Swinging Along with the Pendulum By Joshua A. Otene
Students of politics and all keen observers of the dynamics of power would concur to the notion that ‘power is transient’. Power is also dynamic and if there is one lesson Nigerian politicians must learn from the 2015 Election, it is that political power rests with the electorates and they can confer it on trust to whomsoever they deem worthy. Indeed the PDP has suffered electoral defeat but contrariwise, the loss presents an opportunity for the party’s membership to return to the drawing board and ask itself some pertinent questions. How well did we utilize the enormous power entrusted into our hands by Nigerians in the last 16 years? Where did we get it wrong, and how can we navigate our party out of the marshlands it is currently enmeshed in?
But rather than working together to reposition the PDP to win back the hearts of the electorate towards future electoral conquests, the power mongers in the PDP are betraying their insatiable lusts for political influence by clinging tenaciously to the pendulum of power and swinging freely along with it in the direction that it goes. The ex-PDP members that are currently trooping unabashedly into the APC should probe themselves on what their true motive is for deserting the party that they only recently swore allegiance to. Apart from the expected mourning resulting from the tragic electoral loss, there is presently no internal crisis within the PDP to provide even the subtlest of excuses for its members to decamp to the APC. This will therefore confirm that the decampees are influenced only by their avarice and thirsts for power and all the lucre that accompanies political power.
Recall that President Goodluck Jonathan’s timely congratulatory message to the President-Elect, Gen. Muhammadu Buhari (Rtd) several hours before the final set of election results were announced at the International Conference Centre, venue of INEC’s National Collation Exercise, has been widely adjudged as one of the highpoints of the Jonathan administration. Even the fiercest antagonists of President Jonathan could not but own up publicly to the fact that the relative peace witnessed across the country after the presidential poll, a complete departure from history, was largely attributable to the gallantry displayed by Mr. President in conceding electoral defeat and the subsequent broadcast message he sent to his teeming supporters, urging them not to thread outside the ambits of the law in seeking redress if they harboured any reservations about the election results.
Despite the torrent of plaudits that have greeted President Jonathan’s sportsmanly disposition to the election, the flurry of secret (or even open) condemnations that Mr. President must have to contend with from stratums of his party membership, his kinsmen and teeming beneficiaries remains incontestable. After 16 consecutive years in the mainstream of power and all the associated trimmings, it is not impossible to find PDP members that would choke (or almost choke) at the thought of being stripped of all the bounties and privileges they are currently enjoying. Again, there are others whose ethnic, social or religious affinities to President Jonathan has over the years given them unfettered access to numerous dividends of democracy, dividends which ordinarily do not trickle down to the common man on the streets.
But as repugnant as the reality is, PDP (and of course its many beneficiaries) has found itself in opposition politics and it is a fate that the party and its teeming members, especially those that have benefitted enormously from its good fortunes, must embrace wholeheartedly. For our democracy to continue to take roots, there is need for virile and vibrant opposition party to be in place. A viable opposition will not only put the incumbent on its toes, but also provide an alternative to the electorate in subsequent elections. However the APC cannot deter interested individuals from joining its fold. As a political organization, the APC must uphold the tenets of freedom of association as enshrined in our constitution. But the statement credited to the President-Elect, Gen. Buhari, that the recent decampees will not be offered appointments into his cabinet is quite commendable. It should sound a clear warning to intending decampees that they cannot have their cakes and eat them.
For the political power that they so covet, our politicians must be willing to pay the right price. The ‘change’ slogan that many Nigerians are basking in today was made possible through the diligence and sacrifice of a few people, who weathered the turbulent storms of opposition politics for 16 solid years! The President-Elect, Gen. Muhammadu Buhari stands tall on the list of the pillars of contemporary opposition politics in Nigeria and therefore deserves to be its leading beneficiary. Senator Bola Ahmed Tinubu also runs atop the list of champions of opposition politics in Nigeria. The efforts and sacrifices of these two, among other men of conscience and principle, have altered the equation in Nigeria’s political landscape today.
Although it is often argued that majority of Nigerian politicians do not uphold clear-cut philosophies, I am of the view that the seeming lack of political philosophy on the part of our politicians is attributable to the low level of the nation’s political maturity. I have argued that time and events will eventually shape Nigerian politicians, as well as the electorate along party philosophies. This is so long as the country does not slide into a one-party state. With time and further realization of the power of the ballot, the parties will be compelled to fine-tune their philosophies and also educate the electorate on these philosophies. It is then that we can have issues-based politics, rather than the politics of primordial sentiments that we are currently practicing.
For instance in the United States, being the democratic model which Nigeria appears to be emulating, the issue of politicians decamping across political parties has not been a matter of reckoning in recent years. This is because in the US, it is easy to identify politicians with the party manifestoes that they stand for. The conviction of an average American politician vis-à-vis party manifesto has made party loyalty a transcendent issue within any particular family. With the passage of time, I am optimistic that the culture of democracy in Nigeria will rival that of the US. But that time can be shortened considerably, if only our politicians would stick to objectivity, principle and character, and quit oscillating with the pendulum of power.