First, I am glad that we are now a democratic nation. Second, I’m also glad that its embrace as the best system of government is now main stream with the probability of a military coup now seriously reduced. Finally, I am glad that social media provides a huge opportunity for enlightenment, engagement and scrutiny of government and related political elites/class. The combination of these three gives me some hope that a better Nigeria may be possible, yet.
Given our relatively short history in democratic embrace, our progress with this system of government delivering governance dividend is understandable. Unfortunately we now live in the information age, so our progress though positive, appears quite lethargic. Given the resources available in the world now and the fact that we have a high number of intelligent and exposed citizens, our sluggish pace of development can’t be forgiven. I’d like to think there are at least 1% of Nigerians that fall in this intelligent category. Surely this number is enough to drag us forward and upwards? Perhaps the system is structured in a way that dissuades these types of people from participating in governance or some other endeavour of social and developmental importance but then, is anything of value handed over on a platter? Should they not force their way in/through? Maybe politics is a calling and one needs to be called especially if one considers how dirty measures of the current participants have made it seem? May be a more important question to ask is what size should the “enlightened” political class that drives progress in a nation be and do we have the quantity? Is this where we are lacking? That is, are our enlightened citizens of insufficient quantity or geographical spread to pull us out of our misery? Hopefully the sociologist among us will do a research on this as we need as much contribution as possible to the body of knowledge that will drag our nation forward.
I’m not a member of any political party in Nigeria but I often wonder how their meetings go. What do they discuss? How are they organised? How are policies decided? What is the interplay between top-down and bottom-up view on policies? How extensive are their policy researches? What resources do they use? Are these resources local or international? Do they engage in focus-groups-type researches? What is the social and educational class mix of these focus groups?
Political parties ultimately provide guidance on ideology and produce candidates whilst the public produce incumbents or their replacement. For these three critical points in the electoral cycle to achieve ultimate success i.e. move society forward, then they broadly need to agree, move in lock-step and seamlessly. It seems to me a complete and utter waste for people with divergent beliefs in ideology to belong to the same party. Such a scenario can only lead to unnecessary and distracting arguments at internal party meetings. Beyond that, it can also lead to unwanted polarity among supporters of popular politicians within the same party. For example, Gov El Rufai and Senator Shehu Sani don’t strike me, based on their ideologies, as politicians that should belong to the same party. Their views of the role of government or the extent of its power, its priority in delivering governance are polar opposites. Senator Sani is a self-confessed leftist, whilst Gov El Rufai’s rhetoric and certainly his policy pursuits is at least centre-right if not rightist.
Now imagine a Kaduna State APC party policy meeting with these two popular politicians in attendance. Clearly both men have strong beliefs in their ideology and will defend their positions. Rather than debate what policies should be priority and how it should be delivered, it is more likely that the discussion or worse argument will unhelpfully be focussed on left vs right policies. With Gov El Rufai being the State’s CEO/CSO, he is more likely to do what he believes in anyway (rightly so as he won the people’s mandate) even if the party ends up deciding on pursuing a leftist agenda. We have already seen this play out in his climb down from his directive on beggars in Kaduna. With this mild win, Senator Sani has gone on the offensive, claiming that his decision to yield the primary to Mallam El Rufai is almost solely what gave him victory. This is clearly not ideal for the party and is a needless distraction.
With political ideology playing a reduced role in the coming together of politicians, it is hardly surprising that our big-two parties seem a collection of strange bedfellows. It doesn’t really matter where one looks or which party one considers, there just seems to be several contradictory politicians in the same parties. Given their utterances and policy delivery(s), I’d expect Governors Fayemi, El Rufai, Fashola, Donald Duke, Saraki, Chime, Atiku etc to belong to a party that is conservative or at least centre right whilst Governors Aregbesola, Fayose, Tambuwal, President Buhari, Senator Sani etc to belong a populist/socialist party or that is at least centre left. The first group seem to me to want government to be less interventionist than the second group going by their rhetoric.
This mismatch of politics, politicians and ideology can’t be good for the pace of development the nation so earnestly needs. My hope is that by the next election cycle in 2019, cross carpeting of politicians and their followers will be led by ideology rather than self-interest. I believe aligning ideology will make internal party discussions more qualitative and reflective in policies pursued by incumbents. It’ll also make it easier for the public to have reasonable policy expectation which in turn would be supportive of economic activity as capitalists will find it easier to plan and commit to a multi-year investment schedule.
Personally I would classify myself as centre-right on the political spectrum. I have conservative values when it comes to family and its role in the society, I prefer a small government (size and welfarism) that isn’t interventionist, I prefer capitalism as an economic system and I also prefer to minimise my tax liability. If I were to join a party, I’d join Kowa. Whilst it remains difficult to place it on a political spectrum, most of its values are in least disagreement to mine. If you want to find out where you are on the political spectrum, this link is a good place to start.