South Africans received a perfect Valentine’s Day gift from none other than Jacob Zuma, who resigned as State President in a nationwide broadcast. Dogged by corruption allegations, with over 700 corruption charges hanging over his head, and allegations of “state capture” owing to his inappropriate relationship with the wealthy Gupta family, Mr Zuma is a cat with nine lives who ran out of lives. After surviving half a dozen attempts to unseat him through a vote of no confidence in parliament, he was finally forced to resign by his own party apparatchiks who saw him as a national embarrassment and a dent on the party’s image as they approach an election year. What lessons do we have to learn from Zuma’s exit from power as a nation and as a people? Can Zexit - Zuma’s exit - happen in Nigeria?
The first thing to learn is the concept of party supremacy in politics. Zuma was able to survive half a dozen opposition sponsored vote of no confidence in parliament, despite humongous corruption allegations against him, coupled with the fact that he was loathed by not a few, because his party, the African National Congress (ANC), stood solidly behind him. But the moment they withdrew their support, he knew that the game was up and he could not afford to swim against the tide. This is in stark contrast to what obtains in Nigeria where party indiscipline is the order of the day. A case in point is the current leadership of the National Assembly which emerged against the ruling party’s directives even though it had a majority in both houses of parliament. Closely related to this, is the absence of do or die politics - apology to Chief Olusegun Obasanjo, the self acclaimed proponent of do or die politics in Nigeria, - in South Africa. No political party in Nigeria can call on it’s members in power to resign from office as such calls would simply go unheeded. As a matter of fact, it is extremely rare for a Nigerian politician to resign from office as they would rather destroy the party, state institutions and just about anything in a bid to hold on to power at all costs.
Secondly, the presence of strong state institutions rather than strong individuals in South Africa, ensured that corruption allegations against Mr Zuma was not swept under the carpet even though he was State President. Many of those corruption cases are currently ongoing and it is expected that Mr Zuma would face trial in an open court since he no longer enjoys immunity from prosecution. The wife of a Former President of Nigeria who had corruption cases with the EFCC, had them quashed after her husband’s ascension to the highest office in the land.
Finally, the existence of a virile opposition and civic minded citizens who refused to be deterred until they saw the back of Jacob Zuma, is also another feature lacking in our democratic clime. Opposition in Nigeria thrives on mere rhetoric, all talk and no action, and the docility of the masses who bear the brunt of the bad policies of our leaders is stupefying.