THINKING ABOUT NIGERIA – PART 2.
OF THE GALES OF DEFECTIONS, DECAMPING, CARPET-CROSSING, ENCAMPMENTS, RETRENCHMENTS & IMPEACHMENTS
“If we are in the habit of practising the opposite of what we preach, our admonition will not only lose their force and cogency, but also, we ourselves, will forfeit every claim to credibility. ‘’An ounce of example, it has been widely said, is far better than a ton of precepts‘’ – Obafemi Awolowo
It was that famous literary giant, William Shakespeare that submitted that: ‘’There is nothing either good or bad; but thinking makes it so.’’ Thinking as used by Shakespeare also connotes reasoning, which the Free Dictionary describes ‘’the act or process of drawing conclusions from facts, evidence, and judgements. Reasoning is so important that Legal pundits have since qualified the rational of this human activity by attempting to determine what could pass as ‘’right thinking members of the society’’. In essence, this qualification infers that not all human thoughts are right or rational. Actions are products of thinking. Psychologists have posited that: ‘’Thinking is an activity that resulted in the discovery of the human person, and is directed to a destination. ‘’We think to find the knowledge and understanding of that we want. Thinking is the main thing that distinguishes between humans and animals.’’
The past few weeks have been quite interesting on our nation’s political arena. Suddenly, the words: defection, decamping, cross-carpeting, carpet crossing (encampments & retrenchments – my own words) have become the most discussed in the polity, following developments on the political scene. But some schools of thought have argued that it is not a new phenomenon; hence legitimate. Others too have shouted ‘’foul’, with each group faulting its opponents. Next on popularity rating are the words: impeachment, replacement, aspirant and the likes and discussions of such occurrences. The situation might, to the uninitiated, look comical. Similarly, it has, indeed, been very amusing to several watchers because of the feverish moves to decamp, defect, impeach, encamp, and retrench! How I wish bombastic K.O. Mbadiwe is alive today, to add colour by his choice of words to describe the development! The ease and methods that politicians now use, discarding party ideology and all such niceties to battle themselves for survival on the political plane, as we negotiate the bend leading to the 2019 general elections is simply fascinating; but distressing.
EMOTIONS RUNNING TOO HIGH
Undoubtedly, emotions have run very high. People who brand themselves as progressives now easily transform into conservatives; while conservatives transmute into progressives without any qualms. The evolving political calculations and situation, could be disquieting to political watchers, considering the heat already generated, that as a result of the exercise. Political parties are supposed to be promoted on the basis of ideologies. And ideologies are utilized to implement policies and programmes, in accordance with the provisions of the constitution. Ideology is described as: ‘’A system of ideas and ideals, especially one which forms the basis of economic or political theory and policy’’ (English Oxford Dictionaries) The term, and the system of ideas associated with it, that are some sort of guiding principles, was coined by Antoine Destutt de Tracy; a French Enlightenment aristocrat and philosopher in 1796.
PROGRESSIVES VS CONSERVATIVES
Ideally, people should join political parties based on convictions and beliefs in the manifestos of their parties. It is a development that the uninitiated may not be able to easily decode because only a handful or fraction of the electorate is involved in the high-wire politics of succession. Recently, I ran into some friends discussing and asking themselves: Are you in the camp of a little to the left, or a little to the right? Political scientists have asserted that left wing beliefs are usually ‘’progressive in nature, they look to the future, aim to support those who cannot support themselves, are idealist and believe in equality’’. Right wing beliefs ‘’value tradition, they are about even-handedness, persistence of the fittest, and they believe in economic freedom’’. They typically believe that business shouldn’t be regulated, and that we should all look after ourselves. Over the past few years, the only requirement for becoming a progressive is to jump into the fold of some politicians who designate themselves in that manner; while the consideration for becoming a conservative is to hop into another gathering of politicians, so identified.
Unlike the first and second republics, ideology or respect for political barometers no longer matter; at least it seems. Apparently, members of political parties to a great extent, don’t know any parameter and ideological stance that guide philosophies and conducts of political parties. Decades ago, a member of the Unity Party of Nigeria was able to recite the cardinal programmes of the party that formed the creed. In the same vein, those in the National Party of Nigeria were also able to recite the doctrine of the party. What appears paramount at this period in history, seems to be politics of survival of the fittest and who emerges winner of some coveted positions. And the battles are being fought on all fronts, and with every conceivable ferociousness by all the parties involved. In what is fast turning into gross charade, politicians’ movements from one party to another have recorded lots of grandstanding. Actions on the political arena have been excessively long on posturing, and regrettably, very short on meaningful conducts that could benefit the masses, the country named Nigeria, and Nigerians generally.
THE PAST & THE PRESENT
The first recorded incident of defection or decamping or carpet-crossing in any Nigerian Legislature occurred was 1954, in the defunct Western Region House of Assembly when several members of the National Council of Nigeria and Cameroon, NCNC led by Nnamdi Azikiwe moved en-masse to the Action Group led by Obafemi Awolowo. Azikiwe, a daring politician who had acquired the figure of a Pan-Africanist, and had penetrated the three regions that constituted Nigeria. He had to beat a tactical retreat to Eastern Nigeria to become the Premier and form the ruling Government in 1954. The problem against reared its ugly head in 1962 on the floor of the Western Region House of Assembly when hon. Members decamped to the Nigerian National Democratic Party following the Action Group political crises. In 1983, carpet crossing became the essential expression in the polity. Akin Omoboriowo, SM Afolabi, Olaiya Fagbamigbe, Busari Adelakun, (Eruobodo) who was regarded as the strong man of Ibadan politics moved from the Unity Party of Nigeria moved over to the National Party of Nigeria. This, largely followed their inability to secure their party’s tickets and the ensuing intra-party crises.
