Creating Choice In 2019, By Dele Agekameh
True change needs to begin with the realisation of our inherent choices as the electorate and potential candidates and the rejection of the mindset that our circumstances and leaders have foisted on us.
In the past couple of weeks, this column re-ran a two-part series that was first published late in 2016, about the need for a third force in Nigerian politics. Written over a year ago, before the recent resurgence of the debate about finding a third force in Nigerian politics, the series aptly mirror the present realities and signals from political heavyweights in Nigeria. The analysis betrayed one sad truth about Nigerian politics as it currently stands – it is a Rubik’s cube of same-coloured tiles.
Beyond the usual self-interest, there is a need to give Nigerian voters political purpose and create real choice in politics that the people have not had since the re-introduction of democracy in 1999. The country has suffered politically in the absence of real choice for nearly two decades. Few things in life are more important than choice, and when a person or group is robbed of this, there is almost no greater calamity. This is even worse when the target persons or group have been deceived into thinking there is an abundance of choice.
From the fundamental practices of the only two viable political parties that we have, choice is being limited before the voter even thinks of voting. For example, the zoning policy that is adopted is understandable, given our potpourri of ethnic groups and the ethnic conditioning of voters by the various leaders of these groups, but it does not make it ideal or even right. Certainly, if we had to choose between open and free choice on one hand and the political conditioning that exploits ethno-religious sentiments on the other hand, the sane choice is clear. However, the people’s eyes need to be open to the exploitation of their sentiments before they can understand free choice.
No one in real authority within Nigeria’s political structure would encourage free choice. The current political class was weaned on ethnic exploitation and adversarial ideologies that have been introduced into every facet of the Nigerian life. The products of this class are practically unable to see beyond divisions, and this is demonstrated in their politics and the understanding of politics that the voters that flock after them hold. That is why the attempt by the former President Olusegun Obasanjo, or OBJ as he is called, to present himself as anything different from the other members of the present political class is laughable to discerning Nigerians.
OBJ suggested the birth of a third force and even christened his idea of a third force in Nigerian politics in the most public way he could muster, while Aso Rock remains firmly (and thankfully) out of his grasp. The launch of his Coalition for Nigeria in Abuja was a celebration of the tyranny of the current political class. The years of mismanagement we have suffered under this class, with the familiar dance of one step forward and two steps back, will only continue with people like OBJ plotting the creation of a third force. The politics of the current political class and not the politicians themselves is what has held the country rooted to the ground of decay for all these years. You simply can’t teach new tricks to an old dog.
When we remind ourselves that we run a democracy, where choice – the people’s choice – is the foundation, we get a clearer perspective of the real problem before us. Why have none of the other fringe political parties garnered enough weight to be real contenders for political power?
Also, similar to OBJ’s Coalition for Nigeria, a new group recently emerged under the name “National Intervention Movement” with the likes of Professor Pat Utomi and Olisa Agbakogba (SAN) it. While some see them as a committee of academics with no practical solutions to the Nigerian situation, there are some telling signs that it may be yet another waste of the time of Nigerians. Donald Duke, former governor of Cross River State is associated with this movement and he was also found alongside the controversial former governor of Osun State, Olagunsoye Oyinlola, at the launch of OBJ’s movement. What Nigerians need in political alternatives are real choices, and this is only demonstrable by the existence of unique and separate ideals at party level, or in this case, their forerunner ‘movements’.
The troubling sign of purpose-shopping after the fact is exactly what put Nigeria in the state that it is presently. This is most visible in the time of this current dispensation, where it became clear that President Muhammadu Buhari’s All Progressives Congress (APC) was not prepared for power when it pushed out the PDP government in 2015. The truth is that none of his predecessors was ever prepared. They all scrambled to find purpose after taking power and that is why they failed. The different would-be third force movements are displaying the same naiveté and one only wonders if a real force will ever be born.
Of all the contenders for 2019 uncovered in the analysis of this column, or anywhere else, none is so removed from the corrupt touch of the politics of this political class as to raise the hope of a much needed change in ideology. As already suggested here, we do not only need a change of politicians, we need a change in political ideology and approach to politics. Ibrahim Dakwambo, Rabiu Kwakwanso, Nasir El-Rufai and of course former Vice-President Atiku Abubakar and President Muhammadu Buhari, have all swam in these murky political waters and are tainted. They cannot drain a swamp that is full of their friends, and relatives in most cases.
In the race for the creation of a third force, we are currently faced with an assembly of old tainted politicians with scores to settle and a committee of academics with their noses so far up the clouds of idealism that they may be unable to communicate with the people they seek to liberate. Then there is that other theory that no ‘outsider’ can get anything done politically without fraternising with the power brokers in the political class. Whichever way one looks, the picture of the future is bleak.
In a throwback to military era propaganda, there are now calls for a million man march for President Buhari. Rather than for praise-singing, such a colossal movement is appropriate only to send a message to the establishment that the people have had enough.
The sun has to set on this era in Nigerian politics, and there is no telling what the dawn will bring. We need urgent action to shore up the future of the country so that the mistakes of past years do not keep recurring, and more importantly, so that the perpetrators of past misdeeds do not slip through our net of awareness. True change needs to begin with the realisation of our inherent choices as the electorate and potential candidates and the rejection of the mind-set that our circumstances and leaders have foisted on us.
When we remind ourselves that we run a democracy, where choice – the people’s choice – is the foundation, we get a clearer perspective of the real problem before us. Why have none of the other fringe political parties garnered enough weight to be real contenders for political power? Or why do we need the deceitful tongue of an OBJ, for instance, to call for a third force before we resume debate or take action about it?
The greatest tragedy of being Nigerian is our collective mindset; it is adversarial, to the slightest extent. The political class is not the only one that has been raised on divisive ideologies, but it is the one that ensures that it persists and is propagated indefinitely. Because we distrust one another, we are constantly at odds and in search of means with which to subdue one another. Power holds the means, and so we look to power to exploit our differences, and the holders of power oblige. That is their failing.
In a throwback to military era propaganda, there are now calls for a million man march for President Buhari. Rather than for praise-singing, such a colossal movement is appropriate only to send a message to the establishment that the people have had enough. When the electorate is awake, all political parties are viable and the people become the only force. This is the future that Nigeria needs and it only requires utilising our forgotten choices come 2019. We have always had choices.
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