By Daniel Kanu
There have been debates in the political circle as to whether Nigerian politics is anchored on any political ideology given the ease with which politicians cross-carpet to either the ruling party or the opposition party.In more advanced democracies, political parties are driven by ideology.
In the United States, for instance, you have the Democrats and the Republicans and political parties and politicians align themselves firmly to the ideological provisions of these parties. They so much respect the core values of their political party in such a way that it is almost impossible to cross-carpet to another party.
This is despite the fact that there are equally other political parties, but politicians and most times the entire family stick to a political party which they pass on to other generations.
In those countries, members of the parties are bound not by tribe or religion, but by core values, perspectives on socio-economic, and political matters. These perspectives shape policy propositions and form the foundations on which manifestos are built.
Also in such countries, citizens are able to make choices that reflect their personal leanings on issues like healthcare, education, foreign policy, as well as security interventions.
Since Nigeria’s independence, a significantly different range of considerations have framed the voters’ choices.
Many have argued that Nigerian political parties do not have ideologies; and that even before independence, ethnic and money politics relegated issue-based politics to the background.
Indeed, the decline of ideology politics in the country is evident in the incessant defection of key politicians from the opposition to the ruling party.
Currently, for instance, in the Green Chambers, the difference is not only clear, but very stark as the ruling All Progressives Congress (APC) members grew from 211 in the 2019 elections to over 236 and still counting.
Most political commentators who expressed their views to Sunday Sun are of the view that since independence, Nigerian political parties have been motivated by factors that do not promote ideological leanings rather by features that are detrimental to the development of its democracy.
They contend, for instance, that the structure and eventual collapse of the governments of the first and second republics can be ascribed to the parties maintaining deep roots in their ethnic orientations.
From 1960-1983, a number of factors intensified the division of parties along regional and ethnic lines. The common feature was that the parties shared ethno-regional ideology, seeking to capture and consolidate power in their respective regions.
Naro Omo-Osagie and Chukwuka Gideon Isika in their analytical essay “Revisiting Political Ideology in Nigeria,” posited that “the corruption of party policy set the tone for the ideological barrenness that has come to define Nigeria’s political space”.
Going by the records, during the first and second republics, most of the key political systems were formed based on two ideological trends that were the core belief of the nationalist leaders. Such leaders included: Nnamdi Azikiwe, Obafemi Awolowo, Tafawa-Balewa, Ahmadu Bello, Ernest Okoli, among others.
During their era, Dr Enoch Madu, a university teacher, told Sunday that “then, at least, ideologies appeared to fall between the ‘Far-right’ conservatives of the NPC; the ‘Far-left’ socialist of the AG and the Centre-right Neo-Conservatives’ of the NCNC.
“Ideologically, the NPC was conservative and elitist, while the AG and NCNC appeared to be progressive and welfarist, predicated upon socialist ideology. One thing was clear, however, about these parties: they all shared a common feature of ethno-regional ideology, in quest of power in their respective areas of influence.
“Defining the ideological orientation of these parties was difficult as the parties themselves did not follow clear-cut thinking lines”.
The political scientist said that elections decided by party philosophy died almost as soon as the First Republic started to take shape.
“By the next elections, the regions aligned and put the final nail on the coffin of party ideology and from then on, ethnic identity continued to be the dominant form of appeal for political parties” he said.
Some analysts also believe that the foundations of the parties of the Fourth Republic (1999–present) are perhaps the biggest factor behind the ideological emptiness that characterised the democratic atmosphere up till the last elections
A former Speaker of the House of Representatives, Ghali Umar Na’Abba, once stated that the PDP drew its founders from ‘all and sundry political persuasions: conservatives, radicals, and progressives’.
Indeed, most of these founders were men and women who supported the annulment of the June 12, 1993, presidential election and cavorted with the military during the annulment and the post-annulment period.
With these roots, the parties of the Fourth Republic were ill-equipped to develop ideologies that defined them outside money and ethnic politics.
Professor of International Relations and former Minister, Prof Tunde Adeniran told Sunday Sun that most Nigerian politicians simply mouth political ideology without knowing what it connotes in reality, the reason they cross-carpet without remorse.
