communities like Andoni, Opobo, among others. Cross River and Akwa Ibom States also use the motor parks as well as people travelling to other parts of Nigeria.
The popular Wednesday Oil Mill Market, the Fruit and Vegetables market, the newly built Air Force Market by Igbo-Etche junction, Wazobia market and the Phone market opposite Oil Mill Market are all sited there.
Banks, petrol stations and other genuine businesses go on at Eleme Junction.
Vehicular and pedestrian movements are very high. 
Despite the recent lockdown of Oil Mill Market by the Rivers State Government due to Covid-19 pandemic, the area has remained busy.
Since the flyover bridge was built, the usual vehicular traffic had disappeared making motorists comfortable while driving from one destination to another. But below the bridges have become a home for many hoodlums. Unknown persons have continued to make the place uncomfortable for others.
On daily basis, different groups of young men emerge from unknown routes harassing innocent passersby, defrauding them of their personal belongings. They snatch ladies’ bags, hand phones, including men. They go as far as snatching from moving vehicles in traffic. 
Most early mornings, they search and collect huge sums of money from market women as the latter travel to purchase what they will sell. 
At the end of the day, they go back home empty handed.
These same people are engaged in Agbero jobs which they do on behalf of their principals. Both registered and unregistered touting take place there. Sometimes, they also harass private vehicle owners who may wish to render assistance to pedestrians. 
These groups of people are not of the same tribe. They are made up of different tribes, speaking different languages. Always smoking and looking rough in their dressing. 
They may also be the same people terrorising commuters at the bad spot on Igbo-Etche Road. Hardly any day passes without a record of burgling of passengers’ belongings or kidnappings.
The worrisome thing  is that these groups of people lose control at any little provocation. During the #ENDSARS protest last year, it was these unknown persons who hijacked the protest. 
On that Tuesday night, 20th of October, 2020, when the Lekki Toll Gate massacre occurred, they were busy setting used vehicle tyres ablaze.  Eleme Junction was full of smoke late that night so much that people found it difficult to get to their destinations.
Even postings on social media that night showed how the fire was as high as the flyover bridge. The next morning was a Wednesday when the problem became more pronounced. What was seen as a peaceful protest turned to something else. Between 9 and 10am that Wednesday morning, they had blocked the top of the flyover leading to Aba Road and there was no movement from Oyigbo either. The down part of the bridge was also on fire with thick smoke preventing movement from Eleme to East-West Road. The other part of Igbo-Etche road was not left out.
Within  an hour, a clash occurred between them and Hausa boys who deal on fruits at Eleme Junction. They dealt with Hausa boys and spoilt all their fruits. Different groups carrying various clubs against each other injuring themselves.
As an eyewitness, I ran for my dear life holding my slippers in my hands. Other women were running helter skelter until we escaped through “Nkoro way”. Even policemen on duty around Eleme Junction all took off. Those that were still around there undressed immediately.
This and other disturbances led to the lockdown of that area by the Rivers State Government subsequently. In fact, I commend the government for that bold initiative concerning Eleme Junction otherwise nobody knew what would have happened.
Within few days, most shops in the area were looted during the lockdown as the owners obeyed the lockdown order by government.  The Rumuokwurusi phone market, opposite Oil Mill market was set ablaze and the merchants counted their losses. Till today, I’m not sure it can be traceable to anyone.
Prior to the Yuletide, police authorities had warned that use of fireworks wouldn’t be tolerated, including burning of tyres. During the New Year eve, Eleme Junction witnessed burning of vehicle tyres so much that all the adjoining roads now wear dark looks. Debris of burnt tyres litter everywhere. Passersby try to cover their noses to avoid inhaling the dark dust while  vehicles moved on them. As if they are above the law in that area. 
The question I am asking is, who are these unknown persons? What tribe are they? Who do the Agberos remit their collections to? Because they collect N50 or N100 from commercial vehicles at every loading point. Once the drivers refuse to give to them, they use harmful objects on their vehicles. Do these money get to government? If not, their activities must be checked. 
Although this may not concern Eleme junction alone, other places are also involved. I know that members of National Union of Road Transport Workers (NURTW) usually put on reflective jackets of white and green colours. But these ones do not. So who do they work for?
I’m not unaware that police men and women are posted at strategic points on official duty at Eleme Junction. I think the security agencies should extend their patrol to the bridges which serve as hiding places for some of them when they carry out their nefarious acts.  
The police should not feel that it is not their duty to chase hoodlums whose identities are unknown.  Then if a mini police post can be built there, better. 
Government should, as a matter of fact, check through appropriate ministries and Obio/Akpor Local Government Council to ascertain the identity of those hoodlums whose operation is posing a challenge to passersby and those who carry out their daily businesses genuinely.
Eleme Junction also belongs to a host community. The landlords, through the community development committee (CDC)  should carry out a thorough investigation about the area. This will help curtail their nefarious activities.

