I am going to start this write-up by talking about India, the world’s largest democracy. Please bear with me, I’ll get to Nigeria, Obasanjo and Jonathan presently.
I was having a chat with an Indian friend recently and he mentioned, ‘…the far right party in India…’
It immediately dawned on me why India is so successful in its democratic experience.
Let’s consider certain things about that Asian country: India has almost ten times more people than Nigeria and a majority of them are living in abject poverty. Illiteracy level is also very high in India.
Multiplicity of religions? Check. Indians believe in more gods than we have human beings in Nigeria. The Hindus alone have thousands of gods that they worship. Then you have the Sikhs, Buddhists, Hare Krishnas, Christians and Moslems.
Indians are no strangers to sectarian violence either, Pakistan and Bangladesh used to be part of India but Pakistan had to be separated in order to create another state for Moslems. Bangladesh used to be known as East Pakistan.
I could go on about the similarities between India and Nigeria but the one thing that takes the level of discrimination in India higher than whatever obtains in Nigeria is the caste-system in India. It is still a taboo for some Indian families to intermarry till today.
Lastly, there’s also a North-South dichotomy in India. The people from the North of India are more educated, richer and generally fare better than those from the South. They also have fairer complexion than their Southern compatriots and that is a big deal in India. As a matter of fact, the caste system is loosely determined by skin colour in India. The lighter your skin colour, the higher up the caste structure you are supposed be.
With all these socio-political complexities why has there not been a single military intervention in Indian politics since 1947? India has a strong military, by the way. They have nuclear weapons.
The answer is simple, Indian politics is based on ideology and not personalities like it is in Nigeria.
When people talk about Indian politics they talk about the ideologies that the parties represent and not so much about the personalities or characters that make up the parties.
The political spectrum is roughly divided into two broad groups, the right wing and the left wing.
At the extreme right you have the Fascists like the Nazi Party in Germany and at the extreme left you have the Communists like the Communists in the defunct Soviet Union. Let’s not talk about the demerits and merits of the two groups. That’ll be for another write-up.
Most political parties find their ideologies somewhere in between these two extreme groups.
For instance, the Republican Party in the US are to the right of the spectrum: they want decreased immigration, a smaller government, less taxes and fewer restrictions on gun control. They also oppose gay rights and want more restrictions on abortion.
The Democrats support more immigration, a welfare state, gay rights and less restriction on abortion.
The ideology governing the Democrats is bigger than the Obamas and the Clintons of the party.
In the UK, the Conservatives are like the Republicans while Labour Party has a similar ideology with the Democrats in the US.
Worthy of mention in the UK is a party known as the UK Independence Party, Ukip. They are a right wing party as well and their main manifesto is reduction of immigration and UK’s withdrawal from the EU. Ukip does not have a single MP in the British Parliament but they have members in the European Parliament, which is really their focus.
They have been gaining a lot of support recently among people who want the UK to withdraw from the EU because unlike Nigerian politicians Ukip politicians are seen as representing an ideology that the people identify with.
Opinion polls have shown that a lot of people who would traditionally support the conservative party are beginning to support Ukip now – the people who want the UK to withdraw from the EU.
If the conservatives – who are in power now – did nothing about their concerns these people will vote for Ukip at the next general elections, which will leave the Conservatives with fewer votes than the Labour party and they will lose the elections.
In response, David Cameron has made a promise that if the Conservatives win the 2015 elections there will be a referendum in 2017 on whether the UK should remain in the EU or not.
As if that was not enough, a Conservative MP has tabled a bill before the House to make the referendum Law such that even if the Conservatives lose the 2015 election there would still be a referendum on UK’s membership of the EU if the bill became Law.
Without having a single MP in the British Parliament, Ukip is forcing the hand of the government to make a law that will address the ideology that the party stands for.
That is how politics is played in civilized societies where the politicians believe in an ideology and not personal gain.
In Obasanjo’s letter, he was pleading with President Jonathan to save PDP. I really feel Obasanjo’s pain but how can you prevent a house that has no foundation from crumbling?
What identifiable ideology does PDP stand for? Are they to the right or left of the political spectrum?
What exactly binds politicians of any party in Nigeria together about from greed for power and material wealth? Unsurprisingly, the two things that bind them together are the same ingredients for acrimony and discord.
The reason we are having so many problems in Nigeria today is because politics is about Jonathan, Ameachi, Obasanjo, Tinubu, Buhari just to name a few. It’s not about what the parties believe in as regards the economy, health or social welfare.
We, the electorates, are the only ones who can change that. We can always make a demand on the parties to tell us what they represent or continue to hope that one day a relative will get a political appointment and start giving us contracts. Statistically, the odds of the latter option happening are about one to a million.