Political action or inaction is said to be a response or a reaction to a context of situation. What this means is that before certain people take certain decisions, it is true that they are responding or reacting to certain psychological or sociological stimuli. Here, the key words are ‘action’ and ‘politics’- though I would like to add a third word, ‘politicians’ with your permission. Now, while we may consider Professor Lucas’s definition in Democracy and Participation that political actions show the state of mind of a politician with its conscious and unconscious intentions, we will not bother you with another definition from another egghead in the determination of what politics is or is not. As far as I’m concerned, in the business of politics, politics is the business.
Some analyze politics from a Machiavellian microscope as a dirty game for dirty minds. They say that for you to actively participate in the game and succeed, that you have to employ all the dirty tricks and evils in Pandora’s Box. Yet others see politics as an avenue for participation and a vehicle for social change. For now, I refrain from making any imperative assertions until we have examined the subject above.
Now, having tentatively established that in the business of politics that politics is the business, we would like to examine this hypothesis that I have been ruminating on for quite some time now. My initial statement is this: Nigeria’s political history cannot be taken as complete without a reference to its history of political party decamping. Let us visit the incidents that are now seen by everyone as the antecedents leading to politicians decamping from one party to the other. In 1941, Dr Nnamdi Azikiwe left the National Youth Movement that morphed into the NCNC because someone opposed to him was appointed into a vacant legislative Council position of Lagos State. Despite the fact that Chief Obafemi Awolowo was able to hold the forte briefly, that move by Dr Azikiwe effectively signed the death warrant of that Youth Movement. Ten years later, it was still the same Dr Azikiwe who expelled from the NCNC all who agreed to give the Mcpherson constitution a breather – an expulsion that seemed to vindicate the position adopted by Zik because despite the fact that that Constitution wanted to speed up Africanization of the Civil service and extend more educational facilities to Nigerians, it proved unworkable. What is of interest here, however, is not so much that those who were expelled from the NCNC regrouped to form the National Independence Party (NIP). What is of interest to me is that the wrangling within the NCNC was issue-based wrangling that helped in the development of a lot of partisan political development in this country.
It was the same case with Alhaji Aminu Kano, a founding member of the Northern People’s Congress (NPC), who broke away to form his Northern Elements Progressive Union (NEPU). Now, get this clear: Aminu Kano did not beak away from the NPC because he was disloyal to his party the NPC. He had to move from the NPC because he found out that the NPC was increasingly becoming a tool in the hands of the colonial government to keep Northerners in perpetual colonial domination. In the same vein, if you do a little research into the antecedents that led to the orgy of violence in the West in the 60s you would discover that it had to do with the issue of political decamping. When Chief Awolowo and S. L. Akintola were no longer seeing eye to eye in certain matters, Akintola left the AG to form the Nigerian National Democratic Party (NNDP). However, in the case of the West, it was speculated that Samuel Akintola’s defection from the AG to form the NNDP was more a reaction triggered off by the kind of personality clash that is on ground now between President Obasanjo and his Vice President. All of this snowballed into the Coker Commission of 1962 and which recommendation are of no relevance to this debate.
So what then is the verdict of history? I don’t know about you but what I deduct from these entire political actions reveal two underlying characteristics of political action or inaction. One, there are politicians who shift their ground as a result of a response to a need of their people. They make the kind of moves they make because from the hindsight of political perspicuity they have been able to decode that the political configuration on ground may not be in their favour nor augur well for the interests of their people. They are receptive to change, bearing in mind that in the political calculus of the day it is foolish not to change with change. Two, there are the others who shift their grounds on account of selfish ego trip they must embark upon. Look around our political space today and you realize that that is the rule rather than the exception.
Very predictably, there are those who will go to town to cite the recent Court of Appeal’s ruling in favour of Atiku Abubakar as a touchstone that reinforces the right of a Nigerian citizen to freely associate. This is understandable. But I don’t belong to that camp. What concerns me in the decision a former ANPP governor took to decamp to PDP is the state of his mind and what he’s determined that that shift will accomplish. If you read his ‘Why I joined PDP’, on Daily Independent a fortnight ago the man was at pains to highlight and to some extent rationalize his action. I didn’t think he would do that especially as there are historical antecedents that lend support to his decision. But that the man went that far to explain things to us certainly tells what kind of politician he is: that he is not prepared to take us for granted in the ordinary manner that politicians take us.
Therefore, this is what I think or suppose to be why the man joined PDP. Without mincing words, I think he did it in the best interest of his people. It was a response-based decision rather than a reaction-based one. A response-based decision in politics is a people-based one while a reaction-based decision takes into cognizance one’s own future at the expense of the people. But whether the decision is a response or reaction based one is not to give room for the PDP to harass those who decamp from its fold and protect those who join it. What we all should take into consideration is that all of these decisions go a long way in developing our political culture and opening up the space for all to participate no matter the canopy they chose to participate.