By: Eunice Choko-Kayode

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Opinion

Gains Of #OurStateOurResponsibility

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As youths, all hands must be on deck to protect our dear Rivers State in all ramifications. We should be good ambassadors in defending the interest of our state, in ensuring healthy environment and shunning anti-social behaviour that are detrimental to the efforts of government in building a virile state.” – 18 -year- old Miss Sophia Awajibenem Eyitemi Oyibo.
“Our dear Governor, Chief Nyesom Wike is bequeathing a great state to us, the youths. The best we can do to appreciate him is to protect the various infrastructure that is being built and spread the news that Rivers State is safe for business so that we too can get job opportunities that come with investments.”-21-years-old Mr. Anyiam Christian Kelechukwu.
“This campaign is worthwhile because it is not only the Governor and the leaders that are living in this State. The State belongs to all those who live, work, school and do business here. We must join hands to make the State a better place and not pull it down.” – 17- year-old Miss Paago Ziga Praise.
These are excerpts from well articulated and patriotism-inspired essays of the first, second and third position winners of the just concluded first leg of the second phase advocacy campaign initiated by the Pastor Paulinus Nsirim-led Rivers State Ministry of Information and Communications, #OurStateOurResponsibility. The essay competition was limited to teenagers and youths between the ages of 16 and 25 years. It had the theme: “Rivers State, Our State Our Responsibility.”
The date was Tuesday, October 12, 2021. Venue was the conference room of the state Ministry of Information and Communications where attendant speeches of patriotism and commendations were lavished on the untiring efforts of the Rivers State Governor, NyesomWike towards placing the State on a fast lane of socio-economic development. The excitement expressed by participants, their parents, members of the media and other guests at the ceremony, was clear indications of the gains being recorded by the second phase of the #OurStateOurResponsibility advocacy campaign.
The second phase of the advocacy campaign initiative is targeted at to deliberately enlisting citizens’ conscious participation in the Governor Wike’s NEW Rivers Vision of project to make Rivers State investors’ destination of choice and the need for citizens to shun detractors whose stock in trade is to demarket Rivers State.
As an incentive, the ministry gave out cash prizes of N60,000.00, N40,000.00 and N30,000.00 to the first, second and third positions winners while three other winners received consolation prize of N10,000.00 each. In addition, plaques were presented to the first three winners. The overall winner Miss. Sophia AwajibenemOyibo became honorary commissioner for information and communications for 30 minutes and will be the face of the ministry for three months.
In an emotion laden speech, the first position winner of the competition, 18-year-old Miss Sophia Awajibenem Oyibo told the gathering that her participation was influenced by one of the numerous radio jingles of Boma Erekeosima, a renowned journalist and broadcaster of blessed memory, “Love Rivers State or leave her alone. Don’t pull her down. Think what you can do for her. Engage yourself in meaningful activities. No room for gossips. Do something meaningful.”
She recalled the zest and love her father had demonstrated in rendering service to Rivers State as a civil servant. “It is not true that civil servants are nonchalant in their service to the state. Civil servants carry out their duties to Rivers State with utmost priority. It made me to also love Rivers State.
Lending credence to the Information and Communications Commissioner, Pastor Paulinus Nsirim’s repeated call on citizens to shun those who demarket the state, Miss Sophia said the culture of pulling down Rivers State must not by encouraged to persist by anyone.
“This state belongs to all of us. It must not be destroyed because of personal interest. We owe it the responsibility to build and not to destroy. We should be able to tell ourselves and outsiders when we see good things happening in Rivers State because the prosperity of this state is our priority. Governor Wike is doing well and we should be able to say so all the time,” she said while addressing the media as honorary commissioner.
Elated by the initiative of the ministry, father of the third prize winner, Mr. Vizor Imabel Paago expressed delight for the initiative. He described it as a right move that would swiftly change the negative narrative of the state.
Paago, who is a director in the Board of the Institute of Safety Professionals of Nigeria, announced that he had secured the mandate of the governing council of the Institute to partner with the Ministry of Information and Communications by giving the six emerged winners scholarships in basic safety training at HSE levels 1 and 2 as soon as the names were made available to the Institute.
Preceding the presentation of the awards, the state Commissioner for Information and Communications, Pastor Paulinus Nsirim intimated the audience that the vision first launched on July 13, 2019 was informed by the desire to propagate effectively the unprecedented developments recorded by the Governor Wike’s administration through the execution of signature projects and social reengineering that have made remarkable positive impact in the state as against the voice of vocal minority groups that are bent on demarketing the state to scare potential investors.
Nsirim expressed satisfaction that the successful completion of the first leg of the second phase with the emergence of six winners and the overall winner who has been declared the ambassador of the campaign. “With your emergence, the #OurStateOurResponsibility advocacy campaign will now push the message further into the hearts of citizens that indeed Governor Nyesom Wike has turned Rivers State to investors haven and that Rivers State is actually not a theatre of violence as being painted by detractors.”
The commissioner described the developmental strides of Governor Wike in the last six years as unparalleled and revolutionary. “For anyone living and doing business in Rivers State, what has happened in the last six years is like a revolution. Things that they least imagined would happen in the state are already happening because of the ingenuity of Governor Wike who has come to really serve Rivers people.”
Nsirim listed the avalanche of infrastructural development initiatives of the state government in all sectors of the state economy, including education, healthcare delivery, agriculture, roads and bridges, security infrastructure, sports, social welfare development, human capacity development amongst others, saying “Governor Wike is carrying out a silent revolution.”
“I am proud to work with His Excellency, because this is a man who has made Rivers people proud. This government is carrying out a holistic agenda for our people, and I like telling people that Governor Wike is a visionary leader who is committed to building for tomorrow.
“There is no local government in Rivers State that is not feeling the impact of Wike’s administration. He is building all the sectors of the economy for people to enjoy. Rivers State Government under Governor Wike is to ensure that the interest of Rivers people is protected. Rivers State is fast becoming a haven of sort. Governor Wike has redefined governance here. He has made Rivers State the development index for Nigeria,” he emphasised.
Nsirim, who vacated the seat for the secondary school leaver for 30 minutes, said it was necessary to encourage young people, that they can become famous and earn good reputations through hard work, honesty and integrity and not just via ‘Big Brother Nigeria’.
“I got feedback that made me feel very bad about the prizes we were to give the winners. People asked, why would the prizes for an intellectual competition be N50,000, N30,000 and N20,000.
Ibim is Special Assistant (Media) to Commissioner for Information and Communications, Rivers State.