The first casualty ever of the impeachment clause in Nigeria’s constitution is Abdulkadir Balarabe Musa, a non-conformist governor of Kaduna State under the banner of Aminu Kano’s populist party, Peoples Redemption Party, from 1979, till he was impeached on 1981. Several Deputy Governors have been shown the red card by their principals who have state legislatures in their pockets. Perhaps the most prominent decamping that yielded huge dividend was the year 2014 movement of five state governors and their supporters of the PDP stock, under the New-PDP umbrella into the All Progressives Congress. It was the result of an intra-party crises that rocked the PDO to its foundation. Critics and cynics have commented that the major reasons why people are running from pillar to post, crossing, moving, reversing, and speeding are for personal interests. The masses too have regrettably mortgaged their conscience and rights on account of what has come to be described as stomach infrastructure. It is to be noted, however, that some have moved on account of patriotic intentions. But in many other cases, decamping or defecting has been caused by intra-party disputes occasioned by injustice, impunity, and lack of internal party democracy.
The current trend is once you are unable to win your political party’s ticket, the next step is to move to another party that could satisfy the desires of your hearts, and within which personal aspirations could be met. The field is now very wide with the recognition of 91 political parties by INEC. One issue that has cropped up is the tendency of people to refer to incidents of the past as alibi and cite them as precedents. Some now claim that since ‘Personality A or Personality B’ reacted same way in the past, there is nothing wrong with taking a similar step. That sounds rather illogical and untenable in democratic settings within which the rule of law thrives. Let us consider some analogies. If ‘Personality A’ used only one individual to react wrongly, in situations where 100 people were required to carry out the action legally, it is patently wrong to follow a similar pattern since it has been adjudged improper. In the second instance, oligarchic institutions reportedly beheaded people for rituals in the Dark Age before the advent of British rule. Would royalty be just to act in that manner today?
Mistakes of the past must not be repeated in all settings where there is semblance of rule of law. In Management, nobody is permitted to take advantage of Administrative errors. When a bad practice is continued over a period of time, it becomes the norm. And the general notion is that everybody is doing it, or behaving in like manner after all. But what is not right must not be considered right under any circumstance. If it was done in the past and reasoning now says it is bad, then jettison the practice in contention. Not even Lord Baron Denning, described by Margaret Thatcher as: “probably the greatest English judge of modern times” would tolerate the issue under the consideration of precedent. Denning delivered bold judgments that ran counter to the law. Described as ‘the people’s judge’ as a result of his support for the individual, Denning was noted for his campaign against the common law principle of precedent.
IN WHOSE INTEREST?
Can we truly say that politicians are encouraged by the fact that they are not fighting their own cause; or are fighting on account of political power and influence? Have we really moved forward or backwards since the early nationalists vacated the political arena? If the truth must be told, we have deceived ourselves for too long. And those of us in privileged positions have not only betrayed; but have also cheated our followers for a long time because they are gullible, and are poverty tormented; hence weakening their bargaining power to elect people of their choices who should be servants of the people. People, in a sound democratic culture must wield powers as masters of those in government. Some have canvassed for independent candidacy to enable capable people with patriotic intentions win elections without vying on the platform of political parties. The pertinent question, however, is: Will the issue of stomach infrastructure allow competent and capable hands to emerge? For the desired changes to happen, we require huge sensitization because millions of people today follow the rich aimlessly because of poverty and ignorance.
One should particularly pity the generation that developed from the advent of the oil boom and military rule that have radically altered our values, norms and ways of life. There was a time in this country when families would do everything possible to prevent their names from getting tarnished as a result of acts of commission or omission. From the period under reference, we developed the culture of waste, militarization of the polity, ignorance provoked by poor reading culture, arrogance, and the celebration of ignorance through huge spending on social functions; that our young ones have come to accept as ways of life. From the peasant and ordinary people on the streets who sell their votes to desperate politicians, to the citizen on the street who refuses to vote to elect his or her preference, to the intelligentsia who prefer to stand aloof, right on to money bags and purchasers of votes and perpetrators of other electoral misconducts; and leaders, who deliberately misgovern, we must all reflect on how our contributions have negatively impacted the development of the Nigerian nation.
Elder statesman, Obafemi Awolowo, in his address to the Congregation of the University of Ife in 1970, asserted that: “If we are in the habit of practising the opposite of what we preach, our admonition will not only lose their force and cogency, but also we ourselves, will forfeit every claim to credibility. ‘’An ounce of example, it has been widely said, is far better than a ton of precepts‘’ It is imperative for the general citizenry, indeed all of us, to therefore, imbibe positive values and attitudes which are required for attaining the desirable goals that are set out in the Nigerian constitution.’’ From this point of view, we must recognize the fact that the people themselves, perhaps form the strongest point that would make democracy endure, by their conducts and their ability to organize themselves. In addition, those who lead and govern must be ready to be transparent in their actions, while also demonstrating commitment and dedication to the growth and sustenance of our dear nation. Our nation will move forward successfully and rapidly, as soon as we stop celebrating ignorance.
May the good Lord bless Nigeria.