Book Review: “Engendering Progressive Politics: Challenges of Reforming Nigerian Politics” By Idris Salihu Evuti
Early this year, my paths crossed with that of Mr. Salihu Lukman- a patriotic Nigerian who has passion in contributing his quota towards making our society a better place. He has written several books, articles and memorandums etc cutting-across social, economic and political issues
Amongst other questions he raised, this is the one that drew my attention the most:
“The key question that Nigerian opposition politicians need to answer is what difference will they make to the living conditions of Nigerians when they emerge as the ruling party?”
In the beginning the author identified the need for an all inclusive and participatory political process. Over the years the activities of both the partisan and non-partisan politicians have consciously or sub-consciously moulded the mindset of Nigerians towards seeing politics as a den-of-cons. Politics, should not be left only to those perceived to be dubious and deceptive. This is because such a notion holds the propensity of widening the gap between the citizens and the government on one hand, politics and national development on the other hand. Therefore, the task before the merging opposition political parties (All Progressive Congress, APC) is to create a platform where Nigerians will proudly identify with, either actively or passively. The APC should recognise the fact that democratic government derives its legitimacy from the ballots, and as such, political mobilisation of the Nigerian populace across board have become imperative.
Furthermore, the author emphasised the role of Civil Society Organisations (CSO) and other organised labour movements/groups as instrumental in the struggle for the entrenchment and sustenance of democracy. Against this background, activism to a larger extent should be born out of deep self-conviction in relation to the situation of the society at every particular time. Consequently this justifies the need for the CSOs to always engage the political process. The CSOs are to provide practical and realistic roadmaps and not idealistic blueprints needed for the breakaway of the Nigerian society from the rotten system of running the business of government to a more robust, rational and goal oriented national policies and programmes. The APC as a matter of fact should explore the CSO industry with the view of tapping the existing rich resources and ideas almost lying fallow.
It is in line with the above, that the Nigerian Labour Congress (NLC) conceived the idea of creating the Labour Party (LP) to serve as its political wing. The LP primarily ought to mobilise people from all works of life and provide the common man with a platform build on the principles of fairness, equity and progressiveness. But unfortunately today these guiding principles have been betrayed. The way and manner the party’s leadership emerged grossly contradicts the basic democratic tenets. And the blurred-rickety alliance between the Edo state arm of Labour Party and Action Congress in 2007 which eventually produced Gov. Adams Oshiomhole as the governor of Edo; negatively projects the LP.
There is an obvious disconnect between the opposition politics and the Nigerian youths of today. Historically the Nigerian youths have significantly contributed positively to societal issues and nation building. The struggle for independence and the fight against military rule are very good examples. A case in point is the formation of the Nigerian Youths Movements (NYM) in 1933 by H.O Davis, Nnamadi Azikiwe etc; which challenged the dominance of the National Democratic Party of Herbert Macaulay. In addition, the vibrant and radical National Association of Nigerian Students (NANS) contributions in the 1970’s and 1980’s.
In Nigeria, those born between 1978 to date, i.e (the youths) “have not experience anything of a functional society.” The entrepreneurial and moral faculty of most Nigerian youths have been long lost, largely due to over dependence on government as source of easy and “free money.” Youths have now been relegated to the background used only to rig elections, perpetuate religious, ethnical and social violence in return for stipends.
This is a challenge the APC should take upon itself- The youths are in need of attention, a convenient space should be created for them to realise their dreams. The APC should create an atmosphere where the youths will see their self as potential House of representative and House of assembly members. There is the need to clearly define who a youth is, and not the kind of Peoples Democratic Party’s youth leaders who are already in their 50’s.
The PDP has held itself onto power since the return to democracy in 1999, arguable through questionable means. This however can be attributed to weak and unorganised opposition parties in Nigeria. But, with the level of efforts channeled and achievements recorded so far in the merger process, there is hope for the Nigerian opposition. Given the personalities involved in the APC-project many envisaged disagreement such as clash of interest. The commitment if maintained and build upon is capable of defeating the federal ruling PDP.
However, it is incumbent on the APC to develop a party framework much more different from the ‘traditional’ political party of Nigeria. The party should have internal mechanism forestalling the sponsorship and loyalty syndrome. It’s more democratically healthier to create a party based on rules and regulations, than a party anchored on fund raising credentials and entrepreneurship, (a case in point is the Labour Party; where Dan Nwayanwu emerged as its chairman in order to generate funds for the party.)
No doubt, the Nigerian political arena is filled up by people with questionable characters with dented public scorecards. Especially, those who have at one time or the other associated and romanced with the ruling PDP. Now what becomes of some APC leaders who find themselves in this category? For instance, Chief Tom Ikimi – given his role as the foreign affairs minister when Ken Saro-Wiwa was executed by the Abacha regime, and, as the PDP returning officer in the 2003 primaries between former president Obasanjo and Alex Ekeweume.
In as much as history will always beacon on our today and the future; it is equally necessary to realise that everybody is important and deserves to be giving fair opportunity to contribute his/her own quota, beyond reasonable doubt. Moreover, APC needs the guidance, advice and presence of some high profile personalities and those who have the grounds to face and possibly confront the ruling PDP. By this, square pegs will rightly be put in square holes.
It is high time the APC begins to formulate and strategise practical ways of addressing problems bedevilling Nigeria. The APC leaders seems to have dwelled more on the merger formalities, even though commendable. The merger is largely to win the hearts and minds of the Nigerian populace; and thus there is the need to feed the public with feasible plans, policies and programmes aimed at improving the welfare of the citizens.
In view of the above, the APC needs to have a ‘unified’ policy thrust on governance and economy. That is, programmes that will run vertically from the federal to states and local governments and likewise those that will horizontally run across the various states, for instance, the free education philosophy of ACN-led governments.
Nigeria is operating a federal structure where the central government creates the subordinating units. And, this implies that the country’s resources will be concentrated at the central pool. This practice discourages revenue mobilisation drive by states and also encourages weak economic programmes. Revenue mobilisation and allocation is at the heart of any government built on the principles of federalism. Thus, the APC should as a matter of National urgency and interest begin to bargain for a healthier relationship amongst the federating units, where states will be encouraged to thrive economically based on individual state potentials.
I am @idrisevuti on twitter
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