Saturday, October 3, 2009

Anambra Politics

By Sam Amadi, 234 Next

The governorship election in Anambra early in 2010 is the real test of Nigerian democracy.

Success in navigating the landmines in Anambra secures strong ethical foundations for consolidating democracy in 2011. The Ekiti election, notwithstanding the feisty rhetoric and the incendiary mobilisation, was child's play compared to what is tugging at the hems of Anambra elections.

There is already a prophesy of high-level warfare in Anambra as we count-down to the election. Many informed analysts believe that the seed of the doom of 2011 will be sowed in the Anambra election.

What is frightening about Anambra politics is that it is played according to the best book in Mafioso operations. It is highly funded and the combatants are organised more like crime rings than political factions, with lethal capacity to inflict grave damage on each other and on the system. Political factions in Anambra politics are essentially militant groups fighting for right to control the resources for further opportunist operations. So, Anambra optimises what politics has become in Nigeria: a vicious war for economic survival and supremacy.

The combatants take no prisoners because the stakes in a petro-state Nigeria are huge. So, how did this militaristic political mercantilism begin?

Since the beginning of the Third Republic Anambra has posed a special challenge to democracy in Nigeria. In 1999, the governor of Anambra was a captive of moneybags and failed woefully to provide the most basic social services. Such was the failure of that government that the otherwise indifferent PDP under Obasanjo decided to deny Governor Chinwoke Mbadinuju, a second term. He was the only governor in the party that did not stand for reelection. Mbadinuju's government did not pay workers salaries for almost the whole of his tenure. It was inevitable that the government ended on a murderous note and the governor is still embroiled in the alleged heinous murder of the former chairman of the state chapter of the Nigerian Bar Association and his wife.

Anambra continued in this violent and decadent trajectory in 2003 when Dr. Chris Ngige was elected as governor. Like his predecessor he was the product of a godfather - Chief Chris Uba- a largely uneducated moneybag. Uba as a wise investor demanded control of the state treasury. For whatever reason Ngige refused to hand over the power of the purse to his godfather. The result of that defiance was the most historic development in Nigerian politics. The godfather- in the typical manner of cult-leaders- kidnapped the governor and extracted a resignation from him. The governor survived through a counter-terrorist maneuver and so was birthed illiberal violence as the governing procedure of politics in Anambra. Ngige did not stay long. The musical chair moved and the man who actually won the election took over. But the gene was out of the bottle.

It is alleged that the root of the problem of politics in Nigeria is the materialism of the Igbo people and their failure to be like the rest of Nigerian people and allow a college of elders determine their politics. This interpretation of political violence in Nigeria is expanded to ridicule Igbo social capital. In the minds of these interpreters Igbo politics is flawed by its individualism and the muscular self-expression of the average Igbo. To substantiate the claim that the lack of a leader amongst the Igbo is at the root of the murderous farce in Anambra these interpreters point out that almost every politician in Anambra has picked a nomination form for the governorship election. What kind of place is it that every Okeke and Okafor claims the right to be governor at the same time?

This interpretation is nonsense. The problem of politics in Anambra is not because the Anambra politician is essentially greedy, materialistic and ambition. The problem is not because of the lack of the social capital of solidarity and cooperation amongst Anambra politicians as some of these analysts and commentators think. It is true that the average Anambra citizen like most Igbos is individualistic and profit-oriented. It is true that the average Anambra citizen has a disposition to reject hierarchy and assert his or her right to be heard and to be factored in the equation. As Arthur Nzeribe would put it, "everything has to be negotiated". This can be said to be the essential Igbo political economy. Every citizen is a factor and must be factored in the equation of governance.

Given this DNA of Anambra politics does the crisis of politics in Anambra arise from the genetic constitution of Anambra society that exemplifies the Igbo political economy? No! I don't think Anambra political pathology arises from its ultra republican and mercantilist genetics. It arises from Nigeria's unrelenting imposition of authoritarian temper and structure of political organisation in Igbo land. Anambra is the most critical staging post of that onslaught. The dominant Nigerian political culture has privileged order above freedom and hierarchy above intelligence.

There is no doubt that excessive individualism and profiteering are serious problems to social organisation in Anambra and in Igbo land. But this is not what is causing the tragedy in Anambra. If every Anambra citizen wants to be governor and there are clear guidelines and rules to determine who wins the primaries and the actual election there will be no problem. The issue is that there are no rules and the Nigerian political elite prefers consensus based on hierarchy and other personalised considerations. And selection based on hierarchy and sentiment is antithetical to republicanism.

Anambra is a problem because Nigeria is not yet truly a rule of law state. The crux of liberal democracy is proceduralised rule-making and rule-enforcement. In liberal democracy procedure is king. And the procedure that matters is that which decides between conflicting interests based on fair rules already established. That is classical rule of law. Now, if you map such a procedure on Anambra politics the crisis may become an opportunity for deepening democracy.

Anambra is a looming disaster because the mode of politics in Nigeria is imposition based on sentiments and hierarchy. An authoritarian logic is managing a republican culture.

Dr. Sam Amadi lives in Abuja

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