Ask Akogun Iyiola Oyedepo, chairman, People’s Democratic Party, PDP, his opinion on the average Nigerian politician and get to hear a low assessment of men who make the country’s political firmament tick. “We do not have politicians with vision.
Majority of politicians in Nigeria don’t represent anything other than their own personal interest. I can say that there is no particular interest that is self enlightening that the majority of politicians in Nigeria represent,” he tells anybody who cares to listen in his characteristically frank manner. He may well have reasons to be this embittered about his fellow politicians.
In 2013, his party lost the governorship, senate and House of Reps seats to the All Progressives Congress, APC, by what he perceives as a mindless defection. This brought to an abrupt end, 12 years of PDP dominance in the state. To add insult to injury, he has the onerous task of unseating a seating governor in the state and winning other political seats in the National Assembly now firmly under APC control.
“Our politicians don’t have commitment to parties in Nigeria. If you have commitment to your party, you will believe that your party has a manifesto, it has an agenda and a programme. If you believe in all those things that your party represent, then you will be too reluctant to leave that platform,” Oyedepo explained.
But Alhaji Ishola Balogun Fulani, Oyedepo’s opposite number in APC tends to think that the thoughts of the PDP chairman in Kwara can be attributed to sour grapes after his party lost all the elective offices without even going to the polls.
As the APC chairman puts it, Oyedepo’s homilies on party and politicians integrity is a case of the kettle calling pot black. “Oyedepo should speak for himself and his party,” griped Fulani. He added that the PDP chairman is a fitting match of the class of politicians without scruples he described.
In more ways than these politicians snapping at each other may have reaveled, they epitomise the character of Nigerian politicians just as they in way say how the average political party in Nigeria functions. Before being made the PDP chairman, Oyedepo was in All Nigerian People’s Party, ANPP. He defected to Action Congress of Nigeria, ACN, both of them are legacy parties that fused into APC. Oyedepo moved from ACN to PDP after a wave of defection brought in Bukola Saraki, Senator and political leader in Kwara and Governor Abdulfatah Ahmed from PDP. Fulani on the other hand was the PDP chairman in Kwara before defecting to APC.
The question that really agitates the mind given this mishmash of political characters is: how do political parties maintain the integrity of its manifesto, vision and mission given the rate at which politicians defect from party to party.
Even more, couldn’t this lack of clarity, as some readily estimate, a reason why most political campaigns so far by parties and their standard bearers seem to be lacking in content. Some also aver that party visions and manifestos sound much the same. Political parties as platform for canvassing and winning power in democratic clime must have a clear cut manifesto.
A party’s manifesto, by some political scientist, is the like the brain box. It contains the overall submission of the vision and mission of the party, its ideology and innovation. It is the compass that guides the activities of an elected political party and also a yardstick for which its failure or triumph will be appraised.
Though the country has about 50 parties, like the American system, only two, PDP and APC, are dominant at the moment. In the US, the Democrats and the Republicans have clear cut political agendas which often informs policies and pronouncements of their office holders. For instance, the Democrats are known for their liberal ideologies and tendencies toward formulating policies to better welfare.
The Republicans are conservatives, clinging to traditions and norms in the formulation of their policies. In Nigeria, PDP, the ruling party going by what it has as its manifestos and recent tendencies makes out to be conservative. This is apparent in the recent passing of anti-gay law. Most political analyst will call it a center-right party in its ideology in that it favours gradual withdrawal of government in playing a major role in the economy. APC on the other hand is socialy democratic in its leanings, favouring welfares of the citizens.
It makes our as a progressive party, placing emphasis on the need to build infrastructures to better the lot of the common man. But the preponderant view among nonpartisan players is that the parties often operate like they do not have manifestoes, in agreement with Akogun’s view. In fact, for a political scientist like Adekoya Boladale, party politics in the country has operated more without a any clear cut political manifesto.
“Going by what we have witnessed under various democratic dispensations in Nigeria, it is right to say that hardly has any government operated within its party’s set manifesto,” begins Boladale. Between 1999 and 2007, for instance, there were no clear cut party ideology driving government policies and action.
“It was during the time of Late Umaru Musa Yar’adua that started hearing the Seven points agenda and so on. This shows clearly that the issue of manifestos to the Nigeria political parties isn’t that of desire but because the law stipulates that it must be presented. Left to them, they don’t care.
So when such political party gets into power little recourse is given to the manifesto, decisions are made based on heartbeats and cacophony of influences from aides,” added Boladale. PDP in Kwara, for instance accuse Saraki, a former governor of the state and former party member of going outside its party manifesto in the choice of policy and projects he executed while in office.
For instance, Oyedepo, the state party chairman claimed that projects such as the state’s football academy was never part of the PDP manifesto, so also the establishment of an aviation school in the state. This, according to him, has to do with Kwara’s rural economy which makes such projects non-viable. But, quickly punching a hole into PDP’s assertion on Saraki now an APC chieftain, Fulani, the APC state chairman, stated that Oyedepo is not in the position to comment on these issues. “As a matter of fact, this person, Akogun (Oyedepo), at the time Saraki was in PDP was not a member of the party.
He couldn’t know. We were in PDP and I Was the party chairman then, so I am in the position to tell you what we did,” said an exasperated Fulani. So exactly how did Saraki follow the party manifesto in his policy implementation? “I want to tell you that in Kwara State, if by then we did not adhere to the constitution of the party, there will not be development in the state.
So when we looked at the manifesto and saw what suits the state, that is infrastructure wise, economically and the educational policy and so on, that is what we followed even though other PDP governors don’t follow the manifesto. “So we followed the manifesto to the later that is why we have this kind of development in Kwara State. Saying that Bukola Saraki did not follow the manifesto is a big lie,” explained Fulani.
Apparently, politicians may have a different interpretation of their party manifesto or maybe the manifestos are so similar that in their defection from one party to the other, the differences tend to blur completely. In any case, Femi Gbajabiamila, Minority Leader, House of Representatives and APC member admits that there are similarities in both leading party’s manifestos.
He however pointed out that the difference is the way to achieve their goals. Gbajabiamila, at the time of making this assertion, was addressing the European Political Counsellors’ Working Group about his party’s manifesto and its argument for change, last year. Gbajabiamila who spoke at the session attended by political counsellors from Germany, France, Italy, Sweden, Ireland, Hungary, Netherlands and Belgium, said that the concern that Nigerians see the difference between APC and PDP manifestos like six and a half dozen is quite well founded.
“Similarities if any in the two manifestos is just on paper. We differ in our roadmap to achieving the manifestos. PDP may talk about free education but this same party produced a sitting president who was once a lecturer but now attach little importance to education.” Gbajabiamila in his address, also, said that the approach of APC in its manifesto on power was different and believes that power generation should be removed from the exclusive list of the federal government. “Under the APC government, states would be allowed to generate and distribute power according to the growing economic needs of their states,” he said.
This may well be so for APC. PDP, also beats its chest, too, claiming to have found its own rhythm as far as party manifesto is concerned. Joju Fadairo, PDP chieftain insists that since Yar, Adua’s administration, there has been a consistent effort at promoting PDP’s manifesto with his Seven Point Agenda. This has also been followed by President Goodluck Jonathan’s Transformation Agenda. “Jonathan is the current President.
We rolled out our manifestoes and he is still working on that manifestoes, where adjustment has to be made, he would make it. He came out before 2011 telling Nigerians what and what he would be doing. That is manifestoes and he’s still doing it in terms of Agriculture, in terms of education, infrastructure and so on and he will continue to do it” Fadairo said. -NationalMirror