The Dilemma of the Progressives


The collapse of the Soviet Union, towards the end of the last century, marked the end of the socialist ideology as a philosophical platform by the radicals or the revolutionaries of the Left. Communism gave way to capitalism and indeed confusion. During the bipolar era, when the USA represented capitalism and the defunct USSR represented the communist bloc, socialism was the ideology of the oppressed, underdeveloped world while capitalism was seen as the ideology of the oppressor’s camp. The oppressed were basically called the progressive camp while the oppressors were generically the conservatives. In virtually every country of the world, those were the two dominant political camps.

One of the features of the Nigerian political landscape since the advent of the Fourth Republic in 1999 has been the lack of political parties and politicians of deep ideological expression. Political parties are mere platforms for contesting elections. That is why defection from one party to another and back again in some cases are very rampant and attract no shame. Politicians of conviction are becoming extinct and political parties of any philosophical coloration are virtually non-existent.

There are two dominant political parties in Nigeria – the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) and the All Progressives Congress (APC). These two are the only parties having structures across the nooks and crannies of the country. The PDP was in charge of the federal government and most of the states for 16 years. It failed woefully in meeting the needs and expectations of most Nigerians. The APC was voted in its place in 2015 and it is turning out to be worse than the PDP in many respects in just over three years in power. For so many who have the interest of the people at heart there is the dilemma of which way to go in 2019.

Nature abhors a vacuum. With no ideology as a political platform, various tribal jingoists, religious bigots and sectional champions took over the space. Some of them even collect money and say they endorsed candidates. Every move by successive governments since 1999 is seen from the religious or ethnic prism. There are very few patriots or nationalists remaining in the arena, and in most cases they have been silenced. The radicals have been compromised and the renegade socialists have been subdued. Fake news has taken over the social space, just as fake politicians have taken over the political space and fake businessmen are in control of the economic sphere. There is so much fake that one is confused as to which one is real.

Of the three major ethnic groups, it is the Igbo, most unfortunately, that play ethnic politics the most now. When Anyim Pius Anyim was invited for questioning over looted funds in his office as secretary to government of the federation under President Jonathan, it was viewed by some Igbo as an attack on them and they quickly rose in his defence. When Senator Ekweremadu was invited recently by the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) to answer some questions, the Ohanaeze Ndigbo, the Igbo cultural but now political organization, rose in his defence and defined it as an attack on the Igbo, as if when Anyim and Ekweremadu were stealing they were doing it on behalf of the Igbo.

Contrast this with the silence of the Yoruba leaders and organizations when Femi Fani-Kayode, former aviation minister and rabid tribal irredentist, was arraigned in court for corruption. The Yoruba rightly thought he should face the law and clear his name. And, no one ever came out in defence of Sambo Dasuki, a prince of the Sokoto Caliphate, when he was held to account for the role he played in disbursing security funds to various individuals as the immediate past national security adviser. Similarly, when Lawal Daura was sacked recently as DG of DSS, no one rose in his defence from his area. In fact, people celebrated his removal and praised Vice President Osinbajo for his decisive action to save democracy.

Out of convenience or mischief, there is a group of “middle belt and south”. The first time a statement came out in public on behalf of “middle belt and south” was the coup announcement of Major Gideon Orkar in April 1990 when a section of the military tried to take over power from military president Ibrahim Babangida. Orkar even tried to excise a section of Nigeria, now being referred to as the far north, from Nigeria. It naturally failed because no sectional agenda has ever succeeded anywhere. In opposition to Buhari and occasionally in support of a nebulous term called “restructuring”, some people issue statements on behalf of “middle belt, southeast, south-south and southwest”, basically the Orkar thing, whatever that means.

Those being excluded in the statements of the Orkarians know that “restructuring” is targeted at them and will therefore never support it. The few minorities who are being misled in this venture should be reminded that state creation has historical, political, social and economic bases when Gen. Gowon started it in 1967. It was basically to give the minority ethnic groups a sense of fairness and liberate them from domination by the majority tribes. A return to regionalism will therefore be a great setback for the minorities.

In any case, without any restructuring and with the current structure, Mr Madu, an Igbo from the east, represented Kaduna city in the Kaduna State House of Assembly from 1999–2003. Without restructuring three Igbos from the east have been representing Lagos in the current House of Representatives since 2015. Has anyone complained? Another absurdity is that those advocating a return to regions are the ones clamouring for more states to be created. Is this not a contradiction? Until we know what restructuring is, we will never support it. Indeed, if there was no state and local government creation Yakubu Dogara wouldn’t have been speaker even in his home state of Bauchi, nor would David Mark have been Senate president for eight years since his tribe of Idoma has never produced a governor in his home state of Benue even once in over 40 years since the state was created.

What we are trying to say is that Buhari did not become president because he is Fulani or is representing Fulani. In fact, some Fulani such as Dr Junaidu Mohammed are some of his most consistent critics. Do not ethnicize a national issue if you want to succeed. We criticize him because of bad policies and incompetence. You ethnicize this serious issue, you miss the point. Everyone who is aspiring to be a national leader from any part of the nation must build bridges of understanding across the nation. No one is given leadership; you work for it by exhibiting the necessary qualities. And this issue of “what is mine is mine and what is yours, we share” will never fly.

History is on the side of the oppressed.

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