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Kenyatta’s expressway could make Nairobi feel like it’s Los Angeles by Charles Onyango-Obbo

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Former Kenyan President Mwai Kibaki built Kenya’s Great Infrastructure Church and went. President Uhuru Kenyatta followed him and is now the Pope of the church.

The Kenyatta government, and a slew of county governors, are dyed-in-the-wool infrastructure fundamentalists and have built roads, by-passes, highways, expressways, and some rail like they are going out of fashion.

It seemed like the Mombasa-Nairobi standard gauge railway was going to be Kenyatta’s big trophy. Then about 18 months ago, work started on the Nairobi Expressway, the 27-kilometre toll flyover connecting Jomo Kenyatta International Airport to various suburbs. It has cut the time to the airport from two to four hours from many points to about 20 minutes.

At the price of $668 million, it is a tidy sum. At the start, it seemed opposition from environmentalists and activists who saw it as a wasteful vanity project, would kill it. Then Covid-19 came around. With the country in lockdown, the Kenyatta government put the project on steroids. By the time opponents emerged from Covid jail, Kenyatta had built his thing.

Recently, Kenyatta patted himself on the back, saying the project would have taken four years under normal circumstances, but his government pulled it off in 18 months.

The sceptics, though, remain unpersuaded and hold that it is a monument to political madness. The expressway raises the same questions that were thrown up by other expensive projects in East Africa; the Kigali Convention Centre in Rwanda; the resurrection of once-hopelessly failed national carriers like Uganda Airlines and Air Tanzania; the souping up of the Julius Nyerere International Airport, and the numerous other infrastructure splurges in the region.

Some of these, like the Kigali Convention Centre, broke even within two years. Devotees of the Infrastructure Church say they always pay off, and that sometimes the biggest returns are easy to miss.

In a recent encounter, a bishop of the Infrastructure Church in Uganda disarmed me with his homily about the beauty of building, or even simply promising that you will lay down a lot of concrete and mortar.

He gave the example of President Yoweri Museveni’s government’s announcement that 15 towns were now cities. Many of them had extremely dubious claims to city status. If your view of a city is that it must have a prestigious theatre, a couple of cinemas, a competitive high school and university, a couple of malls, a substantial middle class with suburbs to match, an airport, and a modern bureaucracy to run it, don’t look to the new Ugandan cities.

However, the Infrastructure Bishop said just calling the towns cities had a considerable impact. Many residents immediately stopped thinking of themselves as small-town folks but as city people. They started to eat different, driving up the consumption of certain foods, including rice and ice cream. They started to dress differently. Chaps are even building more elegant homes. Those behavioural changes have been transformational for some town economies.

If he is right, the Nairobi Expressway could make Nairobi feel like it is Los Angeles or Shanghai, and in the process become one of them. That could be the church Kenyatta bequeaths when he rides off into the sunset after the August elections.

Strictly Personal

Direct or indirect primaries: The uniting factor is moneybag politics by Afe Babalola

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THE Electoral Act 2022 (as amended) provides for the system of nomination of candidates by political par ties through primary elections ahead of presidential, state governorship, and legislative houses elections. Section 84(1) of the Electoral Act provides that a political party seeking to nominate candidates for election under this Act shall hold primaries for aspirants to all elective positions which shall be monitored by the Commission. Subsection 2 provides that the procedure for the nomination of candidates by political parties for the various elective positions shall be by direct, indirect primaries or consensus.

Direct primaries, as described in subsection 4 of the Act, connotes that the members of the political party will be given equal opportunity to vote for a party member of their choice as the nominated candidate of the party. It involves the participation of all registered members of a party in the selection of the party’s candidates. Indirect primaries, on the other hand, is a system whereby members of the political party democratically elect delegates at the party’s congress and, in turn, the delegates elect the party’s candidates on behalf of the members of the political party. Sections 5-8 of the Electoral Act, 2022 (as amended) generally stipulates the procedure for the conduct of indirect primaries in Nigeria.

The third category, and perhaps the least commonly adopt ed, is the system of consensus candidacy whereby all aspirants in the political party will voluntarily and expressly withdraw from the primaries and endorse a single candidate; and where there is no such express withdrawal, the political party will mandatorily proceed to conduct direct or indirect primaries. Section 9 of the Act provides as follows: 9 (a) A political party that adopts a consensus candidate shall secure the written consent of all cleared aspirants for the position, indicating their voluntary withdrawal from the race and their endorsement of the consensus candidate; (b) Where a political party is unable to secure the written consent of all cleared aspirants for the purpose of a consensus candidate, it shall revert to the choice of direct or indirect primaries for the nomination of candidates for the aforesaid elective positions. (c) A Special Convention or nomination Congress shall be held to ratify the choice of consensus candidates at designated centres at the National, State, Senatorial, Federal and State Constituencies, as the case may be.

