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By:Dr. Ehiogie West-Idahosa SAN.
Nigeria's independence was not the product of any tough or idealogical struggle. It came as a result of Britain's political decision to let a number of countries off the hook following the popular crave for independence at that time. Nigeria happened to be one of them. There were no strong ideologies like the type that existed in some former colonies that got their political emancipation through " blood and iron".
The early set of political elites probably founded their political parties on some sort of development theories. NPC was anchored on a catch-up- the south development prototype. Action Group was predicated on populist welfarism and NCNC on nationalism. Even then, the advent of decamping gained prominence in the then western region, when Action Group is believed to have instigated indigenes of the region to leave other parties for ethnic reasons. Nationalists like Azikiwe who had won elections in the west were left in bewilderment.
Subsequent generations of politicians diminished in character and preparedness for real governance. The decline of the political environment led to the militarization of governance with the Babaginda era signposting the final fall of official morality. The post Babangida era politicians came in with an inherent settlement culture that commercialized the electorate at a time when everyone was expectant of a share of the national cake. The public became less interested in the quality of governance as long as their votes were procured.
The political parties became zonked in patrimonialism and side effects like godfatherism, impunity, imposition, purchase of party tickets etc became characteristic of the partisan political system. Those who were lucky to occupy the positions of power and influence schemed to exclude rivals from the centre of control. Dominant elites squeezed life out of challenging elites.
The survival struggles promoted platform mobility which enabled politicians to search for platforms of convenience. It must be remembered that the 4th Republic which has been the longest, started with the likes of Bola Ige preparing the manifesto of PDP, APP and AD in the same spirit but different semantics. There was no real difference. Ige and his co-travelers left PDP on the excuse that there were unwanted elements in their midst. They formed APP. They again left for the same reason and formed AD.
The seed of platform mobility which they sowed germinated into a home grown acceptable political behavior. Innumerable number of politicians have benefited from this over the years. It can no longer be regarded as an aberration or can it be credited for the failure of any elected public officer in office. This practice existed before 1999 and has remained thereafter. There are very few real political operatives in our country who may not have changed their platforms. The likely reason for that may be that they are members of the clique that manipulate the party's control apparatus. Once they lose it, they too may be on the move.
The public is aware of this behavior and seem to have endorsed it over the years by continually voting for politicians without any regard for his platform history. This is clearly a ratification of such practice, which by evolution is now part of the political culture of our country.
Can this be the reason why some public officers let the electorate down after being elected to office? Certainly not. Public officers fail for for many reasons. Some have no capacity to cope with the large demands from the office they occupy. Others are too neck deep in their plan to enrich themselves and nothing else matters to them than their plot to steal the nation dry. A category of elected officials are slaves to nepotism. They think corruption is all about stealing money and turn government appointments and contracts into a theater of mediocrity. Of course, they end up failing.
Most elected executives end up larger than the political parties that sponsored them. They fail to consult with the parties or even glance at the manifestos of such parties. They maintain an olympian aloofness from their political parties. What a pity! The parties may have created their own irrelevance in the political system that we operate. When party leaders and delegates are paid to fly their parties' tickets and sometimes by all manner of people, what really do they expect from such commercial contractual mandate? Can you eat your political cake and have same? I am sure you cannot.
Platform mobility is not the problem with Nigeria's political system. It is a mere symptom of other underlining political problems. We must look deeply into the causes of such mobility in order to proffer pragmatic solutions to the real problems with our political system in the hope that we can achieve our dream of an egalitarian society.
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