Friday, June 18, 2021 12:02 am
By Chris Anyokwu,
Biologists tell us that there are two main types of twins, namely identical (monozygotic) and fraternal (dizygotic). To form identical twins, one fertilised egg (ovum) splits and develops two babies with exactly the same genetic information (see google.com). In other words, identical twins born of the same mother share exactly the same anatomical or physiological attributes such as shape of head, facial features, skin pigmentation, height, body mass, accent, among others. Society is replete with both types of twins (as well as other sub-types of twins) and much has been made of these gynaecological marvels, the most celebrated being the Biblical story of Esau and Jacob, two fraternal twins whose diametrically-opposed and divergent physiological traits emblematised and thus embossed psycho-ethical oppositionality which in turn has given rise to endless religio-racial conflict of cosmic, if not eschatological, proportions. However, as far as identical twins go, people are usually delighted and thrilled to see these wondrous creations of the Almighty. People tease them, trying to tell them apart, who is Taiye (elder) and who Kehinde (younger). Aren’t we all, to be sure, thrilled no end by the Afro-pop music of Nigeria’s own ejima, Peter and Paul Okoye, aka Psquare? Peter and Paul Okoye, as everybody knows, are identical twins, both superbly gifted male musicians, who, at present, are separated and are doing their things solo.
But the earnest expectation and prayer of their global buffs is that they reunite to continue to serenade humanity. Speaking of separation, it is only normal for people generally to kiss and quarrel, to disagree to agree. Even twins do, identical or/and fraternal.
But what happens when two political parties, completely identical in every material particular, collide? What happens when in a two-party nation-state, the two leading political parties that cannot be distinguished or differentiated from one another go for each other’s jugular; when they are at dagger’s-drawn and fight to the finish over the booty of power? What, in point of fact, becomes of the collective fate of the people, the masses? Can that political entity, that country survive such agonistic clash of the Titans? Umpiring such a scuffle, how does the electoral referee differentiate between aggressor and defender, the guilty and the innocent?
In dispensing judgement/justice, wouldn’t the exculpated accuse the judge of punishing the guilty incommensurably, disproportionately, given their ideological affinity? These are some of the questions that agitate one’s mind when one observes how the opposition party, the People’s Democratic Party (PDP) and the ruling All Progressives Congress (APC) carry on in Nigeria. What does it take to be a member of the PDP and what should you possess to be welcomed into the fold of the ruling APC? Family tradition? Genealogical fealty? Personal or national interest? Ethno-religious desiderata or downright ideological flexibility?
Put differently, is there an irreducible set of beliefs, ideas or ideals, values and orientations that governs the political animal’s behaviour in the dog-eat-dog feral jungle? Or, does his/her political ideology consists in the utter absence of ideology; a kind of ideological chameleonism, if you pardon the neologism? It would seem that the way and manner our so-called members of the political class do not subscribe to any coherent and concrete rule of engagement, a personal political philosophy or a deeply-ingrained and internalised ideology informed by altruism, the pursuit of a common cause or the greater good, generosity of spirit, breadth of vision, self-abnegation, revolutionary/transformational worldview and communitarianism is all it takes to be a politician. Thus in contradistinction to the above-mentioned qualities of mind, our ruling elite are indissolubly united by a commonality of kleptomania, an insatiable penchant for personal self-aggrandisement and an abiding Commitment to the policy of mass immiseration and collective pauperisation. This beggar-thy-neighbour political culture sanctified by history and time is now the permanent grammar of political conversation. Right from Independence to date, all we know are prebendalism and patrimonalism as the pillars of Nigeria’s political edifice. By way of clarification, prebendalism “refers to political systems in which elected officials and government workers feel they have a right to a share of government revenues, and they use them to benefit supporters, co-religionists and members of their ethnic group” (see Democracy and Prebendalism in Nigeria: Critical Interpretations, Edited by Wale Adebanwi, et al).
By the same token, patrimonalism is a form of government in which all power flows directly from the leader. There is no distinction between the public and private domains. “The very essence of patrimonalism consists in the idea that the whole government authority, and the economic rights which correspond to it, tend to be treated as privately appropriated economic advantages” (Medard, 1996). Under this kind of political arrangement, government is usually autocratic and oligarchic in nature, repudiating all tenets of representative and popular democracy. The people, under these dystopian circumstances, are a tad better than non-entities. Sounds familiar? As it was in the past, so it is in the present. Or would you argue contrariwise that it was any different during the early years of Nigeria’s political independence? Think of the kinds of winner-takes-all electoral sweepstakes that took place in the 60s; the cloak-and-dagger politics of the First Republic (1960 – 1966). It was all politics of ethnicity as, for instance, the Northern People’s Congress (NPC), the National Council of Nigeria and the Cameroons (NCNC) later renamed to National Council for Nigerian Citizens and the Action Group (AG) catered to the needs and interests of their respective ethno-religious enclaves. During the Second Republic (1979 – 1983) the parties of the ‘60s simply morphed into the following (1) Greater Nigerian People’s Party (GNPP), (2) National Party of Nigeria (NPN), (3) Nigeria Advance Party (NPP), (4) Nigerian People’s Party (NPP), (5) People’s Redemption Party (PRP) and (6) Unity Party of Nigeria (UPN). However, after the epical and gladiatorial electoral exertions of these parties, only the NPN and the UPN were left standing, the former becoming the ruling party and the latter, headed by the late Chief Obafemi Awolowo, becoming the opposition party.
