by Douglas Anele
Politics, according to cynics, is a dirty game. Many Nigerians tend to accept that negative characterisation of politics and politicking without question. However, in my view, Aristotle’s depiction of politics as the endeavour for the noblest of human beings is nearer the truth than the cynical standpoint. Briefly defined, politics is the authoritative allocation of power to make decisions and implement them within a geopolitical space.
In both democratic and aristocratic or authoritarian systems, a tiny minority or group exercises political power by determining the nature and structure of governance for the vast majority of the population. Therefore, since political institutions evolved mainly to promote the well-being of members of the society over whom political authority is exercised, it is extremely important to create transparent processes for selecting the noblest of minds for political office.
Unfortunately, human beings have not invented foolproof reliable method which would guarantee that the best individuals would always emerge as leaders. Indeed, perfect implementation of the recommendations by Plato and other political philosophers cannot occlude the possibility that political power might be in the hands of men and women of inferior intellectual, emotional, and moral quality.
The impossibility of creating perfect socio-political institutions that can guarantee that only the most suitable would occupy political offices entails that individuals should channel their creative energies towards constructing democratic institutions in their respective countries capable of minimising the repercussions of bad leadership. According to the Austrian-born British philosopher, Karl Popper, this is achievable only through periodic elections.
Democracy is not an ideal political system, but it is preferable to other arrangements because it allows members of the society to play some role in selecting those that would lead them for a specified period. Like other non-authoritarian countries, Nigeria is still trying to create a viable democratic process appropriate for her historical experiences and developmental needs.
Of course, the 2015 elections are crucial in this respect because, if conducted successfully, that would go a long way to consolidate the modest progress made since 1999. On the other hand, if politicians derail the process because of inordinate desperation for power, it would be another disappointing case of “hope deferred.”
The presidential contest between the two frontrunners, Dr. Goodluck Ebele Jonathan and Gen. Muhammadu Buhari, has brought to the fore once again the perennial problem of selecting political leaders in a fledgling democracy. The All Progressives Congress (APC) on whose platform Gen. Buhari is contesting has mounted vuvuzela-sounding campaigns with the sole purpose of dislodging the ruling Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) from power.
In fact, the heat and tension from APC was so palpable that many Nigerians became too pessimistic and apprehensive about what would happen next. Despite the unnecessary threats by Gen. Buhari and his cohorts, the presidential and gubernatorial elections have been postponed; tension has gone down somewhat, although there is still a sense of foreboding because of ferocious propaganda by the major two parties.
A disturbing product of the vociferous APC campaign machine is Buharimania, that is, worshipful support bothering on religious and cultic excitement for Buhari by a section of the Nigerian population especially in the North, coupled with fanatic belief that APC can deliver positive change in the country if Buhari wins the election. It would take a lengthy treatise drawing on the resources of psychology, sociology and contemporary Nigerian political history to explain in details the provenance of Buharimania.
It must be pointed out, however, that Buharimania is a phenomenon rooted in devotion to and uncritical preference for a retired military dictator with a reputation for rigidity, integrity and honesty over a well-educated, humble and methodical democrat with an easy going disposition towards governance. The danger here is that wily APC kingpins can exploit it to foment trouble if the party loses the elections. Understandably, the propaganda machine of APC deliberately suppresses President Jonathan’s achievements by continuously denigrating his administration.
It projects Gen. Buhari as the only presidential candidate with the capacity to eliminate corruption, mount a decisive fight against insecurity, and promote economic development. In addition, the party has been working hard to minimise the collateral political damage that Gen. Buhari’s image as an inflexible, not so well educated, ageing military dictator with outdated understanding of economic management might cause it in the general elections.
Now, because the full positive impacts of the modest achievements by President Jonathan are yet to be felt nationwide, it appears that the message of “change” from APC is resonating with the masses. But a closer look at the antecedents of APC leaders reveals that the gospel of change is fundamentally unrealisable and illusory, a desperate attempt to exploit the hopes, aspirations and anxieties of Nigerians to wrest the highest political office from the ruling party.
Unscrupulous conservative politicians who benefited immeasurably from the corrupt system they helped to create and impose on Nigerians dominate the top echelons of the party. In order to substantiate my claim, I will embark on a systematic deconstruction of Buharimania and APC’s desperate quest for power. My main argument is that the party, as presently constituted and managed, cannot deliver sustainable meaningful change to Nigerians.
For starters, consider the major figures in APC. The arrowhead of the party is Gen. Buhari, who pledged in 2011 never to contest for any political office after the election held that year. Now the question is: why did the retired general renege on that promise, especially considering his hyperbolic reputation as a man who keeps his word? Was the change of mind motivated by strong desire to get even with President Jonathan who defeated him in the 2011 presidential election or was it necessitated by messianic delusion about being the only one capable of addressing the hydra-headed problems facing the country presently? Why did he succumb to the opportunistic persuaders desperate for political survival and relevance at all cost?
In my opinion, Gen. Buhari’s decision to contest again and failure to mentor a younger and better-educated politician to political prominence as his successor after losing the presidential election thrice are indicative of a man obsessively preoccupied with power. Bola Tinubu’s argument that Gen. Buhari had to be drafted into the presidential election because countries at crossroads in the past were rescued from perdition by their army generals is, to put it mildly, ludicrous and historically inaccurate. Moreover, in Africa particularly, military intervention in politics has had a detrimental effect on the economic and socio-political development of several countries, to the extent that coup d’états are detested everywhere.
Therefore, it is plainly unrealistic to believe that seventy-three years old Gen. Buhari who three decades ago presided over the most draconian military regime in Nigerian history has suddenly completely mutated into an apostle of democratic change. APC chieftains know that old habits die hard, and that it is harder still for a conservative Muslim and former soldier like Gen. Buhari to change so dramatically. Keep in mind that one of the reasons Gen. Ibrahim Babangida gave for overthrowing Gen. Buhari was that the latter was too rigid and opinionated to preside over a multiply plural country like Nigeria. Thus, I am not sure that APC’s presidential candidate has developed the degree of emotional intelligence required to navigate successfully the treacherous landscape of Nigerian politics.
Several kingpins of APC have held, and are still holding various public offices. Yet there is very little to show that the era of “business as usual” has ended. For instance, in APC controlled states, the problems of bloated cabinet, overconcentration of development in the urban centres to the detriment of the rural areas, emasculation of local governments, cronyism, and financial rascality are still rampant.
Meanwhile, a sizeable number of prominent APC members were formerly in PDP. It would be surprising if Nigerians have not recognised yet the hypocrisy in chieftains of APC welcoming enthusiastically renegades from the very party they have been disparaging and criticising for years. Perhaps, Tinubu and others are too desperate for power and would do anything to get it, and their criticisms of PDP might stem from jealousy towards a party that has dominated the political space since 1999. Whatever might be the case, frankly there is very little to show that APC can be trusted as the vehicle of positive change in the country if its candidates win the elections.
To be continued…
Op-ed pieces and contributions are the opinions of the writers only and do not represent the opinions of Y!/YNaija.