Over the years, the choice of whether a party should adopt direct or indirect primaries has been the subject of debate by political pundits, commentators, and aspirants. The system of indirect primaries which most political parties adopt has been criticized for being easier to manipulate by party lead ers, and on their part, the delegates are expected to align with the party leadership. Another inherent defect in the conduct of indirect primaries includes some instances of the dubious manner of appointment of delegates. For instance, where a sitting Governor or President’s political appointees are made the party’s delegates, it is not in doubt that their nominations will ultimately favour their appointor’s political interest. Be sides, it is not uncommon to find dissimilar delegates’ selection at party congresses, conventions and primaries. On the other hand, the criticism of direct primaries is that it is a lot more expensive to operate and requires much more planning and organization. It is also more easily manipulated. For in stance, a strong contender in a political party can sponsor the members of his own political party to purchase membership cards of the opposition party en masse in order for such members to deliberately vote for a weaker candidate in the said opposition party to win the primaries, thereby giving him an edge in the general elections.

Notwithstanding the obvious differences in the conduct of direct and indirect primaries, there however exists no real difference because of the association of Nigerian politics with godfatherism and moneybag politics. Though it is easier to bribe fewer delegates to support a faction of the party as op posed to the reduced propensity to tilt the votes of all members of the political party to one candidate if direct primaries were held, it still does not change the fact that the underlying factor is the ability of a candidate to sway the few delegates, or the larger party members, with money.

In an interview published in the Punch newspaper on 19th June 2022, a member of the Peoples Democratic Party rep resenting the Ilaje/Ese Federal Constituency stated the im pact of money on politics. He reportedly said: “Except some are lying, it is real. Our politics is monetised. The process is monetised. Some will just come and tell you that they never pay money. They paid money. We paid money to delegates. There is no way you can survive that hurricane without effectively and efficiently releasing resources for those people (delegates). Whether you have served them for seven years and you have been their perpetual or perennial friend, it is not going to count. You just have to do the needful at that point. Again, if you don’t do it, they will not vote for you. This is because it is not just one aspirant or candidate that is doing that; it is a system. You will give what the system is asking for. There is a stimulus that the system is pumping and which the electorate will have to react to. It is not the fault of those who are currently in power or those that are seeking to come to power, it is not their fault… If you are the best (among the aspirants), you will pay; if you are the worst, you will still pay. It is just a systemic thing. Those who eventually won, it is still the same. In my area, we had three very strong contenders. We paid equally and people made their choice on who they wanted. The three people (aspirants) paid equal amounts of money. They (delegates) collected money from the three of us and made their choice on who they wanted.”

The bold admission by the honourable member of the House of Representatives excerpted above is the reality of the Nigerian political climate today. The influence of moneybags in Nigerian politics continues to hold sway in dampening the hopes of the nation in achieving true democracy. After all, the whole idea of democracy is the free will of the people in electing their political leaders, and where such “free will” is manipulated through the influence of political juggernauts, the country is further pulled away from the attainment of the best democratic policies. It accounts for the corruption and violence which have characterized many elections in Nigeria. On the day of the election, the politician who owes his nomi nation to his huge investments will naturally seek a win by any possible means. Where his reliance is placed on a political godfather, he can count on his godfather’s ability to deploy enormous wealth in a bid to corrupt electoral officials and the electorates and where these fail, violence will be deployed to bring about the desired result.

Consequently, the politician who wins an election based only upon the backing of his political godfather will feel no ob ligation to the electorate who in any event might have been disenfranchised in the whole scheme of events. He will there fore devote the entirety of his tenure of office to the promotion and satisfaction of himself, his cronies, and his godfather. There is an unhealthy synergy between godfatherism, money bag politics, and poverty. It is the entire citizenry who suffers the effect of political office holder’s obligation to recoup his investments and/or satisfy the whims of his godfather who, more often than not, are the actual persons in power.

AARE AFE BABALOLA, SAN, OFR, CON, LL.D (Lond.)

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Genuine politicians must die by Kenneth Amaeshi

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I often one wonder why people go into politics in Nigeria, because the challenges of the country are massive. Poor health systems. Low quality education. High youth unemployment and low skills. Hunger, poverty, and famine. Weak infrastructure and institutions. In addition, the politics appears dirty and bitter.

