Joachim MacEbong - Politicians with no ideologies


Governorship elections were held in four states throughout this month, starting with Adamawa on February 4th and followed by Bayelsa, Sokoto, and Cross River. The best chance for a party other than the ruling Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) to claim a governorship seat was in Adamawa, but the ruling party triumphed there as well, and went on to complete a clean sweep. As usual, there were the usual cries of rigging from those who lost, but the fact remains that the opposition has a lot of soul-searching to do if it wants to provide a credible alternative to the PDP.

As the only party with a national spread and national organisation, the PDP will naturally be favourite for most elective positions, or at least put the required numbers together for victory at a general election. The only way to try to counter this is through a merger of the three main regional parties: Action Congress of Nigeria (ACN) in the West, All Progressive Grand Alliance (APGA) in the South-East, and the Congress for Progressive Change (CPC) in the North.
I have even come up with a theoretical name for them: Grand Action Congress for Progressive Change (GACPC). Of course, talks of mergers are nothing new. In the days before the presidential election last April, merger talks between the CPC and ACN were held. Those talks broke down, leading to trading of blame over who was responsible for that.
What if they had merged? If they had taken power, how would they have ruled? Some suspect that there would be slightly more to cheer than there is now, but the fact is there is no real way to know. This is because, while some may identify with the personalities of some politicians - Fashola, Buhari, Pat Utomi among others - there are no guiding principles for any of the political parties by way of governance.
That is why we often hear the refrain: 'I voted Jonathan not PDP'. It is easy for Nigerians to separate a candidate from his party, because there is no policy direction other than: provide education, fix power, improve security, provide water, and other banal promises. There is little intellectual discussion in our political elite about how exactly these things will come about.
When you cast your vote for any ACN candidate, do you know what you are going to get? How about if you vote for a CPC or APGA candidate? No one knows. As a result, offices are defined by the character of the people that occupy them to a dangerous extent. It also means that 8 or 12 years of the same party is not necessarily continuity, except continuity of looting. That is why there is the real chance that a merger of opposition parties might only create a monster, for the purpose of defeating another monster. It is a key reason many are yet to warm up to alternatives, no matter how much they hate the PDP.
Our political parties need ideologies. Right now, the field is wide open for anyone to promise heaven and earth, without saying how it will be paid for; like what Governor Rochas Okorocha is currently doing in Imo State. Populism cannot be a substitute for policy. By nature, politicians only care about the next election. In Quintus Tullius Cicero’s ‘How to win an election’, he advised politicians to ‘promise everything to everyone’. Nigerian politicians have perfected this act of populist pandering to a pauper proletariat; and continue to prance to victory songs every four years.
When Einstein said: 'An empty stomach is a bad political advisor', he must have been talking about Nigeria, and any number of third world countries. It is difficult, but we must begin to demand more from those who wish to lead us, lest our situation be beyond salvage. Several little ripples of protest occurred in the wake of the strikes over fuel subsidy; that give hope  for change. If we demand better, the politicians will have to do better.

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