“One cannot rise and liberate oneself in one area and sink in the other”—Frantz Fanon.
The clamour for a new Nigeria, one exemplified by a responsive leadership and responsible citizenry has taken different turns since the return of the country to civil ways. From pressure groups to nongovernmental organizations, religious bodies to the coming under ethnic banners to advance common causes, Nigerians, in skilful ways, are known to deploy their social instincts to include their thoughts and opinions on varying issues of national importance.
One area of dominance is the ease at which Nigerians assemble supposedly like-minds to form political parties, throwing up all manner of such with a few existing as an appreciation of the inalienable right to association, and others, created to mock the seriousness that undergirds party democracy, one so blatant as to make such parties dead on arrival; providing neither the needed opposition which offers sound alternatives to the judgments of the incumbent, nor discipline required to develop them into institutions in their own right via their skilful removal from the over-domineering influences and somewhat dictatorial tendencies founders and financiers are wont to have on them.
It is for this reason that no matter how hard the people resist the urge to free themselves of the APC or PDP, the more it occurs to them that the array of options are either in the shadows of the ones they couldn’t wait to get out of, or, offers no credible alternative beyond mere rhetoric and pedestrian criticisms of the present.
With such a poor record dominating the political space, the masses have since surrendered their fate to that of elite consensus, a fait accompli characteristic of the workings of the monstrous political parties whose leaders are responsible for the pit the country is confined to at the moment. With all its hubris of being the most noble form of governance, the near impossibility to not have the masses at the mercy of a few fat cats is a major let down of democracy; for it proclaims rigor and thoroughness while in reality, the people are but helpless in the choice of individuals who are to preside over their affairs.
The result is staggering. On the last count, the Independent National Electoral Commission, INEC, says the total number of registered political parties stands at 67—a figure announced on its website after its successful registration of 21 new ones. This calls for sober reflection on the propriety or otherwise of what some stakeholders see as an increase in size and not quality, for it could be inferred that the multiplicity of political platforms in a fledgling democracy as ours is a nostrum to rescuing Nigeria from what Kwame Ture calls “economic exploitation and political disfranchisement.”
Having threaded this path on several occasions with the country neither witnessing an entrenchment of democratic practices nor its deepening, observers have often queried why nationals continue to keep up with this practice. Could it be that the two big parties—the All Progressives Congress (APC) and Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) —are so alike in every way, shape or form that one cannot play the role of an opposition to the other without being asked to look into the mirror? Personally, I agree that the APC and PDP—beyond the fact that the former came alive via the exodus of members from the latter—represent an ugly past that, instead of staying confined to eternal infamy where they belong, continue to perpetuate themselves to the consternation of a helpless nation.
Having established this, it therefore becomes imperative for the people to venture in search of alternative platforms whose formations, modus operandi and ideologies stand in stark contrast to those offered by the APC and PDP—and of course, a few others who although command no national appeal, have proven in their little enclaves to be entangled in the same moral and ideological ditches the APC and PDP occupy. One take away from the failure to bend these failed parties to the needs and aspirations of the people has been the political slothfulness that comes with democratic practices and civic engagements in Nigeria, one that makes the people go into a hibernating mode, waiting for some individuals to build political parties only to demand fair play and inclusiveness in the running of such platforms. This is what has made me develop a soft spot for the Abundant Nigeria Renewal Party (ANRP), one of the new parties registered by INEC whose members argue its creation on “the need to RENEW Nigeria.”. Since its creation up until this time, its poster child and national chairman, Tope Fasua—an economist whose infectious suaveness and intellectual vigour put him in complete oddity with our political culture and atmosphere—has identified as a major impediment to our progress, the pervading expectation among Nigerians to expect good governance be served to them on a silver platter.
Said he at its maiden national congress in 2016: “We are here as a people who have come together, collecting together their innocence, energy, intelligence and patriotism, to say ‘here we are, send us’, for we intend to be the ones our society, and ourselves have been waiting for. We don’t mind being a ‘movement’, but we believe that a political party is the starting point if we intend to get things going at all. We want to get in on the ground floor and comply with all regulations and create something of our own. We want our every effort to count. Any movement that is not a political party is often ignored by our leaders; their efforts seen as noisemaking. We say no, we want to be stronger stakeholders in the Nigerian political space. We also want to move beyond rhetoric and engage directly in the leadership of our nation, using the skills and ideas we have always espoused... But one could say we are still a movement because we intend to attract a certain type of believers; the millions of Nigerians who believe that things could be much better than this, and that they are ready to be part of the service and sacrifice for a great nation to be reclaimed…”
While the above sounds compelling, it is worthy of mention that with the disillusion in the land, one occasioned by the penchant for politicians to misuse politics for private gain, it is only fitting for ANRP and other new players in the political game to undergo deep reflections into the doing and undoing of their old counterparts that caused them their once cherished goodwill. While it appears impossible, the craving of Nigerians to have the present order toppled is one that could result in a resounding success, should these new players use to their advantage, the words of King Hussein of “man being the most precious asset.”
Above all, it is worth reiterating, the need for these parties to succumb to the mood of the people by embarking on a painstaking mission of combing the political space for individuals and political parties with somewhat undistinguishable ideologies, for it is obvious that the task to unseat the present order is not one to be taken by a conglomeration of disjointed forces. Already, the country reeks of completely hopeless citizens who would queue behind any credible alternative to the APC which—as advanced by Professor Biodun Jeyifo in The parable of the worm—is either a lumbricus terrestis reproduction of, or a planaria torva transmogrification of the PDP. But with so many not too dissimilar options to choose from, the people might perceive these new platforms as mere opportunistic creations whose ambitions and longing for power could not be subsumed for the common good.
This places a urge burden before them. While political analysts continue to focus on the market women, artisans and professional politicians as sources of votes, any party that aims to change the narrative in our political life must go beyond this view to bring the millions of indifferent and often disinterested students and youth to civic engagement. With this, the voices of the youths which appear eternally confined to the social media would have been translated into actions. In his introduction to Frantz Fanon’s The Dying Colonialism, Adolfo Gilly argues that “it is human beings—not systems, machines or weapons—who decide their own lives.”
Writing on the need for political parties, Moisés Naím advised that “to survive, political parties must regain the ability to inspire and mobilize people — especially the young — who might otherwise disdain politics or prefer to channel whatever political energy they have through single-issue groups. Parties must be willing to overhaul their structures, mind-sets and methods to adapt to a new world. We also need to bring party renewal to the foreground in any discussion of contemporary politics… We need a disruptive innovation that pulls democratic parties into the 21st century.”
With the domineering parties either unwilling or incapable of threading this reformist path, rising and liberating themselves on paper (and sometimes in words) only to sink in actions—a negation to the argument marshalled by the black existentialist philosopher and pragmatic revolutionary, Frantz Fanon that one cannot rise and liberate oneself in one area and sink in the other—the new political parties must put their egos aside to forge a common front.
This is the only way to go should they hope to break loose from the curse of Sisyphus whose potency has reduced the history of Nigeria to a compendium of distasteful politics.
Modiu Olaguro is a mathematics educator. He can be reached on [email protected]