MATTERS ARISING: The Need To Differentiate Between Governance and Politics In Nigeria’s Democracy (Part 1)

Posted: February 21, 2014 in Articles, Matters Arising

by Ugochukwu Austinoiz Nwaiwu

Haven not been brought into this world during the 1st and 2nd Republics of the 1960s and 1979-1983s respectively, and subsequently being only a “toddler” during the 1991-1992’s military-cum civilian 3rd Republic, I have decided to sideline those era of Nigerian democracy’s torrid sail. This may be down to my inability to have first hand information on events then.
All I could simply say I knew about governance, politics and democracy in those period; were merely told/read accounts; most of which may likely contain some impurities or partly misrepresentation of the true democratic state of such periods.

Hence as an absolutist, I have decided to narrow my judgement strictly down to what my eyes, knowledge and common sense had equipped me with, having attained a certain age of reasoning, prior to the 1999’s 4th

So I have decided to x-ray our polity, starting with Olusegun Obasanjo’s democratic tenure of 1999 till this Goodluck Jonathan’s dispensation.
First, a look at a layman’s definition of the governance and politics, will guide our course here.
Governance, I will say, is the practical matching of a leader’s campaign manifestos and his party’s democratic edicts with the electorates’ mandate. In other words, one’s ability to fulfil campaign promises in a manner that soothes the whims and caprice of
the people, gives a clear aura to what governance should be.
Politics on its own, I would define as POLITRICKS…I know you may tag it “power play and intrigues”. But whatever you call it, politics remains the bane of good governance.

Perhaps, a sniff preview of how we have fared across the two lines of democracy tenets (politics and governance), as illustrated below, will further garnish the points I’m out to drive home here.

From 1999-2003, we got quite a few dividends of good governance, in the harmonisation of our economy, GSM introduction, Power Plant erections and (if you like, include the introduction of Condoms), but we witnessed myriads of power tussles; governors were adopted, impeached with ease; opposition voices were choked; the then Vice President; Atiku Abubakar was shoved out of reckoning for querying Baba’s authoritarian-styled modus operandi; Aso Rock turned into a battle field–a
centre that taught the 36 state “gods” have to bruise and breeze aside their not-up-to-100%-loyal Deputy Governors and perceived political
enemies. The list is just endless.
During this period, Nigerians were democratically naive. We barely differentiated between governance and politics. Every political manipulation was ignorantly okayed by us as the NORM.

From 2003-2007, the masses began to suck the milk of democratic wisdom. Though we couldn’t stop bullish power plays on the cards here
and there; the continuous ejection of ministers and Service Chiefs; and the “I-must-succeed-you” fights, but we managed to exorcise the foul spirits of the 3rd Term Agenda of a certain Otta farmer…that was a massive victory for us “little horses” then (apologies to José Mourinho).

From 2007-2011, we; advocates of good governance started going to
Primary and Secondary Schools of democracy, and vehemently besought a certain taciturn; Umaru Musa Yar’dua thrown on us, to effect the necessary changes. He indeed bought, say 30% of our ideas, and subsequently tolled our path. But alas, the cold hands of death knocked him and our drive aback. Then came the politics and intrigues again. This time, a section of the country (south) fought tooth and nail to indoctrinate a dogma that ensures a certain quiet Vice President takes over, while the other section (the North) fought against it with their blood’s last drop.
Still, though the battle had been won and lost, the political sores it inflicted upon our democracy is obviously being felt today, if not, ask those who sound it (often with threats) to our hearing that they should be allowed to complete their tenure, and those who shout “the south must stay long in power to enshrine equity”. What they’re clamouring for?

The unprecedented politics of power shift/power balance between November, 2009, through to May, 2011, ensured Nigerians were eluded of good governance.
Rather, the dividends of democracy on the cards then were “Jonathan must contest 2011 polls”; “Jonathan must not be allowed to stay in office beyond May 2011”; “He has the constitutional backing to contest”; “If the North attempts to stop Jonathan at the polls, Nigerians wouldn’t know Peace again”; “We’ll make Nigeria ungovernable
for Jonathan if he wins the polls”….the bla bla bla swashbuckling went on and on.

But the question is: has Nigeria as a Nation, outlived the political mess orchestrated by Yar’dua’s death?
Has good governance toppled our unending politricks and power plays?


The statements, views and opinions expressed in this column are solely those of the author and do not necessarily represent those of Lyriversity.

Ugochukwu Austinoiz Nwaiwu, a geologist by training, is an
Owerri-based freelancer on political developments. He doubles as a
social critic.

