This report takes a look at the practice whereby politicians, who were formerly at the centre transform into progressives, whenever they opt out of their previous parties/associations and ask why it is becoming fashionable in Nigeria. CHARLES KUMOLU writes
‘THEREFORE, I say that it is a narrow policy to suppose that this country or that is to be marked out as the eternal ally or the perpetual enemy of England. We have no eternal allies, and we have no perpetual enemies. Our interests are eternal and perpetual, and those interests it is our duty to follow,” said Henry John Temple.
With this statement, Temple, a one time British Prime Minister, who was popularly known as Lord Palmerston, succeeded in making humanity realise that interests remained the only permanent aspect of human relations. It was, therefore, not a surprise that the quote has been paraphrased by many to mean that in politics, there are no permanent friends, only permanent interests. And nearly two centuries after Lord Palmerston, who led Britain at the height of its power, the words have continued to influence the actions and inactions of most politicians across the globe.
The Nigerian political environment and the political class, however, presents a handy example, given the consistency with which politicians make and break alliances as the situation dictates. Instructively, most actors have usually cited the need for progressive politics as the rationale for consistently switching sides.
But findings by VanguardFeatures,VF, showed that while some dump their camps based on principles, others do for personal gains.
Notable alliances, realignments and breakups: In the present dispensation, the nation has witnessed notable alliances, realignments and breakups among hitherto political friends and foes— all in the name of progressive politics.
Notably among those who were formerly at the centre and now belong to the progressives in this dispensation are Mallam Nasir El-rufai, Chief Femi Fani-Kayode, Mallam Nuhu Ribadu, Mrs. Oby Ezekwesili, Mr. Patrick Obayagbon, Mr. Dino Melaye, Alhaji Aminu Masari, Chief Rochas Okorocha, among others.
In line with the pursuit of progressive policies, ideas and principles, some of these individuals, who had held prime positions in the administration of former President Olusegun Obasanjo, had variously condemned some policies of the present administration.
Ezekwesili had on January 24, 2013, during the convocation ceremony of University of Nigeria, accused the Yar’Adua and Jonathan regimes of frittering away accumulated reserves of about $67bn since the change of baton in 2007.
‘’“The present cycle of boom of the 2010s is however much more vexing than the other four that happened in the ‘70s, ‘80s, ‘90s and 2000s. It is happening back to back with the squandering of the significant sum of $45 billion in foreign reserve account and another $22 billion in the Excess Crude Account being direct savings from increased earnings from oil that the Obasanjo administration handed over to the successor government in 2007,” she stated.
The former World Bank Vice President also said: “One cannot but ask, what exactly does Nigeria seek to symbolise and convey with this level of brazen misappropriation of public resources? Where did all that money go? Where is the accountability for the use of both these resources plus the additional several billions of dollars realised from oil sale by the two administrations that have governed our nation in the last six years? How were these resources applied or more appropriately, misapplied?”
She had also at a two-day interactive session convened in Abuja by the House of Representatives Committee on Public Procurement, opposed a proposed amendment to the Public Procurement Act to make President Jonathan the Chairman of the National Council on Procurement. On the strength of these, the former minister has continued to received commendations across the country, thereby winning the admiration of Nigerians who demand accountability from their governments. On his part, El-rufai, who has been prolific in his arguments on how the ship of state ought to be stirred, recently said: ‘’Judging the mid-term (lack of) progress of Goodluck Jonathan does not require any kind of extra-ordinary skills or gifts. Are you better off now than you were three years ago? Are you more secure than you were a few years ago?
Can you pay school fees without breaking the bank? Are more people in jobs than they were a few years ago? Are Nigerians better united today than before Jonathan’s ‘election’? Do you even feed better than you did two years ago? The verdict is up to you.’’
Similarly, Fani-Kayode while responding to a statement credited to the Special Adviser to the President on Political Matters, Alhaji Ahmed Gulak said: ‘’I call the government of Goodluck Jonathan a failure; if the President thinks I am wrong, let him or one of his cerebral ministers respond to me. Jonathan’s government is a government of lies that is run and supported by liars and we need to get them out in 2015 in order to save Nigeria.
Breaking the bank
“People just don’t realise how bad things are. Recently, a UNESCO survey placed Nigeria on top of the list of nations with out-of-school children – 10.5 million of them – because they lacked access to classrooms and have to take lessons under trees’’.
Absence of issue-based politics: Notwithstanding, VF
findings indicated that the criticisms are in line with the yearning for good governance in a country, where the present generation hardly experienced such. But many are asking why it has become fashionable for politicians to claim to be progressives whenever they cease from being part of the centre. Speaking on the matter, a human rights activist, Mr. Bamidele Aturu, argued that the major problem confronting the nation is not a total absence of issue-based politics or lack of ideological commitment by the existing political parties.
He further maintained that claims by certain individuals and parties that they pursue progressive policies, ideas and principles are geared towards massaging the ego of such individuals. Consequently, he declared that the line of demarcation in the system which describes some politicians as progressives and others as reactionaries is a mere rhetoric.
As far as he is concerned, the polity is devoid of progressive politics and progressive minds. Also, the Director General of Centre for Democratic and Strategic Studies, Prof. Raheem Uduh, told VF that ‘’history made us to know that social relations are governed by individual, group or class interests. So, it is not a surprise that someone, who is known to align to the left, decides to belong to the centre. You can find it in developed democracies but not in the same pattern like Nigeria.
Progressivism shouldn’t stop at the level of criticisms:”What we have as a nation is a class that is being driven by ethnic interests. That makes us peculiar. The people criticising the government today may be right in their judgements, but with a historical antecedent of such practice, people tend to doubt the constructiveness of their criticisms. But that should be encouraged.’’
Uduh however remarked that: ‘’I still believe that the negative assumption about progressivism in Nigeria is not enough to consume the significance of the ideology. My take is that the progressives should go beyond criticising and form a party with the ideals of the progressive movement.’’
Abandoning a bandwagon
Relatedly, President of Campaign for Democracy, Dr. Joe Odumakin said: ‘’I don’t see anything wrong in abandoning a bad wagon. It is only an insane man who would remain with a sinking ship. People should be encouraged to quit their respective parties whenever they discover that the party is no longer committed to good governance. It is our duty at the level of the civil society to encourage that.’’
But another human rights activist, Mr. Fred Udemezue said: ‘’Progressivism should not stop at the level of criticisms because that is what we have at the moment. Our people should encourage political institutions to grow over time. Political structures don’t result from inconsistencies on the part of the politicians. It is my opinion that our politicians only jump ship because of pecuniary interests and nothing more. Although, criticism is the catalyst to do better. All the talks about principles are not related to the kind of players in the scene. Notwithstanding, there are also people of character, who abandon their alienation for the sake of integrity.’’