The recent political events in Edo state has once again brought to the fore, a burgeoning need. All is certainly not well with our current political party system. Something is not right with the ‘modus operandi’ that produces party candidates for elections in Nigeria.
Last year, Nigeria’s acclaimed ‘centre of excellence’, Lagos got a tsunami shock when a seemingly performing serving state Governor was systematically edged out in a ‘seismic’ power play by some powers that be. The events and circumstances surrounding that ‘drop’ of a Governor is not the focus of this piece. However it is pertinent to note that it marked a watershed in our political party candidate selection process.
Political experts, analysts and commentators opine that the leadership conundrum bedevilling the Nigerian state can only be solved when men and women of goodwill are able to pick tickets as candidates in our mainstream political parties. Mainstream because, as things stand in Nigeria, only candidates presented by the two behemoth parties – All Progressives Congress, APC and Peoples Democratic Party, PDP win elections. This scenario is wrong, but it is the way it is. The other political parties currently have no electoral value. Due apologies to my friends in APGA, SDP, AAC et al.
It is clear to discerning minds that what we have in Nigeria today are not political parties. They are mere ‘vehicles’ that move politicians every four years from point A to point B. Point A and B are local government, state or federal level executive, legislative and sundry positions. What we have now are platforms. We do not have real political parties yet. Can we compare the shenanigans called political parties today to what we had in the 2nd republic between 1979 and 1983? Those defunct parties – the National Party of Nigeria, NPN, Unity Party of Nigeria, UPN and the Great Nigeria People’s Party, GNPP had distinct ideology. With a finger snap, you could situate where each of those parties stood on Education, Health, Agriculture and other vital sectors of the economy.
Ideologically, our current two major political parties are more of the same like numbers in a Venn diagram. And herein lies the major challenge facing our polity. Most Nigerians will tell you as of this moment that they just look at an individual and give their votes. We remain caught up in the politics of personalities and so called supermen.
Majority of Nigerian voters and politicians know quite well that it is either the APC or PDP that win elections in the country. Reason they junket from either of them in a whimper. Again, herein lies the suffocation of our political space. For a supposedly multi-party state, Nigeria is ‘unofficially’ a two-party nation. To reverse this suffocating dangerous trend, a few things must give way.
First, the apathy of the Nigerian people to party politics must be jettisoned. A situation where only a few party men and women (a tiny minority) decides for the majority must stop. Take the Lagos example in 2019, ordinary Lagosians were denied a performing Governor on the altar of party political idiosyncrasies. The party machinery was completely hijacked by a strong man and no eyebrows raised. A similar scenario was going to play out in Edo state recently until ‘order’ was magically restored by people power.
Secondly, the current operators of our political parties need to put country before self. They must draw up proper and distinct ideologies as obtained in other clime where a Republican, Democrat, Labour or a Conservative are easily recognisable in both the United States of America and United Kingdom respectively. Even in Ghana, the NDC (National Democratic Congress) and NPF (New Patriotic Party) have distinct ideologies. Also, the electoral umpire, the Independent National Electoral Commission, INEC must continue to be an unbiased umpire and abide by its statutory role as stipulated by the letters of the law. INEC has to continue to evolve and deepen our democratic tenets.
Thirdly and by far the most important; we the Nigerian people needs to take our destiny in own hands. Persistent complaints and mere wishful thinking will take us nowhere. History tells us that oppressors never let go without a fight. The days of ‘siddon look’ is over. Better to fight a good cause from the inside than ranting outside. Time has come for everyone to get involved in politics right from our ward level. The era of ‘politics is a dirty game’ must end and give birth to a new season of ‘politics is the game changer’. Each of us must play our part.
A new set of spartan leaders with vision, competence, love and compassion for the people must emerge. The quick resort of our people to ‘God dey’ is not enough. The Almighty God has fortified us with enough gifts and talent to turn our nation around. Renowned South African cleric, Desmond Tutu once said; “if you are neutral on situations of injustice, you have chosen the side of the oppressor.”
Time has come for us as a people to dust ourselves up, stop complaining and throw our hat in the political ring. Angels are not going to come from heaven to do it for us. We must take the destiny of our nation in our hands. Poverty and under-development which are hallmarks of inept leadership does not recognize tribe or religion. Nigerians of all divide must therefore come together to rejig and reset our political landscape. Yes, We Can!
Tony Agbons PhD writes from the United Kingdom