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OPINION: Politics Without Developing from Political Parties

By Prof R. A. Ipinyomi, University of Ilorin, Nigeria

Nigeria party politics’ Fourth Republic that started May 29, 1999 is already counting its years. It is now the longest regime. From October 1, 1960 to date the regimes are as follows, namely, 1960-1966 (PP 6 years), 1966-1979 (MD 13 years), 1979-1983 (PP 4 years), 1983-1993 (MD 10 years), 1993-1993 (PP 0 years), 1993-1999 (MD 6 years) and 1999-2018 (PP, 19 years). This means that Nigeria has had 29 years under Party Politics (PP) and 29 years also under Military Dictatorship (MD). The focus now should be on the development of Nigeria, especially the partisan politics, and whether Nigerians have learnt any significant lesson to use in building a sustainable system of governance. Focus is particularly being placed on the prevailing culture of impunity and a system that is allegedly fighting against democratic tenets. The partisan politics in Nigeria is nothing to write about as there seems to be no visible or viable political party that is standing a test of time right now. Take for example the current president of the country, President Muhammad Buhari, who has been contesting for that same position since 2003 until he won in 2015. He had been doing so, and contesting each time under different political parties. Most of the governors and members of the National Assembly have been moving from one political party to another. Yet there is no sign that viable political parties would emerge as they keep joining and decamping from one party to another. The effect of these factors on the development of democracy in Nigeria, its impacts of socioeconomic life of the citizens, should be examined as well as the essence of politicking.

We must all attempt to identify a few of the problems confronting Nigeria democracy and what otherwise has been the priority of the political class. There are series of problems, and they are in layers, confronting Nigeria as a political, military or economic nationhood. Some of them include greed and corruption, ethnic and religious differences, lack of vision and a road map to build the nation, lack of political education and minimum requirement to qualify a politician to practice, political parties selecting their candidates instead of electing them democratically, weak institutions that made it so easy for a military takeover of government, and similar others. But by far the most prevailing social and economic problem is the inability of successive Nigerian governments to convert the youth into an army of workers and the labour force. Nigeria may be losing her future generation into a market of vices, lazing away and doing evil because they are unemployed. The wrong people are in the helms of government affairs, minding only selves and digging holes that could prevent the youths from running their own country’s affairs. They magnify society biases and differences by spreading wrongly the impression that only they can better represent their regions, religions or rights. Until a society finds the right combination of people, and puts them into leadership, hijackers of all sorts would be feeding fat on that society and preventing its sociopolitical or economic development and growth. The main problem has therefore been reduced to simply “finding the correct leadership using the correct democratic system”.

Take the greed and corruption problem that has been overheated and used wrongly or rightly by same politicians to gain acceptance on campaign grounds but doing nothing tangle once elected. A Chinese story credited to the current President Xi Jing Peng of China, alleged taught him by his father, would be appropriate here, whether true or not. The story was a lesson on how not to be selfish or always “grabbing the most or best for self”. The story is as follows between the boy Xi Jing and his father.One day, my father cooked two bowls of noodles and put them on the table. One bowl had one egg on top and the other bowl did not have any egg on top”. His father called him and said to him, “My child choose which bowl of noodles you want”. Xi Jing said that eggs were hard to come by those days. One only got to eat eggs during festivals or New Year. The boy Xi Jing said, “Of course I chose the bowl with egg. As we started eating and I was congratulating myself on my wise decision and walloping up the egg. Then to my surprise as my father ate his noodles, there were TWO eggs at the bottom of his bowl beneath the noodles. I regretted so much my choice. I scolded myself for being too hasty in my decision”. My father smiled and said to me, “My child you must remember what your eyes see may not be true. If you intent on taking advantage of people, you will end up losing.”

The next day his father again cooked two bowls of noodles; one bowl with an egg on top and the other bowl with no egg on top. Again, his father put the two bowls on the table and said to his child. “You choose which bowl you want”. This time I was smarter and I chose the bowl without any egg on top. To my surprise, as I separated the noodles on top, there was not even a single egg at the bottom of the bowl. Again his father smiled and said to him, “My child, you must not always rely on experiences because sometimes, life can cheat you or play tricks on you”.

