Nigeria and dearth of politics of principles

Great Nigerians, we are witnessing a lot of going back and forth, approbating and reprobating, blowing hot and cold all in the name of politics, in the country. This leaves the average reasonable person with a lot of unanswered questions; they are left to continuously ponder over the essence and message of Nigerian politics. The questions are legion and apparently very few concrete answers have been proffered. What is the brand and what is the label of Nigerian politics? What message does it send to its followers? Do we have political parties properly so called with distinct messages and organising principles different from the position of other contestants for power? Is there no difference between the political parties? Are the parties simply machines without a soul for the raw acquisition of state power without clear ideas of how to use same?

In the last one year, there have been several movements in and out of political parties especially between the dominant Peoples Democratic Party and the opposition All Progressives Congress. The opposition party had been formed from an amalgamation of many existing political parties and positioned itself as the party of “progressives”. Its members claimed that the ruling party had failed the country, which, no doubt, is true. The members claimed that the membership of the ruling party was mainly made up of conservatives who did not wish the country well and had no ideas of how to move the country from underdevelopment to development; from poverty to riches, etc. They therefore offered themselves as the alternative with new ideas for change and enhancement of democracy. As Nigerians were considering the message of the APC in a bid to make up their minds on who to follow, many members of the ruling PDP jumped ship and anchored in the APC. Notable among these defectors were five governors, a former Vice President, a horde of legislators and a host of others who felt that the PDP offered them no future for the immediate realisation of their political ambitions. It even reached a point where the APC was targeting the takeover of the leadership of the National Assembly because they were virtually becoming the majority in the legislature. At this point, the Speaker of the House of Representatives, Aminu Tambuwal, hardly attended functions of his party (the PDP) but was always seen hobnobbing with leading figures in the opposition.

Before Nigerians could fully understand what was happening, the PDP devised a counter offensive strategy that saw them begin to reverse the gains of the APC and had some the latter legislators and high ranking members defect back to the PDP. The counter offensive had virtually wiped out all the initial gains of the APC and brought things back to the status quo before the defection gale. However, the Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria 1999 did not contemplate this unnecessary movement and cross carpeting, all in the name of politics. For elected officials in the executive and legislature, victory at an election is a combination of the strengths of the party and the candidate. Therefore, jumping ship in the middle of an administration is to an extent a betrayal of the trust reposed in the candidate and party by the electorate.

The proper perspective to belonging to a political party is that an individual or group of persons examines the policy choices represented by a party, its philosophy of governance that will be implemented if it wins power and comes to the conclusion that these represent their world view of governance or comes close to it. They therefore consciously agree to abide by the world view of the party and take their umbrella to project their candidacy. Take the latest movement from one party to the other; Nuhu Ribadu, a former boss of the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission, moving from a party (where he was the flag bearer for the leading legacy party that formed the APC) to defect to the ruling PDP. What were the issues and principles that led him to join the ACN which metamorphosed into the APC? Is he no longer seeing those positions in the APC?

This is not the politics of principles. It is crass and sheer opportunism to the extreme. A mere promise of getting a governorship ticket to fly a party’s flag, as reported in the media, should not be enough to cause a principled politician to defect from party A to B. Moreover, the same Ribadu was handed a presidential flag by the ACN, a party that virtually abandoned him and cut a deal with the candidate of the ruling party. That was the time to quit the party and question their commitment to a politics of ideas rather than sheer “stomach infrastructure”.

It will be recalled that Ribadu while in office as the boss of the EFCC had questioned the moral credentials of the leader of the defunct ACN and accused him of gross corruption. Simply because he wanted power, he moved on to accept a flag from the same person who he had earlier vilified. Media reports indicate that he wants to fly the PDP’s governorship flag in Adamawa State. Now, the PDP rules require a new entrant to stay for sometime before contesting as a candidate under the party’s flag; will Ribadu be disappointed if the PDP refuses to waive the rules for him and leave him high and dry in the middle of the road. Essentially, will he be surprised if he fails to get the PDP ticket as its governorship candidate? Will anyone take him seriously if he cries out later that the PDP hawks did not keep their word? By the time this happens, he would have further eroded his credentials as a man of honour and principles. And this would be another opportunity lost.

What is clearly manifesting is that we have yet to have political parties and politicians properly so called. Very few Nigerian politicians believe in anything. For them, it is a case of associating with any government in power. From 1999, when Olusegun Obasanjo was parcelled by the power brokers from the prison to the Presidency, brushing aside the founding fathers of the PDP, who fought against military rule and what they stood for, it has been the politics of anything goes in the country. Taking a cue from what happened at the National Conference and the divergence of positions based on ethnic and sectional considerations, can anyone point to a pan PDP or pan APC position on any of the central issues related to the Nigerian question. For instance, where do these parties stand on devolution of powers from the centre to the constituent units, state policing, revenue sharing between the centre and the constituent units, etc?

We need to evolve a new culture, a new mindset, a new value system and a new way of doing things in our politics. Mere rationalising and justifying the unjustifiable will not move this nation in the right direction. It is time for people to stand up to what they believe in.

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