Why Buhari is right to ask politicians to resign

President Muhammadu Buhari

In what can be considered a clarion call for morality, at least in Nigeria, President Muhammadu Buhari has called all members of his cabinet wishing to contest for any political office in the 2023 general elections to resign their appointment on or before Monday, May 16, 2022.

The Minister of Information and Culture, Mr Lai Mohammed, revealed this after the weekly FEC meeting chaired by the President.

When he was asked about the fate of other political appointees such as the Governor of the Central Bank of Nigeria, who might also be running for the post of president, the minister said that the directive might be extended to non-cabinet members.

He said: “The mandate I have from the president is to announce that all members of the Federal Executive Council contesting for elective office must resign their ministerial cabinet appointments on or before Monday the 16th of May, 2022.”

In fact, a few hours after, the President, in another statement issued by the Secretary to the Government of the Federation, Mr Boss Mustapha, ordered all heads of agencies, departments and parastatals and ambassadors with political ambitions to resign.

The statement disclosed that the office of the Governor of the Central Bank of Nigeria, Godwin Emefiele, among other agencies was copied.

It said: “Mr President has observed and noted the expression of interest and intention by some members of the Federal Executive Council, Heads of Extra-Ministerial Departments, Agencies, Parastatals of Government, Ambassadors and other political office holders to contest the Presidential, Gubernatorial, National and State Assemblies elections.

“Consequently, Mr President has directed that the affected office holders aspiring to run for various offices in the 2023 general elections should tender their resignation on our before the 16th of May, 2022.”

It is important to know that the directive given by the President to the officials to resign is in line with the Electoral Law, specifically, Section 84 (12), which states that: “No political appointee at any level shall be a voting delegate or be voted for at the convention or congress of any political party for the purpose of the nomination of candidates for any election,” while section 29(1) of the act mandates political parties to submit names of candidates not later than 180 days before the election.

Thus, the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) gave political parties between April 4 and June 3, 2022, to conduct their primary elections.
This means that political appointees seeking election must resign before June 3, when INEC expects that all issues related to party primaries must have been resolved.

However, while the provision of the Electoral Act is, arguably, at variance with the Constitution that requires such officials to resign 30 days before the election, morally speaking, it appears that to do so will not be proper for any government appointee in Nigeria, where such officials often find it hard to differentiate public and private funds, to remain in office, when he or she is contesting a political position.

Ideally, in our country, owing to the level and spread of corruption, political party primary elections should be contested only by those who do not, in any way, have in their care or control, government resources to the disadvantage of other contestants.

Largely, in Nigeria, our politicians and political leaders are, with good reasons, believed to be corrupt, always eager to cheat and, in some cases, act insanely where sanity is needed and generosity is begging to be put to practice.

We think of a great many of our politicians as corrupt, self-serving and, at best, amoral. They lie, obfuscate, and avoid answering important questions and rarely if ever, accept responsibility for their errors or the bad things they do.

Our politicians are quick to claim credit for successes for which they were only tangentially responsible or if they happen to be the lucky recipient of a fortuitous series of events. It is no wonder, then, that our faith in political institutions and the men and women who serve in them is very low.

What is even more puzzling is that our politicians, who need to win elections to gain and retain power and who are subject to continual scrutiny by a free press, repeatedly act in ways that they know will erode their likeability, question their moral probity and diminish our trust in them and the democratic system and institutions.

There is no doubt that some politicians are reprehensible, selfish, egotistical, self-serving and even evil individuals. Regrettably, the lure of power and glory attracts some persons who are not suitable for democratic politics, where the only legitimate use of political power ought to be to achieve good and worthwhile ends that serve the best interests of the electorate.

Regrettably, too, political parties in our country are not inclusive or participatory enough. Nigerian politics is personality based. Of course, this is an ugly situation that, in turn, makes politicians seek to acquire illegal money to buy their party’s ticket during a primary election.

People want to exercise authority and dictate what happens in their party. Those who have looted the government treasury become godfather figures, winning elections and claiming power, all to acquire more wealth and protect their investments, arrogating power to themselves.

There is no transparency and accountability in the political system. Politicians do not take care of those who elected them into power and reached out to them or carry them along. Candidates are imposed on voters.

Those candidates are not their choice and not the right candidates.
Politicians acquire power to deal with their opponents and to solve their personal problems. They are not there to make history for themselves or make policies that will affect the lives of the people

Henceforth, we want our politicians to be good persons and act morally on our behalf. We want them to live up to our expectations.

Agreed, we all have to work to get to that level. Thus, the INEC, National Assembly and other relevant agencies or organs of government must not relent in perfecting the election machinery to a reasonable level.

Yes, it is true, as the INEC Chairman, Professor Mahmood Yakubu said, amending the Electoral Act without a commitment from stakeholders to do things differently, cannot guarantee free and fair elections in Nigeria.

Yakubu said: “The Constitution and Electoral Act can enhance the electoral process if the electoral management body, political parties and the electoral actors, the security agencies, the media and civil society organisations, effectively play their roles.”

Nevertheless, the first step of amending the electoral law to plug loopholes for irregularities, among which was allowing political office holders to remain in office, is a huge step towards achieving free and fair elections in the country.

On their part, politicians must understand that irrespective of their party affiliations, the common goal is the provision of good governance for the people.

An election should never be a ‘‘do or die affair’’ and no aspirant is worth spilling blood for. Political positions are a call to service, not personal enterprises motivated by profits or bloody sports for which violent and fatal competitions are means.

After all, experience has shown that arms provided for political thugs during elections usually end up being used by a gang of armed robbers, kidnappers and religious extremists after elections season.