By John Aomda
THIS is an attempt to make a contribution to a discourse whose terms remain largely subjective because it is used stipulatively. In Nigeria’s post-colonial politics, it will appear that the term is used much in the same sense that “Awoist” is used; that is, mainly in claiming a good pedigree while doing the same politics as the “non-progressive” politicians.
This point is driven home by the governance objectives of ruling parties at the three tiers of government.
These objectives are largely patronage in character and wealth accumulation in general. The politician that loses an election receives severance package; and the stable government at the centre is the one of “national unity”. A tradition of “consensus government” is difficult to appreciate in terms of ideological divides.
How then may we usefully examine what can be described as progressive politics in electoral and governance terms? I suggest a useful way. In my Tuesday Column on “Government and Governance in Africa”, I argued that post-colonial politics in Africa in general and in Nigeria in particular is a politics of transition.
The transition for societies in post-colonial Africa is one from imperial subjecthood to post-imperial citizenhood; governments in Africa are governments of societies in the transition of being transformed from provinces of empire-state societies into post-colonial nation- state societies. Transitions, I argue are dialectical for they contain opposing tendencies, conservative and revolutionary; the conservative contending for preserving the status quo and the revolutionary pressing for the transformation of the status quo.
Transitions also typify the relationship between the ex-empire-state and the ex-provinces of the empire. This incidentally is the rationale for the special place given to former colonisers in international diplomacy when the affairs of their former subjects are on the table. This is why Italy wants a special place in the development of international response to the Libyan crisis.
Thus there are international dimensions of transitions and just as there are national dimensions. As it is for the “overlord” societies of former colonizers so it is for the “subject” societies.
The transition politics for the post-Independence Subject Societies was and remains the contestations between politicians with interest in preserving the colonial structures and functions of government, when government secured, the subjection of the provinces, effected their economic control, proprietary state and class on the one hand, and “progressive” politicians championing the creation of a democratic society whose government is a servant of a post-colonial “sovereign people”.
This post-colonial transition politics is contextualized in the Nigerian example by the transition politics of the British imperial state where pro-empire politicians are in conflict with British anti-empire politicians. There is, therefore, the Politics of Transition Diplomacy where, for an example, the Nigerian anti-empire politicians seek an alliance with the British anti-empire politicians; while their opponents organise to forge an alliance with the British pro-empire politicians. Using Nigeria as an example, we see that progressive politics has the national aspect and the international.
The parties of the progressive and the governments they form will pursue policies that are diametrically opposed to those of the conservatives, therefore we can conceptually distinguished between progressive parties and progressive governments and conservative parties and conservative governments.
This scheme can be applied to the study of Nigeria’s politics of decolonization and its post-Independence politics. Progressive politics will thus be contrasted to conservative politics. The latter will be the politics of politicians with interest in preserving the subjection of the post-independence Nigeria to the proprietary control of government and in so doing preserve the colonial economic structure of the society.
The former, that is, the politics of progressive politicians will be movements to create a democratic society where the former subjects of colonial domination are the sovereign and whose government are democratically constituted by the sovereign people. As argued, conservative politics can be distinguished from progressive politics, in their national and foreign policy aspects.
What is the evidence and verdict of 50 years of post-independence politics in Nigeria? Does the weight of evidence argue for the dominance of the conservative politicians or of the progressive politicians?
In a subsequent essay we will attempt to offer some answers. However, as a former teacher of courses on Nigerian politics what is touched upon in this essay provides pointers for research and instructions that can widen as well as deepen our understanding of politics in Nigeria. The relevance of this analysis for the April elections are obvious.
Non-ideology posters electioneering suggest that today’s politics is largely “Anti-Progressive”. What species of democracy we can then ask is this “Anti-Progressive” democracy?