In spite of the glamour and heavily funded campaign to re-elect President Goodluck Jonathan in 2015, orchestrated by “support groups” co-ordinated at the Presidency by Rufai Alkali, the Presidential Adviser on political affairs, the President is on the threshold of history as the first Nigerian incumbent office holder at the pinnacle of power to lose election notwithstanding whether it would be rigged or fairly conducted. The government funded ‘support groups’ riding a roughshod on the huge slush fund available to them for which they are unaccountable because government feebly denies the funding in the first, are evidently in no mood for sober reflection and profound analytical exertion to appreciate the historic re-alignment of Nigerian traditional political elite and how it has affected the balance of forces, leaving President Jonathan increasingly isolated.
That the situation and traditional scenario where the political elite manipulate the political process to sustain the status quo has been a painful quarantine in which Nigeria political life has been hopelessly domiciled have not served the country and its excluded popular masses well but has kept elite cohesion, unity of purpose in maintaining a status of a clientele of international finance capita intact with the privileges that accrues to it. Their political vehicle to consolidating and enhancing their fortunes has been traditionally a neo-conservative political party, with a disgruntled faction, pitching tent in the opposite direction of neo-progressives. In spite of seemingly political brick bats thrown at each other during seasons of political contest, the unity of purpose in maintaining the status quo with state patronage moving round to douse of cracks has been the overwhelming balm of seeming political stability and elite cohesion.
In the first republic, the triumphal elite across the geo-political divide made a common cause in isolating and purging and even castrating the radical strands of their respective political movements, who canvassed and worked for the ideological de-copulation with a retreating colonial regime. The Zikist movement, foot soldiers of the National Council for Nigerian and Cameroun, later renamed National Council for Nigeria Citizens (NCNC), after some elements in Southern Nigeria merged with Cameroun, were hounded by the hierarchy of NCNC and even denounced by its charismatic leader, Dr. Nnamdi Azikiwe. The Northern Peoples Congress (NPC) ensured that the radical Northern Elements Progressive Union (NEPU) remained a fringe political force. Using the native authority system domiciled in the powerful traditional emirs, identifying with NEPU with its message of de-coupling the political life of the region with the autocratic emirate system was plainly a risky gamble.
Even the Chief Awolowo-led Action Group with its distinctive Fabian socialist mantra, did not find accommodation to the more radical strand of Marxist socialism represented by the Socialist Workers and Farmers Party (SWFP) promoted by Dr. Tunji Otegbeye and left wing trade unionist like Comrades Wahab Goodluck, Dapo Fatogun and others. The political currents of the first republic may have reflected the suffused trajectories of ethno-religious tensions exacerbated by mutual suspicion of the contending factions, it was however under-written by ideological consensus on neo-capitalist path of development and a pluralist political process allegedly conducive to it. This seemingly ideological consensus of the mainstream elite found a continuity in subsequent military rule that followed the break-down of the first Republic.
The political consensus of ideological concord of the first republic elite found expression in the grand alliance of the major political parties in which the NPC and NCNC formed the ruling alliance of the Nigeria National Alliance, with the Action group and the united middle Belt Congress of the fiery Joseph Tarka forming the opposition United Progressive Grand Alliance, UPGA. The Neo-conservative NPC which has formed government at the centre at winning the majority of seats in parliament maintained a credible cohesion and even subsequently pulled in, an avowedly liberal party, the NCNC to its ranks to form the grand ruling alliance. Even in the face of mounting ethnic and other sectarian tensions, the ruling party in the first republic did not implode or fractured but rather reached out to an unlikely bed fellow in other to widen the platform of elite consensus. Against the historic fact, of widen political base in lieu of any election, the President Jonathan ruling political platform, the ruling Peoples Democratic Party has fatally fractured and imploded witnessing the first galling and blood-drawing political division of the once cohesive elite. I will return to the president Jonathan inspired-historic implosion of the traditional elites and its consequences for a looming political defeat that stares him in the face. The second republic, though with more political colours but less substance than the first republic did not substantially detract from the granite solidarity of the traditional elites. The National Party of Nigeria (NPN) whose political parenthood was easily traceable to the defunct NPC won its decisive electoral victory on a claim of broad representative framework of the country’s elite and the pan-national sentiment of the then departing junta, whose head, General Obasanjo was known to have worked against his kinsman, in favour of the nationally spread NPN. In the run up to the 1983 general elections, the NPN strengthened its national outlook and further drove the image of sectarian and tribal label to other parties.
Even the UPN charismatic leader, Chief Awolowo had difficult time in finding vice presidential candidate of Northern origin to his party. Even the seemingly radical former Sociology lecturer, Ibrahim Tahir, the bulky loquacious academic from Bauchi State turned down the honour of standing along with the cerebral and charismatic Chief Awolowo on the platform of the Unity Party of Nigeria. Chief Awolowo eventually settled for Chief Philip Umeadi, a South Easterner, further isolating the party from half of the country’s geo-political divide. The pan – Nigerian outlook of the NPN as a platform of considerable elite consensus was hugely reinforced by the presence of key political figures from across all or major ethnic nationality groups.
The PDP of stomping former President Obasanjo, networking former vice president Atiku, suave and skilful kingpins like Bukola Saraki, Abdullahi Adamu, Rotimi Amaechi, Rabiu Kwankwaso, Wamakko has degenerated to clannish out post superintended by the chiefs Edwin Clarks, Tony Aninehs, Ayo Oritsejefors, Asari Dokubos etc. The evident timid PDP, considerably shrank in status from its former national outlook has at its historic corollary, the rising pan-Nigerian All Progressive Congress (APC), the first ever successful political merger seemingly destined to deliver the very first ever electoral victory to the opposition. The first ever decline of a ruling party owe its misfortune to a naïve political leadership drawn to the sterile rhetoric and sabre-rattling of a bankrupt ethnic and clannish syndicate for whom the exercise of power is the same thing as lining the pockets.
Charles Onunaiju via email@example.com