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Review & Outlook: The Future Of Progressive Politics In Nigeria

  BY JAMES ASHIPA ACCORDING to David Easton, “politics is the authoritative allocation of values”, which is necessary due to limited resources to meet the insatiable needs of man and to reconcile the conflict between capital and labour on how to appropriate the surplus value. Progressive politics is one of the strategies developed to ensure…”
Yusuf
July 1, 2022 5:35 am

 

BY JAMES ASHIPA

ACCORDING to David Easton, “politics is the authoritative allocation of values”, which is necessary due to limited resources to meet the insatiable needs of man and to reconcile the conflict between capital and labour on how to appropriate the surplus value.

Progressive politics is one of the strategies developed to ensure that the interest of the common man is taken care of in the society by having as its goals, the protection of social welfare, promotion of moral improvement, creation of economic reform and fostering efficiency. In modern politics, it is viewed as part of the left-liberal tradition and in the 21st century, a movement that identifies as progressive is “a social or political movement that aims to represent the interests of ordinary people through political change and the support of government actions.” 

Furthermore, in order to underscore the significance of progressive politics to ensure the survival of democracy, Theodore Roosevelt recognizes that “a great democracy has got to be progressive or it will soon cease to be great or a democracy” and Bernie Sanders asserts that “the American people must make a fundamental decision. Do we continue the 40 years decline of the middle class or do we fight for a progressive agenda that creates jobs, raises wages and takes on the economic and political power of the oligarchy?”

Since her political independence on October 1st 1960, the Nigerian political space has witnessed its fair share of progressive politics from the First Republic to the current Fourth Republic with such political giants as Ahmadu Bello, Obafemi Awolowo, Nnamdi Azikiwe, Michael Opara, Tafawa Balewa striding the political space like colossus and implementing progressive programs in the First Republic. In the Second Republic, politically savvy individuals formed progressive political parties such as the Unity Party of Nigeria (UPN), Nigerian People’s Party (NPP), National Party of Nigeria (NPN), Nigeria Advance Party (NAP), Greater Nigerian People’s Party (GNPP), People’s Redemption Party (PRP) and implemented progressive programs such as free education, housing for all, effective agricultural policies et al to move their societies towards economic growth and prosperity. The Third Republic was brief as it was designed to be a stillbirth by the military. The Fourth Republic was ushered in on May 29, 1999 and brought a lot of hope and promises to Nigerians, especially after the ill-fated June 12, 1993 election.

As the 2023 general election is fast approaching, Nigeria is now the poverty capital of the world and UNICEF has declared that the country is home to 18.5 million out of school children. Insecurity has assumed more dangerous dimensions as apart from attack on schools, airports, trains are being attacked and our roads are no longer safe to travel on for fear of being kidnapped for ransom or killed, which has made the future of progressive politics bleak and opaque for several reasons. Medical tourism is now the order of the day as our health sector has literally collapsed due to falling infrastructure and a dearth of qualified medical personnel to man the dilapidating medical facilities. Tertiary education is in comatose because government has refused to meet a 2019 agreement it willingly signed with ASUU.

 The reasons for the decline of progressive politics include questionable character of political personalities, lack of ideology and using the term for mere sloganeering, weaponization of poverty, adverse impact of money politics, and pervasive influence of cronyism to the detriment of competence. 

The political space in Nigeria is now populated by questionable characters who don’t have the interest of the masses at heart. They are self-centered and enter politics solely for their personal aggrandizement, which has elevated cronyism over competence. It is bad at the national level and worse at the sub-national level where politicians have performed abysmally but are emboldened because performance is no longer used as the yardstick to gain political office but loyalty to nebulous godfathers whose overbearing influences surfaced at both national and sub-national levels like Lagos, Edo, Imo states at one time or the other with different but damaging outcomes.

Another cause of the lack of progressive politics in Nigeria is the fluid nature of politics and absence of ideology in the political parties. Where is the ideology of “social democracy, democratic humanism, and social liberalism as was actively enshrined and practiced in such catchy phrases as “politics without bitterness, free education for all”, “affordable housing for all”, “politics of the talakawas (the poor)” in the past? It is pathetic that whatever ideology they profess today is mere political sloganeering that lack substance.   

Additionally, politicians have largely weaponized poverty thereby jettisoning progressive politics. It is now “stomach infrastructure” or ‘dibo ko sebe (vote and cook soup)” politics whereby politicians dole out stipends during every electoral cycle to buy votes.

Furthermore, progressive politics has been dealt a dastardly blow by the adverse impact of money in our politics. Many analysts have concluded that the only thriving industry in Nigeria is politics and decry the entry of moneybags into the Nigerian political space thus shutting the door against credible elements who don’t have deep pockets. This can be seen in the humongous sum political parties are charging aspirants to buy nomination forms. Most of those who are able to afford the money see their entrance into politics as an investment wherein they expect handsome ROI and are only interested in recouping their investment plus some good profit after winning.

Regardless of the regressing fate of progressive politics in Nigeria, the situation can still be salvaged by adopting the use of more technology in our electoral process to reduce the entry of unprogressive elements into our political space. It is heart-warming to note that the electoral act 2022 recognizes e-transmission of results and INEC has insisted on the use of Bimodal Voter Accreditation System (BIVAS) during elections. 

Politics of ideology should be encouraged so that politicians will be identified by what they stand for. It is counter-productive for a politician to be in one party in the morning and another party in the evening like shifting sands.

Last but not the least, voter education and participation have to be encouraged so as to conscientize and awaken the awareness of the people to actively take part in the political process for progressive politics to be restored in Nigeria. The silence of the National Orientation Agency (NOA) is too loud and unacceptable and it should emulate the Mass Mobilization for Self-Reliance, Justice and Economic Recovery (MAMSER) agency that was created by the Babangida regime. Also, we must create a politically active citizenry in Nigeria who should be allowed to own the vehicles used to access political power, which are political parties, by returning such vehicles back to Nigerians right from the grassroots level rather than being hijacked by few, powerful moneybags. This will give room for transparency and accountability that are the essence of progressive politics!         

Ashipa James Olashupo, PhD, writes from Osogbo, Osun state.

He can be contacted via 08056002757, 08129458475 or [email protected], [email protected]

 

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