Oludayo Olufowobi: The Ancient Red Car & Nigerian Politics

I got admitted into the prestigious Faculty of Law of the University of Lagos in December 2015. I was bubbling with all the excitement and the “Alexander the Great” mindset to conquer the world.

Like a tourist in a getaway destination, I was fascinated by everything, from the panda outfits to the stately gate, close to the porter’s lodge. Apart from the rather imposing statue of the Lady Justice, there was something else that seemed rather unnoticeable yet caught my attention: A quaint red car in the staff carpark.

I had always had this mindset that the Faculty of Law, University of Lagos, had the crème de la crème as lecturers. So I was naturally curious about why any of them would be driving such a relic from the past in this millennium. Hence, one of my topmost priority was finding out which of the lecturers was putting up such front. I even had to take a picture of this artefact. I mean, I had a free gate pass to a makeshift museum.

A semester passed, two semesters rolled by, still no one drove this car. Yet the car was repainted and still maintained its aesthetic appeal. Soon enough, I realized that it had a stone behind one of its tires. Apparently, it had its fair share of mechanical woes.

In a nutshell, the car never moved and never gave room for better cars to be parked in that space. A majority of the older law students met the car parked there, it was a mystery no one has unraveled till date. It was not until the end of the first semester of my second year that I realized that the car was no longer in its “rightful place”; it had been moved stealthily. I believe this action was due to the incessant appeals for its removal.

This ancient red car somewhat reminds me of the Nigerian political scene. Nigeria attained independence on 0ctober 1, 1960, yet its political history has been marked by military interference. These military leaders ruled with iron fists; fundamental human rights of many were abrogated. The press was muzzled and there was no value for the human life. Worse still, they looted public funds with impunity and almost emptied the nation’s treasury. The exploits of Sanni Abachaare never forgotten. Trust Nigerians with the banter; it is commonly said that “he was not hiding the money from Nigeria, but was hiding Nigeria from the money.” Till date, the loots are still being repatriated from offshore accounts.

It is noteworthy that there were interregnums of democratic regimes: between 1960-1966; 1973-1975, 1979. We are currently in the fourth republic which started on October 1, 1999, with the handing over of power by Abdulsalam Abubakar to Olusegun Obasanjo.

Contrary to the expectations of many, the democratic regime of the fourth republic has provided no respite. Corruption is at a record high and it has eaten deep into the fabric of the Nigerian System. Nigeria has ranked as the most corrupt country in the world and the poverty capital of the world all thanks to the impeccable leadership at the helm of affairs.

One would also have thought that the fundamental rights of many would be safely guarded under this dispensation, but the reverse is the case. The judicial system is in shambles and no longer the last resort of the common man. Judgments are now given in favor of the highest bidder. Even the non-justiciable rights in chapter two of the 1999 Nigerian Constitution are not guaranteed: The citizenry have mud for water, deathtraps as roads, and candles for light. The average Nigerian lives below the minimum standard of living; the minimum wage is pegged at a risible fifteen thousand naira. Whereas the political elite live off public funds, in affluence.

The abrogation of this fundamental human rights transcends the leaders at the helm of government affairs to other members of the executive: law enforcement agents such as the Police, Special Anti-Robbery Squad, have continuously abused the rights to personal liberty of the Nigerian youth all in the name of fighting cybercrime. There has been a cry from all quarters for their reforms yet the government, “the people’s savior” turned deaf ears till the polls were around the corner; familiar stratagem?

The reason for this is not far-fetched: the political scene is ruled by a cabal. The selfsame leaders who left the country for dead are the ones who have ruled since the inception of democracy in 1999. Apparently, they want to make it fester. The government of the country has more or less been a gerontocracy marked by excessive godfatherism. Every time at the polls, Nigerians are caught between the rock and the hard place, as there is no clear-cut difference in ideologies of the contesting political parties. The only difference is in the emblem of these parties.

The voters’ right which ought to be the agent of change has been substantially abrogated; the sad reality now is that these rights are being sold to the highest bidder.

The vote of the average citizen is now worth no more than a bag of rice, branded t-shirts and four thousand naira. The recent happenings in the gubernatorial election in Ekiti State is a testament to this fact.

The recent signing of the Not Too Young to Rule Bill is a watershed in the Nigerian political history. The minimum age for candidacy for the presidency is now 35 years, House of Representatives is now 25 years and State House of Assembly is now 25 years. It is safe to say that this adds flavor to our political scene and makes it a more equitable playing ground for contestants. It now provides us with a wider range of alternatives at the poll. Although this is a baby-step towards attaining Eldorado, we should seize this opportunity to support independent candidature and phase out bad leadership. There is still a need for enlightenment about its prospects since it is uncharted waters for Nigerians.

The introduction of the Permanent Voters Cards (PVCs) for the forthcoming elections is noteworthy. However, the perennial question is “Get your PVC and vote for who?” My advice is that we should look beyond the chaos of party-power tussles and support these supposedly “neophyte” candidates with good and viable intent. We should break from the norm of voting for only the “veterans,” take a leap of faith and branch out for a new experience.

In summary, the ancient red car symbolizes the political overloads who have dominated and monopolized the political scene for well over nineteen years of this republic, without any precise development in the country’s state of affairs. Just like the car was moved stealthily, we can catch them unaware and take them off the seat of power by voting right, without sentiments along political, religious or ethnic lines.

We should not sell our birthrights as Jacob did just for a fleeting assuaging of our present pains. We have had cries, muffled tears about the country’s state of affairs. 2019 is the time to move those figurehead ancient red cars at all levels of government, looking fancy and good because they live off our funds.

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