Nigeria’s ‘room-and-parlour’ politics By Abiodun KOMOLAFE

IN a rejoinder to my article, entitled ‘Taxing Nigerians to death?’, Prophet Samson Akinde described modern politics in Nigeria as a ‘room-and-parlour’ system: “if you feel intense heat in the PDP room, you rush to the APC parlour; and if you get attacked by bedbugs there, you run back into your reserved seat in the room.”

Well, let me state that I share Akinde’s sentiment. In the olden days, founders of political parties were guided by diverse but distinct ideological beliefs and worldview. In a chain form, the choices and ideological preferences of an individual determined political party membership; and its manifestoes, which must be based on party’s ideological leanings, pointed the direction of the campaigns. For instance, if you believed in capitalism, then, you’d move to a party that organized its party formation and objectives along that line. If, somewhere along the line, the political party in question defaulted on its principles or promises to the people in line with its espoused ideology, then, switching might become an option. Should questions arise over the switch, there’d be credible and objective arguments to back it up.

Political culture implies that parties are formed by people of like minds, shared sentiments and all that; and such parties are funded by each willing member of the parties, not that the people would be looking up to the party to receive money. Similarly, political participation is based on the individuals’ preference of which ideologies would best serve or meet the aspirations of the people in the society. It follows therefore that campaigns must be issue-based, which, in turn, must be fuelled by the fundamental underpinnings of the embraced ideology. Go back to the works of philosophers like Karl Marx and Chairman Mao and one will discover that, for Marx, a typical manifesto must provide a stable pattern that would favour the proletariat so that labour would continue to create wealth, where very few people would not corner it and start managing it to the detriment of the people. Mao not only read Marx’s works on manifestoes, he also followed in his footsteps and capitalized on them. Unfortunately for us in Nigeria, we have substituted ideology with bland manifestoes devoid of clear-cut ideological input.

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The assumption of an average Nigerian is that nothing actually works in this society any longer. Now, it is everybody for himself. Whether or not God be for us all is a different matter entirely! Needless to repeat that, these days, political practitioners ply their trade without recourse to the past! More often than not, politics in Nigeria is a metaphor for unseriousness; it is no longer based on rigorous or rational thinking. Political operators or gladiators lack the rudimentary understanding of Nigeria’s political culture, personality profile or the character of the people joining political parties; and for what reasons! Unfortunately, the masses too, are not adequately educated on ideological basis anymore. Since it is a ‘ padi-padi’ -kind of politicking, the centre no longer holds, even as party discipline has taken flight! Politics in this part of the world is now more of the rule of the tongue than proofs of fulfilment. Here, we don’t vote for manifestoes again; we only vote for individuals: ‘is Abiola contesting and is Kingibe his deputy?’ These are the things a typical voter in Nigeria considers, not a manifesto that, for instance, proposes radical improvement of the economy, the reinvigoration of the high-points of the socio-cultural elements, and the strengthening of public institutions (which helps to integrate and stabilize the society). Of course, that is why a typical Nigerian politician can join as many, but different political parties, intermittently, within a year, in exchange for pecuniary conveniences, without effective sanctions! It is the same reason political parties can’t control candidates. Instead, candidates with money control the party. Were the parties to be like what they used to be during the days of Obafemi Awolowo, the story, most certainly, would have been different!

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Again, since there are neither ideological differences among extant political parties nor ideological consciousness among so-called party members, it is not difficult for any ‘aggrieved’ member to migrate, defect, cross-carpet or decamp. For instance, Yakubu Dogara, who left All Progressives Congress (APC), some few days back, has ‘retraced his steps’, back to the ruling party, because “the mistakes the former administration” in Bauchi State “made are being repeated” by Bala Mohammed, the incumbent governor. Who knows? Since there is no delineation, Dogara can cross the line anytime, even back to his vomit before the end of the year! Interestingly, too, events as they currently unfold in Ondo and Edo States have not only exposed the meaninglessness of the party manifesto, they have also provided a ready platform for its repudiation; for it signifies nothing! Is it any wonder therefore that the system has become so moribund and crime-compliant that one is most certainly bound to be punished for being honest!

Indeed, that each individual poor person decided not to get into trouble is what is currently keeping Nigeria safe; that they still repose any trust in the institution or how governance is structured in Nigeria is a lie! Sad that we have deliberately ruined the social fabric which holds the society together! An average Nigerian is dehumanized and frustrated. No job opportunity in town for the employable graduate until he’s prepared to mortgage his dignity for a pot of porridge. Unlike in the past, when job opportunities abounded for fresh graduates, Nigeria has now become a paradox for a failed state and a waning economy with countless able-bodied men, willing-to-work, but nothing-to-do; therefore, hopelessly roaming the streets. These rumblings and grumblings rocking our ‘padi-padi’ politics have affected every facet of Nigeria’s body politic, including ongoing revelations of thievery and corruption in the land. Of course, where ‘padi-padi’ thrives, law and order can only manifest in their breaches!

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Nigeria has the resources, human and materials. But the only challenge troubling her Israel is leadership. It is a curse, which no one has been able to find its source, talkless of uprooting it. In a rather funny-yet-instructive manner, Myetti Allah is contemplating the establishment of an army of vigilantes, or ‘security guards’, similar to the Southwest Amotekun outfit, in every part of Nigeria! Does it mean Southwest’s regional Amotekun will sit idly, and watch helplessly, while Myetti Allah’s boys effect arrests in Yorubaland? Will Myetti militia also operate in the East? Is this a country?

May the Lamb of God, who takes away the sin of the world, have mercy on Nigeria!

KOMOLAFE writes in from Ijebu-Jesa, Osun State (

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