Saturday 24th June, 2017
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Politicians and the failure of democracy

Politicians and the failure of democracy

Without ignoring irony as a char­acteristic value of a mature lit­erary work- the maintenance of desperate perspectives- I wish to regard it here as also a mode of interconnection, as illuminating discrepancies. Awareness of discrepancy means awareness of at least the two elements required to create a discrepancy. In a non-ironic work suck nexus would be lacking, and the texture would be correspond­ingly thinner. The ironic con­nection may be between ele­ments close or distant; it may be completed in actional or verbal terms; and it may have different temporal aspects. It may complete itself in the present in which it comes into view, either bad a contra­diction of terms within that situation or as an overturn of a universal expectancy. Or it may bind past and present or present and future by a rever­sal of ordinary probability or of specific expectancies cre­ated by the term of the plot. And so, the standard dra­matic irony in Nigeria today is that of a class of people- a clan of aggrieved individuals made up of expired warlords and frustrated pseudo-dem­ocrats- who have captured political power by hook or crook but lack an iota of idea of what to do with it. It is an irony of a character taking an action which does not lead to applause.
Nigeria has indeed been turned into a paradise for power-starved men who desperately seek power for the sake of it: for ego boost­ing, lining of their pockets and self aggrandizement. In this most endowed but most troubled Black Country in the world, the fight for power has taken on a particularly unpleasant form. The race for the 2015 general elections had begun with pomp and fanfare as politicians, both the contenders and pretend­ers alike, jostled for attention and space. For the Presiden­tial race, the list paraded some interesting personali­ties. But, in terms of ideology and presentation of alterna­tive programmes, Nigerians were yet to see anything dif­ferent from what had always been on ground. What the citizens were confronted with daily were insults and viru­lent attacks on the personal­ity of the sitting President. Since the emergence of the present civilian dispensation in May 1999, there has been a complete lack of courage and the will to play the game of politics according to the rules. First, is the complete absence of ideology and clear-cut distinction between one political party and an­other, and then the absence of issues-oriented debates on the hustings. Indeed, what we have is “bread-and-butter” politics as our politicians lack the necessary reorientation required to bring them into lasting acquaintance with the real essence of party politics and strong democracy. This is a lamentable departure from the halcyon days of ideologi­cal divisions.
For instance, a critical study of the Nigerian party system, from the final dec­ades of British colonial rule, reveals the interplay of three converging social forces namely, the thrust of nation­alism, the persistence of cul­tural particularism and the crystallization of emergent class interests. It will be re­called that political parties led the way in the movement for Nigeria’s national independ­ence. Their origins lay in a multitude of associations that were devoted to community improvement, political re­form and racial liberation. At independence in 1960, four political parties were firmly established on a broad terri­torial basis, each one incar­nating a distinctive political idea. The National Council of Nigeria and the Cameroon (NCNC) stood for political democracy in its classical, individualistic form. The Ac­tion Group (AG) symbolized federalist democracy to safe­guard the rights of cultural communities. The Northern Peoples Congress (NPC) ex­emplified the modernization of traditional political au­thority; and its radical oppo­nent, the Northern Elements Progressive Union (NEPU), espoused egalitarian democ­racy.
But it would amount to a fundamental misconception to say that our politicians have exhibited enough sense of maturity and ideological content in their approach to the game of politics in the last twenty months when all they do is to embark on the blame game, dismissing all what their predecessors had achieved when they actually have nothing for their almost two years in the sadle. As it stands, 20 months after tak­ing over power, not even a handful of Nigerians can sep­arate the serious politicians from the jesters or pretend­ers who have nothing to offer but threat of violence. With their inherent fluidity and challenging negative party loyalty, violence became their party slogan and violence remains their major achieve­ment since they were inau­gurated as the ruling party. This, unfortunately, is the aftermath of the death of ide­ology. There is indeed a sorry lack of responsible engineer­ing in the political arena liv­ing a great cloud of gloom still hanging over the whole affair. And anyone who is fa­miliar with our recent politi­cal experiences will certainly understand why such thick layer of cynicism continue to undermine the whole pro­cess. It is to be emphasized that the second coming of the military on the political scene made nonsense of the conceptual essence of party politics.
Political parties for the first time became govern­ment parastatals, created and spoon-fed , their secretari­ats built, funded, and their manifestos written, by the military. The reality is that almost eighteen years into ci­vilian rule, politicians remain strange bedfellows in all the political parties and nobody is talking about real issues and programmes. As unfor­tunate as this situation is, what is even more terrible is the absence of sportsmanship on the part of losers to accept defeat with equanimity and winners to manage victory with magnanimity. The dan­ger which the polity faces as a consequence of the com­bination of these unsavory developments is underlined by the avalanche of threats and last-minute illegal car­pet-crossing by desperate politicians. Ironically, our politicians have consistently shown demonstrable proof of ineptitude, corruption, in­tolerance and lack of gravitas in the game. If our politicians do not want to acquiesce in the subversion of their own future and that of their chil­dren, they must stop creating such deliberate enabling en­vironment for the emergence of military dictatorships, a situation which has failed to redress our woeful national crises. The practice of politics in Nigeria must be allowed to develop. For now, it is still crawling.

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