He explained that political ideology represents core values political parties would not compromise, lamenting that there is so much abuse in the political system due to a lack of political ideology or principles to hold on to.
Adeniran said: “There is lack of political ideology because there is no focus in terms of principles, in terms of core values over which they cannot compromise. If there is a political ideology, something that they hold on to, you won’t see people cross-carpeting, crossing here and there without any consequences, without any remorse, they just feel that they can do anything at any time.
“You see those who are championing some PDP cause today, tomorrow they are in the APC and all that and it doesn’t make any difference to them. The same people, the same programme, self-seeking, self-serving.
“Whereas if there were some core values underlining their basic principles they will find it difficult to cross over.
“By the core values, I mean, for instance, education for all Nigerians particularly, up to the secondary school level. It’s a basic fundamental right. Once a people or party holds on to that and they say… health insurance, certain things for the youths, certain things for the elderly and, of course, the interest of the country.
“They are certain things that you just don’t tamper with, like the rule of law, etc. When all these things are put together they define a philosophy, the ideology of a particular party.
“But in our situation here these things don’t mean anything. When some of them talk about it they are talking about it based on just because people want to hear, some of them don’t even know what those things mean.
“For instance, if an issue like restructuring is part of your ideology, part of what you believe in, if you are a governor of a state you don’t have to wait for a national, centre, the Federal Government to make a pronouncement or the National Assembly, you already have opportunities to do that.”
Adeniran noted that “you do not lay claim to say that, for instance, you are the governor of Kogi State or you are a governor of Gombe State, you don’t have to be taking the same salary that the governor of Lagos or Kano is taking, you don’t have to be paying your people the same salary, or emolument.
“You pay according to what you can afford. You can pay more than what some others are paying if you can afford it, you can also pay less, but one thing which is certain is that you have to make sure that the welfare of your people is uppermost over every other thing and you do it in such a way that you regulate governance so that what goes on in some other places do not affect you and you move at a pace that others will just be running after you. “In other words, you do not just live as a copycat, someone who has no sense of initiative, who cannot think, who cannot plan, who will wait until you see something going on around and before you can even generate some resources it is when you now look… you say what is coming from the centre is not enough, whereas, if you are basically committed to a certain ideology, that ideology would have prompted you, guided you to know that you have to service those belief by certain resources.
“When you do not believe in certain basic philosophy anything goes and you may not advance the cause of your people well. But when you believe in certain principles, philosophies or ideologies, when people are crossing to the left or to the right it will not bother you because that is not your orientation, you stick to where you believe in”.
Also, Tunde Ajileye, partner at socio-economic research firm, SBM Intel, observed that in Nigeria, by the virtue of how parties were formed, the bigger political parties are unlikely to have strong political ideologies, but that ideologies could be seen in the individual interests of the presidents.
Speaking on why politicians switch parties, Ajileye said that it is because of the desperation to get into power and keep power.
According to him, “people switch parties mainly because they can, and because they will use any vehicle to get into power.
“How do we know the parties have different ideologies? You find the same politician behaving differently when he is in a different party. It means there is something about the party he is in that constrains him.
“It is obvious that the way and manner politics is being played in recent times is not only devastatingly surprising, but shocking because there was still a time in this country when Nigerians took great pride and an unwavering stance in their ideological political parties despite their imperfections.
A period when a political party’s manifesto gave the voter a clear understanding of the party’s ideology.
A time, when the electorate’s votes count and when political power actually belonged to the people. An era when politicians were seen as servants, not masters.
Sadly, it is the exact opposite today. Politics now lacks the ideology that propelled many among farmers, students, market women, and associations to be card-carrying members of political parties of old.
A top politician from the Southwest who belongs to the Awo camp claimed that the problem among most politicians today is poverty, and greed, pointing out that “they want to democratize their stomach first and as such they throw away ideology.”
But he submitted that “there are still among us in our camp those who will not compromise our political ideology. You will be wrong to conclude that there is no longer political ideology in Nigeria because there is and some of us cannot compromise the principle, our core value because of stomach infrastructure”.
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By Daniel Kanu There have been debates in the political circle as to whether Nigerian politics is…
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