By Prof. Tunji Olaopa
The significant year 2023 is still some eight months away, but the Nigerian political space is already feeling the weight and heat of electoral matters, especially with several candidates—presidential and gubernatorial—already signaling their intentions to contest.
Given the current reality with critical development indices, the crisis of the Nigerian state and the future of the Nigerian project of national integration has become somewhat more complex in measures that will be more demanding for future leadership. Under the onslaught of the Boko Haram insurgents and the banditry, the security problem has become increasingly worse. The security predicament is further compounded by governance matters—from poverty to unemployment to industrial unrest and galloping inflation. Fortunately, or unfortunately, those who want Buhari’s seat will also soon begin to campaign on the capacity to restitute the policy deficits of the current administration around security and governance.
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For me, the most critical absence in the gathering political storm for 2023 is the lack of any ideological frames around which to hang the tussles and electoral campaigns of the parties that are emerging and fielding candidates at both the presidential and gubernatorial levels. In other words, the two political parties—APC and PDP—both are distinguished by their conspicuous lack of ideological base around which significant issues, from security and the economy to public service reform and unemployment, can be distinctly articulated as campaign manifestoes. As part of her political development after independence, Nigeria adopted presidentialism from the political experience of the United States. The concept of presidentialism in the US gave birth to two ideologically rooted parties, the Republican and Democratic parties. Every significant issue in the American political space—from same sex marriage to racism—is determined by the spectrum of liberalism and conservatism around which the two parties revolve. And this is the backbone that speaks to the political dynamics that uphold good governance.
Good or bad governance is determined by the kind of politics that the political class plays with the lives of their citizens. The objective of all political parties everywhere in the world is to contest for power as a means to an end, which is the determination of the trajectory of development that the ideology the party holds will take the country. An ideology, therefore, becomes a vision of politics attached to development. Thus, for instance, while Republicans prefer the free-market approach to healthcare that prevents the government from intervening in healthcare provision, the Democrats queue behind the universal health coverage and single-payer system. Thus, when ideological political parties gain control of political power, there is already a blueprint of policies and actions to be taken on behalf of the citizens. This is what happens in the United States. This is also what happens in Britain, and indeed in Europe. It is a far cry from the clueless politics that goes on in Nigeria where the political class is devoid of ideologies that determine what to do on significant issues.
We can then begin to ask the fundamental question that should circumscribe our thinking about 2023: the relationship between ideological and issue-based politics and good governance; and why the future of Nigeria depends sorely on what ideology we need to run the Nigerian state and make development happen for the citizens. In 2015, PMB rode to power on an integrity brand and an uninterrogated change agenda—the no-nonsense mien of a never smiling president who will discipline the place and restore the security of life and property. The closer we move to 2023, the more it is dawning again on us that ethnicity, religion and the power of incumbency remain the critical factors that would determine who becomes the president in 2023.
And yet, this was not how the Nigerian state and her politics was envisioned and inaugurated. Nigeria’s nation-building and political development trajectory began most significantly with the best political motif. Pre-independence campaign was energised by ideology-rooted nationalist movements. For instance, the Anglo-Nigerian Defence Pact became the source of a frenzied ideological opposition motivated by pan-Africanism and the non-aligned movement. This was the type of ideological contestation around which the political parties, especially in the First Republic, were known for. Indeed, the nationalists were confronted with the future prospect of a nation that had just emerged from the womb of colonialism. It is in this context that we can understand the Nigeria-as-mere-geographical-expression thesis of Chief Obafemi Awolowo and the diarchy ideological recommendation of Dr Nnamdi Azikiwe. No one would forget the political rivalry between the Action Group, the Northern People’s Congress and the National Council of Nigeria and the Cameroon (as well as the reincarnation of the rivalry between the NPN and the UPN). Or the People’s Redemption Party of Mallam Aminu Kano. Indeed, the Nigerian Political Bureau, set up by the regime of President Ibrahim Badamasi Babangida, had fundamental ideological recommendations that are still relevant for putting Nigeria together on a firm political footing. Nigeria’s return to democratic rule, signaled by the June 12 saga, also signaled the ideological extent that Nigerians could go in tracking political development in Nigeria.
Concluded on www.dailytrust.com.ng
Olaopa is of National Institute for Policy and Strategic Studies, Kuru, Jos