As one watches the activities of the present day politicians especially from Akwa Ibom State, it is amazing to notice the level of selfishness that is being exhibited by those who, like mother hen ought to provide a level of succor to the people. The grand pursuit of self aggrandizement by those who are in leadership positions explains the level of political strife in Akwa Ibom State at the moment. While most people tend to blame outsiders for the state of violence and gross violation of Human Rights Laws in the state, it is an attempt to stand truth on its head.
According to the late M.K.O. Abiola, “no one can shave your hair in your absence”. Most Akwa Ibom political elites in their quest for individual economic and political growth ensure the subjugation of the greater good. The so-called outsiders having noticed this tend to lend a hand to these individuals with stunted vision and invariably diminish their patriotic relevance. The gradual relegation of the state to a somewhat political anonymity nationally is a direct product of self-inflicted defeatism achieved through selfish political wrangling. It is on record that most of the political leaders fall prey to the dangling of political carrots by people who use them to achieve their own ends.
The political wrangling in the state at the moment is due mainly to internal sabotage and the lack of cohesion amongst those who ought to lead the people. It is regrettable that the cohesion that was noticed during the civil war amidst abject poverty and death is absent in this time of seeming peace of the graveyard.
It is increasingly getting clearer that democracy on these shores is in very dire straits. As one political event comes and goes, indications are that our politicians have neither learnt any lessons nor are they prepared to learn any in their disposition and attitudes to the rules of the game. This may seem a damning assertion but it has become a sad reality of the politics of this state. Each time such infractions occur, our political actors are quick to rationalize them on the dubious grounds that we are still in the learning process. We may continue this learning to infinitum if conscious efforts are not made by both the political parties and politicians to guarantee the participation of the ordinary people in the electoral process.
Before now, the greatest challenge had been how to guarantee free and fair elections, equity and justice by eliminating those unwholesome practices that mar the electoral process. We had in the past been treated with rigging, falsification and outright writing of election results in hotel rooms and sundry hidden places. The brazen subversion of the peoples’ rights and subsequent and continuous imposition of wrong candidates on the people against their popular wish had been such that the electorate had started losing confidence in it. It took copious assurances from the government and the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) for some modicum of confidence to be restored as elections began to reflect the collective will of the people as expressed in the ballot box.
But even as this little progress can be admitted, increasing signals point to the direction that our politicians are relapsing to their decadent political practices through their disregard for extant rules and regulations. According to the Commissioner of Police, Akwa Ibom State Command, Mr. Gabriel Achong, “Intimidators keep getting their names revolving without minding any other person from any other family or locality”. People’s rights are often trampled upon by our leaders; the led are equally neglected and thrown over the bar. It has been observed that the leaders in Akwa Ibom State have one significant infirmity from the onset, their contemptuous regard for certain sections of the state. To worsen matters, they form one atavistic clique after another thus wasting their ingenuity on schemes and counter schemes for unmerited favour. Callous opportunists keep lying in ambush everywhere to square up old grudges. They jockey for positions in a state for which innocent and trusting youths are spilling precious blood. It is true that when a leader has information that the public does not have, he may make reasonable decisions that seem capricious. But when he needs to carry the people along, he owes them an explanation. Justice should not only be done, it should be apparent, and that it has been done.
In Akwa Ibom State, the under privileged fight the most, suffer the most and enjoy the least. The declared belief in the sanctity of human life is bellied by the apparent lack of concern by the leaders and top government officials for the welfare of the down trodden masses. In the society especially those from the so-called minority group, the principle of placing a high premium on patriotism in the state sounds unreal in a situation where ‘only fools die’. It is true that the basic problems that cause series of crises in the state remain unresolved.
Indeed Akwa Ibom State is threatened today by a new kind of monster – ethnicity, as Akwa Ibomites have begun to place their loyalty more in their own communities than in the state. And there seems to be no consideration for the health of the state in the pursuit of individual or group interests. But it is also true that the traumatic bitterness of the past is rich with lessons for toleration and understanding. These lessons should be our only guarantee against instability, for they will serve as a buffer to cushion us through the rough times ahead. The mention of rough times ahead may have set some political noses twitching. But if it is realized that the contradictions in Akwa Ibom State are yet to be resolved, we will agree that Akwa Ibom has anything but a quiet time to look forward to. The fate of Akwa Ibom depends on how far this buffer goes. We can strengthen this buffer by learning from the experience of the past.