The Third Republic, founded in 1993, was, sadly, aborted thanks to the infamous annulment of the June 12, 1993 presidential elections by the General Ibrahim Badamosi Babangida-led junta. But it is important to reiterate the point that a conference had established two political parties: the centre-right National Republican Convention (NRC) that fielded Alhaji Bashir Tofa as its presidential flag-bearer and the centre-left Social Democratic Party (SDP) of Chief Moshood Kashimawo Olawale Abiola. Going forward, it required no clairvoyance to divine the future trajectory of Nigeria’s politics. Small wonder, then, in the Fourth Republic (1999 – present) we have the All Progressives Congress (APC) founded in 2013 and inheriting the centre-left credentials of the defunct SDP and the People’s Democratic Party (PDP) founded in 1998 which equally inherited the centre-right trappings of the NRC. The less said about the incestuous coalitions of parties under Sani Abacha’s jackboots the better. That was the time party politics in Nigeria hit rock-bottom of bankruptcy. Since 1999, the start of the present gamble, the PDP and the APC have dominated the nation space, swaggering with imperial hauteur. They have taken turns at the controls, ruling and ruining the estate as they see fit. Our political class, in the main, behave like a man who has two cars in his garage. One day, he rides in one, usually recklessly until he destroys it. And the following day, he gets into the other car and rides it to death as well. Put another way, there is hardly any member of the PDP today who has not been a member of the APC before and vice versa. It’s a tale of two identical twins. And, as earlier noted, gerrymandering and carpet-crossing with our politicians are patently enabled by the utter absence of a well-articulated set of moral codes, ethical standards and/or ideological standpoints. Thus with the Nigerian politician, the golden rule is never say never. There are NO permanent friends; NO permanent enemies; but PERMANENT interest, namely bleeding the commonwealth white? Against this backcloth, therefore, what really happens when two identical twins collide – when, say, the two ideology-innocent political parties – the PDP and the APC collide? But, hold your horses! Do they really collide? Do they fight? Of course, on TV, in the media, both print and electronic (as well as on social media), the PDP, usually represented by its chairman Prince Uche Secondus and its National Publicity Secretary, Mr. Kola Ologbondiyan love to give the impression that they are at war with the ruling APC.
Thus the PDP and the APC love to feint and shimmy and throw roundhouse punches much to the delight and envy of preying-mantises! They love to “faint and wake up like cock” (Fela again!) Sometimes they engage in shouting matches, finger-pointing, mutual recriminations and irenic verbal sorties all “packaged” to give an impression of putting the opposition to the sword; of making it look leglessly punch-drunk with total shellacking. Yet again: of course, some of these dramatis personae in our political theatre have been seen to be quizzed on TV over issues bordering on financial heist. Some, under interrogation, do faint, some experience an onset of high blood pressure requiring public displays of catheters and drips, etc., etc. Some are whisked off from these shores to Europe or India or Dubai (Oh, what would our elite do without going to Dubai?) for further medicare. Movingly, some weep, like Jesus Christ did in John 11: 35. They love to give way to emotion on Primetime TV, weeping disconsolately for fatherland. But, pray, how does one react to the festival of sobs, of weeping and wailing by crocodiles? This is the Big Question. Unlike what obtains in the Western democracies – in the US, the UK, France, Italy, Germany and Spain – where you have either two-party or multi-party democracy, Nigeria’s “demon-crazy” is a huge joke! For instance, we love to see the GOP do battle with the Dems in the US and the Tories square up against the Whigs in the UK, with the other minor parties aligning with either of the two behemoths.
Normally, the party in the opposition provides the all-important countervailing vision or roadmap for the country and helps rein in the excesses of those in the saddle. Under normal circumstances, opposition politicians are the redemptive ballast of the state, given the ambrosial effect of power. They are the shadow government designed to bolster the rule of law, provide checks-and-balances and stimulate performance for the common good. Yes, egomania may play a role like it did under the Trump Presidency but in the end, it is national interest that holds sway.
Thus for democracy qua democracy to take root in the Nigeria sable soil, every political party must have its distinct ideology; its manifesto. Besides, manifestoes must be in sync with the Constitution. There must be internal democracy within all the parties, thereby stymieing the virus of godfatherism. Our political culture must be demilitarised, thus discouraging violence, thuggery or bloodletting, among others. Further, having an independent judiciary, a free press and a truly independent electoral umpire, i.e., INEC, are a sine qua non. It would not also hurt to undertake a more thorough evaluation of political aspirants. To this extent, therefore, all politicians seeking public office must undergo mental health evaluation and their moral and professional credentials scrupulously scrutinised in order to weed out prospective enemies of the people. Politicians of all stripes should be reminded that there is more to life than lucre. Integrity or reputation should count for something in their scales of preference. Let us end this article with an excerpt from Jim I. Unah’s Lecture entitled: “Is It Leadership or Character?”: “A just leader is a person who moulds or aligns his or her character to approximate, as closely as possible, the characteristics of justice. He internalizes justice. He lives justice. The most desirable leader is one who best aligns or conforms himself or herself to the ideals of Justice. Justice is the cord which ties individuals and society together. Once it snaps, insecurity, instability and anarchy will reign like evil kings” (Unah, 2021, 16).
All things duly considered, the survival or the eventual dissolution of Nigeria is in the hands of our political ruling class. Will they let it survive the current turbulence or will they dissolve the union? The choice, frankly, is theirs.
*Chris Anyokwu, PhD, writes from University of Lagos.