• Tuesday, May 28, 2024
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BusinessDay

Politics: Mindset and Nigerian reality (3)

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The merger committee and the leadership of the merging parties would need to be assisted with initiatives that would enable the merger process to effectively respond to all the challenges that would emerge between now and the time the merger will be consummated, in fact up to the 2015 elections, to guarantee the defeat of the status quo. The truth is that it is our capacity to force a relationship between Nigerian people and the merger process that would produce the necessary conditions for accountability in the management of the new party. Otherwise we risk the institution of business-as-usual framework in a new form which will only reproduce current status quo.

Therefore, one of the contributions of citizens, whether partisan or non-partisan, politicians or not, will be to make specific demands focusing on how the provisions of the constitution and manifesto of the new party can meet our expectation. In particular, we need to demand what should be the commitment of the new party with respect to education, health, agriculture, industry, human welfare, etc. We need to state these demands in very clear, unambiguous and specifically targeted provisions in the manifesto. With respect to the constitution, we need to say exactly what we want to ensure that the party represents our interest beyond broad clamour for internal democracy.

Our specific demands should assist our new party APC to come up with strong provisions and not just simple statements of wishes such as free education, free health care, etc. Happily, since already the merger committee has announced that APC will be oriented around social democratic values, the model for the party should be the Scandinavian countries who are today’s world leaders on matters of education, health and social welfare. For clarity, these are countries governed by social democratic parties and have successfully recorded 100 percent literacy rate and have about the best citizens’ lifespan in the world, ahead of countries like the USA, Germany, Canada, France, United Kingdom, etc. The evidence is clear: massive public investment in the education and health sectors.

This then means that provisions of APC manifesto must state categorically what actions the party intends to take annually to guarantee free education for citizens in the country. How will those actions translate into expansion for educational delivery capacity of our public schools to guarantee enrolment of all Nigerian children? What will be the annual cost of the envisioned actions and how will the APC government mobilise the needed resources? In terms of healthcare, Nigerians are equally looking to see what the specific commitments of APC are in terms of expanding facilities for healthcare delivery services and training and recruiting staff.

It is important that APC comes through as an honest and sincere initiative with every practical proposition and not reduced to academic exercise that can provide our politicians with all the escape routes based on generic provisions. This is needed bearing in mind that the main reason many Nigerians are interested in the current merger negotiations between our leading opposition parties is for change in Nigeria to be guaranteed which should impact on the quality of life. In fact, if the truth is to be told, our dear nation will be at great risk of national collapse if our critical national problems are to be left in the jaws of the PDP. Most of our national problems are politically created and solutions lie in politics. Without the usual lamentation and blame analysis against PDP, we Nigerians need political change which should be a product of political competition.

Producing political competition is not about wishes but basically about stimulating the right framework that would engender the right actions, practices, culture and conventions. So far, since 1999, actions, practices, culture and conventions across all facets of our polity have been the same, on account of which our parties are practically almost the same. The current merger negotiation involving ACN, ANPP, CPC and Okorocha-led faction of APGA must produce the game-changer that would guarantee political competition.

To guarantee this, Nigerians, both as individual citizens and organisations, should not consign themselves to the role of onlookers. We must continually remind ourselves about Frantz Fanon’s incisive clarion call to action with the words, ‘every onlooker is either a traitor or a coward’. We should not wait for the merger to produce a constitution and manifesto before we respond. We need to step forward with our demands in order to pre-empt the constitution and manifesto of APC. This is the best way to challenge the merger to produce working documents that would lay a more concrete and expanded foundation for political competition in the country. Otherwise, all that would be uppermost to the merger committee would be to package a constitution and manifesto that would only meet INEC requirement. Whether or not they (constitution and manifesto) meet the expectations of Nigerians would be secondary, if not immaterial.

If past experiences of party formation since 1999 are anything to go by, if the merger committee is left alone the constitution and manifesto of the APC may hardly go beyond those of the current merging parties. To that extent, the merger exercise faces the great risk of taking members of the parties and Nigerians for granted. In the event that such a result becomes the outcome of the merger exercise, it can be justified by the phrase ‘this is politics’ – pure exercise of prerogatives by politicians led by the Tom Ikimi Joint Interparty Merger Committee. As citizens, we can only be observers, best qualified by the apt Fanonian description of cowardly onlookers.

The issue therefore is that our being cowardly onlookers would give members of the merger committee the licence to take the support of Nigerians for granted. This may not be limited to the merger committee because it may naturally be transmitted to the post-merger leadership of the party. This is very worrisome because the new party will be founded based on a framework of lack of commitment to the desires and wishes of Nigerians beyond mere electoral victory.

We need to constantly remind the leadership of the merging parties that Nigerians are not simply interested in the defeat of PDP. What Nigerians are interested in is a situation where the defeat of PDP would translate into enthronement of good and accountable governance.

 

SALIHU MOH. LUKMAN

Lukman writes from Abuja.

 

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