The power seekers’ dance

The final lap in the 2023 political power race has begun. These are naturally anxious moments for the candidates for the various elective political offices at national and sub-national levels, the electorate, and the nation itself. Every election circle confronts us with the dark fears of things derailing from the path of peace and sanity. We tremble because none of us can see through the dark clouds of the future. Never mind. The men of God, like God, no dey sleep.  

This year’s elections, the sixth since 1999 and the fifth to be conducted by our civilian leaders should be the best so far in our long and weary trek along the path of nation-building. All things being equal, we should have learnt all the lessons we needed to learn in managing the nuances of democracy and the conduct of our elections and apply them at this point to consolidate our democracy and move our nation towards its rightful place to rub shoulders with nations that treat political powers as a means of national service, not in the primitive service of ethnicity and faith. 

These are crucial and trying moments for the general elections. Given what we see and hear, it should not be difficult for us to honestly admit that things are not exactly moving in the direction we had expected. Our political leaders cannot afford to sit on their hands. Human history has no record of national problems such as ours solving themselves. As Vice-Admiral Murtala Nyako once said, problems are created by human beings and must be solved by human beings.

Our country is in the throes of sundry challenges. Insecurity is tightening its grips on the nation’s jugular. Dark clouds are hovering over the nation, thanks to rampant violence and wanton killings in various parts of the country. These, naturally, heighten the people’s fear about the forthcoming general elections and the future of the country itself. Late last year, the chief of defence staff, General Lucky Irabor, warned that the armed forces were under pressure to compromise the elections. None of us can pretend not know the import of that warning. The politicians will be responsible for what happens, before, during and after the generals. In their hands is the fate of both the elections and the country itself. Let us not allow them to ruin the elections and ruin the future of our country.

It behoves our political leaders to take their responsibilities much more seriously than their funny attires at campaign rallies. They must make the country secure and peaceful. We would be expecting too much if we expect the general elections to be conducted in the situation in which we are. The political parties that should take on the responsibilities of ensuring peace and security are each torn by internal crises. The judiciary is thus compelled to do much more than it should in pre-election and election matters.  

In my December 2018 column, I drew attention to the disarray in the political parties. The disarray then was a dress rehearsal for what is currently happening. I am tempted to recall part of that column if only to show that it would be sheer naivety to expect fundamental attitudinal changes among our political leaders. I wrote: 

“I have, as indeed I must, followed the reporting of events in the political parties, now given a new tempo as the clock ticks, drawing us inexorably closer to many people’s dates with their political destiny. You do not need me to tell you that all is not well with our political parties. They are in disarray and confusion. The crises began even before the party primaries. But like the virus it is, it continues to spread, destabilising every one of the political parties.

“We are still confronted with the toing and froing of the politicians from one party to another and back again. It is symptomatic of our incurable political disease – the absence of an ideology that commits and binds members of one political party to stand with it and work for its opportunity to get into power and implement its policies and programmes. 

“The press has captured the dance of the power seekers, using an appropriate word in each segment of the dance. The first word was defection; a word that suggests an individual merely exercising his right to end his association with the members of his party. No offence intended and none, perhaps, was taken. 

“Then, as the crises deepened, the press found another word for it – desertion. This word captured the stage of the crises in which aggrieved members left their parties with an intent to destroy them. We have had two such cases in the current dispensation. In 2014/15, the PDP, the party that had ruled the country for 16 years as at then, helplessly witnessed the mass desertion of its members, some of whom had been president (Obasanjo), state governors and national and state legislators, ministers and other sundry men and women who realised their political ambitions under the umbrella. 

“It effectively crippled the party and led to its loss of the presidential election to APC, the new party that accommodated the deserters. But just to show that nothing is permanent in Nigerian politics, APC is now witnessing the desertion by the same men and women who flocked to it in 2014/15. It cannot escape the damage inflicted on it by the desertion.

“And that brings us to the final stage in this macabre dance, the drumbeats of which grate on the ears. And the press found a new operative word for it: Dump. Dump, dump, anybody home? People do not just leave their political parties in search of greener pastures elsewhere anymore. They dump them. Note the violence inherent in the word. A man who dumps his political party does not just turn his back on it, he consigns it to the refuse dump of his private political history. It is a violent action. On the face of it, it suggests that the dumper has burnt his bridge and, all things being equal, he would not return.

“But that is not the way the business of politics is run. Politics, Nigerian politics, has the distinction of not being serious. Everything in that rarefied kingdom is fluid – and unstable. The politicians do not pride themselves on principles; they pride themselves on their capacity to capture opportunities. Why would a man who defected or dumped his party return to it, acting as if nothing shameful happened? Political actions do not invite shame. They invite plaudits. The man who dumps his political party today for lack of opportunities, can return tomorrow, attracted thereto by the opportunity he sees pushing through the dump. To borrow from the scriptures, it is called seeing the light. If you see the light you can always find your way through the dump.

“Dump reminds us of heaps of uncleared refuse dumps on, say, Lagos streets. Dumps are unsightly but they are also sources of livelihood for scavengers who forage in them for disused but re-usable items dumped there by the haves. In politics, therefore, dump too creates opportunities wherever it occurs in a political party. Like the refuse dump scavengers, the politicians forage in the dumps of political opportunities. When one man dumps his political party, he forages in the dump of another political party. Dump. Dump. Dump. How did we get into this mess

“Dumping serves the political interests of the politicians but it puts our party politics and, therefore, our political development right there – in the dump. That is not the place for our party politics to be. But that is where it is. If you are minded to search for the reasons why our political parties are not agents of our national development, save yourself the bother because you now know why.”

Agbese can be reached via Email: [email protected]

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