What probably was the vestigial remnant of the hope that politicians in these climes would change for the better has been rudely ruptured by their quest for power in Rivers State. They have once again demonstrated their readiness for the ruthless elimination of any obstacle in their way. What ought to be a peaceful election to fill some vacant positions in the National and state Assembly has been besmeared with blood and tears. Scores have been killed and maimed. Hundreds have been rendered homeless. And like the sword of Damocles, a pall of worse violence hangs over the heads of the citizens. But it is not only the residents of the state who have been traumatised by the grisly events. For in contemplating them, hope has given way to despondency over the possibility of stabilising the nation’s democracy and making it benefit the citizenry.
But for the crisis in Rivers, we would still have held on tenaciously to the hope that we were transiting to a better political era, despite the plethora of the shenanigans of our politicians. We would have hoped that our politicians would realise soon that the citizens gave them the opportunity to serve them. We would have hoped that our contemporary politicians, through good governance, would make amends for their godfathers who have been rightly excoriated for frittering away the opportunities to deliver transformational leadership . We would have thought that they would realise that if they were really keen on serving the citizens, they would not kill them first before bringing them succour.
Now that we have been jarred into reality by the bloodbath, we come to terms with the stark fact that we cannot have the power to solve our problems when we cannot resolve how to choose those who would provide the answers we need. No wonder that over the years, the warped political system has not been able to throw up those men and women who would fix our decrepit national infrastructure and disentangle electricity, for instance, from its comatose course, and make it fast-track national development and improve the citizens’ lot.
The developments in Rivers are just a reflection of a deadlier affliction at the national level. Or how else do we explain the existing predilection for impunity now being enthroned as the ethos of governance? This impunity is being expressed in violating courts’ rulings and the whimsical deployment of state security apparatuses to abrogate the freedom of citizens. Our politics only has the capacity to accommodate the worst species of the citizens. Or is there such a refined patriot in our midst in whose heart throbs with a thought for the well-being of his or her fellow citizens who would subject them to unmitigated violence in order to govern them? If politics accepts only the best in other climes, here it only seeks the knaves, the renegades, the debauchees, the sadists, the dawdlers. Politics becomes the opportunity to activate that impulse to derive fulfilment from the exploitation and suffering of others. But it is not really politics that makes the politicians to suffer a cruel unravelling, it is rather that the variant of Nigerian politics has a certain capacity to unmask our politicians as only pretending to be avatars of change and development.
Such a perspective is valid because unlike in Nigeria, politics is a veritable channel for doing so much good for humanity. Political leaders have used it to create more educational and medical opportunities and facilitate the expansion of their nations’ technological horizons to force nature to yield diverse benefits to their citizens. Therefore, if our politics reeks of only violence and impunity, the blame should not go to politics. Rather, we should blame those who take it as a career but travestise it. It is these people who would rather choose to stoke a manageable crisis until it becomes a conflagration like that of Rivers. For the signs were there: Amaechi and Wike and their supporters never hid their rabid ambitions to deploy any means to win the polls. Yet, no determined effort was made to stop them in their tracks and nip the violence in the bud. Now that it has happened, we still have not learnt any lesson. We are hell-bent on aggravating the crisis.
This is why some people contemplate the declaration of a state of emergency: The Federal Government must use its might to impose sanity on the state. But have we considered the baleful consequences of such a move? Would this solve the problem? If the leaders of these states have acted in brazen negation of the common will, they should be duly sanctioned under the auspices of appropriate laws. But here is the dilemma of the Federal Government. If it does not believe in the courts, if it does not obey their verdicts, how does it seek redress in them? Clearly, if the Federal Government declares a state of emergency in Rivers and Ekiti states, that would only amount to the widening of the sphere of the crisis. For these states definitely would not quietly watch as their political investments are ruined. Thus what would determine whether the nation would redeem its contemporary politics that is sullied by blood and mayhem is how the Rivers’ crisis is resolved. Yes, all the culprits must be punished . They should not be allowed to hold their offices and pretend to be working for the good of those they are ready to kill and maim in order to secure electoral victory. And the cancellation of the election is not enough. But if we miss the opportunity to send a strong message that nobody is indeed above the laws of the land, then the Rivers crisis may be the last rite of passage to anarchy in the polity.