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Impediments to political representation in Nigeria

By Adeyemo Kerimot

Several obstacles have continued to impede Nigeria’s political growth and development these days, some of these obstacles are at times based on tradition or status quo; a factor which is nowhere to be found in the country’s 1999 Constitution (as amended).
Below are the various factors impeding the political representation of Nigeria:
Electoral Fraud: Electoral fraud has been one of the major indirance to political representation in Nigeria. In fact elections have continually recoded representation deficit since they commenced in 1999. Under the present dispensation, the incidence of electoral fraud has taken centre stage in the country since 1999. This has led to a major legitimacy crisis which the country is still grappling with. The incidence of electoral fraud in the Nigerian democratic process has been deepened by the unwillingness of the political parties to play by the rules of the game. This is more so on the part of the ruling People’s Democratic Party (PDP) which has elevated impunity to an art. The PDP has operated as if rules do not matter. In alliance with security agencies and the electoral management body, the PDP seems to have made up its mind not to make the peoples vote count. Electoral fraud seemed to have become an article of faith for the PDP preparatory for the 2007 general elections when former President OlusegunObasanjo decaled “… this election is a do-or-die affair for the PDP. We have a reform program which we have started; we want those who we will hand over to, to continue the reforms” . As argued elsewhere, the import of the statement was that the PDP was going to use means whether fair or foul to achieve victory. The outcome of the elections left no one in doubt about the PDP’s determination. With the opprobrium that greeted the outcome of the elections, the PDP had no choice than to go for the Government of National Unity (GNU) since Late President Umar Musa Yar’Adua himself admitted the fraud that characterized his own emergence.
The importance of the discussion above is that party politics has not engendered political representation in the country. The fraud perpetrated by the PDP and the willingness of some political parties and their leaders to partake in the spoils of office meant that what the people wanted via the electoral process did not matter. This no doubt has negatively impacted on representation in Nigeria.
The Politics of Zoning: One other factor that has been responsible for the lack of political representation in Nigeria’s fourth republic has been the zoning and or rotation of offices along the lines of the six geo-political zones of the country. In a country as diverse as Nigeria, zoning may not be a wholly bad practice as it helps to give every zone a sense of belonging. As a corollary, the feeling of being a part of the country gives rise to some level of socio-political stability. However, it could also be argued that zoning by geo-political configuration and by any other criteria for that matter is a discriminatory thing. It also robs the people of representation as a preferred candidate may be done away with to satisfy the zoning formula.
Godfatherism:the phenomenon of godfatherism has been one of the factors that have impeded political representation in Nigeria. The scope of this phenomenon is quite wide in Nigeria. Godfather politics has manifested in Kwara, Borno, Oyo and Anambra states and even at the federal level. In the states, godfathers have installed their godsons and have literally held these states hostage. The import of these godfathers installing their godsons is that those the people want to represent them may not have a chance even in electoral contests. A few of the posturing of these godfathers will bear this position out. For example, the self acclaimed godfather of Anambra politics once postured “I am the greatest godfather in Nigeria because this is the first time an individual single handedly put in position every politician in the state. And the late strong man of Ibadan politics once gleefully postured; Predominantly, I dominate the political affairs of this state. All the governors that have won never did so without my contribution and influence … it is a known fact and it has always been so before now that if you pass through me, you would get anything you want in politics.
So if I say I dominate politics, I do”. As argued elsewhere in any polity where godfathers hold sway, the first casualty is free choice. This is to the extent that the people are not in a position to determine those who represent them since this is at the whims of the godfather. For the avoidance of any doubt, the godfather has a lot of resources which he can use to impose his will on the people. These include according to Ayoade, political connections, security, antisocial behavior and money or access to money.
As we have argued elsewhere these resources give the godfather the feeling that he his above law and so he becomes daring and unrestrained the attitude of godfathers seems to have been encouraged by the ruling PDP. For example in Oyo State, the former PDP chairman Ahmadu Ali thought that Ibadan was a garrison and that the then Governor Rashid Ladoja had no choice but to take orders from Adedibu who was the commander of the garrison.

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