The third day, his father again cooked two bowls of noodles, again one bowl with an egg on top and the other bowl with no egg on top. His father put the two bowls on the table and again said to the boy Xi Jing, “My child which bowl you want?” This time, I told my father, “Dad you choose first. You are the head of the family and contributed the most to the family”. My father did not decline and chose the bowl with one egg on top. I ate my bowl of noodles, believing in my heart that there was no egg inside the bowl. To my surprise there were TWO eggs at the bottom of the bowl. His father smiled at the boy Xi Jing with love in his eyes and said, “My child, you must remember when you think for the good of others, good things will always naturally happen to you.”

Nigerians have had enough lessons to take home from their own life of greed and corruption without an additional Chinese lesson, but the real problem is that Nigerians have refused to change, even after eating from their vomits. People who campaigned on change did not seem to know the concept of change or what exactly they had intended to change. This is a country where family political dynasty is yet to grow because the fathers must have been teaching their children half truth, false life or outright falsehood, teaching their children that the end justifies the means. Their children are only looking for the bowls of noodles with eggs on top. In this way Nigerian parents are enemies of their own children and their spouses by teaching those lessons that would not lead to hard work and sustainable character. Hence they are their own worst enemies. It is a vicious cycle and the nation, the main stakeholder, is the largest loser. Right now there are no standing political parties on the field except on paper in INEC office in Abuja.

The era of impunity would also not allow the political parties to grow because each member of each party is a lord of self. Zero party discipline. No one is a democrat and everyone belongs to the INEC’s unregistered independent party. For example, those of us not in patrician politics have not been able to see the working in harmony between the Presidency and the National Assembly, between the National Assemble and the Judiciary, or between the Judiciary and the Presidency. If the observation were true it must have been because the APC party is not politicking as a coherent single political party with a common goal for building the nation and the citizens. Instead what seems to exist is where each arm of government is always fighting and claiming its independence from others rather than their collaboration and collective assignment to build a common country. Hence there is no single political party called APC, just as there would have been no single political party called a PDP. In advanced democracy, politics should have extended down to our campuses, where students would have been contesting for students’ unionism, on the bases of party affiliation rather than political parties recruiting students as agents to fight others. Democracy is a national culture and imbibed by all citizens.

The influence of billionaires, money bags, or godfathers in patrician politics is yet to be determined. It is being alleged that many of them are the main sponsors of activities such as ISIS, Al-Quada, Boko Haram, Stealing female students in the North East of Nigeria, etc. The study to establish their intentions, extent and final goals is on but we see their effect on other areas already, beyond capitalism. Remember that the very poor alimajeri in North Eastern Nigeria couldn’t have stolen over 100 female students from their hostels at night, fly them out, put them on speed boats across two or more nations and bring them back the third day. In the industries employment is scarce caused by over sourcing, because of the available excess workforce that no one seems to want. This also is capitalism but social injustice. The unions meant to be protecting workers’ rights and using their collective bargaining power to drive up wages needed to create the middle class are disappearing in Nigeria. The Comrade Adam Oshiomoles are now in full politicking but unable to work with their original cohorts. They are now comfortable billionaires whilst union membership has fallen drastically.  The growth in salaries and wages has remained low since democracy, except the Obasanjo’s regime who gave a little attention. Many states have refused to pay even the low monthly salaries contributing to poverty and heavily to the statistical growth of the wealth-inequality. Yet, the untamable spiral inflation eats away at the so called minimum wage. Another factor is that the minimum wage has remained stubbornly stagnant in Nigeria since Obasanjo left office. Hence the same inflation has eaten away at the real value of the minimum wage, making it increasingly difficult for those in the lower rung to seek their way into the middle class. The billionaires are not the friends of the common citizens as they have virtually taken over the control of every arm of government in one way or the other, and ensuring that only their candidates get into office. Whoever pays the pipers dictates the tune, as we were told.

There is still a whole year between now and the 2019 general elections. There are many things impossible to change between now and that time, but the electorates have some power still to fight for democracy using their votes. The political class would want things to remain as they are; they want the electorates to tolerate selection of candidates, look the other ways when politicians are cross carpeting with impunity, rigging elections, operating with tugs openly, and so on. It is our belief that if there would be a big voters’ turn out the results could be different from mere arrangement or selection. It is also in the interest of the entire nation to have viable political parties, and where politicians are fully democratic in their operation and practice.

Prof. R. A. Ipinyomi


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