Nigeria’s nascent democracy is cancerous, with the odds of survival decreasing at every election period when politicians get on the road of opportunism.
The seasonal migration of politicians is a threat potent enough to send democratic governance, if not the entire political apparatus, into an early funeral.
Through selfish maneuvers, political parties and their bigwigs have ingeniously managed to fabricate a Frankenstein.
The party system has become so twisted that it feeds on the peace and prosperity of the people of Nigeria.
In the recent months, former heavyweight, the People’s Democratic Party (PDP) has been engulfed by the loss of critical membership to the current champion, the All Progressives Congress (APC).
The intensity and character of the defections, by now accepted by most as normal, are nonetheless hypertensive to the political balance required in a configuration as plural as Nigeria.
Swept in the flood of defections are governors and senators.
On a single day, three senators quit the PDP for the ruling APC. They are senators Sahabi Ya’u (Zamfara North), Lawali Hassan Anka (Zamfara West), and Peter Nwaoboshi (Delta North).
Also caught in the wave of migration are chameleons in governor’s garbs, Zamfara State Governor Bello Matawalle and Cross River State Governor Ben Ayade.
Leaders in public offices jump ship at the filmiest excuse without regard to their voters.
It is fascinating that the departures are not just regular these days, but more than half of notable politicians have travelled both directions of the political spectrum.
In some astounding cases, politicians have migrated more than three or four times as they shuttle up and down the opportunistic highway, with the most prominent being the former Vice President, Abubakar Atiku.
Political leaders are coerced, lured and incentivised or they simply abandon ship for self-preservation.
If money or position is not involved, the party in power provides a safety net against criminal prosecution for theft or witch-hunting.
Nations have learned that the health of every democracy relies very much on the quality of the opposition and have built in to their constitutions frameworks that guarantee that the opposition thrives
The fear of the EFCC is the beginning of political wisdom.
The ease and frequency of movements is a threat to a young multi-ethnic democracy like Nigeria, which needs strong parties and a strong opposition that can withstand the excesses of one powerful voice.
Nations have learned that the health of every democracy relies very much on the quality of the opposition and have built in to their constitutions frameworks that guarantee that the opposition thrives.
Political equilibrium and balance are necessary in every democratic setting because inherent weaknesses in alternative views breed authoritarian regimes and unhinged power-holders.
British statesman and novelist Benjamin Disraeli once said, “No government can be long secure without a formidable opposition.”
Disraeli reasoned that it is dangerous when the opposition becomes so weakened that it is unable to provide substitute policies, divergent views or hold the ruling party accountable. So, he recommended a formidable opposition in every political structure.
The tendency of the authoritarian ruling party or a one-party system is that it becomes extremely intolerant of contrasting views and ideas. It resists freedom, stifles public opinion, suppresses civil rights, becomes more corrupt than its predecessor and turns away from the basic precepts of the rule of law.
In essence, where virile opposition is lacking through a second or a third party, power is concentrated until it becomes absolute; and as we know, absolutely power corrupts absolutely. It is such a system that is beginning to emerge in Nigeria.
The #EndSARS movement was aggressively and violently crushed.
Nigerians’ freedom of speech is being restrained and there are bills making their ways through the National Assembly to shut down the voice of the people. Media laws are under assault though restrictions and punishment by statutory bodies. Our democracy is turning into a monster through the rule of the majority.
As I write, the House of Representatives has allowed the ban on Twitter to continue, in spite of the ECOWAS court ruling that it is against human rights – even when the same legislature was not consulted to pass a law to ban the American social medium widely used by Nigerians.
It is to Nigeria’s benefit that politicians go through the dry winter when they lose elections and stick to the same core beliefs, principles and values of the party to which they belong, making every effort to convince the voters to trust them again. But Nigerian politicians want to remain in power perpetually, so they press to make it happen by hook or by crook.
Some have ascribed the movement of politicians to a lack of conscience but it would be the wrong diagnosis. The main issue is that Nigerian political parties and our politicians are bereft of deep ideology.
Equally damaging to democracy are godfatherism, political monetisation, nepotism, judicial electoral decisions, corruption and a dilapidated Fourth Estate
The foundation of every political party should be its philosophy and politicians should associate with people of a similar political conviction.
Lack of doctrine can explain why our politicians are driven by the wind to wherever the temperature is cool, consigning them to a position of perpetual deficiency in maturity and sophistication.
We know that in major democracies, it is too difficult for politicians to carpet-cross.
It is because of the ideologies that form their worldview on politics.
Former US presidential candidate, Senator Mitt Romney, has been an outcast within the Republic Party.
Even though he marched with the Black Lives Matter and voted to impeach former President Donald Trump twice, he is stuck with his party because he is a conservative by ideology. That is his foundational belief and he cannot migrate to pursue progressive ideas.
If we take the time to compare the APC and PDP, we will observe no fundamental ideological differences. The two parties are just two lanes on a road to the same destination. It is the reason why it has been so easy for their members to cross the lanes all the time.
We could go further to inquire if Nigerian politicians take any time at all to shape a political philosophy.
Most of them have not been properly nurtured in the foundations of political thought, as in the days of the Obafemi Awolowos, Aminu Kanos, Nnamdi Azikiwe’s and Anthony Enahoros.
The earlier politicians were solid practitioners who made adequate preparations to assume political life.
Their parties had such strong fundamentals that, even today, I can still remember the four cardinal programmes of Awolowo’s Unity Party, the manifestoes of Shehu Shagari’s National Party and Waziri Ibrahim’s slogan of “Politics Without Bitterness” in the Great Nigeria People’s Party.
Other than the broom, there is nothing that I identify the APC with except its desperate quest to rule.
The PDP says it is in the centre right, where there is nothing to the right and its ideologies are vague.
Our major parties stand for everything and nothing.
The National Assembly has become the rubber stamp for recklessness and a repeater of the errors and excesses of the executive.
There is no alternative voice, while check, balance and the separation of power, the very tonic for vibrant democratic rule, have been adulterated.
Whatever the executive wishes, the legislature accepts without much resistance.
Some legislators lament on the floor of the Assembly, but the weeping is as hollow as crocodile tears.
Press statements from the PDP, though lively, are ineffectual.
Equally damaging to democracy are godfatherism, political monetisation, nepotism, judicial electoral decisions, corruption and a dilapidated Fourth Estate.
Our political party system is fast becoming a travesty through greed, shameless sale of allegiance and opportunism.
Ordinary Nigerians must do something at the next opportunity.
They need to start rejecting the major parties and their members at the polls; voting on principle – even for candidates that are bound to lose.
Just a few tremors from victories by unknown candidates at elections may help to tame the godfathers and the deep pockets who feel they know the value of each vote in naira.