[Perspective] You be thief! I no be thief!

By Afam Nkemdichie

Issuing multiple lists of supposed looters of Nigeria’s treasury is the new political game in town. Nigerians now wake up one morning to be confronted with a list of supposed “looters”, crafted by the ruling All Progressives Congress (APC), only to be confronted the next morning with another list of supposed “looters”, authored by the main opposition Peoples Democratic Party (PDP). The entire nation is consequently thrust into a “You be thief! I no be thief! You be robber! I no be robber!” macabre dance. Hopefully, due royalties would accrue to the estate of the late Afro Beat legend, Fela Anikulapo Kuti, the originator of the accompanying song. And all of these indignities in the 21st century, when the leadership of even midget countries like North Korea is striving to match the political sophistication of global powers; yet, a continental power, and one of the world’s most populous nations, could field a leadership class that gleefully indulges in guttersnipe attitudes, as a variant of electioneering campaign? Nigerians should be very, very concerned.

Nigerians should be very concerned, not for any reason of what negative impact such unbecoming attitudes might make on prospective foreign investments in the country; although they should also worry about that too. But the real worry lay in the inadvertent revelations of such guttersnipe attitudes. Such cheap name-calling only reinforces the perception that our politicians are desperately bereft of ideas of how to resolve Nigeria’s myriad of challenges; principal of which is how to grow the national economy. If the two major political parties in the land could expend virtually all their energy and time, harping on a string about some looted monies and on how to recover them, onlookers are left with only one deduction from such attitudes: neither APC nor PDP has the foggiest idea of how to grow Nigeria’s Gross Domestic Product (GDP) to parity level with the world’s leading economies. An empirical evidence of this alarming deficit was recently on offer when the Microsoft czar, Bill Gates issued a broad “F” to the APC federal government most comprehensive document on its plan to grow the national economy; namely, the Economic Recovery and Growth Plan (ERGP). Having regard to the essentially Breton Woods Institutions-inspired economic policies of the respective PDP Federal Governments, it is a fair comment to suggest that the PDP variant of an economic recovery and growth plan might not have been radically different from the APC’s. This is all the more reason Nigerians should worry about the extant political landscape. More to the point, the voting public, the electorate, should pay unwavering attention to the fiction, and supposed facts and figures, which aspiring politicians spew out as the nation matches towards 2019.

The year 2019 could prove a significant watershed year for Nigeria if, and this is big if, the Nigerian electorate decides for once to put the collective health of the nation before personal gratification, tribe and religion. There couldn’t be a better time for the electorate to truly come of age than in 2019. In 2019 the grass (roots) will not be scathed when two elephants (APC & PDP) fight. As we are beginning to see from the ongoing cantankerous music, it is the two gluttonous elephants that will suffer. For one, the same “You be thief! I no be thief!” chorus has now emboldened many otherwise reluctant aspirants to aggressively seek elective offices, even as the “not-too-young-to-run” train quickly gains momentum towards 2019. For another, the country is presently witnessing novel politico-regional realignments; the Southeast and the Southwest; the Middle Belt and the South. And for the first time in our history the core North is speaking with multiplicity of voices. Interesting times, these.

Putin: Putting USSR back in place 
It could well be said that these interesting political times are not confined within the bounds of Nigeria; they have, in fact, been sweeping across the globe since the U.S. 2016 presidential election and the United Kingdom’s leave or remain in the European Union (EU) referendum. The outcomes of both major events utterly defied conventional wisdom. Donald Trump, a political upstart, if an ultra non-conformist, and widely despised by the U.S. all-powerful establishment, convincingly won the 2016 election. And the UK voted to leave the EU. Expectedly, the elite classes in both countries were visibly wounded to the quick by those results. Two years on, the wounds rather than heal, appear to have festered. In the previous months those wounds have taken a gangrenous turn as the initial speculation that Russian meddling influenced both surprise results, assumes the status of a precise science. Both the U.S. and the UK have since expelled a number of Russian diplomats from their respective countries. Russia promptly picked up the gauntlet by expelling a commensurate number of British and U.S. diplomats. Could this be the 21st century variant of the Cold War? Interesting times, these.

The sly Russian president, Vladimir Putin, has never left observers of international politics in any doubt about his ultimate aim of seeking power. Putin, a thorough-bred Komitet Gosudarstvennoy Bezopasnosti (KGB) man, joined the politics of his country in the same year (1991) that the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics (USSR) broke up. He had joined politics straight from a defunct KGB apparatus; and his ascension was meteoric. In less than ten years (2000), the former State Security Chief had become the democratically elected president of Russia. His unwritten, but cleverly prosecuted one-point agenda is: put the old USSR blocs back in place. (There is something in a name, after all)

It is therefore little wonder that the world is now witnessing the international recriminations that had typified the post-1945 to 1991 Cold War era. When the USSR fragmented in 1991, it was wrongly presumed that the Cold War had come to an end. That presumption soon proved to be a grand illusion. Any one acquainted with John Dobbins’ “Buying the same horse twice” theses on USSR would not have made such a presumption. That supremacy struggle between the West and the East would persist for eternity, albeit in variegated guises. Such is the nature of generic man. No culturally distinct tribe of people allows itself to be wholly assimilated into another culture. This is a recurring theme in world history. The apparent reemergence of the Cold War in the 21st century reaffirms that theme.

Therefore, all those overly ambitious cultural-cum-territorial-imperialists, be they in presidential palaces, or in some wild jungles, should draw the immutable lesson of history: the culture of a people CANNOT be extinguished. Thus, the world would be a harmonious place if its various inhabitants respectfully cultivated each other. May God grant humanity the wisdom to always act in the light of reason.

Nkemdiche is a consulting engineer, lives in Abuja.