“He that will not apply new remedies must expect new evils” –Francis Bacon
By Mohammed Adamu
MOST Nigerian politicians are more readily ‘conservative’ and or ‘reactionary’ about politics than they are prepared to admit. Quite few are ever prepared to be ‘liberal’ and or ‘progressive’ about it. And yes, although the few liberal-minded ones that we have may also lay claim to ‘progressive’ disposition, yet quite fewer even are practically expressive or demonstrative of their vaunted claim to progressivism. Until the advent of the new Chairman of the All Progressive Congress, APC, Adams Aliu Oshiomhole, one would’ve thought that to be ‘radical’ and ‘progressive’ at the same time is an ideological combination completely alien to our debauched kind of democratic clime. But then came Oshiomhole, a radical-progressive fermented, like the amber-hued cognac, by the processes of distillation in labour activism and aging in the oak-cask of party politics. How radically-progressive he was as Governor of his home State, Edo for eight years, is not the subject of this piece. But here he is, at last, presiding over the affairs of a ‘progressive’ party, the ruling APC -which many believe has been stuck, these past almost four years, in the mud of reactionary intra-party politics and is now in dire search of a messiah.
But sometimes troubled and tribulated man rather than avail himself the liberating hand of angelic messiahs from above, prefers to pull the hand of salvation with him into the quagmire of his repeated transgression. And so if Buhari’s advent was the angelic ‘hand of God’ stretched to our drowning but ‘stiff-necked and rebellious’ nation, then the coming of Oshiomhole as Chair of the ruling APC seems more like the veritable descent of God Himself in aid both of ‘angel’ and of man. Nothing can be more ‘radically progressive’ than the bolt of corrective democratic enthusiasm gushing forth from this little man called Oshiomhole as he pulls a virtual lonely furrow to revive long dead party ethos necessary to oxygenate our dying democracy. And in doing so Oshiomhole has brought the brinkmanship of collaborative labour activism (which wins for all) into the treacherous, self aggrandizing murky terrain of partisan politics (which wins for special interest). I think those who accuse the man of confusing labour activism with partisan politics are only being mischievous.
And the question may be asked: is Oshiomhole’s progressive activism not far in advance of the progressive inclination of his ‘progressive’ party, the APC? Or just how much of the corrective democratic knight errantry of this petit, impatient new party helmsman, does the APC have capacity -or enthusiasm- to accommodate? Since this former Governor of Edo State replaced what many party members said was a lack-luster, kill-joy predecessor, Odigie Oyegun, he has hit the ground running in a manner that many within and outside the party do not know whether to worry about his ‘haste’ or to bother about his ‘heresies’. Or both. “It is the customary fate of new truths” the British biologist T.H. Huxley said “to begin as heresies and to end as superstition”. But whether Oshiomhole’s new political innovations will “end as superstition”, only time will tell. But paradoxically, the APC, in spite of its promise for ‘swift change’ has never hidden its penchant for ‘gradualism’ –the ‘rock-change’ theory that political change, like the time-honoured changing forms of fossils- takes place gradually rather than swiftly. President Buhari himself, often in reply to the partisan harangues of mischievous opposition elements for the tardiness of administration, has always ennobled the virtue in the paradox of ‘making haste slowly’, insisting –like America’s Benjamin Franklin had always said- that “great haste makes great waste”. Or like Charles Stoddard would say, that “Rapidity does not always mean progress”.
No sooner than Oshiomhole came in as the new Sherriff of a determinedly renaissant APC than both his ‘hastes’ and his ‘heresies’ stormily begins to overwhelm the party’s old ways of doing things. Oshiomhole has not only radically proposed direct primaries to give a truly fresh breath of democratic air to a suffocated internal party democracy, but even as his rudely-shocked conservative-progressive members were spoiling for a debate over a newfangled political idea, Oshiomhole was already in Osun State implementing it as a ‘done deal’. By the way, nothing can be more radically reformative of our captive internal party democracy than the idea of direct primaries which seems like an excellent remedy against the familiar vice of a few opportunistic politicians, against the interest of the many, hijacking political parties and -like Ian Smith of a colonial Rhodesia would say- ‘messing up our democracy’. Henceforth, it will truly be the sole prerogative of members of the APC to decide who their party throws up for contest –instead of governors, in the guise of indirect primaries, selecting political stooges to be ‘elected’ delegates who in turn ‘elect’ selected stooges as candidates. Nor can other political parties afford not to imbibe this change.
When Italy’s fascist leader Benito Mussolini did the needful in 1929 by restoring the sovereignty of Roman Catholic’s Vatican City, it was widely celebrated that he had ‘returned Italy to God and God to Italy’. This in fact is what APC’s Oshiomhole has done to ‘party’ and ‘people’: he has returned the ruling party to the people, and the people to the ruling party. Because this almost singular effort in bringing about a more democrat method of electing party candidates is like bringing about, by default, the system of ‘independent candidature’ which, ironically, state assemblies in the last constitutional amendment proposals, had foolishly voted down. As they have the attempts even to liberate themselves by putting state assemblies on first line charge, or the series of attempts also to liberate local governments from the stranglehold of thieving governors. All these democratic efforts have failed because we have persistently handed our political affairs into the profligate and extravagant hands of unconscionable conservative-reactionaries masquerading as radical-progressives. They are evidently incapable of nursing the democratic will to bring about true and genuine progressive change in the polity. And you wonder why the French Poet and philosopher, Paul Valery said “Liberty is the hardest test that one can inflict on the people”. Because to “know how to be free” he said “is not given equally to all men and all nations”. Any electoral system of internal party democracy that equally subjugates all contestants to the mercy of the ordinary members of the party, is virtually as good as allowing independents to stand alone as candidates without the endorsement of a political party.
Said America’s William Harrison “…the only legitimate right to govern is an EXPRESS grant of power from the governed”. And if it makes sense to suggest that ‘what concerns everyone should be resolved by everyone’, it makes even better sense to insist that all members of a political party –and not just it’s so called self-anointed ‘stakeholders’- should determine who the party throws up for contest.
To be continued