Fahamu (Oxford)

Nigerian Politicians and the Craze for Recognition

opinion

Why are Nigerian politicians so obsessed with awards when most of them have nothing to show in terms of quality service delivery to the citizens who elected them?

The tragedy of the Nigerian political class is multi-dimensional. They are greedy, dubious and desperate. They are gullible almost to the point of nincompoopery. They also have a queerstrange false impression of themselves because they assemble various grades of charlatans, perpetual sycophants and praise singers around them who see nothing wrong in everything they do. Many of them are not exposed, they talk before they think, yet they conduct themselves in a queerdubious messianic fashion. They crave for recognition at all costs- anyone, everyone. It is public knowledge that they procure some of them from all over the world with public money just to continue to insult our psyche with their faces in the media as do-gooders, undeservedly.

The story of drama around the purported Mo Ibrahim award to the former Governor of Yobe State, Senator Buka Abba Ibrahim, exactly mirrors the mindset of the Nigerian political class. This big man woke up and informed his colleagues at the Senate that he had won the Mo Ibrahim Exemplary Leadership Quality Award, for his efforts in the alleviation of poverty. He was so certain that he deserved to get such a globally coveted award without even thinking about the congruence between what he stood for and what Mo Ibrahim personified in the continent. I was told that even Nigerian Senate President David Mark congratulated him at the floor of National Assembly. His friends even took paid advertorials in the media and started putting together a delegation to accompany the award winner for the investiture in Capetown, South Africa before it was discovered to be false. But who is Senator Abba Ibrahim? I must confess that I have not met this Senator before and have only read his comments on national issues in the public arena. I recall that he is of the Committee on Housing and had made interesting comments on the relationship between the insecurity in the North, poverty and budgetary allocations by the federal government. I will return to that shortly. I am also aware that his third wife, Hon Khadija, is a current member of the House of Representatives. However this is what former finance Minister, his kinsman, Mallam Adamu Ciroma had to say about him and his phantom award in an interview to the Daily Sun on the 12th of January. "This man is one of the worst governors that have ever ruled any part of this country. Yobe is the most wretched of all the states in Nigeria. It is the poorest and the least developed. What happens is that some people who have no honour will meet and create something and send it to somebody and ask him to finance the offer. The man receiving it is not worth it. You can never see me receiving any of these awards because a lot of them are worthless".

According the European Union, 2.1 million of the 3.4 million that make up the total population of Yobe state live below the poverty line in 2011, lacking in infrastructure, healthcare and safe water. Eighty four percent of the women population are uneducated and 105 babies die out of every 1000 deliveries. So how come a man who superintended over these squalid situations could ever imagine that he will receive an international award? Really? Who could have nominated him? Why are Nigerian politicians always struggling to procure award international awards when their homes are on fire? Who are they trying to deceive?

Let us ponder further on how giving and receiving awards gradually became popular. One would ask; Are the awards actually given in recognition of verifiable achievements or some other considerations? Has it just become another thriving industry for wheeler dealers? The trend is now something like an annual ritual of many media houses and politicians compete for it and are ready to part with huge sums in exchange. If you visit the offices of many of them, you will see plaques of assorted sizes and shapes displayed on the walls. What for? Now we can see that some of the awarding organizations do not even exist or rather exist only on letter headed papers. I remember many years ago, the National Association of Nigerian Students (NANS) had more than six factions. What was central to the NANS crisis and fictionalization, among other things was the issue of awards and how to share the money that accrued from gullible politicians. Many students who were dismissed from tertiary institutions across the country relocated to Abuja and found a new business in selling unmerited awards to the likes of Senator Bukar Abba Ibrahim.

In the National Assembly, Senator Bukar Abba Ibrahim does not guise his motives, as a sectional politician in words and in practicedeed. He is always quick to align with anything and everything potentially divisive and unpatriotic. He is one of those who are viciously opposed to the principle of derivation for resource bearing communities in the Niger Delta as contained in the Petroleum Industry Bill(PIB) and has vowed to mobilise against its passage. As a governor, he was one of those who supported and allegedly bankrolled the infamous third term bid of former President Obasanjo. Often he has publicly defended the activities of insurgents in the North and even threatened that as far as the Federal government continued to allocate paltry sums as budgetary allocations to North East Zone, the insecurity situation will continue. Hear him: " Boko Haram is product of poverty. It is a product of unhappiness. We are unhappy with Nigeria. Unless something is done to address it, Nigeria should expect bigger Boko Haram insurgency Insha Allah".

At another time he said "Injustice is the basis of the entire crisis in the world. Insecurity comes from injustice, if injustice continues, there will be no peace. We are being ignored, we are being considered as if we are not part of Nigeria and continuous injustice will bring more and more insecurity". Almost true to his prediction, our country has sadly witnessed more and more attacks. Thousands of lives have been lost and millions of properties have been destroyed. The economy of Northern Nigeria is threatening to shut down as many businesses have deserted the region. Poverty is quadrupling and children are too frightened to go to school. The most recent of the attacks targeted the respected Emir of Kano, Alhaji(Dr) Ado Bayero. How does such distasteful commentary and unsavoury posture of such individual Senators affect the public perception of the Senate? Is it not time that the Senate evolves its own way of dealing with issues that could impinge on its collective image?

Now in a sane, civilised society where there is rule of law, where patriotism is valued above parochialism, where will such a man as Senator Buka Abba Ibrahim be by now? Travelling around the world collecting phantom awards or somewhere else? I leave you to judge.

Uche Igwe is a governance researcher, based at the University of Sussex, United Kingdom.

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