Politics is everywhere practiced with modicum of intrigues and machinations. In different climes, politics has its own uniqueness, its nuances and its own flavor as well. Despite those common characteristics, Nigeria politics is entirely a different ball game when compared to happenings elsewhere. In those environments where we hanker to ape in virtually everything we do, politics is sometimes laced with deceptive insignia of principles and ethics that are succinctly expressed in terms of ideological posturing and highfalutin grandiosity. Even though in reality, as we very well know, politics is all about the pursuit of unbridled power for its own ends. And this naked quest, this unending yearning, is mostly dictated by our basest human instinct. We all want to consume the elixir of power. Yes, power for power’s sake! Power is brutally sought after, sometimes without apprehending the innate demons compelling individuals to go after it through the agency of politics. Again, just for the heck of it! As a game of power, politics is always made interesting through its sheer acts of guile and deviousness. This unique character of politics is almost evenly spread universally.
In recent years in Nigeria our political norm is virtually topsy-turvy, if we are to speak the truth. Politics is no longer an avenue for unalloyed service to the people. Politics is practiced for the need to promote one’s self-interest or even to promote vested interests. Politics is however made worse in Nigeria because of the kind of corruption that underscores it. You will surely agree with me that the whole canvass of politics in our country is smeared by corruption. These days, politicians can be seen flapping their wings gingerly like butterflies from one political party to another in pursuit of their self-interest. But in other climes politics is practiced as purely a matter of ideology. For good or bad, politicians always patiently remained glued to the fortunes and misfortunes of their political platforms. Party politics can also be a family tradition in some old democracies. In Britain, for example, a family tree of generations of Tories can easily be sketched from the inception of the Tory Party to date. In the same respect, it is difficult to find members of Kennedy lineage outside the Democratic Party, or the Bush family running away from the Republican Party no matter the difficulty that the party is facing in power or out of power. Politicians do not easily migrate from one political camp to another with ease because of momentary refusal of the party to pander to their whims.
In Nigeria politics that is based on some pragmatic principles is increasingly in retreat in the face of an emergent vulgar kind of politics. Ideology is fast giving way to the phenomenon of stomach infrastructure or what is more appropriately described elsewhere as self-serving politics. Politicians can easily be seen flying like birds from one encampment to another to feather their nests. This unprincipled tendency has all alone been with us even before the inauguration of the first republic after the Nigerian independence. From the days of nationalist politics there were considerable inclinations and dispersion towards identity politics. NCNC, which used to be the hub for nationalist struggle and agitations for self-rule, had eventually witnessed massive desertions to regional political formations. The establishment of regionally based political parties like the Action Group (AG) and Northern Peoples’ Congress (NPC), though have drawn much of their inspiration from NCNC, they however submitted themselves to the logic of colonial regional structuring of Nigeria. In Northern Nigeria, for instance, Northern Elements Progressive Union (NEPU) was one of the few parties that were built on the solid foundation of a progressive ideology with its stalwarts sticking to the party principle of emancipating the oppressed masses (talakawa) from the excesses of the exploitative structures militating against social mobility in the North. NEPU used to serve as the counterforce to the more conservative political grouping otherwise known as NPC, which is a political party that identified itself with the socio-political and cultural traditions of the dominant feudal social order in the region. NPC was clearly a party that was deeply rooted in the leadership values of the Emirate system.
The legacies of political parties in the first republic have clearly survived well into the second republic with the formation Unity Party of Nigeria (UPN), National Party of Nigeria (NPN), Nigerian Peoples’ Party (NPP), Great Nigerian Peoples’ Party (GNPP) and of course Peoples Redemption Party (PRP). Coincidentally, the splintering of the NPP into GNPP has incubated the opportunistic migratory proclivities of technocrats and bureaucrats that transmogrified into full-blown second republic politicians. Since then carpet-crossing from one party to another has been spiraling out of control of the political parties. This is not entirely unexpected from parties that have not been formed out of any conviction but the convenience of grabbing power for power’s sake. This ugly trend has led to a situation in which Nigerian politicians have started changing party at will. Changing party is like changing wardrobe amongst Nigerian politicians. Once a certain politician could not have his/her way in his party he easily hopped to another party. Sometimes it is the other party that woes a budding politician from a rival party with a promise of juicy position or platform.
But curiously, Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), once touted as the largest political party in Africa, has in its 16years rule become so powerful to the extent of being selective in whom it allows for its memberships. Between the tenure of President Olusegun Obasanjo and President Goodluck Ebele Jonathan, all other parties were almost completely emasculated by the PDP. The party had once become the only party in town to reckon with. It became so haughty when it transformed itself from a political party into a cult order. PDP has indeed become a Frankenstein monster threatening to consume its own members through intra-party conflicts and power tussles amongst its members. PDP rule was also characterized by inexplicable corruption. Although it had virtually suffocated other political parties, it got to a point where its internal squabbles had turned out to be its own Achilles heels. It had to take the dexterity, nay, the political sagacity of Ahmed Bola Tinubu’s Action Congress of Nigeria (ACN) in its merger with President Muhammadu Buhari’s Congress for Progressive Change (CPC) to form the All Progressive Congress (APC), which ultimately kicked the PDP out of power. In the hullabaloo leading to the ousting of the PDP, renegade PDP splinter groups have obviously played a significant role in crashing its own edifice.
There were three recognizable blocs that ensured that President Jonathan was thrown out of office. The first was the towering figure of the former President Obasanjo, who used to strategically choose his moments of spoiling the game for any incumbent President through his acerbic verbal attacks. There was then the factor of mercurial Atiku Abubakar, Obasanjo’s Vice-President, who desperately wants to become the President of Nigeria at all costs. Then there was Bukola Saraki’s angle, the powerful politician being taken for granted by President Buhari’s political handlers. We must not forget that Saraki was a very strong factor amongst the rebels and renegades that swore to end the dominance of the PDP as the ruling party. It was expected that after the political merger that sealed the fate of PDP, the APC would have drawn some good lessons from the failures of the PDP. But that was not to be. President Muhammadu Buhari, an ex-military dictator, learning the art and craft of democracy has flatly refused to take responsibility of consolidating the gains of the APC by repackaging the party through the mechanisms of internal party democracy. In office, the President ignored the party to its own devices until when it was almost too late in the day.
Either President Buhari did not know the significance of repositioning the party on the pedestal of democratic ethos or he was simply luxuriating in the myth of his personal integrity and popularity amongst the masses. The situation that the new ruling party has now found itself in can easily spell doom for its very survival, and even for its chances of victory. I squarely put the blame on President Buhari, the man that is suppose to play the role of the party leader, for gullibly ignoring the strategic importance of his political party in electoral democracy. He simply does not understand what it means to engage in political horse-trading in his handling of some purely political issues, and in his relationship with the legislative arm of government. The President has displayed sheer disdain for politics and politicians going by the manner in which he ignored their entreaties at the time he felt comfortable being surrounded with some narrow-minded and insensitive technocratic elements that could not even deliver their wards. The party is now being dismantled inch-by-inch as its PDP wing swung into action.
As 2019 elections approaches, the President could be seen embarrassingly attempting to recoup his party almost too late in the day. I doubt if the APC would sustain its 2015 electoral gains with the kind of tug of war that is going on between the President, what remains of the APC and the disgruntled party apparatchiks that are leaving the party in droves together with large pool of their supporters.