SINCE 1922 till date, there has been steady erosion in identity, principles, ethics and discipline of political parties in Nigeria. The recent decamping from the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) by Femi Fani-Kayode into the All Progressives Congress (APC) is a high point in that history of decadence.
In Pre-Independence times, despite the unifying mantra of decolonisation and diverging fault line of ethnicity, political parties had clearly identifiable conservative, centrist or progressive tendencies and manifestoes, which were carried into post-independence times. Indeed, it was the struggle to muddle up and whittle down the clear ideological lines of the major opposition parties in bogus alliances with persons and groups within it that led to the crises that precipitated the downfall of the First Republic. Indeed, in his Lead Paper at the Political Parties Dialogue Series held in Abuja in 2011, distinguished Professor Adele Jinadu affirmed that “It is the contradictions unleashed from 1962 onwards by this federalisation of the party system – the declaration of emergency rule in the Western Region in 1962, the creation of the Mid-West Region in 1963, the 1962-63 census controversy, the party realignment before the 1964 regional elections and the 1965 federal elections, involving the alliance between the NCNC and the A.G, on the one hand, and the NPC and the rump of the NCNC and AG in the new NNDP, on the other hand – that contributed significantly to the political and constitutional crisis and the civil unrest of October-December 1965, which precipitated the fall of the First Republic in January 1966.”
Thirteen years of military rule followed. Despite the distortion to public governance system and values by the dictatorial, unitarising and lawless military, the political parties that crystallised in the 2nd Republic (1979 – 1983) substantially maintained the standards of their progenitors in the 1st Republic: everyone knew the character and disposition of the National Party of Nigeria (NPN), Unity Party of Nigeria (UPN), and others where they came from and what they stood for.
By the close of 1983, the military struck again and stayed forcibly and more destructively till 1999 – 15 years of brutality, corruption, disorientation and distorted development. Understandably, the political parties that emerged from the ashes of military devastation of social life became shadows and distant echoes of their progenitors. The military had substantially compromised the civilian political elites and railroaded them into nepotism, dictatorship, corruption, megalomania, “settlement,” and kleptomania to the extent that the raison d’être for political party formation and party politics and democracy in general were tertiary considerations in the hurriedly packaged return to democracy.
Through various metamorphoses, today’s Peoples Democratic Party is as far from the National Party of Nigeria as the All Progressives Congress is far from the Unity Party of Nigeria! Nigeria has finally produced “conservative” and “progressive” parties, in same likeness, with manifestoes forgotten, service to the people immaterial and democracy only an exercise in power grabbing for personal and clique aggrandizement. Rather than progressing, society is not only stagnated, it retrogresses into barbarism – economically, politically, socially and spiritually. Sadder still for the “progressives” that had been busy admitting major actors that cannot sustain a debate without pulling out a machete or gun; people who have pending corruption and murder cases; and now joined in the inner political chambers by confirmed charlatan, perpetual liar, irredeemable double-dealer and traitor.
Historically, the darkest political hours are usually followed by a radiant dawn. It is up to the youths, who are trapped between six and half a dozen (the devil and the deep sea), to take up the challenge. Political parties are the vehicles for the delivery of democracy and its dividends – life more abundant for all. A hundred outrages like the #EndSARS combustion will take us no far. However, the energy, creativity, vision, organisation and mobilisation capacity demonstrated, if purified further and channelled into political party formation or interventions (along principles and manifestoes that clearly articulate a development agenda by likeminded fellows) can and will eventually save the day and take us to the promised land of “unity and faith, peace and progress.”