They said, didn’t I see how much they are getting in Big Brothers but that is a sad commentary about our country today, everything is monetised.”
Nsirim, however, said the ministry intends to inculcate the right values through the essay competition and also showcase to the world that the right values can make someone become famous and a model to others. He enjoined the youths to desire the virtues of hardwork, integrity and honesty as the hallmarks of getting to the top in society.
“Our primary objective is to use the winners of this essay competition to showcase to the world that those values of honesty, hardwork, and integrity can still earn somebody recognition and reputation in Nigeria. And that is why these six winners here are going to be ambassadors of a new Rivers State and a new Nigeria,” he said.
Also speaking, the state Commissioner for Education, Prof. Kaniye Ebeku commended the Ministry of Information and Communications for putting up such an informative and educative platform for the Nigerian youths.
He commended the ministry for adopting a rigorous and transparent selection process which resulted in the emergence of the winners describing it as well-deserved awards.
He commended the winners and urged everyone living and doing business in the state to keep a clean record and desist from demarketing the State.
In his speech, the State Commissioner for Youth Development, Prince Ohia Obi admonished youths to ensure they lead their lives making remarkable achievements for themselves and generations to come.
He said that wealth made without content and character is invalid, “take cognisance of the fact that any wealth without content and character is invalid. To develop content is to read and apply knowledge”
“But if you have this content and do not have a good character, respect for the elderly, your content is vanity because it cannot create wealth,” Ohia said.
He expressed gratitude to the State Commissioner for Information and Communications, Pastor PaulinusNsirim and the Ministry for putting up a platform through which the young ones would realise that they could be recognised and rewarded for promoting good value system.
Both Commissioners declared their ministries endorsement of the #OurStateOurResponsibility advocacy campaign and promised to collaborate with the Ministry of Information and Communications for the execution of the project.
Mrs. Stephanie Oyibo, mother of the overall winner, gave thanks to God for the victory of her daughter as the face of the Ministry and ambassador of the #OurStateOurResponsibility advocacy campaign of the Ministry.
She expressed gratitude to the Ministry of Information and Communications for evolving a channel through which the negative narrative of the State could be changed through the propagation of the numerous achievements of the State Government.
While thanking participants, parents of the winners and others who graced the ceremony, the Permanent Secretary of the Ministry, Mrs. Ibiwari Clapton Ogolo said that the essay competition which is geared towards inculcating in the youths the right societal values was the first stage of the second phase of the #OurStateOurResponsibity Campaign which would include, theme songs, skits and finally short films.
Master Anyaiam, Christian Kelechukwu and Miss. Paago Ziga Praise came second and third winners of the competition. Others who won consolation prizes are Jaja Tamunoimiegba Christian, 18 years old, Amarachi Chimezie, 17 years old and Orovwigho Deborah, 16 years old.

By: Amieyeofori Ibim

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