By Tabia Princewill
PARTY politics in Nigeria has been turned into a game: beyond analysis of R-APC, nPDP battles and defections, very few people have bothered to ask how any of these political games and schemes benefit Nigerians. I am yet to read any analysis which details the ideological leanings of any of the main contenders: politics in Nigeria is a game of survival, not of loyalty or convictions.
As for service, or any desire to improve the lives of constituents, this features least of all. The same people, give or take a few names, who defected in 2015 from the PDP, are the same people who have defected from the APC. Why are Nigerians celebrating? Such behaviour hints at a fair weather friends mentality of people who are only interested in the self-aggrandizement and patronage which they can only get from being present wherever they believe the national cake will be shared, in the ruling party of the day.
Allegedly, and to Buhari’s credit, they are leaving because their demands (one can only imagine what those are knowing the nature of Nigerian politics) were not satisfied. If that is the case, shouldn’t Nigerians be happy that for once, some people found it a little bit more difficult to cheat the system? Why are some people celebrating a small group of people defecting reportedly because they believe their demands for “subsidized living” (that is, state sponsored contracts, patronage, opportunities etc. at the expense of the rest of society) will be better accepted in their new home or rather their true home?
The Minister of Information and Tourism, Alhaji Lai Mohammed, reportedly asked defectors and their associates to resign from government positions. He is right. One cannot win an election or come to a position through the efforts, campaigns, fundraising, networks, strategies and brand of a party then hope to retain said position after leaving the party. How many of them could have won any contest without the potency of the Buhari/APC brand in 2015?
As our democracy evolves and we continue to reflect on ways to get the best out of those who govern us, we will need to thoroughly review party conduct and the laws governing political parties in Nigeria, not to curtail freedom of association but to tackle the problematic way of doing things which hinders true progress in Nigeria.
Pyramid of loyalists
Party politics in our country is basically a pyramid of loyalists reaching up to a supreme leader. This Soviet-style politics easily constitutes an oligarchy, i.e. a small group of people who control the entire society and dish out patronage based on their whims: this characterized the PDP created by the military and their civilian partners.
This organisational design naturally and inherently breeds corruption because it encourages each rung of the ladder to look to the next for patronage and it breeds thousands of often unqualified people whom the executive must find positions for in government. I’ve often said that recruitment into political party positions needs to follow private sector norms of competence and service delivery. But beyond that, political parties in Nigeria will continue to face defections and instability so long as members are allowed to progress in importance or to become power brokers without a real, tangible ideology binding people together: on the basis of this ideology, members should compete internally and prove they have a plan for governance beyond achieving power itself.
The Deputy National Publicity Secretary of the APC, Yekini Nabena, has urged the Senate President, Bukola Saraki, to state where he stands. What an unbelievable situation: how many Senate presidents in the US, the UK or any of the countries where Mr. Saraki was educated would allow a conduct as curious as his? To quote Mr. Nabena: “How can it be that all the senators and members of the House of Representatives from his state defect and he says he is still in the party?”
True these are internal party dynamics and whether Mr. Saraki is in APC or PDP truly has no incidence on the life of the average Nigerian, as this undoubtedly won’t make defectors sponsor more bills, etc. but the thing about integrity at home or behind closed doors is that it is a prelude to integrity “outside” or when dealing with others; that is, Nigerians without any political clout, money or power.
It has always puzzled many Nigerians why some people were allowed to be members of the APC in the first place given its stance on “change”. Barring some people entry from any association might appear undemocratic on a surface level, but so many politicians are saboteurs and not team players. Why is it that action is rarely taken against those whose rascality is suspected or even proven? Leadership, it seems, has a lot to do with that.
Comrade Adams Oshiomhole has promised to get the APC working again and to sanction those whose anti-party activities have been detrimental to the order of things.
Speaking on Governor Ortom’s defection and Benue in general, he said: “Some of those that have been arrested as a result of the killings are people who have been associated with him (Governor Ortom), including people in his employment, especially a guy known to have been involved with Boko Haram, whom he recruited to manage what they called forest guards. These people have been arrested and are in police custody.
“If an appointee of a governor is involved in a heinous crime, including killing, that will be enough for a governor to worry about”. If these allegations are true, then one must really worry about the system that allows such individuals to play leading roles in state party systems and to assume leadership positions. Can you imagine the consequences or the public outcry if an aide of an American governor, for example, was suspected of having terrorist links? The scandal of infidelity alone is enough to tarnish or even end political careers in America.
Nigerians don’t seem to realise the gravity of what keeps happening in Nigeria, a country where dysfunctionality has been so normalised we expect our politicians to have a background in thuggery. Until more well-meaning Nigerians join political parties and stop seeing politics as the domain of only a few rich or well-connected Nigerians, we will keep on recycling the same problematic individuals who hop from one party to another based on personal and not national interest or ideas.
THE Governor of Kaduna State, Nasiru El-Rufai, called the defectors from the APC “corrupt” senators who’re afraid they’ll be arrested if President Muhammadu Buhari wins his second term bid.
It is no longer news that the Senate has in many ways acted as if it were the opposition to this government. To quote El-Rufai: “If the senators were honestly supporting the president, he would have achieved more, they sabotaged his effort.
“He gave them budget (2018), they sat over it for seven-eight months without passage. We wish them (defectors) well because we know those who cannot win election in their homes among them. They were only elected into the Senate based on Buhari’s popularity. Majority of them were elected because their election was conducted same day with President Buhari”.
The list of defectors in the Senate mirrors earlier lists of senators allegedly at “war” with their state governors, who probably wouldn’t have gotten a return ticket back to power in the APC under its current configuration. Nigerians must critically analyse facts to inform their thoughts and beliefs so as not to be taken in by battles which are not to their benefit.
SOME reports have questioned his alleged “kidnapping” which curiously happened the same day he was to be arraigned before a magistrate court for charges relating to alleged gunrunning.
Only the combined efforts of everyday Nigerians will rescue this country. One can’t emphasize enough how important it is for us all to familiarise ourselves with politics and policy.
Tabia Princewill is a strategic communications consultant and public policy analyst. She is also the co-host and executive producer of a talk show, WALK THE TALK which airs on Channels TV.