Lyriversity — Liberty of Creativity

  1. Ezeamalukwuo says:

    Nice write up…awaiting the continuation.
    Though I will say that the word Politics is quite different from your definition, it is very different from Politricks…the former is an organised control or administration of People, it is not just a good thing but a necessary thing…while the latter is (cough)…you have already defined it.
    The Nigerian Political Problem and indeed the rest of Africa is that our system is not ours…it is alien to us all…it has no grassroot…it is like a tree without root, and stem, only leaves and fruits which hang in the air…hence, the average man does not feel like a citizen, he does not feel involved in the picture, he feels alienated. We need a total restructuring of our constitution and mode of governance…power should start from the ground up.

    Nice work again, next week then

  2. Nice suggestions, Mr. Ezeamoulukwuo (forgive me, if I misspelt that your native name, which you intentionally or shyfully hid from us while in school…he chuckles!).
    I defined politics as politricks, eventfully because, I see no better words to describe this “my-party-is-heavenly-and-yours-is-hellish politics” being played today by our partisan politicians/leaders. Obviously, politics is an art, not a game as we call it down here. It’s a necessary compass that drives governance, but alas, it has been separated from governance, and made the “breakfast, lunch and dinner” of all public office holders.

    Again, I have always refused to be drawn into the controversial argument of heaping our poor governance, dirty political systems, and infrastructural dearth, Nigeria and indeed the rest of Africa on the doorpost of our colonial masters. They gave us “yam and knive”, told us it needed to be cut, but never told us how to cut it. We had options to cut it well for our collective good OR to cut it selfishly. Of course our leaders choose the latter, and here we are….

    • Ezeamalukwuo says:

      I never heaped any or all the problems of Nigeria/Africa on our colonial masters…no, I only stated the fact that our political system is not ours. It is not ours at all. I wrote in one of the post here on lyriversity; INSIDE AFRICA; Reason for Chaos…I quote:
      “The colonial masters conquered Africa and brought it (a community of different people) together, imposing their rule on it. This union was never discussed with the constituting people. The resulting African government” in their haste to take over as lords and earls did nothing to this effect. Hence African nations emerged without the slightest clue of what a nation is.”
      There is the genesis of our problems.

  3. Now you scored a point. Truly the colonial masters gathered “incompactible” protectorates together as Nation(s). Maybe we weren’t meant to be together.
    But did they stop us from severing the ties if we see the need for such. The answer remains NO.
    If at any point in time or even now, we wholly and unanimously reach a referendum vote to partition Nigeria into sovereign states, no UN, USA, UK, AU or ECOWAS forces can stop us.
    Yes I agree such is not achieveable without shedding blood, but it’s worth doing, if and only if, we think so. After all, nobody stopped Southern Sudan from cutting off ties with Sudan, nor were the likes of Montenegro, Ukraine stopped from cutting off ties with Serbian and Russia respectively.

    Moreover, great nations like USA, China, Germany, Australia etc have existed together as one, despite their interior cultural non-homogenity and struggles.
    So I still believe our “unity” in diversity is never a curse, but a blessing. And we should embraced it, but if we can’t continue with it, then lets severe it. Don’t you think so?

    • Ezeamalukwuo says:

      Anyway, I do not want Nigeria or anyother nation to divide. I feel that unity is the best option for mankind…

      We can see what is happening in South Sudan…we have an idea today of how an unplanned breakup looks like.
      No we are far more stronger united.

  4. Yes, we’re more Nigerian and more National in unity than in fragments…Thanks for your vivid views all the way. You spiced up the “behind the scenes” of this article and I’m impressed.
    Once again, thank you.

  5. Anene Francis says:

    Among its several meanings, politics is a game, manoeuvres and power tussle (should not be a dirty game sha).
    Politics is necessary and it is good if only it drives at good govanance and not an end in itself for parties, groups and politicians’ selfish interests. To answer the ending question: No, but we are on course though slower than hoped for.

    Something drew my attention here and I recalled a tv program I listened to some time ago whose discussion centered on ‘deputy governors being seen as spare tyres’. Their duties are not clearly stated in the constitution. Hence they are almost dormant except in the absence of the governor. This does not help good governance.

    @mr Solar, our political system being alien to us maybe a contributing factor but I don’t think its the main problem. The problem is that we are not practicing it right, what ever the political system. We put the interests of our different subgroups above that of the nation. I think you mentioned a similar point in your article “Nigeria’s Revolution Unripe”.. Yes power should be from bottom to top and that’s what true democracy would give. Dooh
    “…taught the 36 state “gods” have to bruise…” > I think you meant “how to bruise”
    Nice article. Following

  6. Thanks Mr. Anene, those deputy governors are really spare tyres (no apologies to our constitution). Unfortunately, the ongoing constitution amendment is not addressing the “spare tyre_ism”, and nobody seems to bathing an eyelid.
    Comically, I will say the “Anene_ic suggestions” are decreasing on my articles, and I’ll strive to wipe them out completely with time…he laughs!

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