Rotimi-John: PDP-APC: Between two and tuppence
THE conflation of two or more parties to form a mega party is bound to necessarily conduce to an unintended or unforeseen denial of the unique or peculiar vigour, vitality or effervescence of the individual parties forming it. An impetus is deemed to be afforded the federating parties even as the attempt to amalgamate is considered as an invaluable contribution to the search for a viable addition to the pantheon of views regarding the effective or efficient way to run or manage the political process. The ideological chemistry of the parties is somehow diluted to accommodate the position or direction of one another respecting issues for which their world-view may have been widely-known or recognised.
It is to be noted that the radical or fundamental difference between parties on the different ends of the political spectrum is largely lost on Nigerian political parties. But the socio-political and economic conditions of Nigeria impose on our parties the responsibility to recognise the requirement to explore or investigate the meaning and depth of the Nigerian situation from ideological perspectives. Throughout the 19th century, the struggle of radicalism in politics was to achieve equality through extension of the franchise and the abolition of the complicated or unnatural differences in status of traditional society. The debate was between freedom on one hand and established authority and unearned privilege on the other; and the political divide reflected the attitudes of individuals and organized interests towards this all-important question. In England, in those days, the Liberal Party championed enhanced freedom and this quest placed it firmly on the political left. So Liberals naturally represented organised non-conformity in religion against the Church established by law and the new industrial society against the landed gentry. The challenge of our time is however altogether different. Virtually all parties lay claim to one form of liberalism or the other so much so that even manifestoes of parties today do not reflect the rigid cleavages between conservatism and liberalism. A middle course is today charted between an all-pervasive state – owning particularly all the factors of production, distribution and exchange – and a vigorous private sector. A mixed economy “evolving naturally” but with a marked bias against state intervention is today the re-think of conservatives regarding the thrust or onslaught of socialism.
Given the perceived un-refreshing similarity in poise, purpose and content between the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) and the All Progressives Congress (APC) enlightened concerns are being expressed regarding the latter’s sanctimonious claim to progressivism. The progressive or radical credentials of the APC are being generally queried or viewed as a linguistic sleight of hand. The PDP on the other hand, an unrepentant middle-of-the-road conservative formation compelled to an open-ended commitment to an un-inhibited private ownership of all the enterprises engaged in manufacture, distribution and exchange is the curious alter ego of the APC. Productive investment in industry is, according to PDP political philosophy, fostered or encouraged by an overwhelming private ownership or control of business or the economy as a matter of practical politics. By its jurisprudence, the commanding heights of the economy are invidiously entrusted into the hands of a moneyed class in contra-distinction to the philosophy of the common ownership of all the means of production, distribution and exchange espoused by progressive formations or outfits. There is however a seeping hypocrisy to be noticed among certain leaders of the progressive front who have unduly expensive tastes and parade enormous personal wealth. Notable APC leaders fall into this category and are popularly known to be reeking in stupendous personal fortunes allegedly amassed from their tenure in public office. Their counterparts in the PDP who un-ashamedly make no bones respecting their disregard of the sanctity of the public purse or revenue find in the APC easy co-travellers in the despoliation or expropriation of the public till.
The All Progressives Congress is essentially an amalgamation of two or more groups with inconsistent aims; their objective is expressed to be to remove or terminate the rot they see in the present structure of the Nigerian society. Contained within this objective is the radical aim of a sub-set within it to altogether destroy the existing structure and substitute something different. Both groups will regard themselves as progressives, though they do not always so regard each other. The right wing of this formation will seem to be predominant. But there is a glaring incompatibility, which is reflected in the tension between the two trends. This has become more obvious and will get increasingly bitter even as the struggle for dominance becomes more acute or relevant, if the party outlives its present morass or difficulties.
The on-going scenario of carpet crossing rather than strengthen our democratic portfolio rudely denies the actual locus of political sovereignty. It, in fact, blurs the difference (if any) in the ideology and praxis of the respective parties. Dogmatism and doctrinaire ideology seem no longer attractive or realistic political attributes. But democracy will continue to mean a change of government from time to time as if oscillating between two sides with opposing philosophies rigidly applied. Ideologies are eminently positioned to drive principles to practical ends. It will be in the interest of our much-vaunted development to provide the electorate the opportunity to choose between truly oppositional ideological perspectives. So if the APC is the other side of the PDP; or if the two of them are offering the people the same socio-political and economic perspectives respecting governance, service delivery, thrust, etc. then the people are short-changed. In the absence of serious ideological positions or stance, it is easy to find members of either party freely easing or fitting perfectly into each other so soon as they announce their decampment or cross-carpeting.
The democratic mobilisation of peasants, artisans, workmen, etc. conducing to a revolution from the “bottom up” is the general goal of many radical formations. Theory and practice are necessarily unified even as mass mobilisation get connected with popular ideas and aspirations. The lack of ideology is basically responsible for the major weakness in Nigerian political parties’ march to freedom and progress. The dynamic interaction of theory and practice is visibly missing in the approach of Nigeria’s “mega” political parties. The APC, despite its posturing as a populist party is obviously a petty bourgeois party. Ideas are hurriedly formulated which have less and less connection with the party’s real foundational history in the forlorn hope that the new-found ideas would magically undo the damage induced by the many quixotic compromises struck at its conception or inception.
We disclaim the view that political parties lose or forfeit their claim to be national by seeking to reflect particular interests. In any case, the actual constitution, composition or structure of the parties, as they have evolved, drive them inexorably into attitudes which render them almost impossible either in office or in opposition to pursue genuine national objectives. The “all-inclusive”, mish-mash membership of the APC may in no time turn out to be an effective restraining motif against its professed radical engineering stance or crusade. The frenetic dissipation of energy manifested in the events leading to the formation of the APC is a result of the mis-judgment regarding the necessity to found or float an unprincipled, wide-span or “national” political party for achieving stated objectives.
We close by saying we need not allow ourselves to be detained here even as it will be misleading to create the impression that what we are experiencing in the hands of the governments of these unprincipled political formations is democracy. These ones are to be despised for their poverty of ideas regarding governance, its time-honoured ideals and the practical convergence of its theories and praxis. There is a requirement to interrogate the philosophical basis of the existence or road map of Nigeria’s political partners.
• Rotimi-John is a lawyer and commentator on public affairs