Fear over the run and outcome of the forthcoming 2019 general polls has become the lot of many well-meaning Nigerians following the turn of events in the country’s political firmament recently. The principal fear is over how far these developments may have pushed back the prospects of actualizing democratic and by implication, good governance in the coming years. Granted that the common prayer of every Nigerian is that things change for the better, such change can only take place in an atmosphere of lawful and orderly conduct of the citizens, whether highly or lowly placed, and in both public and private theatres of activity. However, when the reverse is the case as it is presently, then the predictable outcome remains the prevailing state of anomy in the country, which is undeniably associated with political knavery of some key political actors, as driven by a mindset that is nothing other than demonic.
Expectedly, the sordid circumstances associated with the just concluded elective ward congresses for producing the all-important local government delegates by the ruling All Progressives Congress (APC) qualify as the immediate cause for concern. Yet they constitute only episodes in a long running medley of developments that clearly point the country towards the direction which it should not tow at this time. Even at that, if Nigerians are disappointed by the series of media reports on the APC ward congresses, they remain justified. As the ruling party into whose hands the reins of political power and the nation’s common patrimony are entrusted, it is behooving for the APC leadership to identify with the expectation of the public with respect moving the country forward.
Media reports on the elective congresses have featured in the main a return of some of the earlier discredited electoral malpractices like rigging, violence with injuries and deaths following the deployment of thugs to decimate the opposition, widespread cases of abuse of electoral processes. All aimed at suppression of the true choices of the party faithful by self-seeking, powerful persons in the system.
Interestingly the compromised APC congresses were not only predictable but constitute a bitter price the party is paying for denying its rank and file the benefits of internal party democracy. What happened to the APC is a playout of the maxim which holds that when you refuse peaceful change to occur in a polity, you make violent change inevitable. It is easily recalled that hitherto the party hierarchy was divided along the lines of whether to retain its current leadership community under the aegis of tenure elongation, out of the fear that turbulence may trail any development that dislodges them – such as elective congresses and a national convention. The apparent irony in this contention was not lost to any keen observer of the party as it was on why and how compliance by a political party with its own constitution, can and should lead to its discomfiture.
Meanwhile at least two premises discredited the tenure elongation argument. Firstly, tenure elongation in the light of the circumstances which spawned its advocacy, was in violation of the party’s constitution. Secondly, given the avalanche of unresolved crises in various state chapters of the party, it could do with a new community of leaders. Hence by the time President Muhammadu Buhari as the leader of the APC directed it to hold congresses and a national convention pursuant to enabling aspirants to party offices test their popularity, he was only being prescient. His intervention virtually saved the APC from a bigger turbulence than the present elective-congresses induced ‘wahala’.
More significant however in the light of contemporary political undercurrents in the country, is for the APC to reappraise as a matter of urgency the circumstances of its incumbency, especially with respect to the imperative of facilitating good governance in Nigeria. For a party that came into power on the promise of effecting change in the body politik of the country, its record so far has not been impressive. This contention is without prejudice to some of its most entrenched leaders who may wave off any criticism of their performance as inconsequential. After all it is not strange for some leaders all over the world and throughout history to act so. Whoever said that change in social circumstances comes easy. Little wonder then that violent upheavals often referred to as ‘revolutions’ always serve as the platform for some of the most significant political transformations on record.
Several opinion circles across the country have advocated the way out for Nigeria by the political class adopting a higher moral. Incidentally such advocacy has so far fallen on deaf ears, as events bear out. In the present scheme of things, an advocacy for moral considerations in Nigerian politics is a call for self-restraint. Beyond the essentially academic nature of such an advocacy, the follow up question is whether any Nigerian potentate can actually exercise such self-restraint. For instance, can any potentate like a state governor or minister of the federal government, or even some highly placed party official, who is more interested in muzzling opponents by denying such any opportunity for political advantage, including blocking the latter’s access to ordinary nomination forms during party congresses, heed any sermon that preaches a level playing ground for self and opponents? The most realistic answer here is that such powers that be, would rather allow the system crash than concede a room for an opponent to thrive, as the name of the game is winner takes all. Nevertheless, while such a dispensation may have been fashionable until now, the imperative for a drastic change also demands urgent attention. For as time changes everything in life, so the Nigerian socio-political terrain is also degenerating, calling for a change or a crash.
In his 1965 book ‘Anatomy of Revolution’, Crane Brinton outlined ten conditions that make a society ripe for a revolution. These are as follows: People feel restless and held down by unacceptable restrictions in society, religion, the economy or the government; People are hopeful about the future, but they are being forced to accept less than they had hoped for; People are beginning to think of themselves as belonging to a social class, and there is a growing bitterness between social classes; The social classes closest to one another are the most hostile; The scholars and thinkers give up on the way their society operates; The government does not respond to the needs of its society; The leaders of the government and the ruling class begin to doubt themselves, some join with the opposition groups; The government is unable to get enough support from any group to save itself; The government cannot organise its finances correctly and is either going bankrupt or trying to tax heavily and unjustly.
It is left for the reader to judge how far or close Nigeria is to a revolution, at whatever time and in whatever shape it takes to come.