From journalism to politics, the principle of looking at issues from the angle of public interest is a vital and valid policy. Current experience of defection from one political party to another by honourable politicians and the shenanigans associated with such antics deserve to be looked into from the angle of public interest. The public in this case should be understood to mean long-suffering Nigerian masses languishing in hunger, penury and agony.
Politics as it is currently practiced in Nigeria is a game of graft, mendacity and meanness, whereby public interest is a camouflage for private interest. After the brutal murder of Dele Giwa many years ago, Nigerian journalists have learned that personal safety and security should not be sacrificed for public interest in reporting or commenting on sensitive issues. Defection or carpet crossing in Nigerian politics is an old strategy which rarely has anything to do with public interest. Rather it is a game of survival and relevance in a cash-and-carry political culture.
What is in public interest in the unfolding drama is the fact that there is a greater awareness and awakening on the part of Nigerian masses, enhanced by the defection strategy. Like an old whore with wrinkled face and skin, political fortune hunters become jittery when old charms lose their glamour and appeal to customers. The APC wind of change has succeeded in exposing the rump of the hen, like the ugly nakedness of an old whore.
No amount of cosmetics or meretriciousness can mend the ugly exposure brought about by change. Nigerians have been abused and bribed with money; bamboozled and intimidated, cheated and deprived of their pride, to an extent that they are awakening from slumber now. The likelihood is that further abuses would result in calamity. Politicians and their collaborators who had amassed wealth and own property in and outside Nigeria are aware that their secrets are no longer secrets. They are jittery and fish for sympathy.
Like a blind man who had been abused and taken for granted for too long, long-suffering Nigerians have developed hypodermic vision, enabling them to know the antics and secrets of their tormentors. Defection as a political gambit, is an instrument of appeasement, negotiation, relevance and evasion of justice or exposure. Like a gamblers’ last card, defection is an act of bravado rather than an act borne of personal conviction.
In a cash-and-carry political system, neither political parties nor those who use them as vehicles of plunder and depredation, benefit maximally from the defection-trick, but the masses. It promotes mass awareness, depicting politicians in their whore-like nature and serves as a harbinger of things to come. The shape of things to come may be vague but the masses feel the heat more.
On Tuesday, September 24, 1996, Owerri, the capital of Imo State, experienced the shock of irate youths, with over 50,000 of them on a rampage in the streets. They went after the property of people suspected to have amassed wealth by criminal means. A similar rampage can happen again anywhere else when those in power place wealth and their personal interests above public interest.
Those who do not learn the lessons of history usually suffer double jeopardy, whereby unstable foundations and ill-gotten loots are swept away by unexpected storms of fury. Change as an inevitable phenomenon in life can come gradually and smoothly or with fury.
How come that the slogan of “Abacha loot” is heard from the lips of school children whose mothers were not born when such loot took place? Can the looter shut the mouths of such children singing about loots.
Perhaps the APC-change-slogan, from the angle of public interest, may be the means of more fundamental transformation of Nigeria. For example: “give me my change!” have resulted in a fight between persons who are unable to resolve monetary transaction peacefully. In a similar way political defectors whose moves do not carry public interest, can be short-changed, quite soon!
That Nigerian politicians are not good role models is demonstrated in the statement of an under-graduate student apprehended for examination malpractice: “You shine eye that I cheat in exam when politicians who kill and loot are honoured”.
Under the cover of public interest, a number of policies and projects have been foisted on the Nigeria polity which had brought losses, pains and sorrows to the masses. Such failed and abandoned projects, with huge financial losses to the nation, range from Iron and Steel Industry, Housing Projects, Political Parties buildings, Mono-Rail and several other projects whose remains mock our sense of prudent management of resources and culture of corruption.
Dr Amirize is a retired lecturer, Rivers State University, Port Harcourt.