Political parties in the present firmament

Fashola dancing Shoki at APC rally

By Kanmi Ademiluyi

The revalidation of existing members as well as the registration of new ones in Nigeria’s dominant All Progressives Congress (APC) has brought the issue of the structure, nomenclature, even the raison d’etre of political parties to the fore in the national discourse. Interwoven of course is befuddlement at the perennial crisscrossing, carpetbagging across party formations locally referred to as “decamping”. The decamping reflects the “food is ready” mores of a rentier political economy based on consumption as opposed to production.

The nomenclature of political parties should matter,  indeed should be a game-changer. In Nigeria, the hurried retreat of the military into the barracks after overstaying their welcome led to the emergence of what in reality are special purpose vehicles still juggling to transit into political parties. The country has always paid a high price for not getting it right on the party formation front. For example, the country continues to be debilitated by not having being led into independence by a natural national party of government.

This would have helped to forge the foundations of a national ethos anchored on a development anchor. The National Council of Nigeria and Cameroon (NCNC) sadly came somewhere along the line in the late forties and very early fifties very close to achieving this, sadly internal dissension and lack of focus made the prospect tantalisingly and regrettably brief. Nigeria went into flag independence without a national dominant party as a rallying point unlike say India with the Congress Party, Malaysia’s UNMO, South Africa’s ANC and so forth with debilitating consequences which continue to torment.

Subsequently, the “traditions and the mores of the generations preceding continues to weigh like a nightmare on the souls of the living”. Clearly, the federal minister of works Babatunde Fashola had the nightmare scenario from historical experiences past when he expressed reservations about conversions on the road to Damascus. Fair enough to accept the repentant errant, he intoned, however, handing over the pulpit to Johnny-come-lately is a dicey proposition that could have unpleasant consequences.

Of course what has become the modern political party since its evolution from caucuses, cabals and conspirators is a broad tent a free association under the law. The crucial point is that the structure of the political party in the course of its evolution became anchored on democratic centralism requiring the subordination of the cabals, caucuses and so forth into the nexus of the party’s ideology and overall guiding philosophy.

If a voice like that of a committed lifelong progressive the federal minister of the interior Rauf Aregbesola issued a forewarning about the influx of flotsam, jetsam and the real intentions of those feigning Damascene conversions he had a compelling reason to do so. He is certainly not the only person bothered that arriviste are positioned on using the APC as a vehicle to achieve personal ambitions and for whom an ideological orientation could be a bugbear.

The high expectations had always been that the APC warts and all will transform into a natural party of government based on an unambiguous progressive social democratic position echoing the Action Group, Borno Youth Movement, Aminu Kano’s Northern Elements Progressive Union, the SDP and so on. The accommodation of the uninitiated without a structured reorientation will certainly derail this. The opportunity will alas be lost.

Aregbesola’s foreboding is clearly based on the feeling that he has an obligation to help to build an enduring party structure to advance and solidify the basis of progressive ideology in the country.

Here he is obviously haunted by the often-quoted observation of Frantz Fanon that, “out of relative obscurity, every generation has a mission to fulfill or betray”. People like Aregbesola, Fashola et al have a responsibility to forewarn about the consequences of repudiation of progressive positions, history will be unforgiving if they fail to do so.