“A great empire and little minds go ill – together.” The testament by Edmund Burke is signal and enduring. The danger of politics without defined ideology and principles of conduct has become grave and weighty in Nigeria under the present democratic dispensation. Nigerian politicians, patriots and statesmen, once revered for their pedigree, personal integrity and steadfastness in holding to right principles, are now in danger of extinction. Treasured legacies with ennobling ideas in the making of true citizens and value-guided leaders are being swept into oblivion, putting this great country in dilemma.
With the corruption of democracy, the negative roles of political parties, and betrayal of trust by presumed leaders and fraudsters in practical politics, young Nigerians looking up to credible politicians as heroes and role model are in danger of passing through life without testing the promise, the dream, the shared vision, the creative imagination, the vigor, and the potency of a viable democratic society where the Nigerian dream is recognized and appreciated by all for the benefit of the citizenry and the largest swathe of the population. Thus, civic culture with high civic morale, civic sense of responsibility and empowerment for self-sustainable development is utterly wanting at the moment. The situation now is pathetic, sad. No guts, no glory! And it is personal integrity that gives credence to guts in every viable society where the tenets of democracy and canons of political faith are respected.
Today, the bizarre trend among elected Nigerian politicians is to decamp to the winning party without regard to party loyalty, political manifesto, or defined ideological position or principle. Some of the provocative and vexatious constitutional issues raised have become part of current legal problems yet to be resolved by the Supreme Court of Nigeria. The survival of the fittest as in the dreaded state of nature has become the norm with frightful forebodings for the future of democracy in this part of the world. Nobody cares anymore about the manifesto of a political party. And no politician is interested in participating in a most stimulating meeting of minds with engaging and refreshing candor. The Great Debate on the future of the country has appeared superfluous and irrelevant to the wielders of power who assume that it is no longer fashionable to talk about ideology with the end of the Cold War and the fall of the Berlin Wall.
But thinking people everywhere are keenly aware that ideology cannot be defined only with reference to the old notion of capitalism, communism or socialism. Welfarism, neo-welfarism, free commerce, creativity, innovation, social security and other concepts in the new global market of ideas cannot be overlooked or glossed over. A manifesto, in the same dynamic, must be understood as a declaration of plans and promises put forward by a political party and candidates who run for elective positions in the service of the people, keeping full faith and credit with the Constitution or fundamental law of the land. Power belongs the people as a sovereign nation under God. The basis of electoral mandate is clear in a civilised society.
Of course, the politics of carpet – crossing with the alignment and re-alignment of forces without regard to principles, ideology or party loyalty is not new in Nigeria. The notorious episode on the floor of the legislative house at Ibadan in 1952 is part of Nigerian history. That was the age of the revered founding fathers-the Azikiwes, the Awolowos, the Bellos, and the Balewas. The ugly trends and tendencies that followed in the constitutional history of Nigeria eventually overwhelmed the government and people with the tissue of calamitous follies and egregious blunders. Africa witnessed a fratricidal war that shocked the conscience of humanity, 1967-1970. The harrowing details of political in-fighting, intrigue and mischief are contained in many books and documentaries on Nigeria, highlighting the danger of unbridled corruption, ethno-religious conflict, and the fissiparous counter pulls of ethnic nationalism.
Today, while the global community is commending Nigeria for the apparent consolidation of her Democracy after 3 decades of military dictatorship, the government and people must continue to examine themselves with spiritual balance, the power of focus, objective self-analysis and honest appraisal.
Keen political observers have expressed shock and dismay at the way the new crop of Nigerian politicians without civic education ride rough-shod of the basic tenets of democracy and constitutionalism, the essential attribute of a government that observes and conforms to the dictates of a settled constitution. A report on the extremely alarming trend by some researchers and journalists working for the United Nations and the global media is most astonishing in it details. The documentary covers the saga in Imo state that led to the emergence of Ikedi Ohakim as the governor of the state and his defection and re-election bid on the perform of Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), the ruling party at the centre. Included in the report also are the intriguing developments in the various states which led to the triumph of Governors Adams Oshimole, Olusegun Mimiko and others who were edged out of the political process by the iron-fisted political machine of PDP as the ruling party dictating the tempo, the tune and pace. Thus the policy of stultifying the aspirations of eligible aspirants was accepted as a norm within the socio – political matrix and power configuration. Here, the indices of power indicate that political gladiators do not command moral compass in their ways and means. The role of the judiciary has also become questionable.
The question is: Can Nigeria survive the new trend and tendency? How far can Nigeria cope with undemocratic attitudes and behavior that trigger violence, betrayal of trust, disservice and disharmony? It is not enough to talk about the holding of free, fair and credible elections when the tenets of democracy and canons of political faith are jettisoned.
Certainly, a thoughtful reflection on politics, the challenge of democracy, and the import of the Nigerian Dream have become imperative. Great political thinkers share a consensus in both thought and practice: “The moral test of government is how it treats those who are in the dawn of life, the children; those who are in the twilight of life, the aged; and those who are in the shadows of life, the sick, the needy and the handicapped” – Senator Hubert Humphrey.
Written by Charles O. Anyiam-Osigwe and Barrister Chudi Nweke.