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Wrong political education

Last week I analyzed some elements of Kaduna State politics with a caption “Between El-Rufai and Shehu Sani “. The piece is more about intra-party…

Last week I analyzed some elements of Kaduna State politics with a caption “Between El-Rufai and Shehu Sani “. The piece is more about intra-party crisis which has been an obstacle to our democratization project. The names of the two politicians featured because the case study will be meaningless without the names of the principal actors. I promised to do the same for Kano State this week but shelved the idea because of the death of Alhaji Maitama Sule who hailed from there. It is mourning time in Kano. Let us make it a topic for another day.

Political education is acquired through political socialization which has been described as “the process by which people acquire political attitudes and values.” It is a wide process that includes formal education, reading, discussing politics or active participation in politics. 

Most Nigerians acquire political education through reading, listening to radio, watching television and political participation by attending rallies, political discussion, voting etc. As somebody who was born in the early 60’s, I had no serious socialization on democracy because of military rule until 1978 when the military rulers started the process of handing over to civilians which they did in 1979. From my experience in the second republic, I thought I had correct socialization, until 1983 when I started attending political science classes and realized that I had a wrong education on democracy based on the practices of our politicians which largely revolved around violence and foul language. I became like Malcom X who said that he did not know the true religion of Islam until he went to Mecca because Elijah Mohamed was not teaching the true religion of Islam in America. But unlike Fela, I could not tell my teachers not to teach me nonsense.

 We were made to understand that the best politician was the one who will “finish” his opponent with insults. We were told that if you want to know the dirty past of your family, run for an office. When somebody insulted his opponent on radio and we asked why the victim could not go to court we were told, that is politics. To be a good politician, you need instruments of violence and the people to manage them for you. You also need people who will go on air to rubbish your opponents, especially now with the democratization of insults by the social media. To justify their activities they now call themselves “sojojin baka” (mouth soldiers). This is why the supporters of a candidate turn out to be his nightmare during campaign or in government. But you need them.

Two programs of Radio Nigeria Kaduna (Dandalin Siyasa and Alkawari Kaya ne) contributed to my wrong political education especially by airing the attacks of politicians on one another. Recently, I compared such attacks with the parliamentary debate I watched on television in one of the European countries. A member described the comment of another as ridiculous and the debate shifted from the basic issues to the indecent language. Unfortunately, rather than changing our wrong political culture in Nigeria, our elite just key into it.

I remember the case of a popular Senator in the Second Republic who was nicknamed “fire” by his colleagues. He was asked what his achievement in politics was and he replied that, it was his success in changing his political rival “from PPP (Progressive People’s Party) to Dan’iska. Banza, Cakulan” meaning Mad, Useless, Chocolate. There was also another politician who wanted to ridicule his opponent who claimed to be a prince. He said yes the man was a prince because his mother married the neighbor of a man who was cutting grass for the horse of the Emir of Zazzau. (Saraki ne, tunda mahaifiyarsa ta auri makwafcin mai datsa ma dokin Sarkin Zazzau ciyawa).                                                                                                      

The practice of democracy which is loaded with Western values cannot be easy in traditional African societies. The modernization theory, as argued by A.D. Yahaya, in his work on Native Authority in Northern Nigeria, identified the problems of the societies:

*A state of economic under-development supported by limited technology with about 75 per cent of the population dependent on agriculture.

*A system of values where scriptive criteria like birth, family ties and tribe govern formal and informal relations.

*A system of distribution of power in which ownership of land was said to be the most important political source; and

*A strong sense of fatalism in which members resign themselves to the conditions of their parents.

    Notable scholars of modernization include W. W. Rostow, Lucian Pye, Gabriel Almond, Sidney Verba, Fred W Riggs, Samuel Huntington and James Coleman. Huntington, for example, argued that for a polity in such societies to cope with modernization, it must promote social and economic reforms which should revolve around:”..the change of traditional values and behavior  patterns , the expansion of communications and  education, the broadening of loyalties from family, village and tribe to nation, secularisation  of authority structures, the promotion of functionally specific organization.”                                                                                                    Much as we cannot ignore the limitations of modernization theory, it serves some purpose in explaining the practice of democracy or an aspect of it in a developing country like Nigeria because liberal democracy is essentially a western concept in origin and values. There is therefore no gain saying that even if value of Western or industrialized societies are not a condition for the success of liberal democracy, their existence promotes it.

Our major challenge therefore is to embark on rigorous political socialization based on acceptable political culture. This is why I keep arguing that what we need is broad political development. We are in a hurry to build democracy on nothing. Values matter more than structure. Saudi Arabia, for instance, is a monarchy but their people live more decent lives than Nigerians because of values. This is a challenge to our political institutions especially political parties. Unfortunately, most of the institutions, especially the parties, are too weak for effective political socialization of the citizens. In the Second Republic, the Unity Party of Nigeria(UPN) and People’s Redemption Party(PRP) did a good job on this, under their charismatic leaders, Chief Obafemi Awolowo and Malam Aminu Kano, two politicians who excelled in character and learning.

Although we started from answer to question, as we are yet to know what restructuring means, I will not get tired of quoting an academic definition of political development, which I believe is what Nigeria needs, not an unidentified flying object called restructuring : “The development of the institutions , attitudes, and values that form the political power system of a society…constitutional order and political stability attained through the formation of a settled framework of government , reliable procedures for leadership succession … political development means not just institutional reform but changes  in attitudes and the political culture. That places limits on how far political development can be imported or imposed from without…political development is neither linear nor  irreversible; not all countries are experiencing it , and some endure periods of political decline and decay , while a few suffer terminal breakdown”.

One of our major problems is that everybody is an expert on democracy in Nigeria to the extent that even a kola chewing villager will always want to impose his superior knowledge of democracy on people especially when they need his vote. This is what a mathematician who earned my respect from watching his Dove channel, Pastor Enoch Adeboye, calls the superior knowledge of the ignorant. One day I will tell you about Adeboye’s theory of powerful mediocre. Before then, run wherever you see one. 


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