By Oluwafemi Popoola
Former presidential aide, Laolu Akande, has bemoaned the abysmal level of political participation in the country saying Nigerians have performed poorly in organizing themselves by consistently engaging the leaders for good governance.
He said those in government have creatively leveraged the disengagement and disunity of the people to form a united front in engaging political leaders on issues that are critical to their welfare. This, according to him, has encouraged and fuelled the tradition of misgovernance in the country.
The veteran journalist gave the charge on Friday, November 10, 2023, while appearing as a guest analyst on Channels TV’s news documentary programme, Sunrise Daily, where he spoke on the subject of elections and voter participation in Nigeria.
According to him, “People are not involved in this (political engagement) at all; there is a dismal level of participation, you know, in our political life. And it is a sorry case because politics controls everything; it controls the economy; it controls society; it controls essentially everything. But there is a dismal level of disengagement. People are not engaged,” Akande said.
According to him, “If you look at the numbers, come on, it’s just a joke; we haven’t really gotten ourselves together as a people to understand the significance of political power. And those who are benefiting from the political dysfunction that we operate today as a country will never make any change. There’s no incentive for them to make the change; it must come from outside; it must come from the people.”
Speaking on three cardinal points he perceived as the bane of the malady in political awareness and popular participation in politics by many Nigerians, Akande shed some clarity into the issue highlighting what he thought was responsible.
He said, “There are three things that I think are important: the first one is the motivation, you know, that getting into politics. The second one that I call the level of disengagement, which is very wide. Of course, the third is reform.”
“Let me take it from the first one, which is the motivation. Why do people go into politics? Why do people seek elective offices in our country? Is it because they want to serve, really, for the most part? And I’m not saying this; it is not a blanket point, you know. Some people seek politics to serve, but for the most part, if we ask ourselves, those who seek elective political offices, do they go there to serve or for the sake of power or the sake of some other personal aggrandizement?”
“Now I don’t think it’s difficult to answer these questions because for the most part, we see as you said, it is a serious zero-sum game. The kind of demonstration and what public office has been used for, I mean, what people have turned it into shows us clearly that there is something even wrong with the motivation people get into Political offices. And that’s why some people have suggested in the past that look, maybe we need to make political office, elected office less attractive, make it less attractive. For instance, you can start part-time engagement at certain levels, you know, and we’ve done it before in this country,” Akande said.
Speaking further, he called for more effective and better organization from Nigerians, highlighting the magical powers of public opinion in a democratic society, he said, “What I think has to happen is that the people have to be better organized, the people have to be better organized. We must understand that this is a democracy and that our voices must count.”
Continuing, he said, “You know; we must understand the point about the right of a citizen; we must understand that we are governed by a constitution; we must understand that elected leaders are people that we put there.
“That level of consent has to happen; it has to happen, and when that happens, the people who are in power will get the signal; let me be very Frank with you right now, the signal that the people in power get is that look when we get here we do whatever we like; you know, we are not compelled because indeed they are not compelled.
“You have assemblies and representatives that don’t even share the sensibilities of the people. People go out and do audacious things; you know, I mean in these times when there is so much belt-tightening in terms of resources, people have the audacity to allocate N166 million each for every legislator to get an SUV, people who don’t really need it,” Akande concluded.