Use of Government House ‘as a Con Game’

August 2, 2021

Opinion | By Hon. Josef Omorotionmwan | 02. 08. 2021

A short excursion into the field of Elementary Criminology will provide an introduction to today’s piece. In criminology,con-game is a short form of Con Game – a crime situation in which the person who should have reported the crime is part of it. Should he approach the police to report that a crime had been committed, he would be held as the first culprit before the police would proceed to pick up the offender being reported.

We have the prostitute and the pimp. In many parts of the world where prostitution is outlawed, the prostitute and the pimp are simply driven underground. In such places, when the hooker receives a raw deal from her pimp, the hooker who goes to the police to report of the raw deal she received from her pimp would first be grabbed by the police before they would go after the pimp. That’s how many such offences rather go unreported.

In Nigerian politics, there is largely the sociological concept that a man never sees himself as dead. For the Nigerian politician, it is always the other person that will die, not himself. Even in their own con game, they scream loudest of the same offence being committed by their opponents. Ordinarily, he who comes to equity must come with clean hands but not the Nigerian politician.

The penultimate week the PDP Governors held a crucial meeting. Venue of the meeting: Government House, Bauchi. One of the most outstanding items on their communiqué after the meeting was a serious accusation of President Muhammadu Buhari for using ASO ROCK VILLA as a rendezvous for receiving the PDP Governors in their defection into the APC.

Once upon a recent time, a PDP President, Goodluck Jonathan, had a fund-raising for his return bid to power. Because human memory is short, PDP has forgotten that on that occasion, they committed a number of offences – all rolled into one: first, that event was in GOVERNMENT HOUSE, and secondly, they overshot the runway by putting together N23 Billion – 23 times in excess of the N1 Billion in that year’s Electoral Law as the limit of spending by a Presidential candidate.

We had political parties but not anymore. The political parties did not survive the pogrom of the Ibrahaim Babamosi Babangida years. Babangida provides a good example of a man who was out to write a law but instead of writing a law, he wrote himself into the law. As fortune would have it, he even forgot to have a plan ‘B’ in case the law failed. In all conscience, Babangida cannot claim to be any less affected than the politicians he wanted out of the way.  

At the advent of Babangida’s grassroots politics, so-called, Government provided offices in all the states across the country for the two political parties. The parties were funded by government and that was how the political parties collapsed into government and at best, the parties became small Departments of the Presidents’ and Governors’ offices; and so died!

Hitherto, Presidents and Governors were servants of the people who owned the parties. Their status now changed to those of leaders of the parties and masters of the people.

Before them, party meetings were held in party secretariats and Presidents and Governors attended promptly. Let’s look at a few examples:

As recent as the Second Republic, if Governor Ambrose Ali were to come five minutes late to a party meeting when party leaders were already seated, he would perhaps crawl from the door to the leaders’ table, apologizing for his lateness.

On the NPN side, the same fate would befall President Shehu Shagari if he made the mistake of arriving five minutes late to an NPN meeting. There was discipline and that was then.

In the post-Babangida era, when the new men took over, they ran whatever remained of the parities aground. The Department of parties now started meeting in GOVERNMENT HOUSE.

Political Parties became, at best, paper tigers on whose back Presidents and governors rode to GOVERNMENT HOUSE – with instruction to the tigers to devour whatever elements they met on ground. This they did successfully.

Offices of the Department of Political Parties (AKA Party Secretariats) are usually three bedroom bungalows located somewhere in small premises where the factional chairman can easily jump at to go and see the Governor (The Boss) whenever he is needed.

Every Expanded Exco meeting is held in GOVERNMENT HOUSE. It is not unusual for the Governor to ask that a meeting be scheduled for 1:00 p.m. Members would arrive promptly, only to find that Oga Governor is not around. They have compelling reasons to wait. They have not forgotten how difficult it was for them to get the transport fare to GOVERNMENT HOUSE. And Oga must be around to approve the wretched transport allowance to take them home.

At 6:30 p.m., the announcement comes that Oga’s flight has just left Abuja. He arrives at 7:30 p.m. and in one hour, the meeting is over.

To the victor belongs the spoils of office. This is a political philosophy that was made popular by the 28th President of the US, Woodrow Wilson (1856 – 1924). We may vary this slightly to apply to the Nigerian situation: To the Nigerian Governor belongs the spoils of office. At the tax payers’ expense, he finances the political party and his natural propensity to steal. At the end of tenure, he quietly migrates to a safer havens to avoid accountability.

Within one political party, there are many political parties. Factional parties will never end. The Governor quickly picks which factions to encourage as a cost-saving device which provides the divide-and-role system.

The PDP Governors cannot cry too loud over their opponents that are using government apparatus to feather the nest of their political parties. The kettle and the pot are black enough! There are many other areas of default that they can harp on instead of dissipating energy on an area in which everyone is guilty as charged.

Meanwhile, our health and educational systems are virtually comatose – with our tertiary institutions on strike for more than nine months in any given year.

Insecurity has consumed the entire land. Inflation is at a crescendo with the result that the Naira is now barely worth the paper on which it is printed. And you are no longer a millionaire if you can count your millions!

To the unemployed, the rate of unemployment is 100 percent. That’s one way of explaining that in Nigeria, unemployment is piercing through the ceiling and leaving in its trail, hunger, abject poverty and disease. Need we say more?

In times like these, should a major opposition party which has a core mandate to keep the government constantly on its toes be dealing on trivialities and playing to the gallery when there are fundamental issue staring us in the face? This is not a secondary school debate.

Nigeria is today facing the moral equivalence of war! Come on!

In a good polity, one would have expected that by now, the Research Department of the PDP should be reeling out Policy Opinions as well as Seminar and Workshop papers, showing how it would have been doing things differently to pull this country out of the woods.

Nigeria’s problems cannot be solved by sprint or by the single stroke of a statesman’s pen; but by relay race, involving millions of separate steps by everyone – an inch at a time.


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