The usual but superficial reason people often offer is that they are keen to serve. If the lure of politics is to serve others, why would one subject oneself through the tortuous process of democratic elections in order to serve? Sleepless nights. Odd meetings. Very strange companies. Painful compromises.

A cynical view might suggest that whether a career in politics is pursued to serve or lord it over others, it is simply a quest for power. Of course, it is human and natural to seek dominion over others. But even at that, what then is the purpose of power and is politics the only means to exercise such powers?

Another view is that politics is simply business – in the sense that politicians financially invest in it and expect worthwhile returns on their investments. In such contexts, they may use money to influence votes. When politicians make such investments, they obviously expect some gains, and the higher the risks, the more the expected returns. However, politicians come in various shades.

Some politicians do not pretend about money politics. It is as clear as it can be. It is what it is – a very transactional engagement. It is all about their self-interests. This understanding makes it easy to attract like minds and to agree on expectations and outcomes. They often portray and pride themselves as the real masters of politics. Many people tend to agree with them, and they are unashamedly transparent about their strategies and aspirations. That’s how it is done. Anything short of this is naivety.

“During my lifetime I have dedicated myself to this struggle of the African people. I have fought against white domination, and I have fought against black domination. I have cherished the ideal of a democratic and free society in which all persons live together in harmony and with equal opportunities. It is and idea which I hope to live for and to achieve. But if needs be, it is an ideal for which I am prepared to die”.

Other politicians prefer not to be very overt about their crude intentions and strategies. They rather mask them in some nebulous and grandiose cloaks – often packaged as a form of progressivism and intellectualism. However, beneath this garb of elegance and decency is a constantly warped and treacherous display of self-interest and greed packaged and sold as enlightenment. The main difference between the two categories is their strategies. While the former is overt, the latter is covert. Nonetheless, their goals are the same.

A third group is made up of politicians who are very idealistic and puritan in their approach. They have something to offer and truly want to serve, but they either do not understand the rules of the market for votes or they think they can change things by ignoring the rules and in most cases swimming against them. However, they hardly win elections because they rarely make any financial investments in the business of politics. As much as some voters may like what they represent, they rarely have sufficient incentives to patronize the politicians in this category. In the end, the politicians become cases of good products but unrealized potentials.

Unfortunately, the business of politics and pretentious service leadership are the bane of democracy and good governance in many countries. Sadly, too, they are often normalized and taken for granted. This normalization and taken-for-grantedness could be as a result of helplessness – because people – i.e., the electorate – do not know how to unravel and dismantle them.

However, no matter how they disguise, they can be unmasked effectively. In Nigeria, for example, where the elections season is simultaneously booming and looming, genuine politicians can be assessed by their preparedness to sacrifice and die for the good of Nigeria. Given where the country is today, especially with her challenges, it only needs politicians who are in it, not for their own sake, but for the growth and development of the country – i.e., politicians who are both competent and ethical. Anything short of this is simply an entrenchment of the status quo, which has not done the country any good.

Nigeria needs genuine political leaders who can literally take the proverbial bull by the horns. This will entail a lot of discomfort, political risks, sacrifices and even death. As scary as it may sound, genuine politicians are rarely deterred by it.

It is obvious that Nigeria is at war with the forces of underdevelopment and darkness. Anyone running against these forces, therefore, must be ready to die, because he who easily rushes to war should know that war is death – o ji oso agbakwuru ogu, omakwa na ogu bu onwu?

But how do we identify genuine politicians, given the confusion and obfuscation of personalities and personae in the system? One way to decipher genuine politicians is to look at their antecedents and ask some very pertinent questions. What have they achieved outside politics? What comforts and luxuries are they leaving or setting aside to serve? What sacrifices are they willing to make and or are making? Are they willing to die for Nigeria to thrive? As much as these questions may sound unrealistic, politicians who fit this mode are truly the sort of politicians Nigeria needs now.

Nelson Mandela, the former president of South Africa, offered an excellent idea of what genuine political leadership looks like in practice when he said:

“During my lifetime I have dedicated myself to this struggle of the African people. I have fought against white domination, and I have fought against black domination. I have cherished the ideal of a democratic and free society in which all persons live together in harmony and with equal opportunities. It is and idea which I hope to live for and to achieve. But if needs be, it is an ideal for which I am prepared to die” (emphasis, mine).

It is obvious that Nigeria is at war with the forces of underdevelopment and darkness. Anyone running against these forces, therefore, must be ready to die, because he who easily rushes to war should know that war is death – o ji oso agbakwuru ogu, omakwa na ogu bu onwu?

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