As Nigerian politicians strategize to slug it out for nominations by their respective political parties in next year’s general election, the seasonal trend of party switching that usually characterizes the period towards the end of every four-year tenure is steadily gathering momentum.
While the political parties continue to receive their respective shares of gain and loss in terms of the number and calibre of politicians joining or leaving them, the ruling All Progressives Congress (APC) would of course end up particularly affected given the looming exodus likely to hit it in favour of other parties especially its arch-rival, the People’s Democratic Party (PDP).
Though this may affect the APC’s chances of winning reelection in some constituencies or even states, it doesn’t appear to pose any serious threat to its chances of maintaining the presidency of the country anyway. However, this is not necessarily due to President Buhari’s performance which, after all, remains debatable, but actually due to the fact that no one among the politicians currently aspiring to challenge him in election appears to have the potential to constitute any serious threat to his reelection bid at the moment. This is also notwithstanding the president’s shortcomings, disappointing and indeed frustration-inducing indecisiveness over alleged and sometimes even indisputable involvement of some officials in his administration in corruption scandals.
After all, even with his obviously imperfect and in fact largely exaggerated moral qualities, no one among his political peers in the country today can match up to him when it comes to integrity, which is the most important leadership quality. Incidentally, though his loyalists are always eager to cite this point to challenge his political opponents, I, for one, don’t see it as something to cheer about. Because even though there are indeed many people of integrity even among the largely corrupt political elite in the country, yet the mere difficulty to straightaway cite a single politician among his political peers today who can match up to him in integrity is itself a serious source of frustration as it suggests how morally bankrupt Nigeria as a nation has gone, which of course would continue to undermine its ability to achieve appropriate economic development and socio-political stability befitting its massive and multi-faceted potential.
Anyway, though party switching isn’t unusual especially in a typical developing democracy, it’s particularly interesting in Nigeria due to the absence of the culture of principle-oriented politicking, which explains why a typical politician in the country feels no shame whatsoever to go to any extent in pursuit of his self-centered interests notwithstanding its repercussions on the collective interests of the people he leads or represents. Consequently, politics in the country is dominated by unapologetically corrupt politicians with notorious antecedents who manipulate nomination processes of their respective political parties in favour of themselves and their respective cronies making it practically inaccessible to anyone not willing to compromise his principles.
This is though some unscrupulous opportunists do sometimes manage to somehow break through this barrier by masquerading as people of integrity and principle presenting themselves as alternatives to the notorious politicians, but only to end up, when elected or given appointments, exactly like them or even worse.
In the face of this, it’s obviously quite naïve to expect any dramatic change at the moment, after all, the politicians, being largely too corrupt-minded to see any value beyond accumulated ill-gotten wealth, and are indeed too incompetent to come up with, execute and follow through with appropriate socio-economic development strategies, would always resist anything likely to make politics transparent enough to attract people of principle with proven leadership potential.
Addressing this challenge therefore certainly requires concerted and systematic efforts by concerned civil society groups and thought leaders at the grassroots level, to discourage the culture of voting for a candidate simply because he secures a nomination from a particular party, and instead promote the culture of enlightened voting pattern that accords priority to a candidate’s integrity, competence and leadership potential notwithstanding the political party he belongs to.
Campaigning in this regard should focus on sensitizing the ordinary Nigerian voters to the way they are being politically manipulated by politicians who manipulate their ethnic emotions to turn them into blind loyalists then take their loyalty for granted or capitalize on their system-inflicted poverty to buy their loyalty.
Though this is indeed a very demanding challenge especially given the sheer amount of influence those politicians, their cronies and other beneficiaries of the system have on the ordinary Nigerians. Yet, it isn’t impossible to achieve anyway. It only requires proper strategies and determination.